Scars

I bought myself a Writer’s Journal that has a daily prompt. January 8th’s was about scars. “Every scar tells a story. Write the story of a scar you know well.”

April 25, 1991

Mike and I had been married for almost three years and I had graduated in December from WSU with a Vocal Performance degree. I was thoroughly enjoying my first semester of no school in 17 years. I’d committed to jogging on the treadmill in our basement daily, so my 23rd birthday was no exception. I’d just turned it on when Mike came downstairs to say goodbye before work. Somehow I misstepped and fell as the treadmill unforgivingly dumped me to the end. I was dazed and didn’t realize the back of my right hand was being rubbed off by the friction of the moving rubber belt. Mike quickly raced to my side, pushed me from the treadmill and turned it off. It was painful and I still have the scar as you can see from the photo, but I feel joy and gratitude when I look at it because I didn’t realize I was pregnant with our firstborn at the time of the fall. I could have fallen on my stomach and possibly miscarried, which would mean we wouldn’t have had Dillon who is a daily source of joy as a son and a friend, and we wouldn’t have our precious grandsons, Dillon and Sam’s boys, Theo and James. I’m so thankful my hand took the hit, and that Mike just happened to come downstairs at that exact moment. This scar is a reminder of how grateful I am for Dillon’s safety before I even knew he existed. Though Mike and I had no idea we were going to be parents, God knew, and had plans for His son, Dillon Michael Noller. We continue to be blessed by his life every day.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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A Seinfeld Moment

If you’re a Seinfeld fan you’ll def appreciate this post. One of the funniest things about Seinfeld was how out of sync the main characters were with most of the people around them. They were always misjudging, miscalculating, misinterpreting others’ actions and words and then embarrassing themselves.

Being a teacher and a performer I run into many people who recognize me and say hello but I don’t always know who they are right away. Because this happens so often I have recently seen a few people smiling and waving at me so I waved back only to realize they were waving at someone else. Keeping this in mind, Mike and I were at the Shocker basketball game against Temple today and a man further down our aisle smiled and waved at me. I smiled but felt awkward and disconnected my gaze, not recognizing him. I could barely concentrate on the rest of the first half of the game because I felt bad that I had basically shunned the guy and he so obviously knew me. I asked Mike if he recognized him and he didn’t. At the end of halftime I mustered up the courage, tapped the guy on the shoulder and said, “ Hi you smiled and waved at me and I didn’t wave back!” He said, “No I didn’t.” I was immediately so embarrassed that I rambled on and on and no, I’m not sure of what I said, I then mumbled an “I’m sorry,” found my seat and felt EXTREMELY stupid…AGAIN! I told Mike what I had done, and just like Kramer, Elaine, and George he said, “Oh no! You didn’t! Why did you have to say something?”

Now if I’d been Jerry Seinfeld I would have insisted that he smiled and waved at me and I would have said I wouldn’t leave him alone till he admitted it and it would’ve become even more embarrassing than it already was.

It must really be nice being one of the cool people in the world who never do or say the wrong thing. I wouldn’t know.

Heart Punches

My therapist recently asked me to list my “heart punches” of 2018. He knows I’m an emotional person, a cyclothymic, a moody artist who hasn’t had the time to cry in months. He wanted me to give myself permission to let the tears flow.

The irony of this is clear to all who know me well. My three boys were just joking over Christmas break about “mom’s weekly cry sessions,” reminiscing over the countless times they’ve heard me sobbing…in the bathtub, watching a movie, praying, etc.

Yes. I’m a crier and I’m not ashamed. However, working full time with other people’s children is a different kind of responsibility. I’ve had to learn to stuff my emotions in order to do my job. I have to put my students first and promote joy, peace, laughter, contentment, and stability in my classroom. My own artistic temperament must take a back seat, maybe even get stuffed in a suitcase in the trunk. This has become entirely too easy to do. I now understand how and why most people avoid tears. They’re exhausting and the energy they take is needed to put out daily fires and get things done.

