It’s been another full and very filled to the brim Saturday. I was telling a mom friend that this spring stretch that goes until the end of the school year might even be worse than the one from pre-Thanksgiving to the end of December. For many years we were blissfully removed from the rat-race of what I refer to as the tyranny of the school calendar. I have to remember that in days like this.
There was a track meet in Carlinville about an hour away. Josh took the kids. The boys stayed here with me. They’ve all been fighting off some kind of throat, cold, and sinus-type sickness so this gave them all a chance to sleep in. They really have been such good sports the way they travel around with us from place to place. The kids have always been good travelers.
I have a paper left to finish then I can put that aside for a while. The kids had their prom tonight as well. I did my daughter’s hair then we left to meet everybody for pictures. I wish now I could’ve been more focused on it for her. The boys and I then drove to the park where my son was. Josh came back from church and went to the senior walk. I originally planned to go but stayed home.
By April and May I was beginning to identify with people who described themselves as living with chronic illness. There were accounts on Instagram and YouTube as well. One day I was home, the rest having left for some extra-curricular event, which would be the way through the spring. There was a repair man scheduled to come look at the sink. At this point I could not yet be around strangers, or anyone who wasn’t in my immediate sphere.
A woman named Rebekah sort of moved in next door. She and her husband and homeschooled four daughters lived in a giant RV that they had sold their home for. Her husband was needing to be in town for several months with a job project. Her parents and family were long time supporters of the camp, and her husband mowed when he could as a way to give back. For several months they lived in the camp ground by the maples.
“This is so like God”, I thought, “He answered my prayer.” A woman from church had recently reached out, asking if there was anything she could pray for. I asked her if she could pray that I’d find a few friends, proceeding to tell her that it’d been lonely out here, that the homeschooling was wonderful but that I just needed God to bring a friend. I texted her the day Rebekah and the girls moved in, saying you’d never believe this…
She sold Juice Plus supplements as a side business with homeschooling. I hadn’t been able to talk to her myself yet, but she gave Josh three bottles to give to me. I was deeply grateful and desperate to try anything. At the time I was taking anywhere from ten to twenty different vitamins and supplements, hoping something would soon start to work. It was harder to take the JuicePlus, which at two a piece added six more pills.
I don’t know now if she was the friend that I prayed for. I certainly didn’t end up being able to be much of a friend to her. I couldn’t believe, a homeschool mom who was living that close, and I couldn’t even do anything with her. I sent her texts here and there, apologizing that we couldn’t get together. I was used to living out here with my kids, but for a woman living alone in a bus with four kids, with no other way to drive around, I could imagine.
In the three months she was here we only got together twice. I had thought for sure we’d be able to do something, soon when I was better, or at least doing better than what I was. We kept texting about trying to do supper sometime, which never happened. Once we had a day where the kids played outside in the athletic field. Another homeschool friend brought her four kids too. I sat with my blanket just outside of the house.
I didn’t try to describe it then, but if I did to anyone, I described saying that it was like my force field was missing. It had actually been shattered, broken. Your force field is like that invisible shield that surrounds your body, providing a buffer from outside sounds and energy. This part of us takes a very long time to grow back. People doing nothing but talking to me would create a terrible nervous–as in pertaining to the nerves–discomfort.
Around my own husband and kids, it didn’t happen. It was amazingly as though I was immune to their energies, unaffected by the normalness we’d grown so accustomed to. The only time it did was if voices were raised, which I quickly learned was something that absolutely could not happen. It was like an electric fence that would train my soul, and create the boundary I hadn’t been able to create for myself. There had to be a new way.
The repair man showed up some late afternoon. Still resting in bed, I’d been feeling pretty good that day. I answered the door, just hoping to be as normal as possible. The small talk stung, and I braced myself against the rush of moving air that happens anytime a person walks into a room. He needed to see where the basement pipes were, to find the place where he could shut off the water. I walked him down the stairs and then back up.
I did a very foolish thing when he asked for a vacuum, or a broom or something to clean up the sink mess. I walked to the closet and got the handheld vacuum, plugged it in, and bent down to vacuum the mess up myself. Somehow after that I managed to keeping saying words and sign the needed receipt papers. When he left I went back to bed, spent and exhausted. The trees weren’t fully green and I watched them often in those days.
