Forty

Today is the day! I am forty.

I started celebrating yesterday with my friend, Allison, who treated me to lunch at Common Roots in Minneapolis. It was lovely.

Today, I am simply grateful and happy to be alive. After what seemed like months of processing and preparing for this day, now that I’m here, I feel blessed and fortunate. I have received the gift of living 40 years. I hope for at least another forty, although I know it’s out of my hands how long I am here!

This morning I woke up to Alan delivering breakfast in bed, along with the Sunday paper–which I read in bed for over an hour while enjoying my delicious birthday meal.

I spent the rest of the day sitting by the bonfire, going shopping at Goodwill and Half Price Books, and cleaning out our “office”, which will soon be our homeschooling space.To finish off the day, we shared a delicious dinner that Alan made.

I feel so very loved.

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Unlikeable

I had a bad dream last night.  It was about something that’s been nagging at me lately–something I think I’ve tried to stuff away but is now rearing it’s head and won’t stop until I deal with it.

I really don’t like dealing with this topic.  It hurts to feel it.  But, maybe it’s time for me to feel it fully and then let it go, so here goes.

As long as I can remember, I have felt unliked and unlikeable.

Now, I don’t want to place blame on anyone or anything for this belief.  I’ve created the belief and hung onto it for almost 40 years.  The experiences I’ve had have served a karmic purpose. I must, however, acknowledge that in my family of origin, I didn’t feel liked, and often times, I did not feel loved.  I was criticized a great deal.  I was shamed and yelled at. When I expressed myself–my beliefs, feelings, style, likes and dislikes–I was rejected and shamed.

For as long as I can remember, I have believed that something was wrong with me and that I was essentially flawed and unacceptable.  Not just to my parents, but to the world.  If my parents didn’t like me, then how could anyone else? (I am pretty sure they like me now, for the most part.)

This is the painful belief I have to process now, just in time for my 40th birthday.

What’s next? Homeschooling!

My last post reflected on the last few years and the storms we have weathered as a family in order to be where we are today: a pretty good, solid place. So, what better time than now to throw something new into the mix?

Mia and Anna have been asking to be homeschooled for the past two years.  After plenty of reflection, research, and problem solving, we’ve found a way to make it work–and think it will be for the best.  Our kids will have more freedom and more peace and quiet. They will have more time, less pressure, and more connection and meaningfulness.  We’ve done it before and we can do it again, right?

This time, though, it will be a little different.  I will continue working part-time.  Mia will be a college-bound high school student.  We will have to keep records, complete curriculum, and make sure we’re on track with everything that is required for her to become a successful college student.  I feel pretty excited about it all, and needless to say, the girls do, too.

And Anna–well, she needs something entirely different. We will follow a general curriculum with her, but we will take it easy.  She needs healing. She needs space and room to play, wonder, imagine, create, and breathe.  She needs me close by to hug and comfort her. She needs distance and protection from the world of public school, which has been overwhelming to her gentle spirit.

We have laid low and haven’t officially announced this to our family and friends quite yet.  There are people who will disagree, be disappointed, and be unsupportive.  That is ok.  We are doing this for us–for our family.  It feels right to us, and that’s what matters. We are fortunate to have my parents’ full excitement and support. It always helps to have someone in one’s corner.

This homeschooling venture is a great labor of love.  It is a sacrifice that may challenge me in ways I do not yet know. In many ways, it is like a new baby.  It will take adjustment, patience, and commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

We survived.

I have been thinking about time and how things happen that change us.  We can never go back and be who we were before.  Change is painful and humbling.  It is beautiful, too.  Change can wake us and open us–as long as we roll with it and not resist.

About five years ago, the universe pushed me in a drastic new direction. After being committed to homeschooling and full-time mothering for a long time, I suddenly knew that Mia needed to start school, that Anna would start preschool, and I would start grad school.  The decision was made overnight, and we just did it.

