April 2014

Stupid Good Intentions

by Priscilla on April 19, 2014

The back cover reads, For every girl with an independent spirit and a nose for trouble, here is the no-boys-allowed guide to adventure.

Stupid back covers.  They rope me in with their perfect descriptions of all the things I hope to be and dream and achieve with my daughters.  My book shelves are filled with back covers whose first pages have never been read because I’m addicted to back covers in the book store, and then when I get those back covers home and place them on the fabulous built-in bookcases in my bedroom,  events like kids vomiting in the middle of the night and cats having diarrhea all over the basement floors commence. Lunches need to be made, kids must be coached in the pool and lawns must be readied for the spring…and back covers of too many books sit staring at me every night when I climb into bed too tired to open their front covers.

My girls, however, are kids and have all the time in the world for books, and a few years ago, I made the mistake of buying four copies of The Daring Book for Girls thanks to its back cover and all that nonsense about independent spirits and adventure.  For Christmas I gave a copy to each of my daughters, my mother and myself thinking we could all four embark on spirited adventures.  Three of the four gift recipients have devoured the book.  Guess which of the foursome hasn’t.

Honestly, it’s a wonderful book…in theory. The problem is my girls actually are reading the book and wanting to put all the fun ideas into practice.  There are times I really wish I could let my kids watch mindless Disney Channel shows and play on their iPads all day long, but since Disney Channel shows make me want to hurl with all their bad writing and acting and incessant laugh trax (I swear play stupid Disney Channel shows at Guantanamo and the US government will have those terrorists singing like the Irish Tenors.), but the intellectual snob in me won’t allow that channel in the house, and so on a Friday night when my girls and their little friend wanted to put up a tent in the back yard and build a fire pit  and learn to rapel from their third floor bedroom window down to the roof of the sun room below, I was ready for a good old fashioned book burning.

While I am a huge advocate for summer camp, I do not partake in the sport of camping per se.  (Okay, for you faithful readers who have been with me some time now, you have to laugh here as I am, and it’s okay to.  My camping days may be over, but I can still laugh about that verb choice. An old friend once told me we have to laugh about the tough stuff in life because if we stop laughing, we’ll start crying.)  I know there’s a tent somewhere in the house, but I don’t know the first thing about putting it up and staking it in so I called Mr. TIS and told him the situation, and he agreed to come over and help the girls with their campout. The next thing I knew they were calling for a fire pit and then something to roast because, they observed, what’s a fire if there was nothing to roast? Looking at Mr. TIS standing very close to the flames,   I had a few ideas about things to roast, but since it was Good Friday, and Jesus took on a lot more than I ever have, I kept my mouth shut and suggested if they could catch a squirrel, they could roast it. Thank you, Jesus, for not letting them catch a squirrel.

Mr. TIS helped them out and gave them all kinds of tips and then left.  That’s when my friend Suzee started texting about how cold it was going to be that night (a bone chilling 37 degrees) and that the girls needed to come in at a certain time.  I swear between infuriating husbands and bossy friends, God was trying my patience. It was very, very hard to be good on Good Friday.  After several texts pretty much telling Suzee to back off and let the girls be girls and if they froze in the middle of the night, so what…they could dare to find their way back to the house and come in. All I wanted was to dare to sit on the couch and watch multiple episodes of  Magnum PI on Netflix. (There is nothing stupid about Tom Selleck in short shorts.  Absolutely nothing.)

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The good news is my little backyard pals made it through the night.  I think I may have heard some bathroom trips at 2 a.m., but they did not fully move back into the house until 6 a.m. That’s about the time Twin B started throwing up , and Twin A and friend helped one of our cats into the dropped ceiling tiles in the basement just to observe what would happen next. As I write, B is in my bed watching some Australian show about Mermaids. (It’s a very Disney Channel-esque like show, but since they have accents, I’ll allow it.) A and friend are looming it up making bracelets for an upcoming birthday party. I’ve downloaded an audio book to listen to as I scrub down my greasy kitchen and put away loads of laundry.

The trouble is the sun is shining, and it’s finally warm, and I have lots of projects that include painting furniture outside, and the backs covers of stacks of decorating books I own are calling to me with ideas and directions…

…stupid back covers.

