The Definition of “Temple” According to a 4-Year-Old

On Wednesdays, I bring my younger three children to the best daycare provider in the history of ever. We’ve known her for a long time and she took care of our oldest children when I worked.  She really has found her calling and has a magic touch to transfom children into civil human beings.

On the way there this morning, we were listening to a gospel CD which we’ve heard many times so my kids know most of the words.  My son pointed out that the next song would contain the words, “the Lord is in the temple.”  Without skipping a beat, he then said, “I love the temples at Red Lobster.”  Yes, folks, the “temple” to him is a red-colored drink with a cherry on top, known to most as a Shirley Temple. Kids rock.

 

A House Filled with Music and….Screaming?

For those that don’t know, we homeschool our children.  Yes, all five of them. For all its challenges, I love it. Compared to twenty years ago according to other pioneering families who have successfully done it that long or longer, homeschooling is easy as pie with all the great resources, classes and curriculum available.  Although I’m not really a baker so pie doesn’t come so easy to me.  Back to homeschooling.  Over the years, we have taken advantage of said resources, doing different things every year, ranging from academic co-ops to field trips to classes to sports to music to art.

This year, as we have a 7th grader and an 8th grader, which means an increased workload, we are pretty focused on academics for them but still want them to be well-rounded.  Our 7th grader, she’ll be called Rebekah, has a God-given athletic bent and will be resuming horseback riding lessons in the next couple of months.  Her goal is to learn to ride English and compete.  She has no fear of horses and has a gift for working with them. Our 8th grader has always loved performing arts.  Both of them took piano lessons for 2 1/2 years (which I also hope to continue as money allows), and while they’re both very good at it and can sight-read music, the older one, Sarah we’ll call her, loves it.  I mean, if she was 2 years old, she would throw a rolling-on-the-floor tantrum when we tell her it’s time to stop practicing and do other work.  Being the dignified teen she is, she scoots the bench in, goes to her room and says nothing to me for the next three hours.  I know her homework doesn’t take THAT long.

But I digress.  She is good.  I don’t say that as just a biased mom (which of course I am), she really is good.  Her teacher has said she has a natural gift, and people in our homeschool circles tell me they look forward to the talent shows because they love to hear her play.  Because of my confidence in her ability not only to play but to learn quickly music that is given to her, I asked her if she wanted to do half of the piano accompaniment for Jubilate Deo’s Christmas performance because they were looking for another pianist to share the load (JD is a homeschool choir led by a woman who has been classically trained in opera, and has quite a gift for working with kids).  Of course, Sarah said YYYEEEESSSS!!! She will play half the performance while the other pianist sings, and vice versa.  Needless to say our house is filled with beautiful Christmas music as she learns new songs each week and practices them.  In fact, she’s playing right now….wait a second,what is that horrid noise????

Screaming.  Like a banshee.  Yes, my son has trained his voice in a different way.  He managed to learn how to scream at the highest pitch a 4-year-old boy’s voice can go (he has four sisters), and add two full octaves to it.  That pitch like nails on a chalkboard, that causes our dog to cower in the corner with his paws over his ears, the one that I swear our neighbors, as understanding as they are, will call the cops about because they know deep down that someone is being murdered. He’s found that his scream is very effective at bringing attention to himself when his sisters aren’t letting him in their rooms, when he can’t have that candy the merchandisers so cleverly place at the checkout, when I walked away from the toy department and my son, when a toy King from Cars most decidedly was not coming home with us that day.  This situation met his criteria for unleashing that dreaded sound from hell, as does the current one. Apparently someone is trying to take something back from he that he rightfully stole, so at the present moment my house is filled with music and screaming.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Moving Forward Through Grief Towards the Horizon

We haven’t been to church in a few weeks.  Mainly our family just needs some down time.  I needed to be there yesterday. Pastor Steve Hage was preaching, which we hadn’t known since we hadn’t been at church.  Through him, God named what I’ve been feeling the last few weeks: grief.