I’ve recently become familiar with the Enneagram personality test. If you’re interested in finding out more you can go to https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/ and take the quiz. It’s much more intricate and thorough than any other personality test I’ve taken, and I recommend studying further. It’s broken down into 9 types with secondary “wings” as well as 9 degrees of health to each type. I am a 4 which is “the individualist,” described as follows: Sensitive, Introspective Type, Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental. 4’s aren’t afraid of emotion, negative or positive. They feel more “real,” more alive when they are feeling and expressing those feelings. Yet I have a 3 wing which almost has a contradictory edge. The 3 is “the achiever,” the success-oriented, pragmatic type:

Adaptable, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious. My 4 wants to be honest and introspective while my 3 cares about what others think. This can be a great combination when balanced appropriately. As of lately I’ve been off balanced and I haven’t let my tears flow, regardless of the heart punches I’ve experienced. Per my therapist’s request, here’s my list for 2018:

1. King Jon continues to hang in limbo bedridden with Alzheimer’s

2. I lost a student to a tragic road accident

3. I lost two family pets to old age, one of whom was my therapy dog

4. Our finances were cut by 35%

5. I turned 50

6. Our youngest son is graduating so we will be “empty nesters.”

It’s quite a list of transitions and stressors, but I suspect it’s similar to everyone else’s who happens to be reading this post, especially if you’re in my age group. Life is always changing and doesn’t give you time to get used to the differences before it shifts again. Luckily Christmas break has given me the time to focus inward which I so desperately need, and watching the tear jerker Marley and Me with my new lab puppy on my lap broke the dam holding back my sorrow. While crying is exhausting, I personally need to do it regularly in order to purge the ever building storm of emotion within. I can’t emphasize enough how much better I feel! Now I’m ready to face 2019, heart punches and all!

The Story of Us

I had a rare moment just sitting by our Christmas tree and really looking at it in all of its glory. What makes it so beautiful? The multi-colored lights are pretty and add an other-worldly glow to the room and the gold beads are lovely, but it’s the collection of ornaments that have my attention.

There’s our bride and groom purchased in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in 1988, a blown-glass baby for our firstborn from the same Eureka Springs shop in 1991, more “baby’s 1st Christmas” ornaments as our family grew, the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, the Eiffel Tower, an RV, Yosemite memento, and every hand made ornament the boys gave us through the years. Eevie’s ornament hangs high and reminds me of the tears and tiniest bit of hope that she would just make it through her first Christmas, and now she’s five and going strong! Our grandsons , Theo and James, are now represented on our tree.

I’m truly overwhelmed at our story hanging on these branches. 30 years of marriage, 35 years of love are shown here in every decoration. People we love, places we’ve been, milestones we’ve reached, experiences we’ve enjoyed…the story of us…told on our Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas to all!

That’s Cringe!

I recently watched a couple of YouTube videos making fun of two Christian women who have a channel full of videos encouraging young women to not kiss before marriage and teaching what it means to be a Christian girl. The videos reminded me of Mandy Moore in the movie Saved. They truly made me cringe! These ladies come across as superficial and self righteous and I felt sick as I realized yet again how Jesus is frequently misrepresented. No wonder young adults and 30 somethings are mocking the faith.

Often I see us Christians in our own little subculture very much like The Who’s down in Whoville. We smile and act cheerful, say all the right things, and are quick to point out the grinches who just don’t have the right attitude, they just don’t fit in with our kind. It’s important to remember that the Grinch is the one who reminded the Who’s that “Christmas doesn’t come from a store…perhaps Christmas means a little bit more.”

We need to apply this lovely Dr Seuss truth to our everyday Christian lives. We are not called to live in a bubble with our own little Jesus subculture, we are meant to be “the salt of the earth.” Jesus doesn’t want His name in lights, He doesn’t care how many bible verses we’ve memorized. Following Him means we’re going to be serving others, not judging them.

As Christ followers, instead of making cringe-worthy YouTube videos about the best and worst kinds of guys to date we need to be at the Food Bank or to volunteer for a service that is actually out there helping others. Let us be servants to all, rich or poor, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic, or Christian. The world will know we are His by the way we love. God loves the whole world and everyone in it. If He deems all worthy of respect, honor, and love, shouldn’t we?

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin. Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy.”

Luke 6:35-36

It’s Elementary!

Dear moms of elementary kids,

I’m a mom of three boys, now ages almost 27, 24, and 18 TODAY…(HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TRISTAN!)

I know how exhausted you feel. How your patience is wearing thinner with every LEGO you step on and nerf dart you find in the couch. I remember grimacing at every ding (from light saber fights) in our woodwork and cringing with frustration over the piles of shoes left in the family room. You are desperately trying to keep your house from looking like an episode of Hoarders but no one else seems to care. And the constant yelling…why do they have to scream whether they’re happily playing or furiously trying to beat each other???

Yes mothers of elementary aged children, I remember…with fondness, laughter, and a twinge of regret. Why didn’t I more frequently stop cleaning or worrying to just watch them? Why didn’t I join in the fun? If I could go back I would put the vacuum up and absorb more of their antics.

