Monday, August 26, 2013

It's not about Me

It is raining outside.  It sounds so lovely.  The pitter patter on the roof, the deck, the driveway.  On one had it makes me nervous because so much has gone wrong with this house that I find myself walking around staring up at my ceiling, praying I don't find any new water marks.  But I should not worry.  I'm fairly certain we have a good roof. 

Rain is also so soothing.  It kind of melts my insides when I sit back and just listen.  Everything slows down and there is only me and the rain and dark. 

It hasn't really rained since we've lived here.  A sign of God's faithfulness and love to me.  Since we've moved in, we've had building materials, carpeting, old drywall pieces, and all kinds of construction trash piling up all around our house and under our deck.  And I was concerned that if it rained, it would make a colossal mess and everything would be a million times harder to dispose.  And it didn't rain.  And weeks went by and it was hot and sunny, but cool at night.  And dry.  Always dry.  And then the dumpster came.  And we spent three days filling it to the brim.  And the day it was taken away, it rained.  Maybe it seems like a coincidence to you.  Maybe you'd like to say we just got lucky.  Or tell me it's just how an Oregon summer goes.  But I know better.  It was a gift in reply to a prayer. 

And now it is raining.  And I feel my soul melting down and relaxing into this blessing.  This rain is washing away all that is left of the cat pee and drywall dust and the memories of it all will fade away. 

I love the rain.

As I sit here at the computer, waiting for Hubs to call for a ride home on this dark and rainy night, I'm trying to figure out where to go from here.  It has been a trying week in some ways.  Emotionally and spiritually I've been challenged in powerful ways to think better, speak better, be better. 

These moments of reflection and challenge are so interesting in the way they can rock your world without a single other soul noticing.  It's kinda funny that way. 

I've been angry and sad for little while now.  All the time angry and sad.  And I can still smile and have a nice day, but deep down in my core, there are black clouds that need to go.  And the snippy replies and the yelling and unyielding darkness need to go too.  After talking with a very smart and trusted friend, I've come to the realization that my grief has made me angry and bitter and sad.  But I don't want to be angry or bitter or sad.  I want live.  I want to be happy.  I want to do right by J's life and do right by mine. 

And so I spent more time thinking and writing and speaking with another good friend about it.  And I realized that in this whole grieving and blogging and talking process, I've become so fixated on trying to figure out who I am now and what I am feeling now and how I fit into the world that I've failed to grasp that it isn't really about me at all.  And perhaps in my search to navigate the world I've been spending so much time focusing on myself that I've become a self absorbed, angry, bitter woman. 

And maybe, just maybe, instead of spending so much time trying to see how I fit, how I feel, how it all works for me, I need to stop thinking about myself all the time.

Because it's not really about me at all.

Or at least it shouldn't be.  Don't get me wrong, self reflection can be a good thing.  Clearly this post involves quite a bit of it.  But one thing that I've learned more than once and seem to keep forgetting is that unhappiness follows when it's all about me.  This whole self serving mindset that our world touts is nothing but a lie. 

Joy doesn't come from looking in the mirror.  Joy comes from looking at God.  From seeking Him.  From searching for His gifts and His challenges just for you.  Yeah, challenges.  Who doesn't like adventures that make you grow?  Sure, climbing a mountain is hard work.  But once you reach the summit, you are stronger and can appreciate the beauty and accomplishment of that moment.  That moment of joy doesn't come when you take the gondola up.  It's the challenge and the overcoming and growth that make it make it worthwhile. 

It's a very humbling experience to write out a fault.  And then to publish it for the world to read.  But accountability is a good thing.  And I don't want to be like this any more.  I've been working very hard to look out instead of in.  I've been working very hard to speak love.  I've been biting my tongue a lot and trying to stop and just not be angry all of the time. It takes a lot of patience.  I used to be really good at patience.

The one thing that helps the most when I'm angry and bitter and sad is to find something, anything to be thankful for.  And I've read the book and followed the blog, but I've never really wrote out my 1000 gifts before.  So I'm going do it here.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, look up Ann Voskamp and her best-selling book One Thousand Gifts. 

