Two Storms That Shook My Faith

This morning as I was reading Openings: A Daybook of Saints, Psalms, and Prayer by Larry James Peacock, I decided to follow the suggestion “write about some storm you have experienced.” It could be an actual storm or an inner storm that shook my faith, a time of doubt or despair, a time I needed the power and strength of God. Here’s what I wrote:

O God, probably the biggest storm that shook my faith
was when my mom became ill with Parkinson’s disease and developed dementia (among other unpleasant symptoms)
My dad was her caregiver,
and I lived 300 miles away.
I felt so guilty not being there,
yet how could I be in two places at once?

At the beginning of the storm, it was 1986 when my mom was diagnosed. I was 26 years old.
Then as the storm raged and she grew worse, I was 27 and pregnant with my first child.
Our son, Daniel, was born, and John and I faithfully traveled to Kingsport
every six weeks or so to see my parents,
who could not travel by that time due to my mom’s condition.
Those years are a blur in my memory.

Another storm occurred when I was 30:
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder,
though at the time I was told it was liver disease.
Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of my own mortality.
I was so afraid. John was afraid.
Our pastor came to see me at the hospital
and told me that this was one of the speed bumps on the road of life.
Somehow that remark calmed me and gave me a little perspective.
John and I desperately wanted another child,
and we asked the doctor about my life expectancy
and the advisability of having more children.
After all, I wanted to be around to help raise them.
My doctor consulted with experts in my disease (primary biliary cirrhosis)
and was told this condition usually occurs in middle-aged to older women.
Still, the experts thought that I would have a normal life span
and so we could proceed with our plans to have another child.
In 1990, when Daniel was 3 years, 8 months, our daughter,
Julie, was born. What a blessing! What a bundle of joy! How tired Mom was,
but oh, so joyful.

Back to storm #1. In 1991, Daniel was 4 and Julie was 6 months old.
I received a phone call on February 10 from my dad,
informing me that my mom had just died.
We had been expecting this news for a couple of months,
as my mother was hospitalized since December
and had spiked many high fevers,
and I had said good-bye to her when we left Kingsport after Christmas.
I knew. I knew I would never see my mother again this side
of heaven. It was hard. Oh, so hard.
She could barely speak (and then only incoherent thoughts),
but we held hands and I told her I loved her
and I knew that we would be together again someday with Jesus.

God, I was so afraid. Yet you were there with me then, Lord.
You kindly listened to all my frustrated ramblings, anxious thoughts,
depressed feelings,
And you were there when the worst thing imaginable for me finally happened:
my mother died.

Those days after her death were a blur: so many decisions to be made.
I remember my cousin Sue’s kindness:
She washed a couple of blouses and hung up two suits on the door
of my mother’s closet,
narrowing the choices for me as I decided what my mom — my cheerleader and encourager and beginning-to-be best friend —
would be buried in.

I recall shopping for caskets in the big, hidden room at the funeral home —
it struck me as a strange and ludicrous task —
and I was trying to be mindful of my dad’s budget (not knowing exactly what it was)
and the expectations of my family.
I finally selected a silvery rose-colored casket with roses sculpted on the corner.
My mom loved flowers, and I figured those would please her.

I remember the flood of people who came to the funeral home visitation
and the minister who said, “It was God’s will,” meaning that my mom’s time had come.
Something inside me raged, “No! It was NOT God’s will.” I wanted to shout at him, “No! It was not God’s will that my mother,
a kind, dedicated, loving, Christian woman
should be struck down in what was supposed to be the chapter of life where she slowed down a bit, relaxed, and enjoyed traveling with my dad — something my parents had always planned to do during retirement
but never had a chance, thanks to that old Parkinson’s disease.
My mom was supposed to enjoy her grandchildren
and be there to guide me as I learned how to be a mother myself.
No, it was not God’s will that she have this awful disease
that robbed her mind as it ravaged her body, making it rigid and trembling
and causing her face to freeze in an expressionless stare.”