The boys and I met Grandma at the baseball game today. Papa doesn’t come like he used to, but might be there tomorrow because he’s done in the field now. Dad had a meeting then Wednesday night church. Elianna had track practice, came home for a little bit, and then had play practice. I parked the van in three different spots before the boys were satisfied that it was in a spot where the foul balls would not hit the windshield.
They won their game. That puts their record at 3-13. This has pretty much been the way their seasons have gone. I know winning isn’t everything but it is nice to win every once in a while, or at least have the scores not have such a wide range. I really couldn’t tell you what the team’s “problem” is. They seem to have decent coaches and players, with one of the coaches even being a former minor league pitcher.
But it was nice to see them win. Even more so to see them having fun. The game went fairly quickly and we were on the road again by 6:00. He asked me if he could ride the bus back to school. I said that’d be fine and that we’d just meet him there. We beat the bus to the school, so the boys got out and played catch for a while in the grass while we waited. The bus was soon there pulling in. They unloaded the bus and then we drove home.
Dad picked up the boys from piano lessons. He was going to be there at 3PM sharp. The way we’re doing lessons this time is fitting four of us within an hour and a half. It’s not the usual half hour lesson this way, but he said lesson regularity at this point was more important than lesson length. After a while with our former lessons, I had to to cut the time to only an hour a week, with us alternating with two of us each week. I had started to dread us being there for two hours.
I think it was because I was lonely sitting for that long in the youth room. The kids would bring their school work and I would bring a book. But a book wasn’t enough to keep me occupied that long, and there were steady interruptions with questions about school books. And I tried to do devotions, always feeling like I had to wait until everyone was there, which didn’t happen when there was someone always out for a lesson. I’d also have my journal, pencil, and phone along with me.
It’s like I can look back and see now the cracks starting to form. The increasing feeling like I was holding up something I couldn’t continue to carry. I remember a dream I had that fall, two of them actually. In one I was in a prison cell, in a stone tower with one window, curled up on a dirt floor. Jesus was sitting next to me on a rock. He was spoon-feeding me liquids. The only thing I was able to do was swallow whatever he gave me. The window was small, and high off the ground.
With the other dream there was a terrible force sucking me away into a cosmic black hole. I was holding on to Jesus’s leg with both hands, the side of my face pressed up into his calf and against his leg hairs. They say Jesus holds onto us and I don’t disagree, but in this dream I was very much holding on to him, the darkness trying to pull me away from the Lord. It was the leg hairs in that one that made such an impression. I can still feel my hands on his leg, his physical body that close.
I bawled my eyes out writing the big kids an email. I’d let them know this morning I was staying home from the track meet, but by the middle of the morning I was having second thoughts. Maybe I just needed to push through and go. Could they give me their thoughts and let know? I somehow needed to hear it from them, that they were okay if I wasn’t there again. It will never feel right to choose me over them. Dad and Grandma and the boys were going, and that was blessedly enough.
The boys and I stayed home yesterday from the track meet. I’ve been starting to feel the build-up of just doing too much again, and was needing the time to step back and take it slower. I don’t really try to explain it to many others. Being understood is like praise where you can want too much.
I stayed home from my son’s double-header today. One of the other boys came down with a sore throat and fever last night. He threw up this morning, but felt better after that. He stayed here with me and rested and slept on the couch. I worked on a paper due Monday by midnight.
Yesterday evening the boys and I walked down to the beach. It was sunny, warm, and almost felt like the approach of summer. Today it’s chilly again, only ten to fifteen degrees above freezing. I’m thankful for heaters, for shelter in houses, for blankets and pillows where the soft things are.
The baseball game tonight was cancelled due to rain. Josh came in and told me and I was very relieved. I stayed in bed longer then, taking advantage of the extra time to keep resting. The internet gurus call it being in your masculine energy, when you’re in that mode where you’re just going without stopping, without taking much time to think about it. I like doing things and going places, but I like my quiet time too.
