My girls and I were five months into our new adventure. New school, new friends, new sports teams new music teachers, new coworkers, new schedules, same hair salon. (Every woman knows next to dreaded new OB-GYN search precipitated by  a move, a hair stylist is the most important find, and I wasn’t up to finding a new one so we still make the hour’s trek back to our old hometown to see Lynn and Monica who work their magic on our tangled manes.)

The calendar showed that summer camp commenced in nine days. Staff from all over the world were showing up in two. I’d been busying myself attending fundraisers for scholarships, talking to prospective parents, creating brochures and postcards, educating myself about all the different social media avenues non profits use, learning software specific to summer camp, recruiting volunteer nurses, writing grants, meeting with vendors for the camp store. Things were humming along quite nicely.

And then they screeched to a halt…and I hit a big wall called reality. Not the reality I was expecting, but hard life reality that comes out of nowhere when we least expect it.

“My last day is Friday,” the summer camp director told me.  “I resigned.”

I don’t remember ever being told I was the one who was going to run the show. I don’t remember much from 11 weeks ago to be quite honest. For 10 weeks straight I worked over 100 hours a week. I learned what “o” rings were for a rifle, and what it means to “fletch an arrow.” I discovered why certain string is better than others for friendship bracelets. There was bait to be bought for the fishing class (bee moths are best) and extra small harnesses to be ordered for those high ropes dwellers who love it up in the trees. My international staff had to get to the social security office, the boat drivers had training to take, the horse wrangler needed certified and the lifeguards needed shirts in all the right sizes.

I felt like I was two steps ahead of the crazy train, and every day at staff meetings, I’d implore my 20 somethings to hang in there. “I know you are getting hit with a lot of changes every single day, but hang in there. You all are doing great!”  And they were. They really, really were, but my biggest fear is that they could read my mind that was a hot mess and run screaming for the hills.

Then the campers came…and the real education began. There were naughty seven year old boys who needed a lecture from a mom not a camp director. Homesick campers asked for bedtime stories. Bedwetters needed laundry done discreetly. Bugs showed up.  All of them.  At one time. In one place. Mosquitoes, chiggers, wasps, bees and bedbugs. Yes. Bedbugs.  Don’t even get me started on that saga. That leads me to the next drama –

Parents.

Parents calling because they weren’t seeing enough pictures on the website of their children. Parents calling to say they saw pictures of their children, but their children didn’t look happy. Parents calling demanding to speak to their unhappy looking children because they were worried, worried, worried that their camp experience was awful, awful awful. Parents calling about the bugs. Parents calling to see if their kids were homesick. Parents calling to see if the bugs were homesick. (Parents, I need you to hear me on this. If you don’t hear from us, everything is fine. The point of summer camp is for you to get a well deserved break. Please don’t call to ask us if your child passed the swim test, is getting enough to eat or can have a top bunk.)

I delivered birthday cakes, started campfires, scraped dishes, scheduled laundry pick ups, ordered pizzas, sang “If I Had a Hammer,” sported Chaco tan lines, hauled stand up paddle boards in from the lake, and  bailed water out of swamped canoes.  I cleaned poop off the pier (bird that is) one minute and greeted board members the next. My all time favorite thing, though was visiting cabins at night with Katy the Wonder Dog. It was the kids’ favorite thing too.

 

Every night around midnight I’d crash on my couch, and the next day at 6, the coffee pot would start up, and I’d be out the door at 7.

Did I mention I still had daughters to raise?

Somewhere in the middle of the crazy of Week 6 and the Drama of Week 7 that Still Small Voice got my attention and said, “Hey, remember the CEO thing?  This is it.”

I was walking through the woods in the silent morning before all the kids were up, and stopped in my tracks at this thought.  The voice continued, “Remember all those years ago, when you were in a dark spot? Your girls were toddlers. Your husband was in Iraq, and you discovered your marriage was in trouble.  Remember what I told you?”

I remembered. “You will write, and you will speak, and thousands will hear your words,” I whispered back to the Still Small Voice. I hadn’t thought of that experience for years.

“This is it.” The Still Small Voice whispered. “This is exactly where the words are going to happen…they are happening now.”

And in recognition of this truth, the tears started flowing…because with me the tears flow pretty easily.

You see every Sunday, I had the privilege of greeting about 250 new campers every week. I’d tell them that camp was family, that they were home, and this is where they belonged. I stood right where Chaplain John stood all those years ago and let them know that God brought each and every one of us here in this space at this time for a special reason.


Every Friday night, I’d look over this room at all the same campers after a week of activities, and fun and friendships and lots and lots of sunscreen and bug spray and remind them that it was their job to take the lessons they learned at camp out into the world because God has a job for all of us, and it’s to share His Love.

But my favorite words were the words I spoke in front of this bell every morning.

They were what we called “First Words.” I’d talk about Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility.  Sometimes I’d tell fables. Sometimes I’d share stories from my childhood. I’d read Psalms or explain Jesus’s parables. Always, always, always I’d remind both campers and staff that God loved them and had a plan for them, and that plan was Good. And the best part of it all was that my late father was always there with me.

Over a decade ago, my life changed drastically. Everything I thought was true overnight, wasn’t. I fought tooth and nail with God about my dreams. All I ever wanted was to have a home and a family, to share a table with friends and use my gift of hospitality to bring just a little bit of “as in heaven,” to “on earth.”  God asked me to put my plans back in the locker because he had other plans…bigger ones….plans that included a 400 acre homestead to share with over 1800 family members, plus a staff that acts as aunts, uncles and big brothers and sisters to Twins A and B.

Over 11 years ago, the Still Small Voice first spoke to me…or at least that’s the first time I was able to hear it. Everything that happened, had to happen to get me to this place. My Life’s Work.