God, somehow I knew, I knew
that you wanted the best for my mom,
my dad, my family,
and me.
And so with your help I got through those painful days.
You sent friends just when I needed them
and just in the way I needed them to minister to me.
One work friend called on the day of Mommy’s funeral
Just to check in and offer support and listen to me
and remind me that I had people in Nashville who loved me
and would be ready to receive me with love and wrap their arms around
me when we returned home.

The flowers we got at the funeral home comforted me,
reminding me of how much my mother loved flowers
and visible tokens of how much she and my dad and I were loved.
In my opinion, it’s not a waste to send flowers to a family (even if they specify “in lieu of flowers,” which we did in the obituary).
You need a few cheerful, bright, hopeful things
to focus on amid the shadows, gloom, and darkness of sorrow and grief.

My college friends who came to the visitation —
oh, how sweet were their faces
and how welcome among the many faces I didn’t know,
all the distant cousins my dad kept introducing me to
who came out of the hollows and, seemingly, the woodwork.

Yes, you were there, dear Lord and sweet brother, Jesus,
You held my hand and had my back.
You listened to me cry and fumble for words when there were no words.
Thank you, Lord, thank you.
And you are still with me to this day.

All my heart can say is,”I love you, Lord
and I lift my voice to worship you,
O my soul, rejoice…”

Dear God, loving Lord, and comforting Holy Spirit,
thank you for seeing me through those dark days
and for your promise that you will never leave me alone.
My heart and soul are blessed.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,
in whom I hope and trust.

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On Too Much Work Before My 2nd Cup of Coffee

Oh Lord, it’s Valentine’s Day, and I had good intentions of making banana bread from scratch. How long has it been since I made something from scratch? Evidently a pretty long time, since I could not find baking powder, baking soda, or salt in my kitchen cabinet. Curses!

I vaguely remember that John and I cleaned out said kitchen cabinet a couple of months ago, and I looked at the expiration date on the baking powder, and it was something like 2006. So we tossed it, as we did a few other items in the baking cabinet. John wanted to give my nut chopper (a glass jar with a screw-on plastic lid and pumper thingy attached to an evil metal blade), and I adamantly said no! I get much satisfaction from using that chopper, especially on days when I am mad or stressed out. (Surprised I haven’t used it lately!) I then placed the chopper in another cabinet, the one that we have to get down on all fours to retrieve items from the shelves. And promptly forgot about it.

Meanwhile, I went downstairs to our laundry room/pantry to get some applesauce (we use the kind in plastic cups at my insistence because I have bought too many jars that have grown penicillin in the fridge) to use in place of vegetable oil. And I got distracted for a moment because the load of laundry I had put in the washer was ready to be transferred to the dryer.

As I transferred the laundry to the dryer, I decided I’d better check the drying instructions on a couple of items, one of them a fuschia polka-dotted vest I ordered from Lands’ End in January when I was feeling a little hipsterish. I read on the tag: “Dry on low heat with clean tennis balls.” WHAT? Who keeps clean tennis balls around just to use for drying something in the dryer? I skipped that little instruction and decided to hang up the vest.

Then I started another load of laundry and almost forgot what I had come to the laundry room/pantry for in the first place. Blessedly, I remembered the applesauce before trekking back upstairs and starting where I left off in gathering items to make banana bread.

Next I tried to find the banana bread recipe in my huge plastic box of recipes that I have collected since moving to Nashville in 1980, probably about 70% of which I have never tried. But at least I’m organized enough to have most of the recipes on index cards (unlike my mother, who jotted down recipes on the backs of envelopes) and organized behind labeled tabs. Though that doesn’t make them very easy to find a certain recipe, as I vary about where I will file something. Hmmm, is artichoke dip a veggie or an appetizer? A veggie, in my opinion. :D Does zucchini bread qualify as a cake, cookies, or pie? Too many choices. But I digress (of course).