 

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Parking Pointers

by Priscilla on April 17, 2014

Mom, you can park in the center.

I didn’t know seven innocent words could hurt my heart so deeply -neither did my sweet 10 year old daughter. She was simply pointing out the truth.

We were coming home from midweek services last night when I drove up the driveway, hit the automatic garage door opener and veered left as I’ve done for years and years in order to leave room for my husband’s car. This is when my first born voiced her observation about my parking options.

I shifted the car to Park, turned off the ignition and slowly turned around to face my sweet girls. My face must have revealed my sadness.

I’m sorry, mom, one whispered.

Oh, honey, please don’t be sorry, I whispered back.  You didn’t say anything wrong.  The truth is that I can park in the middle of the garage now.

She teared up, and I told her for the one millionth time that it was okay to cry, and to talk and to feel. Her twin chimed in, Mom, I just don’t want to make you sad. 

You don’t make me sad.  Ever.  Okay, maybe sometimes you make me want to scream when I find your stupid socks all over the house or when you forget to feed the cats and I wake up in the middle of the night being straddled by one of them, pawing my face until I wake up and take care of their hunger pangs.  But here’s the thing, we all are going to feel a lot of things about your dad leaving, and the worst thing we can do is shove down those feelings. 

Mom, you tell us we need to talk to you about our feelings, but what about you?  Who do you talk to?

Seriously, where did I get these kids?  When I was in the fourth grade I think the most I said to my mom about my feelings was, I feel like I hate swim practice.  I feel like I’d like a second helping of apple crisp, and I feel like the annual DAR essay contests are stupid, and I’m not writing one more.  I certainly wasn’t aware my mother had feelings much less cared what they were.

Who do I talk to?

Well, I talk to God…a lot, and I talk a lot to friends.  I have lots and lots of friends and family, like your aunts calling and texting and emailing, and they all ask about you, and they are praying for you too.

I don’t tell them that I have a lot of swearing friends as well.  Gracious, some of my girlfriends out there can out swear sailors and some of the things they’ve mentioned about castration – oh, my.  I may have a script for a Lifetime movie when this is all said and done.  I need them all – both my praying and swearing friends – some of them swear during their praying.  I love to tell people one of my favorite memories of my late friend Leah is when she came marching into my home upon hearing I’d been terribly wronged by someone I loved, and she stood there, all 5 feet 100 pounds of her and stuck her perfectly shaped painted red pointer finger, fingernail in my face, shook it and said, Do I need to go kick someone’s ass…because I will if you want me too! 

Sometimes all a girl needs to know is that her friends think she’s worth kicking some ass over.

May I gently suggest to those of you in church leadership that this is something some of the hurt people in your pews need to hear as well. A few years ago a sweet, sweet lady going thru a horrible divorce confided to me some very bad things her ex husband was trying to pull. She wasn’t asking for advice or badmouthing him.  She was processing her grief and anger and hurt in a very real way.  Then she apologized and I asked what for.  The Bible tells us we are to bear one another’s burdens.  You need to unload your burden, and I’m supposed to help you with it. She then told me that when she told another woman at church her problems, she was admonished that she was gossiping and needed to stop. Her deacon told her the same thing. In all Christian love I wanted to throat punch the sanctimonious folks who had the audacity to spout off such nonsense. We need more wound binding and less trite lecturing with pat answers about God being sovereign.

This morning I dropped the girls off at school, drove home, opened the garage door, and slowly veered the car to the right, pulling into the center of the garage. Earlier when I’d awakened, I asked my heavenly Father to just get me through today second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour. Parking in the center of the garage might seem a small thing to some of you, but to those who have experienced loss either through death or divorce you know what a big thing it actually is.

When my girls were about three, and my husband was in Iraq, they saw me crying one night, overwhelmed with the responsibility a military spouse must shoulder when a loved one is deployed. Twin B piped up, Be tough, Mommy! Those are the words I repeated to them when they’d stumble and fall or scratch themselves and started crying. I have never forgotten those words from her.  They’ve come to mind over and and over these last few years.  I’m now adding, Mom, you can park in the center. 

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Because I am. And I will.

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10,000 Hours

by Priscilla on April 13, 2014

There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part. So just give me a happy middle, and a very happy start. Shel Silverstein.

