Family

It seems appropriate on Thanksgiving to say what I know about family. I think it’s possible there’s a myth of the perfect family we all think someone else has. Nobody farts at the table, brings less food than they should, or cusses in front of the children. The men do the dishes instead of playing or watching football, or the women do them without complaining, or they do them together and then all play football. I do not believe this family exists. Families can be “cussed,” as my beloved Pastor Yaeger used to say. That would be cuss-ed, not spoken ill of. So what do we do about that?

I’ve seen some folks turn their backs on each other. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that. If you’ve explained to your relative, whom you did not get to pick, that their words or behavior are causing you a problem, let’s say at least three times, and the response is something like, “Can’t help it. That’s just how I am,” a little back-turning may be instructive. That’s assuming, of course, that in your heart of hearts, you are willing to forgive should they repent. See, there’s this stuff in the Book that says if we don’t forgive, God will behave in the same manner. Gives you pause, doesn’t it?

When the family gathers, like today, if the warring parties can put their differences on the back burner enough to acknowledge each other’s presence, that’s pretty good. At least it cuts the other family members a break. We just won’t sit you next to each other, being the considerate folks we are.

However, there are those, who shall remain nameless, who not only refuse to repent, but traipse blithely on dropping bombs on others just to show who’s boss. The outcome being that someone refuses to see someone else. Great, now what? Well, pilgrim, you gonna be having Thanksgiving all over the place. Now isn’t that an Irish way of dealing with it? I say that because the Irish believe you are never lost, you are just enjoying new vistas. These resilient people find a way. So, find a way. Divvy up the fam to various houses, or fly from one to another. That’s grace, right?

Just remember one thing. There is something about blood relation that God planned into us. It’s like our DNA calls back and forth, or something. That relative that drives you nuts is going to be in trouble one day, if not now, then later. When s/he is, all this hoopde goes out the window, and the family rallies round. So, if you can, why not do it now? Save a lot of stomach knots. Just sayin’.

 

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Adults Abused as Children

For about ten years, my husband, the marriage and family therapist, and I led Stepping Stones, a support group for adults abused as children. It was peculiar in that we didn’t sit around commiserating, but studied Scripture on how to climb out of that pit together. The topics are:

  • Face the Problem
  • Assess the Damage and Make the Commitment to Recover
  • Correct Your View of God
  • Set Healthy Boundaries
  • Improve Your Self-Image
  • Overcome Fear
  • Learn to Control Anger and Depression
  • Increase Your Capacity to Trust
  • Deal With Sexual Issues
  • Give and Accept Forgiveness
  • Determine Whether to Confront Your Abuser
  • Life Beyond Survival

So, we’re thinking about putting the material online for people who don’t live near us to use to recover. Anybody out there interested in something like this? If so, what do you think would be a fair price? If you’re out there feeling alone with your secret, I’m talking to you, and praying for you.

Fear and a Freebie

Rogue Wave, which I am coming to the end of producing, is about a woman who lets fear control her for thirteen years. After all this time writing this novel, I’m still mulling over fear. So this is thinking in print. Read to the end for a freebie. Hang on, here we go.

When have I been afraid?

When I’ve done something wrong, and feared people would find out. So then, I’d hide it or lie. That kind of fear has bad outcomes–distancing me from people I love, defining me as the stupid choices I make, starting a downward spiral. Those are just a few consequences I can think of. As I think back, it was only when I told someone the truth that I was freed from the tyrany of the fear. Though sometimes the process of freeing me took a while, depending upon the seriousness of the screwup.

Once I was left at the wrong baseball park to see a game when I was in junior high. By the time it dawned on me no one else was coming, night was falling. I started the walk home. However, it was autumn and when leaves skittered behind me I just knew someone with poor motives followed me. My walk turned into a run fueled by fear. I guess, in truth, there was really nothing to be afraid of. And yet the fear was real. Hmmm.