Now to find the nut chopper. I search through the spice cabinet, where I used to keep the chopper. I look through the cabinet where our baking dishes and mixing bowls are stored. In desperation I rummage through the pots and pans and miscellaneous lids so painstakingly stored on the vertical plastic-coated rack that John installed out of frustration from trying to find the right lids in the drawers of our buffet. (I hate that rack. I try to put lids in it the proper way but usually wind up throwing a few on top of the others because I’m tired.) No luck finding the nut chopper.

Not thinking very charitable thoughts about John on this day of hearts and flowers and mushy-mush, I text him (he’s in Orlando where he has been attending a swimming pool seminar…yeah, there’s a lot of work and chemistry involved in pool maintenance) and say, “Where did you put the nut chopper?” Surprisingly, he texts back right away and says, “It’s in the cabinet beside the dishwasher, but I didn’t put it there.” Oh yeah! And I was thinking some bad words in my mind about my no-good, organizing, ready-to-toss-out-my-favorite-stress-relief kitchen item husband…oops. My fault. Mea culpa!

And the next thing that happened was a little outside excursion to my next-door neighbor’s house to see if I could borrow some baking soda, baking powder, and salt. I went with measuring cup, cookbook (yes, that’s where the banana bread recipe was, not in my neat little plastic file box), and measuring spoons in hand to make it easy for them. I rang the doorbell (it was 8:45 a.m. by this time, and I’d been up since 7:00), but no one came to the door. Rang it again and heard the dog bark. No answer. I vaguely remember seeing one car gone as I walked across their driveway, so I decided that my neighbors Sue and Bruce must be gone and their 30ish daughter must be sleeping in. (She stays at their house when they’re out of town.) So across the street I tromped.

Knocked on those neighbors’ door, knowing they were probably awake because they have young children. No answer. Knocked again, then the dog barked. Soon a 7-year-old little girl looked out the front window as if wondering who the heck was knocking on the door. She relayed the message to her mom (probably said, “Hey, it’s that crazy lady from across the street!”), who soon opened the door. There we were, both of us disheveled (I in my fleece robe and barely combed hair, she in her flannel jammies and thermal top and hair twisted hastily in a bun). I said, “Do you have any baking soda, baking powder, and salt that I could borrow?” She invited me in while she went to get the ingredients from her kitchen. Warned me that I’d better turn around because her husband was in the shower and might come out naked (so I quickly turned my back toward the hall and stood gazing at the construction paper hearts hanging from strings taped to their kitchen ceiling). I explained, “It’s been a while since I made anything from scratch, and we just happened to be out of these ingredients.” She laughed and told me to come by anytime I needed to borrow stuff, that she did plenty of baking. I felt momentary jealousy, as she’s a stay-at-home mom and her two little girls are precious and I always fantasized about staying at home when my kids were young and baking things from scratch.

Back I went to the house, dug out my seldom-used hand mixer and actually found the beaters in another drawer, and satisfyingly mixed the batter for the banana bread (after microwaving some hardened brown sugar). Tossed in some craisins and chopped walnuts with my finally found nut chopper, and just for good measure threw in a little cinnamon.

I put the banana bread in the oven and wearily poured my second cup of coffee for the morning. Momentarily considered skipping it and going straight to the wine that I left on the kitchen counter last night, but it’s a little early in the day to be drinking. Besides, I have a lot of work to do before my valentine comes home tonight at 5:00 p.m. I may have to take a nap before then to rest up from my Holly Homemaker escapades.


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If I Could Have a Redo

If I could have a redo on parenting my children (yeah, we all want one…the tricky thing is that each child comes wired differently, and what you learn from parenting one child doesn’t necessarily work with the next child), here’s what I’d do:

1. Listen more. I so wish I had taken my son’s complaints about school bullies more seriously. I was thinking back to how we dealt with bullies in my day…you just hit them, or you figured out some way to disempower them. I remember a boy looking up my dress when I was in 2nd grade. I slapped the batter out of him! Fortunately, my teacher took time to ask for my side of the story when the boy ran to her crying. I told her what happened, and she looked at the boy and said, “You deserved that!”