You see, I have explored my husband’s internet activity.  I’ve discovered things on his blog exposing some of our most private issues and my deepest insecurities.  I have discovered that he has made friendships with strange women and has empathized with one in particular who was in a bad marriage and was somewhat of a shoulder to her. I’ve discovered that he has friended strangers for no apparent reason other than “that’s how the social web works”, and has had interactions with another woman which he told me he never talked to.  He called her baby, lady, woman. I discovered flirtatious comments and connections with women that he had made over the period of a couple of years, this period being a time during which I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.  He did connect with men as well, mostly for business, but from a wife’s perspective, relationships with other women tend to present more of a problem.

Through the years, I never felt prioritized.  I never felt important enough to him to be at the top of his list.  In fact, I always felt last if I was on the list at all.  So I got bitter and angry, not knowing the real emotion was pain.  I lashed out critically at him and begged for attention.  I had found outlets and bandages for the loneliness of my own over the years, decorating my home, cleaning, shopping, food, exercise and an emotional affair seven years ago.  Through all of these things I learned that in order for a marriage to stand a chance I can’t cover up the pain and the problems with external things because the problems will only get bigger.  I couldn’t run from it anymore. I had to get brutally honest about the emptiness I felt in the marriage and the unhealthy ways I had dealt with it in the past.  I had to keep taking these feelings to my husband, no matter how he shut me out and wouldn’t hear me.

This period of things being the same in our marriage, but me handling it by not medicating the truth with different “drugs of choice”, is what brought me to my knees. “Lord, what do I do?  What do I need to change?  Show me, and help my heart stay loving.  Don’t let bitterness take root again.  Tell me, daily, how to respond, how to show love.”  The answer I heard was,”Just hold my hand, and don’t let go.  Keep seeking truth.  Keep allowing me to change you.  Keep inviting me into your storm.” While I was on my knees, my husband was living like he was single and had decided that our marriage was over before it was over.  He told me how great he and the kids would do without me, how happy he’d be, how he no longer had any desire for me and I wasn’t what he wanted.  I looked upward and went,”Did you hear that Lord? I’m still holding Your hand.  I’m still trusting.  Show me my responsibility and help me to do things Your way, not mine.”  I heard, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”  I said,”WHAT????  OK, fine, I’ll do it, but it goes against everything I WANT to do.  Help me to embrace this.”

I learned to bite my tongue more (still working on this) and take everything in prayer to God.  I knew that divorce couldn’t be the answer.  I’ve seen the rippling, long-lasting effects it has on children of divorce, and adult children of divorce. I could not do that to my children, and I had to be an example of faith and perseverance, even when the going got the toughest it’s ever been.  I knew that if I kept my eyes on the Lord regardless of the storm, He would handle it.  God can only do good and when you stick with Him long enough you begin to understand that He is in the middle of the storm with you, bringing you to the other side, no matter how long it takes or how hopeless things look.  That prayer was answered the night my husband gave me the journal and said his new aim was to love me, to lay himself down for me and put me and our marriage first.

Yesterday at church, the pastor talked about bruises under the skin that no one can see (that’s a whole different post).  He talked of grief and sorrows and how Jesus took those on for us on the cross.  As he was talking about this grief, it touched in me the feelings I have had over my husband’s internet use most recently, but other things that I feel have taken my place throughout our marriage.  I grieve the loss of the woman I could have been.  I grieve the loss of so much joy and peace.  I grieve the freedom with each other we could have had this whole time. I grieve the loss I feel about the compassion, empathy and pursuit shown to other women while I was on my knees with a broken heart, empty, lonely, and desperate for those things from my husband.  I grieve the loss of trust and security.  I feel robbed.  I feel he gave things away that belonged to me, while I was given disdain, contempt and hardheartedness.  I grieve the loss of my husband for those years.  He had a whole separate life which I was not a part of and he never talked to me about.