My protagonist isn’t afraid for herself, but for her daughter. I can relate to that because I’ve always been more willing to protect and defend others than I am myself. I hope I’m not the only one who does that, but I hope I wouldn’t do it for thirteen years. Only, I happen to know I’ve been really affected by stuff that happened in my life more than 13 years ago. How could someone who experienced something fierce manage to climb out of the fear it caused? Running doesn’t work. Fear goes with you, even when there’s nothing to be afraid of. I know from the basefall field experience. Counseling might work. Someone to talk it through with. Dang, there’s that talking thing again.

I remember once I saw two guys jump out of pickup trucks and just start beating each other in a gas station. Maybe it was road rage, or something. It’s frightening watching men fight with your own eyes, not like on TV. I was stopped at a stoplight, and about eight months pregnant, so I kept going. (It was before cell phones.) Only, I did feel fear. Violence is fear-causing.

I live a pretty comfortable, peaceable life. There’s not an occasion for fear except every once in a while. Some people don’t have that luxury. I’m thinking homeless people probably spend a huge percentage of their time afraid. Anyway, I would. Just imagining having to sleep in the open on a city street, freaks me out. I’d be afraid if I were getting my food from dumpsters what kind of destructive germs I might eat.  If I hadn’t had a shower in weeks or months, I’d be afraid to get close to other people.  Or what about people who live in gang-ruled neighborhoods? It would be so lousy to have to “not see” what happened right outside your house, or watch your children and grandchildren be pulled into that dark world. Fear.

My writing mentor, Ethel Herr, who now lives with God, once told me that if my writing held no hope, it wasn’t worth writing. Is there hope at the end of fear? I think the hope comes when we face the fear, evaluate what we can do, and do it. Whether it’s remove ourselves from the situation, confess, get counseling, stand up to the bully, or simply tell ourselves the truth. So, that’s what I think.

If you’d like a preview of Rogue Wave, I’ll send you a copy of the first chapter if you’ll leave your email address in the comments.

You Only Get One Life

When I was  young, the manipulation of some of the adults around me caused me to decide that once they didn’t have control anymore I would make my choices, and I’d make them count. In that thought process somewhere came the knowledge that there is some finite number of choices in each life. As I began to make them, I realized that each choice narrowed the choices that followed it, for the most part, unless I wanted to start completely over. Once or twice I did. But for the most part, the choices were set in concrete. Life, unlike television, has very little channel changing.

So what? So, live. Start right off. The earlier you start, the more choices you get. Don’t wait for someone to come along with the answers. The only place you’ll find answers is the Bible, or your holy book of choice, but even there  you have to apply them to your life. Even people, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, etc. don’t have the answers for YOUR life. They may have advice, but you have the choice.

You  strike out and start a course. Find out what you’re good at, what you enjoy, who you were meant to come alongside, etc. If you head a direction that doesn’t fit, learn from it. Make a course correction. But, for cryin’ out loud, don’t just sit there. Or worse, let the winds blow you here and there, and never set a course at all.

Early on, you  make choices about the meaning of life. Why are you here? What are you here for? What’s your value? These are the ones that narrow your following choices. For example, if I believe there’s no god, I  and my world got here by chance, then I don’t need to obey much of anything. What’s the point? When I make a choice that crosses someone else’s choice, though, the law of the land will narrow my future choices.  On the other hand, if I believe there’s a god, how that affects my choices is going to have a lot to do with whether that God is involved in people’s lives, in fact loves us, or whether he spun things off and went off to do his own thing, or maybe doesn’t really care for us and gets a kick out of the times we go to war, hurt each other, or suffer in other ways.

For me, making my choices count meant to make the world better somehow. I tried the welfare department first. I found it doesn’t make the world better. It maintains the status quo. I tried public relations, helping people put their best foot forward. That was a step better than the welfare department, but just barely. When I came to teaching, which was one of those times I completely started over, I found a place to make the world better. At least on most days.