Our sweet, sensitive, strong-willed, challenging son was tormented by bullies in elementary school. He wasn’t exactly a paragon of virtue himself. I got calls from school about his acting up on field trips…spitting on people, for instance. He bit one child at our church when he was old enough to know better. I reacted to these situations mostly out of embarrassment rather than thinking about what I could do to seize the moment for a teaching opportunity

2. I would slow myself down and try not to react physically. I remember the time one of our children smart-mouthed me, and I watched in fascination and horror as my hand reached out of its own volition and slapped that little sucker across the face. I think it had some shock value, and I rarely heard such smart-aleckness again.

3. I still would practice corporal punishment, though it didn’t work well with our son. I know, it seems contradictory to hit a child when you’re trying to teach them nonviolent responses. But sometimes kids just need to know their limits. Time-out is too gentle a punishment sometimes. So is taking away privileges. With Daniel, taking away privileges just infuriated him further. When you have nothing more to lose, what do you do then? You rage! He knew exactly how to push all my buttons, and I responded (reacted) accordingly.

4. I would say “You are precious to me. You are precious to God. You are so loved! I love you” so many more times than I did when Daniel and Julie were growing up. I tried to convey those messages to them, but I’m sure that my impatience and fatigue often spoke much louder than my words.

5. I would cuddle with my kids more. In retrospect, I guess we did spend a lot of time cuddling, mostly while we were reading books together and often on Saturday mornings, when we let the kids crawl in bed with us for a while.

6. I‘d insist on cooking more with the children and not worry so much about the messes they made. One of my very favorite memories of Julie was when she had a preschool friend spend the night and we made brownies together. I stripped them down to their underwear, and they stirred the batter (of course, licking samples along the way). They had more brownie batter on their faces than got in the pan, I think…and I had to take pictures. So much fun!

7. I would be even more insistent that my children clean up their rooms. I tried to show them how to organize…but alas, that only lasted for a short while. I remember spending a whole day organizing Daniel’s room and labeling shelves when he was in 5th grade and at school. I thought my organizational system made a lot of sense: “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I called his room the hellhole, because that’s exactly how it felt when I entered it. He constantly left clothes on the floor, and you had to tromp through all sorts of stuff when you went into his room. I decided that I would just be the monster who stomped on everything. Sometimes we resorted to throwing his clothes out in the yard. That still didn’t make much of an impression on him.

8. I would probably not do day-to-day things that differently because I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. If I could go back in time, I would read more books about ADEQUATE parenting, books that inflicted less guilt on me as a working mom (every mom is a working mom, but I bore the burden of working at a Christian institution that DARED to send the message that its female employees who were moms should be at home with their kids. What kind of bullshit was that? I was very angry that they had the gall to preach their little sermons when a large part of the workforce was working moms. How did they know each mother’s situation? How could they prescribe one-size-fits-all (and it’d better be men as the spiritual heads of their home as well as the providers for their family) for every family?

We working moms (outside the home) had it tough enough…every mom’s worst enemy is guilt…without our employer constantly sending the message that we weren’t good enough parents because we worked outside the home. Boy, do I wish I had had the courage to walk out of chapel more often when I heard the B.S. begin. I probably would have been fired, but at least I would have had my dignity.

9. I would have shown John more respect. Often I argued with him in front of the children. He was such a good daddy and was involved in raising our children, taking them to the doctor, taking care of them when they were sick…just as much as I did. His family background and approach to child-rearing was different from mine. Different, not better or worse. We had to learn to work together, and I am fortunate to say that we did manage to get through our kids’ teen and young adult rebellions and stay intact.