 

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My Life’s Work – Part II

by Priscilla on August 7, 2017

“Priscilla, it’s one of your daughters on the line,” the camp registrar looked at me with concern as she handed me the phone.  I was about two weeks into my new job as Director of Marketing and Development, and she and I were working on camper registrations together. Wondering why my cell didn’t ring, and why they were calling me on a work line, my stomach dropped as I held the receiver into my ear.

“Mom?” A small voice spoke from the other end.  “Twin A, Friend A and I walked into the house after school and it was like it was raining inside. Water was everywhere so we went all the way to the our room (on the third floor), and there was water coming out of the toilet.  We called Jim, and he’s on his way over.

(Jim is #1Man who walked into my chaotic life in the quietest and most unexpected way, and hasn’t walked out since, and promises he isn’t going to. “You don’t scare me,” is all he replies when I keep throwing the craziest of curveballs into our relationship.)

After numerous phone calls to Jim and my sister, Celeste, and my mom, I discovered the situation, though crazy, was under control. The toilet tank in Twin A’s and Twin B’s room had cracked right after all of us had left that morning for work and school.  We hadn’t moved yet. I’d put the house on the market and the girls were attending their middle school until Fall Break, and I was commuting the hour back and forth to my new marketing job every day. The water flowed and flowed and flowed all day down through three levels of house all the way into the basement. I love waterfalls, I just don’t like them in the middle of the home I’m trying to sell while the entire family is away.

Years ago, the school system labeled my daughters “gifted.”  If you’ve done any reading about giftedness, it doesn’t mean high IQ or the ability to spit out math problems like Rain Man. It simply means they think outside the box compared to most kids their age.  I could give you lots of examples, but in this case, after the fact, I found out that Twin A, Twin B and Friend A had a plan in place before #1Man even arrived. They didn’t scream at each other. They didn’t freak out. They started in with the towels.  Towels all over the place sopping up the mess. When he walked in Friend A announced, “My grandpa has a couple of water vacuums.  Let’s go to his house and get them.” #1Man takes directions very well, and off they went to retrieve the vacuums. In the mean time my mom and sister arrived to help with large fans of their own. The insurance company was called. The ex husband appeared  (the house was still in both of our names), and I remained at work.  Why? Because I’m not an idiot that’s why.

#1Man and StellarSister assured me after fielding numerous phone calls from various sources, there was not one more thing I could do, and the hot mess would still be there to greet me at 6:30 pm.  I figured it would probably be the quietest two hours I’d have in my life for a long time.

I was right. When I got home with pizza for all, my dining room was dark as the chandelier had been lowered due to the flooding. A cast of characters  sat in my very dry living room (Thankfully, the water flowed down through only one side of the house otherwise a lot of furniture would have been destroyed.) My ex husband, my mother, my sister (neither of whom are fans of ex-husband), #1Man (he tolerates ex-husband for my sake), Twin A, Twin B and Friend 1 all sat together on the large sectional watching me as I climbed the stairs to survey the damage.

“Seriously, God? Seriously,” was the conversation going on in my head. But in my questioning, I also experienced a great sense of calm. My kids were okay. My mixed up family all showed up to pitch in. I had home owners insurance. After everything I’d been through I’d learned the lesson I needed to learn most in this situation – It’s.Just.Stuff.

In the next four days my beautiful old brick home with its gorgeous arched windows and wooden floors – the home that I was giving up due to divorce – looked like a scene straight out of ET. The water restoration company came in with huge heaters and tubes and pipes running through floors and ceilings. The professionals who set up shop remarked over and over that the quick thinking of three 12 year old girls with towels and water vacuums kept the damage at a minimum. They were amazed at their foresight and maturity. I wasn’t. I’ve come to expect this kind of stuff from my daughters and their friends. I don’t know what God has in store for them, but it is going to be some kind of Divine Appointment – of this I am sure.

All the furniture was moved to one side of the house. The kitchen was out of commission, and my girls and I still had to get to school and work and volleyball and orchestra. I had to take the house off the market until everything could be repaired and replaced which meant more months of mortgage payments. The reality set in, that I was going to have to move, and move fast. How was I going to pay for the move? When was I going to take of work to arrange everything? What about my girls. God, why on earth are you putting them through even more chaos?

Honestly, I was just too tired of life at this point, and I just gave God the big old “Whatever.”  I don’t mean the pious, “Whatever, Wherever, Lord,” that I used to hear about as a child from preachers telling me I needed to surrender with full abandon to “God’s will.”  I have no idea what God’s will is. Never have. Never will. I’m not God so how would I possibly know his will. I really wish people would just pipe down about finding God’s will, because all it does is stress people like me out. Nope. I’m talking the “Whatever,” that is said in the tone of  “I give up. I don’t have anything else left to give so you just do what you have to do, because I got nothing. NOTHING.”  And God had me right where He wanted me.

Within a week I had answers. Insurance would cover packers and movers because even if I were staying, they’d have to move everything out of the house and put it in storage while walls were painted and floors were restored and inspections of electrical and plumbing were done.  Insurance would cover updates to the house so when it was put back on the market, it was in even better shape to show. In the mean time, the real estate market was tightening up…too few houses…too many buyers. In the months my home was off the market, home prices kept climbing.

On the other end of things – the place where I was moving – I had a house. It came with the job….and guess what? There was no mortgage, no utilities…

…and 50 steps from my back door was this view.

 

End of Second Act

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My Life’s Work Part I

by Priscilla on August 6, 2017

Several springs ago, my SIL invited me to attend a women’s retreat entitled Run Hard, Rest Well. The message centered around women, especially mothers, taking the time to find a sacred space to be still and know. I was still in the throes of adjusting to my life as a single mom, and I sat staring around the sanctuary filled with lovely women of all ages, who, too, needed to hear this message of rest, but I didn’t see them as individuals.  I saw “them.”  I saw I was not like “them,” and loneliness, once again set up camp on my heart.  Not one of them were unkind or rude to me, but, you see, if you are divorced or widowed or “still-single-at-a-certain-age,” sometimes, in some places, for no reason at all, the feeling of not belonging creeps into your soul. I’ve come to accept the fact that it’s no one’s fault; it’s simply one of the many avenues Grief sometimes uses push itself out of hiding and into first chair, and in my case, this Grief brought me to tears.