Hard times came along with that change.  It was tight and stressful during those years.  There was grief. There was focus. Alan and I got hit with pneumonia. We sold our house and moved.  We lost three beloved pets.  We lost great-grandma.  I left the church. Our marriage was challenged like never before.

Work, internship and classes consumed my life for a while. I struggled to maintain the relationship with my children that I’d had before the change. I intensely processed my childhood and the repressed parts of me that had to be faced.

Tremendous storms passed through with crises in my family of origin and with my best friend.

My dad got cancer.

My ideals were shattered, and one by one, I learned to let a lot of them go. I learned to ask for help and accept it more graciously. I learned to forgive and embrace imperfection. I gained weight. My health suffered a bit. I broke.

And, I kept moving–we kept moving.

We were on a little boat in the ocean, heading in a general direction but not always knowing where we were or if we would make it.  Sometimes, we had to hang on to that boat for dear life, waiting for the storms to pass.

We’ve now reached the shore.  We’re a bit weathered and rough, but have stepped out of the boat and are resting on dry, soft land.  It is lovely.  It is sun and warmth and fresh air and a sky full of stars.

I think I can safely say this now: we survived.

As a family, we might be more in love with each other and more grateful than we were before.  We’re back together again, grounded and committed in a new way. We have been washed clean with a good, heavy rain.

My children remember the hard times, and sometimes I feel badly about that.  “You were so crabby when you were working full-time,” they remind me.  “We used to read books every night.”

Most of the time, though, I’m glad they remember.  Yes, I was crabby. I still am, although less so.  We read books again, or at least we read more consistently. My children saw me at my worst, and so did I.  And at the same time, they saw me at my best.

And my husband? He just loves me. He loves us. He has weathered the storms with grace and loyalty. I think I’ve seen him at his best, but not yet at his worst. I don’t think he has a “worst.” He has been kind, accepting, and encouraging through it all.

We’ve been roughed up a bit, but just enough–without damaging the softness inside.  That softness inside has only grown. Both the roughness and the softness will carry us through the storms that lie ahead.

And there will always be storms.

 

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Anna, enjoying one of the many snowstorms this year brought us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m happy.

I feel like I have to hold my breath to make this feeling last.  I am happy.

I guess it’s more than a feeling.  It’s a state of being that I don’t usually have.  There is contentment and gratitude and faith that things are the way they are supposed to be.

Last week I had a health scare that shook me up quite a bit and left me thinking about my own mortality.  I thought about how my family might go on without me someday and what it would be like to leave them behind.  After some tests, I learned that I do not have any fatal diseases and that I am okay for now.  It was a relief, and it was also a blessing to have gone through that.

I have fibrocystic breasts, which have become increasingly painful.  Because I am a holistically minded person, I am not settled on the “take some Tylenol” recommendation of my MD.  I am working with my wonderful holistic doctor to heal my breast tissue along with the rest of my body.  Inflammation in one area of the body means inflammation in other areas, and the solution involves a new diet, better stress management, and better self care.  Chronic inflammation leads to a host of disease, including cancer.

Whether I can get my body to a better place or not, today I feel peace and contentment that this is the experience I am here to have.  If I get breast cancer (which is what I sense that my condition could lead to), then I’ll get that.  If I die young, then so be it.  I’ll do my best to be well and accept whatever comes.

Anna is home with me today.  I spent the day cleaning the house.  I hugged Anna for a long time and felt her beautiful energy, like rays of sunshine permeating every cell of my being.  In that moment, I felt that everything I needed is right here, right now.  Like Eckhart Tolle says, “Be here now.”  Today, I am here.

Life is a rollercoaster

Extreme ups and downs can exist simultaneously. This is something I haven’t realized until recently.

I feel both love and joy when I think of my dad, and also grief and sadness. It’s such a complicated mixture of feelings. It takes a lot of energy to experience this and I am starting to wonder how it will affect me in the long term.  My dad is doing well at this time, and my goal is to focus on that as much as I can.