10. I would have emphasized brains less and inner beauty more. Smart is great, but smart ass is ugly. Sometimes I’m afraid that John and I modeled the smart assness more than we did the intelligence. And we prized intelligence over, say, just being a well-balanced person and loving the people around us. I think over time we have come to see the value of all sorts of people, and perhaps our kids have gotten an inkling of that as well.

11. I would still send my children to public schools. We were fortunate to have good public schools, though we had to provide transportation from middle school through high school every single day… I am so glad Daniel and Julie attended public high school where they encountered all kinds of people, not just kids like themselves.

12. I would spend more time doing service projects with my children. I managed to do more of that with Julie, serving at a soup kitchen and doing other community service through Girl Scouts. Somewhere along the line I lost Daniel to that, but he got to do some community service in high school that I think made a lasting impression on him. He has a heart for homeless people and would give his last penny to someone in need.

Well, enough of my “lofty” thoughts for today. I am privileged to be the mother of two fine young adults and the wife of one patient husband. I am blessed.

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Honoring the Holy Spaces Among Us

I have just come away from a 4-day writing retreat called “Wild With Words.” It was an inspiring, at times frightening, introspective, rollicking, revealing, holy time for me.

There were 12 of us in the room most of the time. At one point I counted 14. We came from all walks of life –a young mother of a nine-year-old and a nineteen-month-old; a director of church music; several female clergypersons; a corrections officer at a women’s prison; a woman whose husband recently suffered a stroke; a businesswoman seeking direction for the next chapter of her life; a retired engineer; a former executive at a Methodist agency who transplanted herself from New York to Nashville; a retired teacher; a 40ish man who confided he’d gained a lot from attending a Twelve-Steps program; and me, a wannabe writer who lets her editor hat take over too often.

What a week. Our able, sensitive leader (Martha Brunell) was full of ideas for writing prompts, clever ways of getting us to think about all sorts of subjects (mostly it was the luck of the draw from cards, slips of paper, sticky-note hearts,  Snapple caps), and encouragement for us to follow wherever our pens took us and to write in this safe space. The cardinal rule was that we would honor each person’s voice and refrain from analyzing or critiquing each other’s work. I have participated in a similar workshop led by my friend Amy Lyles Wilson, whose motto is that it is the sharing of our stories that saves us. Indeed.

I’ve got to tell you that I think this week may have saved my life and rejuvenated me for the writing I do every day in my marketing job. It was also quite therapeutic, as I ventured into some memories and confronted sometimes painful territory that I didn’t realize I was carrying around with me.

In the midst of it all was the holy spaces I felt touching each other. We came out of our solitude and shared parts of who we really are. The result was a sense of community among us, and I’m excited that the workshop/retreat participants who live in Nashville are planning to continue our journey of discovery together. Who knows what adventures that may bring!

I am grateful for some time away from my daily routine, for my employer allowing me this much-needed space, for my supportive spouse who didn’t complain about spending time alone at breakfast and dinner and who welcomed me with open arms when I came dragging home, exhausted, around 8:30-9:00 p.m. Now if I can just get rid of this damned insomnia…but meanwhile I’m surrendering to it and using it as an opportunity to get my thoughts on paper.

I wish for all of you times to get away from the daily grind, whether it is at a retreat or just a walk in nature. We all need time and space to recalibrate ourselves, get in touch with what really matters to us, and live our lives from that holy space. Oh, and along the way, we just might encounter other kindred spirits who are also trying to figure out their purpose in this journey called life.

In closing, I share one of my favorite quotes from Rumi:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 
 Rumi, Essential Rumi

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A Return to the 1960s

I’ve been mulling around what it would be like to return to the 1960s, though it was a tumultuous time in U.S. history. Being a child of the 1970s, here are  some things I remember from the late 1960s. I don’t think I want to go back there, because it was a confusing time in which to grow up.