As I grieve, while it is difficult, it’s good grief.  I have spent years stuffing feelings.  Knowing what those feelings are and allowing myself to feel them honestly and in no rush feels awesome, because the only way to get on the other side of it is not to go over it and ignore it but to go through it.  I see new things on the horizon and have great hope as God continues to transform us into the people, and couple, we were meant to be.  I’ve always had hope, which is why divorce has never been an option to me no matter how bleak the outlook (God has a much different outlook than we do).  I meant for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.  I hope, because I have experienced the miracles that God has done in hearts.  I have seen effectual, fervent prayer avail much.  As I grieve the losses, and while things are by no means perfect, we are also finally moving in a direction that has evaded us for so long: forward, towards a beautiful horizon.

 

The Crash of ‘07

That early November day of 2007 began like any other day.  I was preparing my kids for their homeschool gymnastics class.  I felt no more than the usual tired (the previous few weeks had felt like a hamster wheel which had no mercy), and possibly like I had a cold coming on, but nothing to cause concern or keep me from taking them to their class.  We had to stop at the store on the way, and as I was heading to the checkout line, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I began to sweat, my legs were shaking and I felt like I was going to collapse. “Just get the kids to the car, drink some water, and then you’ll be OK”, I told myself.  I got the kids to the car, drank some water, and knew I was not OK.  I chose to head to gymnastics anyway.

I got there, and a couple of the other moms who are now friends of mine noticed that my color was not good.  I said that I wasn’t feeling great, I was exhausted, but I’d be OK.  I was not OK.  Halfway through the class I couldn’t move.  My body just had no strength and I felt like if I stood up, I would faint.  I broke down in tears and could not stop crying.  As embarrassed as I was, I was terrified more.  I thought I was going to die.  Mind you, I had panic attacks before, had battled depression (although it still remained undiagnosed at this point), but this was different.  This debilitated me to the point of complete helplessness.  The two friends I mentioned began immediately to minister and pray for me.  One friend took my kids, I was offered a ride, but stupidly drove myself home.  How I did not get into an accident on the way home is beyond me other than angels carried the car.

I called my husband and he rushed home.  I thought maybe if I can just get some decent sleep while he manages the house and kids, I’d be better by the next day.  I was not better by the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that.  I was pretty much bed- or couch-bound and when I did need to get up, I couldn’t walk from one room to the next without leaning against the wall or without help.  I couldn’t drive.  I couldn’t even get dressed without it completely wiping me out for the rest of the day. So my husband worked from home, and we took friends and family on their offers to help with our kids and meals. To them I will be forever grateful because we would not have survived otherwise.

My symptom list continued to grow.  I was back and forth to the doctor’s office.  They said there was nothing wrong according to the lab tests, so I was referred to Behavioral Health.  She said I should see psychology, take Benadryl for sleep and exercise.  I explained to her that while in the past exercise helped me to feel better, now even a short, slow walk knocked me on my can for the next five days.  Like I said, I even needed help getting dressed.  Along with this symptom, I did not feel refreshed even after adequate rest, felt weak, lightheaded, short of breath even though I was using inhalers, joint pain and general body achiness on and off and in different places, extreme sensitivity to temperature changes and my body was having trouble regulating my temperature (hot flashes to chills), difficulty concentrating and remembering, persistent sore throat, chest pain, blurred vision at times and sensitivity to light and finally, which I thought were illnesses of themselves but were really symptoms, anxiety and depression.  These symptoms individually could point to any one of a number of problems, which I believe made it difficult for the doctors to diagnose as something as other than a purely psychological problem.  Collectively and for the length of time I had them was a different story and pointed to something pretty obvious, in my lay-person’s opinion.

Four months later, I still couldn’t drive.  The symptoms weren’t improving.  Both my husband and I had done extensive research as to what this could possibly be.  Everything we read pointed to either fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.  Why hadn’t the doctors mentioned this?  It hadn’t been long enough yet.  The criteria for diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome is normal function reduced by 50% or more (mine was probably closer to 75%), fatigue that is not relieved by rest, and feeling worse for longer than 24 hours after exertion, these three symptoms lasting longer than 6 months and could be accompanied by other symptoms, all of which I mentioned above.  In the meantime, I was put on antidepressants and began going to counseling because I had been led to believe that the depression was causing the rest of the symptoms, rather than it being a symptom of a larger problem.