At lunch time, I couldn’t join the others. I needed some time to get the tears out where no one could see me, and I knew I’d be fine.  But it wasn’t to be, and as I sat and wept in a chair in the middle of a church while others were chatting  in a large reception room over sandwiches and coffee, the speaker wandered in and saw me. She approached and asked if were okay.  I nodded that I was just fine, but that I didn’t know how on earth I was supposed to “Rest Well.”  “My husband walked out on me.  I have two girls. I’m having a hard time finding good work with decent benefits to keep a roof over my kids’ heads because I’ve been out of the job market for a while. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m smart and motivated. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had many different careers and can adapt to any situations thanks to my time as a military spouse.  All employers see is that gap of years when I wasn’t working full time. I chose to stay home with my children so my husband could have the career he wanted, and now I’m left holding the bag, and I have no idea how I’m going to survive, much less, ‘Rest Well.'” As I babbled to this complete stranger, the trickle of tears became a sobbing river.

The speaker did what I find all wise women in such situations do, she said the simple words, “May I pray for you you?” She wrapped an arm around my heaving, heavy shoulders, and together we sat at the throne of Grace unpacking and unloading my burdens.  I listened to her prayers for strength and courage and guidance, we finished our brief time together, I thanked her for her taking the time to encourage a sister and she excused herself to join the others at lunch.

I sat, once again alone in the sanctuary, and  the Still Small Voice whispered, “I have something I want you to ask for.”

I listened.

“I want you to ask for a house on a lake where you and the girls can live, where don’t have to pay a mortgage and utilities. I want you to ask for a place where you can write.”

And what usually happens in that situation happened.  God and I had words.  More to the point, I had words. Words like “Are you crazy? I can’t even find full time work, and I’m supposed to find a lake house. Have you seen the real estate market? And who has time to write?! I’m teaching during the day, freelancing whenever I get the chance, getting the girls to all their activities and trying to keep this house clean and food on the table!”

The Still Small Voice repeated, “I want you to ask for a house on a lake where you and the girls can live, where don’t have to pay a mortgage and utilities. I want you to ask for a place where you can write.”

So I did. I continued to do so…for about a week.  A week is about my limit  for repeating nut jobesque prayers to the Creator.

Time passed.  I continued to look for work while trying to become re-certified to teach in my state. (Dear State of Indiana, don’t make it so hard for intelligent, hardworking moms who stepped out of the classroom for a while to raise a family, to step back in. You’re really shooting yourself in the foot here.) Money was growing tighter and tighter, and one day I was shared my frustrations with a librarian at the school where I was a teacher’s aid. “You know Priscilla, the trouble is you shouldn’t be running a classroom.  You should be running the entire show. You need to be a CEO.”

I stared stupidly at this abrupt comment. I’d come to love this no-nonsense woman over our irreverent conversations about books and kids and life in general.  She continued.  “I’m serious.  You need to be a CEO. You have great ideas. You see the big picture. You see solutions to problems. You don’t put up with crap. People like you. You need to be a CEO.”

I laughed and walked away, and her CEO words got on the bus and traveled to the same destination as my Lake House prayer  – the lovely resort town of Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That. Everyone knows that CEOs need MBAs  I have an MBA- minus the M.

More.Time.Passed. While I tried to no avail to find work in the same town in which I was living so the girls and I could stay in our home, a friend approached me with a job offer for full time work.  I’d been doing part time marketing on the side for him for the Y camp he ran, but camp was growing and needed someone with my background to run marketing and development. It was the camp my father attended as a child, and it’s where he first learned to dream big. It was the camp where I started my faith walk thanks to the loving words of a guitar playing Methodist minister known as “Chaplain John,” and it was the camp where my girls attended every summer and came home all smiles and giggles.  “Mom, whenever we drive down the road to camp, it’s feels like we’re going home!” they’d tell me every time I’d drop them off for a week or two. (When the movie of my life comes out, and Ashley Judd or Diane Lane – playing the part of me -is driving the car into camp there needs to be sweeping music behind those words. Please take note.)

“Just think about it, Priscilla…if nothing else works out.”

Well, I thought about working at camp about as long as I prayed for a lake house and entertained the idea of being CEO one day.  My daughters had been through enough transitions with their dad leaving.  And now, for crying out loud, they were in middle school.  I couldn’t up and go in the middle of middle school…I mean….it’s MIDDLE SCHOOL! (Even though military kids do it all the time, even though  children worldwide the same ages as my daughters are forced to move because of war, famine and threats of being sold into slavery. Why on God’s Green Earth is American culture obsessed with teenage angst that doesn’t have to be? Shame on us! But that’s another lecture for another time.)

I continued to look for work that wasn’t there…not because it wasn’t physically there, but because unbeknownst to me God still had this Lake House idea on his mind and had busied His angels to run around slamming doors of what I thought were opportunity shut right in my face at every turn.  They shut, and shut and shut until I was finally only left with one door, so I called me friend, and said, “Look, I can’t find work. The state is giving me the run-around on my teaching certification, and I don’t have time or energy to wait around for them, so if you still want me to come work for you, I will.”