1. Flower power. I remember having a clipboard in 7th grade that I plastered with neon orange and pink flowers, and I drew peace symbols everywhere. I loved that clipboard and carried it with me everywhere. The idea of “flower children,” with simple values of peace, love, and rock-n-roll appealed to me. I didn’t really know about the Summer of Love or the sexual revolution, nor did I care about that as a young adolescent. It just seemed to me that the song “Are You Going to San Francisco?” was a great anthem exemplifying the flower children. “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” … “peace and love, brotherhood” — those sounded like wonderful ideas to me at the time.

2. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Wow, what a big word. I remember my parents discussing how young people were out of control in their rebellion against The Establishment (their motto: Never trust anyone over 30). Something inside me resonated with this restlessness against the powers that be, though I never would have had the courage to stand up to my parents and basically tell them that their middle-class values were sending them straight to hell. (Now, looking back as a parent myself, I know why as a young adolescent I was attracted to this idea. It wasn’t too much fun being on the flip side of adolescent rebellion.)

3. The Jesus movement. Again, as an onlooker observing this movement from afar, I thought it was a “groovy” thing. People returned to the way things were done in the early church, even going so far as to live on communes (yes, they copied the hippies) and sharing their possessions. A new spirit of excitement about Jesus and an emphasis on Jesus’ humanity appealed to me as a young adolescent. Suddenly it was cool to like Jesus and to try to be like him. And as we all know, when you’re an adolescent, everything is about fitting in with your peers. That the Jesus movement would lead to the “one way” mentality in many Christians didn’t strike me at the time. I saw Jesus as my friend and as an example to follow. I still do, though I would like to think I’ve matured in my faith, and I am more impressed with Jesus the Teacher and Jesus the Son of God, but mainly how Jesus treated others.

4. The sexual revolution. I remember hearing a lot of arguments about the Pill and how it led to a promiscuous culture. Nowadays I look back on people like Gloria Steinem and other feminists and admire them for the courage they had to take a stand, even if some of what they stood for was not ideas I particularly agree with. I do think it should be up to women to be responsible for their own bodies, and I dislike the government trying to interfere and dictate what they do with their bodies. If someone chooses to have sex, they should be able to have access to protection against the consequences of sex (pregnancy, STDs, etc.). It’s nobody’s damn business what a woman does with her body. I myself chose to practice abstinence, but again, it’s nobody’s business to try to dictate the very personal area of sexuality. I am uncomfortable when anyone tries to push sexuality into the open. I don’t care what other people do in bed, just so they’re not in my face with it.

5. The erosion of trust in political figures. This didn’t appeal to me, but it was a fact of American culture during the ’60s. I remember Richard Nixon standing in front of TV cameras, waving his hands in a victory sign and declaring, “I am not a crook!” as his jowls shook and his body language conveyed the exact opposite. I also got sick to death of hearing about Watergate, and it was disillusioning to realize that the party in power would break into the opposite political party’s headquarters just to win an election.

6. Long-haired, unkempt young people. I remember guys growing their hair long (and I adore the song that talks about someone going for a job interview with his hair in a hat, and after he gets the job, he takes his hat off and says, “Imagine that!”) and what a controversy that aroused in their parents. I have evolved in my thinking about men with long hair. I remember a beautiful young man who lived on our street in the 1980s and how pretty his hair was. I was envious of his lustrous, curly locks… and now I don’t give a second thought to guys with long hair. That’s their business. Tattoos don’t bother me; neither do nose, ear, chin, lip, and eyebrow piercings. I do have a little problem with people who put plugs in their tongues and their ear lobes, mainly because the former makes them talk funny, and the latter — well, let’s just say there will be a lot of old people running around with extremely long ear lobes someday. But it’s a form of self-expression, and who am I to judge them? I’ve found that when I take time to talk to people who are decked out like this, for the most part they’ve been very nice and polite to me.

I still don’t think this world is going to hell in a handbasket. Youth culture is always going to go against the culture of older generations. In time, it seems, everything becomes balanced (or at least maybe we adjust to the ideas that people are different from us and it’s okay). Then we’re on to the next trend.