I am reminiscing a great deal and thinking of wonderful things about my dad.  I want to compile a little book for him that contains some of my memories.  If enough time and ambition arises, I’ll include some sketches or photos, too.

Our little family had a lovely Easter weekend with baskets and colored eggs and yummy food and karaoke. And, we started something new: telling jokes along with karaoke. It is so much fun. Laughter and singing are maybe the best medicine for the soul.

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Vinyl

A part of my soul that was lost years ago has been returned.

Today while I was napping, Alan went out and bought a record player and some used records to add to a little collection we started recently.

He showed off the new purchase by playing Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.”

It transported me into another dimension. Time stopped. My skin tingled. I almost cried.

Music from a record is a physical music. It is felt not only by the ears and heart but by the body, too.

Sitting on the sofa with my soft, purring kitty in lap while listening to records might be my new favorite way to spend a Friday night.

Everything is temporary.

Since learning about my dad’s illness, grief comes and goes in waves.  Sometimes the waves overcome me and make me stop what I am doing. Then I cry and feel the intensity of that wave.  Like surfing.  It goes up and comes back down again.

Through this process, there has been an increasing sense of clarity.  There is a force making me let go of my firm grip on how things are right now.  Everything is temporary.  Everything I love will eventually fade, change or pass away. This moment is all that any of us have.  This is both terrifying and comforting.

What happens after we die?  Why are we alive in the first place? I think about it a lot these days.  The possibilities of heaven and reincarnation and karma are comforting and fascinating.  Life is a great mystery.  One of the benefits of dying, I suppose, is finding out once and for all what happens to us once we leave our bodies.

We watched the movie, A Dog’s Purpose, which so beautifully portrays the circle of life and the purpose of living.  “A dog’s purpose is to be here now.” Maybe that is our purpose, too.

 

Engagement, revisited.

On September 14, 1998, Alan asked me on a date outside the large ensemble room at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.  I nervously accepted. On September 16, 1998, Alan and I had our first date and spent some time at a park on a little lake called Half Moon Lake.  On October 31, 1999, Alan proposed to me at this same park, while I sat on a park bench overlooking the lake, nervously giggling and eventually accepting his proposal.  So, naturally, we had to visit and reenact these scenes when we recently visited Eau Claire roughly 20 years later. This time, there was less nervous giggling, but there were clearly more pounds, more grey hair, and more children, too.  I married a sweet, handsome, and all-around amazing man.  I am grateful.  Happy 20-ish years, Hub.

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Optimistic

I visited my parents today, all by myself.  No kids, no dog, no siblings.  I can’t remember the last time I did that.  It was special and memorable. My dad looked and acted like his usual self and has handled things well.  He begins chemo on Monday. I feel hopeful, especially compared to yesterday.  I suppose that is how this journey will be: up and down.  He is hopeful, too.  He believes in his doctors and in the medicine.

My dad will receive one treatment every three weeks, for a total of 6 treatments or as much as his body can handle.  I hope and pray for his body handles the treatments, that he stays free from infection, and all of the cancer in his body disappears and his body is filled with healthy cells.  He won’t see much of Mia and Anna, because they are sick so often and spend 36 hours per week in the petri dish called school 🙂 Even a little sniffle or sore throat could send him down a bad road, so we’re not even going to risk that. And, at the same time, I do believe his life is in the creator’s hands and that things will unfold according to plan.

I watched the movie, Heal, and recommended it to my dad.  It is a documentary that emphasises the power of belief, such as belief in the chemo medication and believing it will heal the cancer. I found the movie to be inspiring and lovely.  It is a little “out there” and maybe a bit hippie-ish, especially for someone like my dad–an traditionalist and an engineer.  I am one of those who is willing to try just about anything and everything alternative.  And I am trying to hold back and remind myself to accept and allow my dad to choose his own path and experience this journey in his own way.