-Intermission-

 

 

 

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Brunch on the Big Green Egg

by Priscilla on July 5, 2016

A few weekends ago, I channeled my inner Joyce (Joyce is my mother who at 80 makes Martha Stewart, Katie Brown and Sandra Lee look like lazy amateurs.) and decided at the last minute it was a great morning to whip up brunch. Most of my ideas are last minute since the last time I made a list was in 1989. I penned a list of goals in the back of my high school scrapbook. According to that list, by this time in my life I should hosting a major network news morning show, married with two kids and an MBA to boot. Currently, I’m between employment gigs, single and the closest I’ve gotten to an MBA was supporting my husband while he got his only to be told when he was done, that we were done too. I did get the two kids though…at one time…on only my second try…so in the whole fertility department, I guess you could say I’m an overachiever.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny morning. My kids were playing outside, and the man I’ve been seeing was busy fixing something around the house. (Yes, you read that correctly, but let’s not get overexcited about TIS’s personal life because this is a post about food not romance. Besides romance over 40 when you both have kids isn’t the stuff people are clamoring to read more of. It’s varicose veins meets Mylanta really.) I thought it was a good a day as any to try something new like grilling brunch instead of baking, boiling, broasting or broiling it. And I have to admit, much to my surprise, it all turned out quite nicely.

I won’t bore you with too many more words when pictures tell the story:

  1.  I found a bag of potatoes that was a day or two away from turning into that bag of potatoes so I knew it was time to use them or lose them. (You know the one you discover sprouting an entire potato field in the corner of a forgotten kitchen cupboard and smelling not unlike the inside of a diaper pail) I ran them all through my food processor, threw in some chopped garlic, added a few TBSPs of olive oil and dashed all of it with kosher salt and pepper.uncooked-hash-browns
  2. Then I whipped up some eggs and milk and added some ranch from a half used packet of Ranch seasoning. Why? Because it was there. I think I threw some of it on the potatoes too, but don’t quote me. (And I wonder why Food and Wine isn’t banging down my door.)
  3. Digging through my fridge, I managed to come up with enough ingredients for a cheese omelet, a western omelet, a Greek omelet or a kitchen sink omelet.assembling-omelet-toppings-for-big-green-egg
  4. I warmed up the grill to about 300 – 350 degrees F and put my potatoes in the center in a vegetable grilling dish, and cooked them for about 20 -25 minutes, stirring them up once or twice.
  5. Hash-browns-finished-productThe grill was about 250 degrees F at this point (By the way, I left the top off the Egg the entire process.), and I put three cast iron skillets a la Goldilocks style on it for about a minute to warm them up.Warming-cast-iron-pans-on-big-green-egg
  6. I poured in the egg mixture and had everyone add their cheese/s of choice.beginning-of-omelet-on-big-green-egg7. I let that cook for maybe two minutes then had everyone add the rest of their ingredients and waited until the centers started to bubble before flipping them. big green egg omelets8. Some I flipped successfully….First-flip-on-omelet-on-big-green-egg9. …others not so much. The unsuccessful flip was mine, though, and everyone knows that Mom’s omelet really doesn’t matter, and I was just happy not to be eating Cheerios over the kitchen sink.Greek-omelet-on-Big-Green-egg10. I’d show you photos of my great serving style, but since we ate on a card table in the driveway using my best plasticware, I think you get the drift. With my life it’s either great food or a fancy table, no one’s getting BOTH until the kids are out of the house.

So there it is. You don’t need a Big Green Egg to make omelets on the grill, (But I have to give it a plug and say I love mine!)  Try grilling brunch with your friends or family this summer. Play around with ingredients and have fun. The omelets were done in 7-8 minutes. My only suggestion is stick close and check often on the eggs especially.

Cheers!

 

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I whipped the SUV into the church parking lot and drove a little too quickly over the bump intended to impede speedy parishioners.

Ok, I’m dropping you off at the front door, I barked to Twins A and B. Just go in, get the mic, talk to Michelle about the order of service and sit and wait for me in the front row.  I’ll park the car and be in, in a few.  Don’t grab your name tags. We don’t have time.

Less than 12 hours earlier the three of us had sat on the couch in our living reviewing what we were to share during the lighting of the Advent candles – a lovely  liturgy this time of year. But there’s nothing lovely and liturgical about me when it comes Scripture reading in front of a crowd. I morph into the Joan Crawford of Advent Candle Lighting Ceremonies.  I lectured Twin A for racing through her passage and admonished Twin B for ignoring commas. The commas are there for a reason! I coached. And, we are supposed to come up with something to add here about love.  You HAVE to say something about God and Jesus because it’s CHURCH. You can’t just throw the word ‘LOVE’ around without mentioning God. 

Yeah. Pretty sure God was shaking His head at that lovely display of parental encouragement.

We finished rehearsing our parts and I said, By the way, here’s what we are doing for the Christmas Eve service. We might as well take a look now and run through it once.

We worked our way through Isaiah 53 and then called it a night.

Fast forward to the part where I was shoving my kids off at the front door.

I parked the car, raced into church and then commenced with the ever so awkward run/walk to the front row as the pastor uttered words about entering into worship. It was then that Twin A alerted me to the program and said, Michelle changed some things around. We go up and read here, and then you go up again and read your second reading. 

She handed me a black readers theater notebook. I was staring at the Isaiah 53 reading.

My second reading? What do you mean my second reading?

This one from Isaiah.  I don’t know, Mom! Twin A hissed back. She wrote it down here.

I looked around for the worship leader then run/walked over to her, trying to attract the least amount of attention a run/walker attracts during the prelude music.

Michelle, I whispered from the pew behind her. Twin A tells me I’m supposed to read from Isaiah? I thought Isaiah was for Christmas Eve. I’m not ready to read Isaiah!

Michelle turned and said in a calming voice, Don’t worry about it. There are four of you reading. You are Reader #2. You’ll be fine.

I put on my best smile and run/walked back to my front row seat as the organist was pumping out the last notes of the prelude.

Oh, Jesus, I whispered. I have no idea what I’m doing, but just use me. Get me out of the way of blowing any message you want people to hear this morning.