My concern about this generation is its rebellion toward “organized religion” and its culture of atheism. I suspect that much of it is a reaction to disappointing encounters with judgmental Christians who preach a gospel of fear (you’re going to hell if you don’t change your ways) rather than love.

These are my rambling thoughts at 5:30-6:20 a.m. Disclaimer: I’ve had only one cup of coffee. You may not agree with anything I’ve said. That’s okay. I’m open to talking about any ideas with you. Perhaps if we can learn to listen to each other respectfully, we can have some interesting dialogue.

[Perhaps you wonder why I chose a photo of a whale to go with this post. I don’t know. I have a limited number of images in my media library, and sometimes I just like this image of the whale submerging.]

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Something’s Afoot in the Trudel Home

A more appropriate title for this post is “Something’s Always Afoot in the Trudel Home.” The latest news is we have nine 10-gallon buckets in our dining room, supporting a door that is laid on top of them. What’s a slightly obsessive-compulsive person to do?

John plans to start his garden in our dining room. Remember my previous post, “Perfection Is Overrated”? Well, this situation is about to drive me over the edge.

I know it’s a work in progress. We’ve had many works in progress in our home over 32 1/2 years of marriage. One was our dining nook in our previous house. John removed the doors to our cabinets to paint them. Mysteriously, they never reappeared. So we were before our time: we had open cabinets to show all of our stuff that people normally hide behind closed doors.

This is what it is like to live with a person who has ADD. God has a sense of humor, I am convinced, in making certain matches. I grew up in a somewhat cluttered home. My mother was a schoolteacher but she was not a perfectionist. I, being the only child, am a recovering perfectionist. Some days are better than others. I don’t know why I am quite so perfectionistic. It could be because my dad, an accountant, was always precise about numbers and other details. (I didn’t inherit his talent for math.) It could be because my parents had high expectations of me. It could be because…gasp! I’m anal.

I love John. I love his creative mind. He amazes me with his problem-solving ability and the way he thinks outside the box. But he also drives me crazy at times.

Recipe for insanity for a person who’s slightly (or maybe very) OCD:

1. Fall in love with someone with ADD.

2. Feel overly responsible for keeping things where they belong (having been taught, “A place for everything and everything in its place” even though said person’s mother did not exactly practice this proverb).

3. Marry someone who doesn’t remember where he last laid things down. (I spent years trying to help him find things. I give up.)

4. Have children, both of whom inherited the ADD tendencies.

5. Work full-time and attempt to cook and keep the house clean and semi-organized.

I guess that’s enough. Let’s just say that the bare buckets with dried paint on them are not inspiring me at all. I want to cover them with something. John plans to put a tarp over them. I told him at least we were trendy with the distressed look of the door.

Will the garden ever happen? Stay tuned and see…

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Perfection Is Overrated

For years I have been hesitant to hold any social gatherings at my house, thinking it’s such a wreck and so small that it doesn’t lend itself to an easy flow for traffic. Our former house, a bungalow near Centennial Park, was set up perfectly for parties, and we did quite a few (mostly kids’ birthday parties after we had children, but there was a day when we invited Sunday school classes over to our house for dinner parties, etc.). Our living room and dining room were huge; the rest of the house, not so much.

When we moved to our current house in 2004, I was drawn in by the wood paneling in the kitchen (takes me back to younger days), captivated by the arch between our living room and the dining room, loved the red flocked wallpaper look of the dining room (which we have never used as a dining room but as a multipurpose room…at one point it became our guest bedroom, so we blocked the arch with the china hutch…I never liked it that way, but it provided a little privacy for anyone unlucky enough to stay overnight at our house. We had a full house then with both our children at home and no guest bedroom. The guest bedroom morphed into John’s office for a couple of years, then back into a guest bedroom.)

This weekend we moved our china hutch back into its proper place in the dining room. We have a little bit of work to do in the dining room to make it look more like a dining room rather than just a room with random furniture placed about. I think the arch from the living room to that room will make us pay attention to the looks of the dining room, and eventually we’ll get it where we want it.