I helped again today with the kids’ after prom lunch program. I really enjoy it. The mom who cooks was a cafeteria lady for five years during one of her jobs while her kids were in school. She had her kids later, having spent time in the workforce, then deciding she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. The devotion these moms have to their children amazes me. Mother-love is one of those things that truly is all-consuming.
It was a blessing again the way these women open up about the lives they’ve had. Talking for us is like breathing, both in ease and necessity. I usually don’t talk as much as the others. I don’t really feel like it’s my place to. It’s enough for me to listen along as they tell their own stories. I will add sometimes the one about staying home with my kids or meeting my husband in high school at the camp we live at. I like being able to tell it.
“Both Creator and creation are joined together forever in Christ.” ~Joshua Ryan Butler~
Josh Butler’s Beautiful Union book came in the mail this week. I couldn’t resist buying it and wanted to give the book a chance. After the whole debacle with his original TGC article, The Gospel Coalition took the article down and directed readers instead to a downloadable first chapter of his book. I read it, and when I did, it seemed to me the book and its message had some potential.
So I started with the second chapter since I’d already read the first one. His chapter is titled Why Sunsets Are Beautiful. His reason delighted me, saying sunsets enchant us because it’s where two become one. The night and the day. The same thing happens with the sunrise, where for a moment in time the day and night merge to create the magic we know as the glow of the morning.
Genesis 1 identifies the structure of these pairs. Land and sea. Day and night. Heaven and earth. The places on earth that charm us most are where these pairs come together. Backyard sunsets. Mountain views. Ocean shores. God creates the man and the woman and completes this picture. The greatest union comes in the person of Jesus. Divinity and humanity. One love made whole.
The kids did well at their track meet. It was basically perfect weather for running. Not too hot, not too cold, and no wind. Josh had to drive one of the team buses, so the boys and I met him at the meet coming straight from piano lessons. Our pastor is a classical pianist and has picked up the piano students from our church that were with our former teacher, the former church organist.
I’ve tried to explain to the kids that music is one of those things that once you learn it, it stays with you your whole life. I wish I could’ve taken piano lessons as a child. Because I was in band and learning some music that way, mom thought it was important for my sister to take the piano lessons so she could get some music education as well. She wasn’t really interested in piano then.
Ballads and hymns, I told him. That’s what I want to be able to play. I’m really not getting too attached to the idea, being as I have started things like this a few times before. We all brought either books or homework to work on while the others had their lesson in the church sanctuary. The rest of us stay in the pews. I started working on the take-home final due on the last day of class.
Yesterday I was working on a paper basically all day. Then I took a nap and read a little bit before leaving for class. We’ve had these group case studies we have to do each night during class from 9-10. None of our brains are functioning well by that time but somehow we’ve managed to get done what we need to do. Last night was the last group case study and we were all very glad.
I ended up going to sit in the van during the meet. Something about the sporting events just gets me all anxious still and its worse when I am tired and have been up more. Our friends whose marriage is ending were both there. I don’t understand why they weren’t able to work it out. I don’t mean that as a judgement, more like a quiet holding that I guess this is just another one of those things.
“Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?’ He replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.'” ~Judges 13:17-18~
The kids had a scholastic bowl competition this afternoon. It was held at camp, and is apparently something the district has been doing for over 25 years. Kids from the district can send youth group teams to participate in the Bible bowl. Each year focuses on different books of the Bible. This year the two books were Judges and Ruth. For the past month or two our pastor has been quizzing the kids and adults in the first part of Bible class.
There were three teams. Two from a church about two hours away, and one from ours, consisting of two of the boys and our pastor’s daughter. I’d told the boys they probably should try to read through Judges at some point, but I can’t blame them for not having gotten that done. When I walked into the dining hall they were halfway through the first round, our team having yet to score any points. I pulled up a chair next to the other pastor’s wife and we sat in stoic silence as our kids endured the other team answering question after question.
I was starting to think how this was just another one of those things that was a complete and total waste, another one of those family sucking, Sabbath-day violating activities that we all just need to learn how to say no to. I just don’t buy it, that going to church is the way of keeping the Sabbath, that we don’t need to have a day of rest anymore because Jesus said we didn’t have to. None of the other commandments work that way.