And God obliged as He often does when it comes to getting His message out.  Twin A and B performed beautifully, mentioning God and Jesus in the same sentence as Love as their insane mother demanded, and we all managed to light the Advent candles without burning the place down. I sighed to myself. One down, one to go.  I thought, and began looking over my Isaiah 53 script that I was to recite in less than three minutes.

But because God isn’t always into scripted things, God wasn’t done. No. God looks down at hysterical run/walking mamas who say such ridiculous things to their children as Listen to me! You have to mention Jesus when you talk about LOVE because it’s CHURCH! and says, Oh, honey,  you aren’t getting off that easily.

Not only was I not prepared for the reading from a very odd prophet name Isaiah,  I wasn’t prepared for was the next part of the service.

Our very new and very brave pastors have taken to an open mic time for praises and prayer requests. Those of you out there in church land know that open mics at church are like the Wild West of Theology. No one knows what will come out of people’s mouths. My lot is cast with the Methodists now, and Methodists are a pretty subdued bunch so things don’t get too titillating.

But,  I don’t go to a typical Methodist Church.

I sat and listened as an older gentleman wept thanking the Lord for his new bride. People shared concerns about loved ones in the hospital and thanking God for bringing visitors to our midst.

A lovely saint stood and thanked God for marriages and for her friends’ who were celebrating 50 years together and challenged all of us to pray for marriages.

And then the Holy Spirit grabbed me and said It’s show time.

And I said, Holy Spirit, sit down and shut up.

And the Holy Spirit said, Make me. 

And I said, I’m very good at ignoring God. I’ve had 44 years of experience. 

The next thing I knew I was leaning over to Twin A and saying, Do you care if I say something about the divorce? And Twin A was replying, That’s fine, Mom.

And I raised my hand.

And I stood.

And I looked out at the people of my church.

And somewhere out of that created space we cannot see – that mysterious place from which words, good and bad, come – words started to tumble out. Not words that were written or rehearsed or repeated. Not powerful words that were pondered over, edited, written, erased and written again.

But simple words. Grateful words. Love Words.

Last year at this time, I was going through a divorce after 20 years of marriage. I didn’t know how I was going to do it financially or emotionally. I worried about my girls. But you were all here for me. My eyes started to well up with tears.

The church stared back at me. It was quiet.

Oh, Holy Spirit, I could just kill you! I thought.

They tried that on the cross years ago.  It didn’t work, the Holy Spirit laughed back.

I don’t know where I’d be without this church, I continued.  Without my Sunday school class.  Without Lori and the DivorceCare group. God carried me, and He did it through you. You prayed for me. You prayed for the girls’ father, and I realize  now it’s going to be okay. The girls’ Dad is going to be okay. He’s a great dad to them. He and I are friends. The girls are doing okay because of the love all of you have given all of us over the last year. I was wiping my eyes as quickly as I could, imagining the great lines of mascara careening down my cheeks.

And people started nodding. And people started crying.

And I know there are those of you out there who have been through this, and those who are going through this, and I just want you to know, that God has your back. And the people here at this church have your back.

And someone started to clap. And then someone else clapped. And I just looked out at the people whose love carried me back from the darkest, most jagged of brinks these past 365 days, and they were smiling and nodding and clapping.

The pastor repeated the line about God having my back. We sang a Christmas Carol. I along with three others walked up to the stage where the reading of  Isaiah 53 went off without a hitch,  I returned to my seat on the front row with my girls

and I looked down and saw this….Communion

The carpet in front of me lay riddled with stains from communion wine. I sat staring at the remnants from those moments when folks dip the bread in the chalice and walk away dripping the representation of the blood of Christ poured out for us onto the carpet.

And I smiled.

I dashed into church this morning thinking all that I needed to get through was lighting a few candles and quoting a few scriptures and demanding my daughters mention Jesus and Love in the same sentence because dammit, it was church!

But God didn’t want me to get through anything. God asked me to join Him in a Love Moment using Love Words.

Communion is Church. And Church is Communion. And God wants us to share it all with Him and with One Another. The Wedding Feasts. The Baby’s Birth. The Divorce. The Cancer. The Job Promotion. The Job Lost. The Mountain Top Experience and the Great Tumble Down off the Wagon. He is there when we joyfully take the cup and then run off and make a mess of things not three feet from the altar.

One by one after church people I’d never spoken to came up and shared their stories with me of divorce and heartache. So many older people who said, It’s not over, and their shared their stories of The Great Death and then The Great Redemption. I gave and received so many hugs and kisses. I cried. A grown man told me of his parents’ divorce when he was a child and assured me that he was okay because his parents loved him, and that my girls would be okay because they had parents who loved them. I wept. I heard over and over, Priscilla, you are so brave to share that.

But I wasn’t brave. I’m really not! I kept saying, I just wanted you all to know how much you all did for me and the girls. I just wanted you all to know that you carried me and that I love you.

And that is Advent. And that is Communion. And that is the story of Christmas. It’s the story of a baby who came into a big mess that we made ourselves and who drew us not only to Him but also to One Another. And then that baby grew up and offered Himself as a Sacrifice. And when He left he said, I’m coming back, but in the mean time, take care of one another because this world is going to beat you down.

Turns out I was right when I told my girls they had to mention God when they talked about Advent Love, but not because we were standing within the walls of the church where it is right and good and churchy, to talk about God, but because it is the Truth. Love watches over us when we eagerly grab the cup and say, I’m right there with you God, and it doesn’t leave us when we run from the altar leaving a mess of wine stains in our wake. It binds us together in word and in deed, and if Love had a face, it would be my church.

 

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Some Lessons in Divorcing Well

by Priscilla on September 13, 2015

Hey, Aunt Priscilla, I just called to see how you were doing. The voice at the other end of the phone belonged to my now 20something nephew – the former towhead whom I used to babysit. And how are the girls?