We had a game night on Sunday (it being a holiday weekend) and invited 3 couples over. One couple couldn’t come due to wanting to watch 2 football games. That turned out to be just as well, as our kitchen table seats only 6 comfortably.

Here are some signs that I am letting go of much of my perfectionism:

* I decided to take a chance and invite people to our house, knowing that it wouldn’t be quite like I wanted it to be, but realizing that if we didn’t start stepping out in courage and inviting people over, we would miss many opportunities for deeper relationships.
* I didn’t think through the menu very well, considering our dishes. I decided that chicken tortilla soup would be a good entree, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time available on Sunday to cook, considering that our choir sang for a 2:00 memorial service, and it was one of those occasions I felt I needed to be part of.
* As John and I scurried about the house, straightening up, dusting, vacuuming, etc., I realized the kitchen floor needed mopping. This was about an hour before guests were due to arrive. So I did a quick swipe of the kitchen floor (as John went around with a broom and worked on sticky spots).
* Our first guests arrived before I had finished setting the table. As I pulled out the dishes, I realized, to my horror, that we had only 5 matching plates but an overabundance of soup bowls. Also not enough matching silverware (we have a conglomeration of my stainless, my mom & dad’s stainless, and some other stainless collected over the years). Oh well, no big deal. Then there came the matter of glassware. We had two crystal glasses in our cabinet and four crystal glasses that almost matched in our china hutch. Again, I figured no big deal. At least they were the same color: clear.
* The first to arrive helped set the table, sort out the most matching silverware (from our dishwasher and the silverware drawer), and generally prepare the layout for our very formal (ha-ha) dinner.
* I realized later in the evening that I had asked one guest to bring an apricot cake, thinking that was her specialty, since I’d bought one at a cake walk at work. Then after conversation I realized that she had never made an apricot cake, and she probably wondered why in the world I asked her to bring one. (This communication took place by e-mail, so she didn’t ask me if she could bring another dessert.) Oh well, that was okay…I also had never made the soup that we served for dinner. It turned out to be a little bland, but it was passable. Guess I should forget about trying new, untested recipes (and adding my own twist) with dinner parties.
* John and I had just a few “words” before the party. He said, “This is why we don’t invite people to our house more often.” To which I replied, “I’m not bent out of shape; I’m just ‘focused’ on what we need to do.” We had our typical exchange of “do this,” both of us trying to be in charge. It was rather comical, in retrospect. After 32 1/2 years we still struggle over who’s the boss when it comes to certain situations. If I’d learn to bite my tongue and say “Yes, dear” (and I have done that on a few occasions lately), there would be less tension. But John also can say those words, even through gritted teeth. Enough about the intricacies of marital communication!
* Despite all the bobbles, I think everyone who came over had a good time. We played the original edition of Trivial Pursuit. I thought I would be on the winning team, joining two women with PhDs. At first we were ahead, getting the first wedge in our playing piece. But alas, the other team got the EASY questions AND luck was on their side. Next time we will get the box with the easy questions!
* I was amused by one guest who borders on OCD. Before we started playing, she wanted to rearrange all the cards in the boxes because they were turned every which way. (I told her she could come over and help me organize our house anytime.) We did get all the cards turned the same way (I guess the random turning of the cards before was just a sign of our family, of which three members have ADD), and life was good. I thought I would burst into laughter watching this same guest when someone on the other team put a wedge in the playing piece upside down (something that has bugged me greatly in the past). I was waiting to see how long it would be before she mentioned it. I think it drove her crazy for about 10 minutes before she finally said something. That was comical!
Now that we have our house somewhat in order (there’s always progress to be made), maybe we’ll start inviting folks over more often. It’s good for people to see how the other half lives…those who don’t have the trendiest furniture, decorations, and just barely manage to keep their heads above water when it comes to having a neat and tidy house. My motto for 2015 is “Never postpone joy.”
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