1. Cleansing Rain
2. New beginnings
3. Kilz paint
4. morning cuddles with sleepy babies.
5. doggy deep breathing at my feet

My perspective and life are going to change.  Would you join me? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Live And Learn

Things are really starting to heat up in home improvement world.  We had the dumpster delivered this past weekend and ripped out all of the flooring in the entire upstairs.  And then a few walls and subfloors as we found new surprises. 

This is my entryway and stairwell.  We found more cat pee in a few areas when trim and flooring were removed.  I'm going to refrain from sharing my feelings about cats and their pee and their owners.  And I'm terribly sorry about the smell if you come over.  I'm going to do all my Kilzing at the same time, so it's on hold and nasty. 

The kitchen floor is also a nasty mess.  When we ripped out the 2 layers of linoleum, the particleboard subfloor was actually wet and all musty and a little moldy.  Awesome.  Yet another subfloor bites the dust.  Hubs dug it all out and cleaned it up while the kids and I got some fresh air.  So along with the a huge chunk of the kitchen wall that has been ripped out, the the two walls and floors in our closet, a large section of subfloor from our bedroom, the basement storage closet, the basement bathroom wall behind the vanity, and the two walls in the stairwell, we've tossed out a large amount of sheetrock and particleboard.  Nasty, stinky sheetrock.  Sigh. 

But this weekend is hopefully the last of the big demolition projects.  Hubs also cut up the 30 year old hot tub that hasn't been turned on for at least 20 years and shoved that in the dumpster too.  It was so full by that point that he actually had to get in the dumpster and go at a few corners of the tub with an axe so nothing was sticking out.  It maybe wasn't his favorite day, especially after working a night shift.  He slept really, really well when he finally got to bed last night. 

I'm hopeful to think we are now on the upswing and the rebuilding stage of this colossal project.  The guys at Home Depot know me by name and have repeatedly told me we are rebuilding a whole house!  It sure feels that way.  It seems like I'm there almost every day as we find surprises or try something and it doesn't work and have to go back and find something else.

I'm learning a lot about a lot in this process.  And a lot of it is by trial and error.   Like attempting to texturize an entire ceiling by flicking joint compound off a freaking scrub brush.  My fingers are almost healed now.  Almost. 

And maybe don't stand right under the roller when painting your ceiling unless you want white hair and a speckled face.  And for the love of God, use primer first, which everyone in the world must already know.  Here we are with a 34 year old ceiling that has never once been painted and I'm the idiot who just finished the third coat of paint and praying to God it drys well enough because it is the thirstiest ceiling in the world.  Yes. 

And drywalling is incredibly frustrating, especially when working around pipes.  Holy crap, working around pipes just made me want to give up.  So I did.  I figured that since it's going to be under a cabinet it doesn't matter what it looks like and just cut a big square out of the middle, pieced some drywall where I could and then filled in the gaps with Great Stuff foam.  It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. 

But then I started thinking about how impossible it is to remove that crap.  If we ever have to do any repair work in that wall, we're gonna have to hire someone just to save our marriage.  I already feel bad for our future plumber.  But at least the wall is closed?  Tomorrow I will paint that bumpy mess "celery ice" and be happy.  Hey, at least it's not cat pee...

It is all so much work.  And most of it isn't fun work.  But the feelings of accomplishment afterward tend to make it all worthwhile.  And if the feelings don't do it for me, the new kitchen
probably will!  Only 8 more days of washing dishes in the bathroom sink.  I think I can, I think I can...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Happy Hikers

I'm afraid I'm not much better at texturizing than I am at mudding and taping drywall.  But I think I'm good enough.  It is a messy messy process!  I'm standing on a ladder, up by the ceiling, flicking watered down joint compound onto the ceiling  from a scrub brush with my fingers.  And the joint compound goes everywhere.  It was in my hair, in my eyes, the floor is covered, along with all the cabinets and appliances.  The process hurts, too.  I had to stop yesterday because the bristles in the scrub brush started cutting open the tips of my fingers and all of a sudden the brush was pink.  Six bandaids later I tried again, but they wouldn't stay on.  It's no joke that I've poured blood, sweat, and tears into this house already.  I'm going to have to try a different method today, because my fingers are shot.