My heart melted. He’d heard the news of my divorce and called to check on his cousins. You have to understand something – my family is huge….and, well…odd. Odd doesn’t even begin to cut it. We make odd look like Chevrolet, Baseball and Apple Pie.  We aren’t touchy, feely, gift givingy, let’s all take a cruise togethery.

But we are loyal. Fiercely loyal.

This is why a 20something single,  living in the big city, nephew took a moment to call his 40something newly divorced aunt from a small town to check on her…and her kids.

Humbled by the call, I held back the tears and listened to his advice. Just don’t talk about their dad in front of them, okay? He advised. And don’t let them know everything that’s going on. I knew way too much.

A girlfriend reminded me often, You call me anywhere, anytime you need to let it out. Just don’t put it on those girls. She knew from experience what happened to kids caught in the middle, and she was determined to have my girls’ back.

So I called her. A lot. For years I’d held back so much anger and fear and frustration that the bubbling volcano in me started to slowly spill out until it finally erupted and the tears and the grief that started with a slow trickle seemed to completely envelope me for days…and weeks…and months.

I knew what grieving looked like, and I knew I needed to walk this path through the valley of the shadow of death, but I also knew I there was no way in hell I was dragging my kids along beside me. I had adult friends who stood at the end of the dark tunnel cheering me on. The key word here is adult.

I can’t remember the exact moment the mental turn around began, but I do remember being keenly aware that I’d turned a corner. And then another. And another. And another. Until last week one of my biggest supporters and truest friends smiled at me and said, I feel like you are back. You’re back!

I get a lot of I don’t know how you do it‘s. I tell them I don’t do it. I have God and my tribe holding me up, and you know the old adage Fake it til you make it? Oh, honey, that is emblazoned across my psyche now…because it works. Here are some other things that work when dealing with divorce, and I want to share them the way my friends and family shared their wisdom with me.

  1. Remind yourself that when things were good, they were really good, and that you picked your partner using the best information you were given at the time. Don’t beat yourself for marrying who you did, when you did.
  2. Don’t take their faults personally. Your ex’s faults are his or hers to own. Own yours not theirs.
  3. Remember that somewhere down the road you might want to start another relationship, and no one wants to be in a relationship with a bitter, complaining old hag so you better darn well guard yourself against becoming that stereotype.
  4. Give yourself time to grieve and plenty of it. Don’t shove it down. Don’t bitch and moan. Just grieve. A friend told me, Divorce isn’t like death, it’s like an amputation. You will be walking around with its scar the rest of your life, but it’s only a scar. You can go on living with scars. (And a word of advice to well meaning friends, grief looks different to everyone. Don’t ever tell your divorcing friends how they should or shouldn’t be grieving. Ever. Unless you’ve walked the path, you simply don’t understand.)
  5. Recognize, in time, if you handle the situation correctly, your ex can be an ally.  All the great things about him or her that you loved so much are still there. Their strengths are still their strengths. It’s just that, in your relationship, the weaknesses glare, and this can blind you from the road ahead. Don’t let that glare hinder the big picture. The former Mr. TIS is still my biggest cheerleader when it comes to my writing, and he encourages me to get out and date because he knows I have a lot to offer. The other day he told me, You’re hot and smart and funny. Do you how rare that combination is around here?
  6. If you want things to go smoothly for your children, make sure your friends know no one has to choose sides. They can invite you both to the same parties – especially the get togethers with parents at school – and you will behave because you are respectable, responsible adults.  What happened between my ex-husband and me is between my ex husband and me. Not my ex husband and me and the neighbors. I was talking spring break plans with a friend who said,  And Priscilla, you know Tony can come too if you are okay with that. He’s still our friend too. I smiled to myself not because I want to vacation with my ex, but because that statement meant that the both of us handled things correctly.
  7. If you are the one who files, give the other the chance to process the news. I know you can’t get out of there fast enough, but trust me, a little patience will go a long way in the long run. I will forever be grateful to Mr. TIS for not rushing things. While he wanted to be over and done with quick and easy in 60 days, I told him I wasn’t going to fight him on anything, but to please give me time to think clearly, to deal with all my emotions in a healthy manner and to map out my future alone. He acquiesced, and the result was, in time, we sat down, hashed our agreement out without the “help” from expensive attorneys and worked with a mediator who told us she wished all divorcing couples acted the way we did. (I know all divorces are different, and in this case I’m not talking about someone whose life is in danger or whose situation dictates he or she gets out ASAP.)
  8. If you have children, and if you are able, have a meal together every once in a while as a family…because you still are. I am still the mother. He is still the father. And and B are still our children. Our.Children. That will never change. Ever. And if you start dating, and the other person doesn’t get it, then that person doesn’t have your best interest or the interest of your children at heart so rethink that relationship.
  9. If the in-laws want to remain in touch, remain in touch. My SIL was my college roommate which is how I met and married her brother. I knew his whole family a year before I met him. Divorce crushes them as well. They all hurt too. It’s taken some time, but I’m ready to do things with them again because they will always be my family. My girls love, love, love their cousins and aunts and uncles so why on earth make it difficult for them to be with them? The way I see it, the more adults my kids have in their lives loving on them, the better. (Again, I’m not speaking to people in abusive or manipulative situations. Go with your gut and protect your kids. There are some awful in-laws out there.)
  10. Which brings me to the last…be the nicest ex ever to the person who is replacing your role. The day will come when I have to allow another woman into my girls’ lives because Mr. TIS is a man, and let’s face it, men can’t remain alone forever. He and I have already discussed timelines for introducing the girls to significant others, and we both agreed we will be nothing but supportive in those relationships because, based on our behavior through the divorce, we trust each other to make the best decisions when it comes to our daughters. I am not competing with this woman for anyone’s affections. I’ve worked through my insecurities and have come through stronger and bolder so another woman in my daughters’ lives isn’t intimidating. In fact, I relish the idea that maybe she can bring something else to the table that I don’t. Another strong female role model for them to emulate? What a huge blessing.