Finally, my husband came to the doctor with me to advocate for me since I had no energy left.  He was a hero through all of this, as difficult as I know working a full-time job at work, and working one at home, was for him and took its toll on him.  This was a fight I couldn’t handle alone, and I felt VERY alone.  God and I got very close during this time, but that’s for a different post.  Anyway, we brought the list of symptoms with us so the doctor had something to look at and could see what had been happening the last 6 months.  Just about everything else had already been ruled out through repetitious lab tests and exams.  Finally, finally, chronic fatigue syndrome was written as a diagnosis in my chart.  Now we could start moving forward.

It’s been two years. I do take antidepressants, but still struggle with all of the symptoms of CFS.  According to what we read, it can resolve in 2-4 years, but for some it remains lifelong. My muscles are still weak from not having been used much.  Our house still needs to be purged since things have piled up because I haven’t been able to stay on top of cleaning and organization like I used to religiously.  I’ve learned to live with it as has my family and am able to function not at full speed like I had done before, but participate in life more.  I’m still praying for full health and recovery, but am thankful for this experience.  It has taught me to slow down.  It has taught me to accept help from people.  It has taught me that I don’t have to be all things for all people.  It has taught me to set better boundaries and that it’s OK to say no.  It has taught me that I must take care of myself properly.  And it has brought our family of seven much closer together.

I don’t write this post for a pity party.  Things like this happen. I’m just speculating here, but I believe it happened because I ran myself into the ground for years trying to do it all without much help and always putting myself last (I still struggle with this, as do most women, I think), I got a virus, and then this illness set in after that because my immune system was so fried and just couldn’t take anymore.

I write this as a means of helping someone out there who might be going through the same things as I am.  It is not all in your head.  This is a very real illness with very real symptoms and effects. Document what you feel when you feel it to show it to your health care professionals. Surround yourself with people who you can share this struggle with and advocate for you when you lack the mental or physical strength.  I think you’ll be surprised at how people who are able to help, want to.  And most of all, as much as you feel like giving up sometimes, don’t.  You might just make it. :)

 

Taking the plunge

Ummm, I’m blogging now, where are the paychecks? ; )

Hi.  I’m Sandi.  I hate the social web.  Mostly.  I can see that it has its advantages, but I also have experienced firsthand what a lack of boundaries on the web can do to a marriage. A lack of boundaries in any area can do this.  More on that later….

My distaste for all things internet, other than comparison shopping and actual shopping, has kept me away from social websites and from reading blogs and from writing one.  I had joined Facebook in June, and while I can still see it as being a useful tool and I never friended anyone I didn’t actually know, I was on it way too much and my husband and I deactivated our accounts last week.  I joined Twitter for a day and deleted it the same day.  I was reading so much back and forth nonsense that it gave me a headache and I had to get off that roller coaster.  As much as I try, I’m having a hard time finding any redeeming value in Twitter.

I was toying with the idea of starting a blog to document raising our five children, homeschooling them, things I learn about parenting, and wifing, battling chronic fatigue syndrome, my walk with the Lord, and writing about being a woman in general.  Then I thought, “Why, for Pete’s sake (in the words of our four-year-old son, who has picked this phrase up from somewhere),would anyone read anything I have to say?”

I mentioned the idea to my husband, who is a PHP developer (read his blog, www.robert-gonzalez.com), has been into all things internet for quite some time and who many of you may have been acquainted with, or more, on the web.  He told me that with all that we have been through in our fourteen years of marriage, and having a large family, and things I have learned from life in general, someone somewhere might be able to be helped and encouraged that they are not alone in their experiences and that there is hope through the tough times.  He made me actually believe that I had something to offer, so here I am, taking the plunge into the world of blogging. Forgive me for I know not what I do. : )