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Friday, January 10, 2014

New Blog Coming Soon!!

I am busily working on a brand new blog!! I am very excited about the possibilities on the new space. As soon as it is ready, this blog will go straight over there. You won't need to do a thing!!
Please bear with me as I work on it. Learning a new system has been challenging at best.

Hoping to see you ALL very soon!!!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Getting Your Life Back

Next post will be back on the burn-out topic. Pinky swear.

I mentioned over on my Facebook page today that April 10th is the day that I found out I was expecting our first child.  April 10, 1987. 26 years ago.

My firstborn, Michael Andrew.

Next month, it will be 7 years since I found out I was expecting our youngest. As that first child was graduating from high school, the youngest was already growing inside me, and we didn't even know it yet!!

I love this picture of our Jacob Daniel. He's an outdoors boy at heart!

I know you have heard well meaning people say something like, "Once those kids grow up you can get your life back." Maybe you've even said it to yourself. "As soon as these kids grow up, I can get my life back. I can do some things I want to do." If you haven't said it, have you thought it?

Today I want to talk about my life. See, my life is sort of busy. Actually crazy at times! I have ten kids, two daughters-in-law, and one adorable grandson. I have a husband and I have parents. There is always something going on. Always a birthday, or Christmas, or somebody is sick, or somebody needs new shoes. Somebody is hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or dirty, or mad, or being disobedient.

I could grow to resent the fact that I sound like "Have you...doneyourchores/cleanedyourroom/finishedyourmath/readyourhistory

I could want to give up. I could start wanting my life back. Except...

this is my life.

I have a cousin, who reads this blog, who can tell you straight up that when we were kids, all I ever wanted was to be a Mom. I said it so dadgum many times that she still remembers it, even though we are now in our forties. To me, being called Mama was the stuff of dreams. I was an only child, and I desperately wanted some siblings, or even just one, to play with and have around and stuff.

So I grew up and had them. And they are my life.
Now does that mean that "Dawn has given up who she really is to idolize her children?" On the contrary. I haven't given up anything. God has given me everything.

That child who made his presence known 26 years ago through a little test at the doctor's office has grown to become one of my very best friends in the world. I can say the same about his 22 year old brother; or his 18 year old sister; or any of the rest of the ten. We are tight y'all. And you know why?

Because I have never put some stuff I wanted to do above being their Mama. Have I been selfish at times? Oh my, yes. Have I complained, sometimes bitterly, to my husband about them? Yes, yes, yes!! Have they had me at my wit's end more than once? YES!!
But one thing has not changed for me.

Being called Mama. Most of them have shortened it to Mom at this point, although I still get some Mommy, Momsie, or Mama from time to time. Doesn't matter what they call me. As long as they keep calling me. I talk for hours with my grown sons on the phone. Their wives don't have to tell them to call their Mama. They call me because I am their Mama. I have given these children every part of me...nothing held back.

We laugh, we cry, we fight, we make up. And in the end, I am still here for them.

I love to write; I love to read; I really love to go out with a friend and have lunch or coffee or whatever. And I do those things. But only if it suits what's going on here at home. Because
this is my life. Blogging and reading and mopping and experimenting in the kitchen and scrapbooking and shopping will all be there later. But when the phone rings, or a child comes into my room...it all stops. All that stuff can stop, because it is just stuff. And that stuff is not life!!

I have poured myself  into these children for over 25 years now. And I have loved every minute of it. Even when I hate it, I love it. Even when I don't know what to do, I love it. Even when they are driving me crazy, I love it. Even when I am tired, and angry, and fed up to here(points to eyeballs)...I just can't help but love it. I am living my dream.

It's noisy and dirty and smelly and loud and hurtful and awesome and sad and happy and busy and aggravating and so full of warm fuzzies and hugs and kisses that I just can't help but love it.

So if you wonder if you will ever "get your life back", just stop. Embrace the life you have. Make today special. Love with absolute and utter abandon. Sit down and talk to your children. And keep talking to your children. And one day, they will call you on the phone, and every single time they start to hang up they will say, "I love you" before you get the chance to say it first.

And your heart will melt again. Even after 26 years. Don't waste a minute Mama. Today is so important. Don't put it off until tomorrow, or until you buy some stuff to do with them, or until you get some rest, or until you have more money or a bigger place or you finish decluttering.