Last week on a plane trip south to the land of sunshine with no giant globs of brown snow in the middle of the grocery store parking lot, I finally cracked open a borrowed copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.  Like so many of you who have read it, his rule of 10,000 hours stuck in my head.  For those of you who haven’t read the work, I encourage you to because 1.) It’s not difficult reading….i.e. I didn’t have to whisper the words out loud with my lips moving.  2.) It’s thought provoking.  I think there are some flaws in some of his conclusions, but that’s okay.  It’s his work not mine, and overall it’s challenging and inspirational, and I like those qualities in books.

The 10,000 hours rule comes from the calculations Mr. Gladwell studied across the professional board from computer virtuosos, to famous litigators, to music maestros. No matter the vocation, the cream rises to the top not simply from being smart, but from good old fashioned hard work (and sometimes luck), and hard work means at a minimum 10,000 spent honing one’s craft be it writing novels or performing life saving surgeries.

I sat contemplating to myself what is it that I have spent 10,000 doing…what is it that I am good at for everyone is good at something. The thought that occurred to me was marriage and motherhood. Not sexy or feminist, but, nevertheless, true.  As of this writing I have spent 168,912 hours married.  According to Gladwell these numbers should add up to Marriage Expert.

But according to Friday’s mail I am not…

For when I heard the familiar squeak of  the mail slot opening and closing in my front door, I saw a huge white envelope with my name on it, the return address being that of a local law firm.

Mr. TIS  has decided that 168, 912 hours of marriage is enough for him.

I’ve been thinking and crying and sobbing and wailing and thinking and hoping and crying some more. My sweet daughters have been doing the same, and we’ve been doing it altogether these past few days with Fun Time Grandma at her  house.

This is not a post that will air dirty laundry or point fingers. Those of you who know me best, know that’s not the game I play. This isn’t a post looking for sympathy or asking people to choose sides because in 15 days I will age up to 43, and by the age of 43 ladies should have some sense of class and decorum, and I choose to be a lady first and always.  This isn’t a post asking for suggestions on coping skills or soldiering on.  I’m a Brown, and if you know the Browns from whence I originate, you know we are gritty and hardworking, but most of all, we are good, and I will not leave good by the wayside in this whole big ugly mess that rears its looming shadows all around me like some behemoth from the deep. (The reason the Browns are gritty and hardworking and good is not because of hardy genetics- far from it- it is because we are a people who serve a Savior who is gritty and hardworking and good, and our Savior broke the depths of hell to prove his love for us, and it is this personal knowledge of His love that gives us the strength to push forward.)

When I was a little girl, my mother filled a designated hallway with all our artwork.  One piece that sticks out  in my mind is my older brother’s, Steve’s rendition of George the Knight slaying the dragon.  (I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you that I spent a few hours with my mother up in her attic looking for this particular work of art, and I discovered that in sheer numbers my brother Steven’s framed artwork exceeds the rest of  of ours by a ratio of about 25:1…but she doesn’t have a favorite….and I’m not bitter.)  Today I feel like St. George trying to slay that dragon. In my case the dragon is the unknown. My life, my 168,912 hours of marriage is a work of art, and I am not going to be ashamed that it is coming to an end. My heavenly father is not ashamed. My family is not ashamed. My children are not ashamed, and even though the attorney’s papers say otherwise, I’ll be damned if someone tells me I’m not a marriage expert.

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This post isn’t just for me – it’s for all you out there who have worked your hardest and strongest at a relationship only to be rejected in the end. Your 10,000 hours aren’t in vain. God was and still is using them to craft them into His beautiful work. I cling to the verse Isaiah 61:3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor,  and to the simple belief I’ve had since I was a little girl, Love Wins.

My future will not be easy.  My heart is broken, but my will is not. I refuse to allow the next 10,000  hours of my life to be filled with anything but forward movement. I have dragons to slay – big ones, but I have my words my dear friends and readers, and I plan on wielding them with skill and adroitness.  I’ve read that the fact that God chose to use words to speak everything that is into existence is a testament to their power.  I hope you will allow me to continue to share my words with you, and I hope you will share your words with me, and maybe in 10,000 hours  the dragon may disappear, and in its place beauty will once again rise from ashes.

 

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