The home improvement projects are getting busy and a little crazy for the next two weeks.  We are getting a dumpster delivered in a few days.  I'm crazy excited about this.  It's also our anniversary weekend and let me tell you, we know how to keep it hot!  Eleven years is garbage and demolition for this lucky couple.  We are tearing out all the kitchen cabinets, appliances, flooring.  We are finally getting rid of the piles of junk the sellers left us.  The remaining cat pee drywall and subflooring will finally be gone. 

Ah.  Getting rid of the junk and mess will be so nice.  Even if it does take two weeks before we have a functional kitchen with running water again.  The upside about this is that we get to go out a little more than normal.  I'm really excited about that one.

Saturday Hubs had a day off and we drove over to the Columbia River Gorge and did a beautiful hike.  It ran along a creek and there was a beautiful, slightly hidden waterfall.  And beautiful rocky formations.  It was shady and cool by the creek and the boy found giant slugs everywhere. It was quiet when the girl wasn't yelping to get out of the backpack.  We walked.  We noticed the trees.  We stopped to let the kids explore the rocky cliffs and throw pebbles and chase frogs at the creek bed.  We heard the birds singing sweet melodies and watched hawks circle the skies.  We held hands and told jokes and smiled.  We thanked God for this wild and amazing world. 

It was a lovely afternoon and so needed.  The joy soaked into my bones and it is still here, radiating through my body.  Stepping out and disconnecting from the normal and SEEING the world is, for me, a necessary process.  I can feel the world chipping away at my soul day after day and there is nothing that heals me like a walk in the woods.  It is the nature.  The calm.  The unpluggedness of it all.  There are no agendas and no chores.  There is God's creation all before me and a yearning from within to look and SEE.  And not only see the splendor of the forests and skies but also of gifts before me each day that I take for granted at times.  Getting out into the wild makes me SEE my Little Man and Little Lady.  And Hubs.  When we hike, all becomes a gift.

Well, almost all of it.  The boy still whines about blisters and asks us eight million times for granola bars.  The girl fights to get out of the backpack, tries to run the other way, cries when we don't let her pick the poison oak.  And it can sometimes be a lot of work to see past all that in order to SEE.  But there is magic in the slugs and waterfalls and majestic trees and they call to us all and we soon stop worrying about the funny tag in the shirt and the dirt on the blankey and the whines and cries settle and we can all take a deep, clean breath and just be.  We seek and we receive Joy. 

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."  -John Muir

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mudding and Other Happy Thoughts

It occurred to me late last night that I've neglected to share many of the happy times and thoughts that we've been experiencing over the past month, instead focusing on the venting and working-it-all-out here.  How's that for harvesting some joy?  And while I will admit that the moments where I wish we could just all be done with this and live happily ever in Heaven are above average lately, it's not all glum.  Not at all.

We've been enjoying many many triumphs in our new home.  Knocking down walls, fixing electrical problems and making things that were neglected and broken nice.  It feels good to make things nice.  Along those lines, I'm proud to say that I finally finished taping and mudding my drywall patches today.  My skirt bears the proof; it is covered in joint compound because, yes, I do drywall right after church, still in my skirt.  Don't be too impressed.  All I can say about my drywalling skills are that A. I''m glad we have no lights in the kitchen right now and B. I'm really glad the ceiling will be textured soon.  Here's hoping my texturizing skills are better than my smoothing out skills. 

We've also been enjoying the great outdoors.  We've gone on a number of fantastic hikes and walks all around.  Oregon is so beautiful.  And we don't even have to go far to partake in the splendor of it all.  The trees, the sunshine, the rolling hills, the blackberries.  Especially the blackberries.  The wild blackberries are everywhere.  They are an invasive species in these parts and it seems many native Oregonians don't hold them in high regard.  I, on the other hand, love them.  We have blackberries coming out of our ears in our yard.  And on our road.  The other day I picked an entire colander full of blackberries in about 20 minutes and I didn't even break a sweat.  They are huge and juicy and sweet.  And free.  And we are blackberry gluttons.  It's gonna be a sad, sad day in this house when berry season is over. 