A choice that’s set in concrete is the one to become a parent. Once you’re pregnant, you’re going to deliver, unless you kill your kid. That choice changes life, don’t let anyone fool you. We all know there are parents, and there are parents. I’ve found that my  definition of love guides my parenting. If love is making sure my kids get everything I wanted but didn’t get, parenting looks one way. If love is grace tempered with truth and truth tempered with grace, then parenting looks completely different. If love is hovering over a child to prevent the natural falls of life and their consequences, parenting looks one way. If love is slowly opening one’s hand over the years, letting children learn from consequences, until they can fly on their own, and have been guided to consider their own choices, parenting is a whole different ballgame.

Jesus told a story about two guys building houses. One put his back into it. He dug down to bedrock and put a firm foundation under his house. The other wasn’t thinking about what might happen next, he chose to build his house in the sand where he stood. When storms came, the house on bedrock stood. The house in the sand was obliterated. His story is a picture of life. He was saying we should do our homework, especially about spiritual matters, like whether He is God. If He’s God, the bedrock, do I build my life on Him? That’s the most crucial choice we’ll ever make. And it’s best if we make it before the storms start.

I Don’t Feel Serious

And when I don’t feel serious, I write stories that I don’t plot. They just …

What if I were thin and could get a wet suit on without major surgery, and I just happened to be on Kauai.

She slid her right arm into the wetsuit, grabbed her board, and ran down the beach to the water’s edge (and for a 68 year-old woman with a knee replacement, that’s sayin’ somethin’). She dropped the board into the surf.

A golden-skinned surf bum yelled from beyond the ten-foot breakers. “You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?”

She yelled back. “First time.”

“You don’t need a wet suit in Hawaii. Water’s warm. Sharks will take you for a fish.”

She peeled the wet suit off. Man, she could have done this, thin or not. Think of the frozen yogurt she’d missed for nothing.

The surf bum scanned her granny swimsuit. “Lady, this is Hawaii, you don’t have to wear all the clothes you’ve got.”

She pushed her board out to knee-deep water and lay down on its shiny surface. “Hey, if you’re so smart. Teach me to surf.”

“Start paddling. Where you from?”

She was coming into the breakers. “California.”

“Duck your head, make sure your mouth and eyes are closed, and just hold onto the board.”

The breaker passed over her.

“Keep paddling. North, not south, right?”

“What?”

“California, north, not south.”

She paddled up next to where he sat on his board, legs hanging in the water. “Central, but the water’s pretty chilly.”

“Ok, first get on your knees.”

“I can’t, one of them’s artificial and won’t bend that far.”

“Man, you got a lot of guts, lady.”

“You only live once. How about if I just stand up?”

“OK, your funeral.”

She grabbed both sides of the board and hoisted herself up. And lost her balance and fell off. Eighteen times.

The surf bum laughed so hard he had to take a swim to keep from embarrassing himself. I won’t go into the details. (You may be wondering whether this story has a point, I certainly am.)

“If at first you don’t succeed.” She climbed back on the board, and lo and behold, wait that doesn’t sound like Hawaii, and hang loose, baby, she stood and didn’t fall, though she wobbled like a weeble.

“Hurry, hold your arms out for balance and bend your knees a little. You can do that, right?”

She really wanted to tell him what she thought of that remark, but she didn’t want the lesson to end abruptly. She stuck out both arms and kind of waved them the opposite direction of the way she felt she might fall. She stayed on the board and standing, until …

A wave rushed her high, and she was flying. Dude, she screamed toward shore, literally. A 68 year-old speed demon. “Kayabunga!”

The beach was nearly at her feet when she realized he hadn’t taught her how to dismount. So, she recalled when she learned to ride a bike as a child that she just ran into the neighbor’s Japanese gardener who happened to be pushing a lawn mower down the sidewalk  when she needed to stop. (Yeah, that’s a true story.) Maybe she could just run right off the board, hoping to land on the couple making out on beach towels.

The End (I be laughin’)