Since I can’t, I’m telling you…mothers of k-5…stop being annoyed, and look for the joy. It’s all around you…even in their bickering…they’re high pitched young voices reach maturity and drop an octave in just a few years…mere blinks of an eye, and you’ll miss hearing those squeaky cries of “Mom tell him to stop copying me!” “She won’t give me a turn!” “I hate you!”

I’m your kids’ elementary music teacher now because my own kids grew up and I needed more chaos and noise, more hugs and bandaids, more of the elementary yet extraordinary things in life.

Take some time to just be with your kids while you can. Just be…don’t do. Don’t frantically rush them to the next sports practice or tap lesson…take some time to just be together. As cliche as it sounds, it goes way too fast and suddenly you’re not there in that moment anymore. Get back to the basics, the elementary essentials of experiencing the joy of each day with those you most love.

Dust will always be there, children grow up.

Of Doubt and Hope and the Truth of Fairytales

I totally get doubt.

I live in it, as I’m a truth seeker and struggle with not being able to have all the answers. I want the truth and feel frustrated in my quest. There comes a time in all of our lives whether we have faith in God or not, where we have to let go of expectations and embrace the mystery in which we are shrouded.

I understand why some let go of faith and turn away from belief in God. Pain and disappointment are the ultimate heartbreakers in this world. It’s easy to see why we grow up and often outgrow our childlike hope. We give in to cynicism and mistrust. Once our hearts have been crushed, we learn to question everyone and everything, and faith and hope sometimes seem the stuff of fairytales.

Yet fairytales are stories that often tell of great truths. As GK Chesterton said, “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart and The Sacred Romance, added, “It was Chesterton, years ago while reading his Orthodoxy, who first really helped me see that we live in a Fairy Tale. The world we live in is fantastic beyond description, but we get dull to it and forget. So we tell each other fairy tales so that we turn again to our world and see it for what it is.”

Fairytales remind us we are more than what the world tells us we are. We are the would be kings and queens who first must undergo trials and often treacherous journeys to reach our greatest passion. Some understandably get lost along the way, after all, the path is filled with despair and grief. Yet holding on to hope in the midst of the surrounding darkness can remarkably light up the path just enough to see each step forward. Hope is a choice.

I get doubt, but to deliberately reject hope mystifies me. My faith is not realized, yet my hope is in God. I desire God…I want God to be real more than I want to live in despair. I want to hope. Why would anyone not want hope? That’s one reason I love teaching elementary. They really are the best people in the world. Though adults have disappointed and hurt them they still believe…in us…in themselves…in everything worth believing in. Whatever I can do to help them hold onto that faith I will do. They remind me to keep hoping for that which I seek.

One Voice

I haven’t blogged in awhile. I think I’m entering another cocoon stage in my emotional life. There’s a ebb and flow to all things, like the waves upon the sand…times of active initiative and times of retraction and contemplation.

I started my blog a year and a half ago to help me deal with my dad’s Alzheimer’s and share some stories while I can still remember them. When you have a parent with Alzheimer’s, you have to accept what’s happening to them as well as recognize you might be looking at your own future. My Gramps, my dad, and my aunt all had/have Alzheimer’s. I have a good shot at developing it too, yet I mustn’t waste too much precious time worrying about what I can’t control. There’s a delicate balance between facing the truth and letting go. I’m again reminded of the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve been doing pretty well with all of this, though I lost my “therapy” dog and dearest friend, Gracie, to cancer. She truly had an intuitiveness concerning my moods and comforted me on a deeper level than the average family dog. Losing her in September has rocked my world, yet it’s also shown me I’m stronger than I thought I was. Life is difficult. Anyone that tells you different is either delusional or lying. As we recognize the hardships of life, I am mystified why so many of us insist on making it even harder for ourselves and others. Self-actualization helps us recognize our triggers and our hurts that often contribute heavily to our actions, reactions and decisions. Once we dedicate ourselves to growing and self-discovery we become more conscious of our daily choices which contribute to our happiness/dissatisfaction. Why do so many of us refuse to look inward and take responsibility for our choices? Isn’t life hard enough? Shouldn’t we do our part to make it a little better for ourselves and those around us? My second graders are singing a song I wrote that says,

“All it takes is one voice,

breaking through the silence

All it takes is one voice

Singing loud and clear

One voice to help a hurting heart

One voice is how we make a start

One voice can be a helping hand

Sing and they’ll understand.”