Make no mistake, divorce is disruptive and painful and just so gawd-awful sad. But it isn’t the end. It doesn’t have to be bitter, and hateful and malicious. You are an adult, behave like one, and in the end good things will come your way because you created the path for them to find you.

 

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23.) I’m okay with never seeing or tasting another chicken nugget or serving of mac and cheese. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

24.)  When it comes to setting up a tent, I still have no idea what I’m doing which is ironic considering I worked at a camp. (Yes, there were stakes and poles left over when I set the darn things up,  and, yes, I did patch up a hole with construction paper and duct tape. But no one smothered to death or was stung by mosquitoes now were they?)

25.) Making friendship bracelets only leads me to curse. If God wants us to wear string around our wrists, He never would have invented gold jangly bracelets…which, by the way, I wear very well.

26.) Boys cabins are still gross.

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27.) Warped minds come up with the best camp games.

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Yes, you are looking at a young man sliding through oatmeal, jello, pudding and gravy while his friends beat him with a noodle. But, hey, they aren’t glued to their electronics now are they?

28.) Nothing makes me happier than seeing girls working together.

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29.) When I’d leave my phone somewhere, lots of images like this would appear.

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30.) But I needed that phone to take pictures of lists like this one…because I was always forgetting lists or dropping lists or losing lists or ignoring lists. I suck at lists.

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Speaking up lists, my list of Things I Won’t Do With My Vagina is now at 6,948.

31.) When your children tell you there’s a mouse in the cabin, and you blow them off and tell them they are just hearing chipmunks in the walls and ceilings (because THAT’s so much better), you learn sometimes it pays to listen. Especially when you find said mouse dead under your bed on the very last day of camp….four weeks after they told you they heard a mouse.

32.) Experts be damned, lots of little boys still love playing dodgeball…especially if noodles are involved. Please don’t ask me how or why the noodles are involved. Suffice it to say  big boys are directing the little boys so….

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33.) Bug spray without DEET is worthless. Forget Skin So Soft or homemade natural concoctions. If it doesn’t have DEET, it won’t work.  Yes, I know all the warnings about DEET; I’m just saying that I was outside 67 days straight all day, every day so I have a clue. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Now that I think about it, I’m being a little unreasonable about some of my non vagina related activities so I’m back to 6,945.

34.) Tie Dye is still all the rage.

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35.) Buddy Checks are a bane of any waterfront director’s existence…still…25 years later. Seriously, kids. Remember your friggin’ number and yell it when called upon. It’s not that difficult.

36.) I build a mean campfire…sans lighter fluid…the millennials needed lighter fluid.

37.) This girl hasn’t spotted a mic she doesn’t like. We were told more than once that we looked like mother and daughter. So we lied to a few campers on Honesty Day (of all days) and told them we were mother and daughter. I’d like to think she got her stage presence from me.

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38.) Sunrises have the same effect on me as sunsets.

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39.) Old campers, like old students, show up at just the right time to remind you that the work you did years ago mattered. It really did.

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40.) And one of them returned with an original gift from the heart.

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Which leads to…

41.) Campers make me all kinds of weepy.

42.) Some of their helicopter moms make me all kinds of grumpy.

43.) I can spot a Helicopter Mom a mile away, but Helicopter Moms can’t spot themselves if they were looking right in a mirror and the mirror declared, Yeah, you are one of those moms, lady.

44.) At the beginning of the summer, I thought going back to summer camp at 44 marked me a complete loser – after all I was newly divorced, had given up my career for 10 years to be a SAHM and wondered if I had any marketable skills whatsoever.  What I realized after nine weeks is that I’m pretty darn lucky to have met all the campers, staff and parents (even the helicopter ones) that I did, because I’m a better, stronger and more grateful  human for the experience, and everything’s going to be okay. God kinda has a clue…even with millennials.

 

 

 

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Grace and Tees

by Priscilla on August 9, 2015

It happened to me again just the other day. I saw a woman wearing an I love my husband, t-shirt.

And it made me feel like shit.

And because I’m a thinker, I wondered why I allowed a t-shirt the power to make me to feel like shit. It’s just a t-shirt with a harmless message. It was just a nice wife saying something nice and affirming to her husband. (Although for the life of me I don’t understand why we can’t just turn to the people we love and tell them we love them to their faces. Now it has to be emblazoned across our chests and instagrammed and tweeted…but that’s just a 40 something human still trying to wrap her head around this Brave New Social Media World.)

Was it because I, too, loved a husband once, and he chose not to love me back?

Was it because I was simply snarky and jealous of this husband loving wife?

Was it because this whole divorce thing has caused me to question God –  even Its existence?

Maybe…probably. Okay, I check yes to all of the above.

But none of those answers are good enough to settle my unsettled heart, and if I’m still contemplating a harmless t-shirt a week after its brief appearance in my life, something’s up spiritually. Today, once again I cried myself through a church service where I felt like a fish out of water while a nice family with a nice mother and father and two nicely dressed sons read one of my favorite faith passages, Hebrews 11, while I sobbed faithless and alone up in the very back row of the church balcony, wondering why on earth I was still coming to church. Why was I still thinking about that damn t-shirt?

And the thought occurred to me, Could I wear a t-shirt that read, “I love my EX husband?” Because really, that’s what the Gospel boils down to, right? Love God. Love Others. All Others. Not Some Others.

Could my friends who have endured molestations and beatings wear I love my abuser. t-shirts?

Could those falsely accused, spending years in a wretched prison wear shirts that say I love our judicial system?

Could someone who’s lost a child in a car accident don a t-shirt emblazoned with I love the drunk driver who killed my kid?

And who would MAKE these shirts?

And who would MARKET these shirts?