I have no life to get back. I am living my life every single day. With every phone call, every text, every hug, every "I love you"...this is my life. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stirring The Pot


I got some very interesting feedback from yesterday's post. Very interesting indeed.

Some people wrote thanking me for being real. Some people wrote to tell me that I was "hurting both Christians and non-Christians alike by what I said." An older lady from our former church wrote to tell me I was causing her to "conjure up thoughts in her head of what might have gone wrong between us and church leaders."

First of all, the theme of the post was "Heal and Be Real." Be Real.

I thought I made it clear when I started this series that I was going to be honest. Sometimes...no, a lot of times, honesty makes people uncomfortable. See, folks don't want their blinders to be removed, or even shifted a little bit.

But, "causing her to conjure up thoughts"? Um, no. I will not take responsibility for what someone else is thinking. I have enough trouble with my own thoughts! I constantly have to repeat to myself, "Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..." It is a steady battle with  me. Maybe some other folks need to claim that verse as their own.

Secondly, I did not share anything personal about anyone else. I gave NO NAMES, no identifying markers. Our former church has many leaders, including elders, deacons, staff members, pastors, etc. None of you who read my post have any idea who or what our situation was about. If someone chooses to spend too much time wondering about it, or "conjuring up thoughts", they need to spend that time doing something else.

(I don't mean to sound snarky. I really don't. But on my blog, I am going to share the things that affect my mothering, my marriage, my womanhood, etc. I am not going to tell you all my dirty secrets just to keep the conversation going, but I am also not going to paint a picture that is false.)

If my last post offended you, I suggest you go back and read it again and see if I said anything that pointed fingers at anyone. I accused no one of anything. I didn't even say that our leaders were wrong; just that we did not agree with them on some issues. Christians can disagree. You don't have to agree with everything that everybody does all the time!!

The post was more about our health and financial issues than anything, but I am not surprised that Satan would use it to try to cause division. The part about church was short indicating that it was not the point of the post.

If you came away from my post with a bad taste in your mouth about church, then please forgive me. That was never my intention. We have not missed a Sunday of church since leaving our former church. We will continue to "do church", we will continue to "be the church", which is much more important than just sitting in your regular seat every single Sunday.

I would love to hear your input on this. Just be nice...I'm beat up enough right now.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Heal and Be Real: Low Level Burnout - The Reality

There have been several times over the past 17 years of homeschooling that I have experienced severe burnout. They have always been very difficult times; times that would make me want to run as far away from home as I could. Typically, once the worst passes, I can get back on my feet pretty quickly. It takes some time to refresh, get my mind renewed, and sometimes I have to take a break from the usual daily routine for a while. But once I feel like it is passing, I can usually jump right back in to full swing.

There is a different kind of burnout though. This kind isn't overly dramatic; it doesn't come on all of a sudden; and it doesn't scream out for your immediate attention. It comes on through a series of underlying stressors that make normal routines seemingly impossible, and yet sometimes you can't quite pinpoint the exact problem. In our case, it has come through extended illnesses, financial difficulties, and church problems.

During the same period of time that we have been struggling, I have had a dear friend lose a child to death, a dear friend battle cancer, another friend suffer through chemo and radiation, my parents' house was broken into for the third time, and many people at our church have dealt with life threatening illnesses.

I am not saying that our problems are on the same level as these folks. But I think we sometimes downplay our own struggles, just because they aren't as "big" as someone else's. I don't think that is necessarily healthy, because our problems are still our problems, whether they seem "big" or not! With that said, I want to give you a little timeline today of what we've been facing lately. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to give me a case of low level burnout.

It started like this:

July 21, 2012-
I went to the beach with my BFF Linda. We sat on that beach, slathering ourselves every two hours with sunblock, for about 7 hours. For the next five days, I had the worst case of sun poisoning I have ever had. I couldn't get anything over my top half but a loose tank top for a week. (Linda had the same sunblock I did and she was badly burned too.)

Four weeks later, on August 16, 2012-
Our 14 year old son had an emergency appendectomy, and we spent the next four nights in the hospital on IV antibiotics, hoping that the severe infection he had would clear up. It did.