But the kids on the other team looked to be having a good time. They were smiling at each other and high-fiving each other, concentrating on the questions and buzzing in when they could. Our team was eliminated which meant their two teams played each other. They won first and second and were taking pictures with their medals. The grandmother of three of the other team’s boys–pastors sons–was so happy and said it was so worth making the drive up to come watch. One of the wives from our former district was there.
She spoke too of a busy weekend and life season. “I love you”, I said, and gave her a hug. “Love you too”. She walked to the lookout tower back to her family. We’re family too, but in a different way. During the questions I’d turned to the pastor’s wife next to me saying you really can’t make this kind of stuff up, that Sunday afternoon we sat submissively, humiliated by the book of Judges. The kids and coach had done a wonderful job.
Today was another full and busy day. There was a baseball double-header down closer to St. Louis. Josh drove down there for it and met my mother-in-law and the boys. I stayed here. The boys’ school was having a work day. One of the things they started this year was requiring ten volunteer hours from every school family. The alternative to the work hours is a fee which I am unsure of the amount.
We haven’t gotten any of our hours in yet, so Elianna and I both went to help this morning. I’d told her not to make any plans for Saturday morning. I miss having her around since she went to high school, so it’s nice to have these times when it’s just her and I doing something. I was expecting there to be lots of people for the work day, but there were around ten of us. It’s a busy time of year.
The first thing they has us doing was moving desks out of a classroom. The other ladies were moving chairs. I looked at the room of 150+ desks and my heart sunk a little. I really can’t lift and carry out that many desks and didn’t know how many I could. We had to find 20 good desks to keep for a Special Ed classroom they are hoping to make. The rest were being donated to a mission organization.
They collect and fix up old school supplies and then ship them out to third world countries. The men had several loads of old wooden tables to get out of the basement, up the steps, and outside into the truck. The ladies worked on the desks and chairs. I told my daughter I would sort the desks into ones to keep and others to take out. Unstacking the desks and pushing them was okay for a while.
“You good, Mom?”, she just kept picking them up and carrying them out into the hallway. When the others were done with the chairs they joined us with the desks. When they were all out of the classroom one of the retired teachers who was there helping, a petite older lady who had to have been in her 70’s, suggested we go ahead and start getting the desks upstairs and out to the truck for the men to load.
I finally had to say that I really can’t lift right now, and we found a cart where the desks coming of the elevator could be loaded onto and pulled. So I stayed at the top of the elevator and my daughter with me so that when it opened full of desks stacked one on top of the other she and I could lift the two together. Four desks fit on the cart and we took turns pulling it out and down to the truck and unloading it.
The lifting still causes this destabilization. I told my daughter though that’d it’s probably good for me to have times like this where I am doing a little more than I am used to doing. Your body needs the memories of doing something more and being okay after doing so. I still want to cry when I think about this, how it’s like this handicap I’m living with that keeps showing up. I know this is the way it has to be.
When that was over we swept the classroom floors. After that they had us put together the new Little Tykes equipment they’d gotten for the preschool. It was much less physical and done outside in the spring air. All of that added up to three and half hours for each of us, so seven hours total toward the hours that were needed. They had Subway sandwiches, chips, cookies, and water for lunch for us.
I came home and slept. Before doing that we walked over to the CGC to put the clothes in the dryer. Our dryer has been broken for the past two weeks and I haven’t had a chance to get out somewhere to pick out a new one. Before we left for the work day I’d put my son’s shirt in the washer to have it ready to wear for a prom he was going to. Dad left the games early to bring him back to get ready.
Elianna and I drove into Washington Park and he followed us. Everyone looked very nice. He was going with a local pastor’s daughter who is a part of the youth group where his friend from camp goes who is also dating another camp friend. Usually the way they do it here is that the guy gets a vest or a tie to match the color of the girl’s dress. Several of the parents were there for pictures and we took many.
I feel like lately I keep writing about what’s happening but never get around to saying what I feel about all of it. By the time I get a chance it isn’t really what I want to talk about. I think writing is actually a way of calming my feelings. I read somewhere that writing out facts works to balance out the right brain when it’s overactive. Some people say the right brain left brain stuff is a myth but I disagree.