And how would we REACT to these shirts? Let’s face it, seeing shirts like that walking around on the streets would make us feel more than a little uncomfortable. Loving someone who loves you back is easy. Loving someone who violates you or your trust is a whole other ballgame…

…but GRACE IS UNCOMFORTABLE.

Grace doesn’t say roll over and take it and go back and ask, Please, sir might I have some more.

 But it does say Forgive as I have forgiven you. Love as I have loved you.

 However, Grace has no timetable. It doesn’t demand instant forgiveness and  lots of kumbayaing around the campfire together. That’s Cheap Grace to steal a term from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, someone who knew a thing or two about the giving and receiving of Grace. Cheap Grace spouts off platitudes and plays nice. It wears t-shirts that don’t make everyone feel uncomfortable.

Real Grace doesn’t roll over and play nice and appease everyone. Real Graces demands we walk through the fire, wrestle with God, live transparent lives and refuse to go quietly.

I’m not ready to wear an I love my Ex Husband t-shirt anytime soon, and if you are honest, I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere that you aren’t ready to dress up in a t-shirt for either.

So for now I cling to my belief that Grace is eternal, and God has Its own timetable, and as the poet penned the words, Twas Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home, I too, am choosing to follow Grace all the way home…even if there’s no t-shirt for me.

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I don’t know if I really have 44 things, but it appears that in today’s society, in order for anything to reach Buzzfeed worthy news status, a numeral must be part of the some attention grabbing title. Today I saw a blurb something along the lines of 8 Things I Won’t Do With My Vagina. To which I thought Only 8? Really? Because as I type, I’ve already come up with a list of 498 things I won’t do with my vagina. I’m pretty sure by the time I’m done with this post I’ll be up to 10,387 things which may limit my chance being swiped right on Tinder…which leads me to #1.

1.) The 20 somethings I worked with tried to convince me I needed to sign up for the Tinder App. Why not just take me back to second grade and line me up for choosing teams for dodge ball…because who doesn’t want the healthy girl?

2.) Camp still waters down the KoolAid in order to quench the thirst of 200 little kids every day (and I mean that literally not metaphorically.)

3.) Sunsets are always better over water.

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4.) Rainy day activities don’t have to suck.

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5.) British accents make everything sound better even if they are saying, The third toilet stall in the girls bathroom is clogged due to an enormous piece of dooky. Seriously, say it out loud. A clogged toilet isn’t a big deal anymore is it? In fact, it sounds like sunshine and rainbows.

6.) Mosquitoes are drawn to light…expecially the light in the bathrooms.

7.) Spiders are drawn to mosquitoes…especially the mosquitoes in the bathrooms.

8.) Camp bathrooms are gross thanks to the myriad of mosquitoes and spiders.

9.) Say #8 in a British accent, and you forget about the dooky filled toilets and the spiders in the showers.

10.) If you work at the same camp your kid attends, she suddenly thinks you are cool because you can hook her cabin up with cool after hours snacks and shenanigans.

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11.) I developed a love/hate relationship with millenials.

12.) I hated them when they mocked the one article of anything I’ve found that had my name on it.

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13.) And then I love them all over again when I’d look up and see this walking past me into the dish room. (It became a contest. Because when you are holed up together for nine weeks straight, everything becomes a contest.)

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14.) Then they’d forget to unload the van or leave the freezer door open all night, and I’d go into this mode.

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15.) Then one of them would snap a shot of said mode, and another would feel the need to mention that said shot wasn’t very flattering and I better not share it if I wanted to hook up on Tinder.

16.) But he said it with a British accent so he got a doughnut.

17.) I got to hang out with Peter, Paul and Mary.

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(In case you were wondering I’m up to 2,489 things I won’t do with my vagina. Take that Buzzfeed writers.)

18.) Nothings smells as good as a campfire.

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19.) Until you go and stick your hands in it. (He’s a millennial…go figure.)

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20.) Camp friends are still your best friends…even 25 years later.

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21.) The words, This is a repeat after me song, still send me screaming.

22.) So I go find my happy place and all is well again. blog post 5

I’ll be back tomorrow with Part II after I de-fungi my flip flops and scrub the smell out of mosquito repellant out of my sheets…and hang out with my dog…she’s missed me. blog post 12

 

 

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To The Dimples on the Backs of My Thighs

by Priscilla on May 16, 2015

Hey there,

You seem to like me…a lot.

For the past 30 some years I’ve tried to get rid of you, and you appear not to take the hint. I’ve run miles and miles while you’ve tagged along. I’ve swum in chlorine and salt water for hours and hours, and you are always right there waiting for me whenever I yank off my cap in exhaustion. I’ve had to double and sometimes triple up on bathing suits because they’ve worn thin…but you don’t. You remain the same.

Depending on my age and life circumstances my weight and clothes size has fluctuated from 4-12 and now back to a steady 6.  I’m ok with 6. You don’t seem to notice my size or my weight though, dear Dimples on the Backs of My Thighs. I thought you’d leave and run away, but you’ll have none of that. You are faithful if nothing else.

I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been, and yet, I try to box jump, wall ball and kettle ball snatch you away, but nothing doing. I sprint. I pedal. I push press. I row. I mow. And you are with me.

Quite frankly you are becoming something like a psalm written about God. Always right there. A part of me. Not going anywhere.

And so, today I’m making my peace with you. You’ve hung around a long time so clearly you like me. Maybe it’s time I like you back. You remind me I’m human. You, along with your cousins, The Spider Veins, gently point out that I’m a woman of a certain age and with that age brings wisdom. I see you seem to like a lot of my girlfriends as well, so I’m in good company.  

I supposed I could pay someone to suck you out of my life, but that seems a bit ridiculous at this point. I mean, I think you’ve won the right to be heard. 

Someday you’ll want to meet my daughters. Like me, they may not like you much at first, but hang in there. They are stubborn like their mother. When the time comes, I’ll put in a good word for you.

TIS.

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