Simple words yet so hard to follow. It’s so much easier to blame someone else for our misery. Yet making the conscious choice to be kind in the midst of anger and tender in the presence of fear, can make a significant difference in the outcome. I no longer have Gracie to absorb my fears, anxieties, and grief, but I have prayer. I have the Maker of Gracie, and the Maker of me. We’re living in a world that teaches us to throw our anxieties onto others, to point a finger rather than accept responsibility. Yet we are told in scripture,

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Well, here it is. I’m casting it on God, and you readers are my witnesses. I hope to be a light in this world to my family, students, coworkers, and all I meet. I’m only one, but maybe my second graders are right…”All it takes is one voice…” Will you join me? One voice can inspire another to join in, and soon there’s a trio, quartet, an ensemble, a choir dedicated to loving and helping others.

The Glass Castle

Mike and I watched The Glass Castle last week. I haven’t read the book but the movie was unsettling. Woody Harrelson brilliantly portrays Rex Walls, father of four, vacillating between intelligent and inspiring dreamer and irresponsible and neglectful alcoholic. The story is a memoir of the second oldest child, Jeanette, and centers around her love/hate relationship with her erratic parents.

Rex educates his children in unconventional yet often exciting ways, teaching them physics and geology through the world around them. His enthusiasm and zest for life are infectious not only to his children but to the viewer as well. This aspect of him strongly reminded me of my own dad, “King Jon”, and I felt a kinship with Jeanette as she idolized him. His dream was to build a “glass castle,” a home with glass walls and ceilings and ever changing architectural plans. His children hung on his every word when they were young, believing he could and would do everything he ever dreamed up. As they mature, they readily see the darkness of his addiction and how his denial is stronger than his talent. Yet the love between them all is genuine and as 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”

The whole movie keeps the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotion, and I began to see how many of us try to categorize people as good or evil, but being human we are all a blend of both. The hope and the goal to strive for is that our good outweighs the bad, but many of us struggle and looking through an honest lens can see we often run 50/50. Addiction tips the scales, and Rex loses the respect of and communication with his daughter Jeanette. Eventually, she visits him and forgives him before his untimely death.

While my own father was much more consistent and nurturing, I felt the tug of war Jeanette’s heart was experiencing. I think most of us go through a time in childhood of equating our dads to God and our belief and trust is stronger than any evidence. As we grow in discernment we see the flaws in those we once deemed as gods. Disillusionment, disappointment, and anger accompany such knowledge, and we then must reevaluate our own values and beliefs. Hopefully relationships are healthy enough to grow through respectful and honest communication. I’m so thankful I got to have those hard conversations with my dad. I “held his feet to the fire” as I cried in brokenness and he took the heat and apologized for the mistakes he made. He showed such strength in being vulnerable and I love him more than ever because of it. I can only hope my own boys will challenge me in such a way and I will be ready with the same openness and vulnerability. Love, genuine love really does “cover over a multitude of sins” as it shines light through our glass castles, revealing our innermost fears and flaws.

Three Things

When Tristan was six years old and just starting first grade, he experienced the physical effects of anxiety every single morning before school. Many children mistake the stomach issues and headaches caused by anxiety as true physical illnesses. Having my own issues and lots of experience in therapy, I asked if he might be feeling nervous about school. He burst into tears and said how worried he felt. We chatted awhile and later that evening I mentioned that I had an appointment the following day with Kraig, my therapist. “When do I get to see Kraig?” Tristan asked in obvious frustration. I told him he could go with me and have some of my therapy time.

Tristan confidently walked into Kraig’s office while I waited in the sitting room. Ten minutes later the door opened and he walked out smiling. Kraig was smiling too. “That was the most enjoyable ten minutes I’ve experienced with a client! He came in, promptly sat down, looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve got three things I need to talk about!” “

None of us can remember exactly what the three things were except they related to Tristan’s anxiety. It doesn’t really matter what they were. What matters is how direct and determined a six year old was to understand himself and make his life better! If only we adults would do the same! Somehow as we grow older, we become experts at avoiding the truth. We make excuses, delude ourselves, and often become slaves to our fears, anxieties, and idiosyncrasies. Most of us are so good at avoiding self-reflection, we can’t name what we’re afraid of, let alone name three whole things we need to work through!

My three things right now are 1. weight maintenance and healthier eating habits 2. Consistent prayer and devotion time and 3. being present wherever I am mentally, emotionally, and physically. Do you have three things you can identify?