We've also been enjoying making friends and getting to know our local community.  And everyone is so amazingly nice and friendly and helpful.  This is such a lovely place to live.  In a few minutes, I'm going to wake up Little Lady so we can make it to a community party at our local park.  I better change my skirt first....

The joy is here and we are choosing it often. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Quest

I'm supposed to be mudding and taping my ceiling right now.  That is what nap times are for: work.  But I am just all jumbled in my brain and feeling rather sad and discouraged and frustrated at the world for a million things that are so far beyond my control.  And I think if I can just work it all out enough to actually put a real idea on paper, maybe that will be enough to quiet the raging in my brain for even just a moment. 

First off, I'm just missing my Jameson a LOT this week.  Little Man is taking swim lessons every morning at the local community center and there are two sweet little boys with DS at the pool every morning when we get there.  And they are so cute and so snuggly and I just look at them and feel how much I'm missing out every day with my Jameson gone.

And Little Lady is developmentally right around where Jameson was when he got sick.  And I see him dancing around the room in that special toddler way when she starts.  And I see him learning to talk and jabber with that sweet voice when she does.  And I see him wave to every person on the face of the earth with the cutest hand ever made when she waves.  And it goes on and on and on.  And some of it is awesome.  Because it pulls the memories so close and makes me feel them and him so close.  It drags up things from the vault that I maybe thought were lost.  But having the thoughts and the memories so close like that brings the void just that much closer too.  And every dance party and chat session and friendly interaction takes my breath away.

And I know this phase will go fast and soon it will be over and she'll all of a sudden be this big girl and bigger than her big brother ever got to be.  And I imagine that will knock the wind out of me in just another way.  I think losing a child means never ever getting to just breath ever again. 

And we are still in the meeting people stage, where everyone asks how many kids we have and wants to know about them and even though I have my "answer," it always catches me off-guard and I never know what to say.  And sometimes I say two and sometimes I say three.  And sometimes I say my kids are 7, 5, and 1 and other times I smile and change the subject.  A lot of the time I say my 3 yr old is in heaven and he would be 5 now.  And sometimes I sound brave and matter of fact and I hear myself saying these things and wonder how it can come out of my mouth without tears and scary emotion.  And other times my chin quivers and I look at the ceiling and do deep breathing in the hopes of keeping the ugly crying away.  And all of the time I dread the whole thing. 


As if that isn't enough.

But there is more making me crazy.  Always so much more.  And I find myself wishing I could just be less sensitive.  Why do I have to be such an emotional creature?  If we could just get through the next month or two without crying for no reason or losing tempers or taking every little thing too personally I think I could make it through.  And I said "we" on purpose, because Littles tend to feed off their Mamas and my Littles are not getting the right emotional nourishment right now.  And doesn't that guilt just add to it?  The inadequacies list could really get out of hand if I wasn't so careful to keep logic from flying out the door. 

I read just yesterday that "I have enough because I have Him" and it really spoke to me.  Even when I'm at my wit's end, and the house is a disaster, and I just got turned down for another job, and the baby is crying, and the big boy doesn't understand why I can't drop everything for the 189th time today to look at the spider crawling on the windowsill, and the dogs are barking and the sink is full to the brim with yesterday's dishes and the home improvement projects seem to be multiplying, I have to remember that I have enough because I have HIM.

And when that sinks in and settles into my bones and brain, it makes it a little easier to breath for the first time in what seems like forever.

 It seems like it should be easy to stay there.  To rest in that promise; to just stay there and keep breathing easy.   And it's not.  Not at all.  The baby cries again.  The laundry piles overflow again.  The mess of life interrupts all that is Holy and Good.  And I look around and watch as my sanity threatens to fly once again and I think how much I want peace like a river.  Peace.  When the rapids of life are pushing and pulling and beating against the rocks.  HE offers that peace.  And isn't that what we all want?  To be able to navigate through the messes and carnage and disasters that abound with peace?  To just keep breathing? 

It is a quest unending, I think.  There is no perfection here, but this quest will lead me there one day.  One day the peace that we can only find in pieces will be made whole.