 One month later, on September 15, 2012
Our second child, Thomas, got married. Now a wedding is a joyful thing to be sure!! But it is also in the top five on the Life Stressors list!!  It was a gorgeous, fairy tale like wedding, which left us all happy, but even more tired. I wrote about it here, here, and here.

One month later, on October 16th, 2012
Our then 5 year old started with a high fever, which would not come down below 103 no matter what we did. By Friday night, two of my girls were also sick. On Saturday, the other boys started with fever as well. On Sunday, the 21st, I took my little guy to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with Type A flu, severe bronchitis, and a quickly spreading pneumonia.
By Monday, all of the children were terribly sick with the flu. And so was my husband. I was the only one left standing.
By the end of the week, the kids were all beginning to perk up some. Then, on Saturday evening, the 27th, I came tumbling down. It would take me more than three weeks to even become functional again. Thank goodness for well trained children. School, laundry, meals, and housework went on as usual. Without me.

(It was around this time that we started discussing our problems with our church...)

It was at this point that I lost track of the days...but here's what happened.

Every three or four days, one or more of my children, or my husband, or I, would wake up with a sore throat. The sore throat and stuffy nose would last for a few days, then go away; only to be picked up by another child soon after.

At some point in mid November, I had two kids whose sore throat kept getting worse and wouldn't go away. I took them in to see the doctor. You guessed it.  Strep throat.  They started antibiotics and got better quickly. But the rest of us continued with random sore throats and stuffy noses.

(By this point, my husband had almost no work. He is self employed as a heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration specialist. Our very mild winter was killing us.)

We muddled through Christmas, some of us beginning to feel a bit better. Still very little work for my husband, but we pulled Christmas gifts together. Our oldest daughter turned 18, and thanks to pre-planning, she and I enjoyed a wonderful two nights away in a nearby historic city.

(Differences of opinion with church leadership began to really grow around this time.)

When we came home, the sickness continued. In February, I, as well as my oldest girl, were diagnosed with sinus infections. We both ended up on steroids and antibiotics. And the kids and the hubby weren't much better.

March came, and with it, nicer weather and everybody feeling better. But the other problems were growing. March brought with it the worst of the problems at church. Our differences with some of the decisions our leaders were making made it difficult to worship.

(At the beginning of March, we accepted grocery money from a close family friend who knew our situation. She showed up at our house one night with money and lots of hugs. She is such an encourager to me! )

Then the storm hit.

Slander, character assassination, and false accusations became our reality. Day after day we were dealing with these things. It was hurting our family on every level. Worshiping at our church had become impossible. We could not focus on God due to the stress from all that was going on.

My husband and I were very nearly non-functional. The stress was overwhelming us, draining us of what little energy we had. We spent hours discussing the issues, speaking with our church leaders, trying to come to some sort of closure. It wasn't happening. It still hasn't happened. And there it lies, under the surface, just waiting to spring back up and begin again.

(It's a little easier to see now how God was using these issues to move us on. We know it was His will that we leave that church, even though that might not make sense to a lot of people. I'm sure it made little sense to a lot of people when Abram picked up his family and left his home, but it was God Who called him to do it. I know that obedience is right, even when folks question you for it.)

So, here it is April. Believe it or not, the kids have had strep again. I have two still on antibiotics. And my 8 year old daughter had a reaction to the medicine, so she is covered head to toe with a bright red, spotty rash.

If you have read this whole post, you might be asking yourself, "Why in the world did she tell us all that? Sounds like a whole lot of belly-aching to me."

The reason is that all this stuff has affected my mothering, more than I would like. Low level burnout is still burnout. And when things like this just keep going on, without break or closure, you don't get a chance to recover. So next time, I want to talk about what I am doing to survive, and even learn, from the circumstances we are currently facing. I hope you'll come back then. Until then, please know this...

This kind of burnout doesn't mean that I walk around with the sad face all the time. On the contrary! I am actually a very funny person, as anyone who knows me in person will tell you. And I am optimistic to a fault. So I continue to laugh and make jokes and look for the best part of everything. It really mostly affects my motivation.

For the Christian, joy is not something that waxes and wanes with your circumstances. My inner peace in God's good plan for us has not failed me. He is there, He is good, and He loves me.