The Birthday Blues

Tomorrow is my husband’s 40th birthday. All day long, as the depression has been trying to creep in, I’ve been tying to push it down, ignore it, hope it’ll just go away. I’m not depressed because he’ll soon be 40. It’s just a number for Pete’s sake, one more than 39, one less than 41.

I think I feel bad because I just don’t do birthdays well. I’m not good at pulling off elaborate parties or even buying that special gift that’s sure to surprise and delight. I get frustrated trying to buy gifts for my husband, to be perfectly honest. He’s one of those people that either just goes ahead and buys what he wants when he wants it, or he has such a specific and specialized wish list (i.e. tools or electronics) that I’m uncomfortable buying them without his input — I’m afraid I’ll buy the wrong thing. What usually ends up happening is Rusty just decides what he wants and goes out and buys it and we say, “Well, that will be your birthday present this year,” which is really — lame.

And then there’s the whole problem of how we celebrate his birthday in a place where we just don’t have that many friends yet. I mean, we have lots of acquaintances, but few close friends. Today, we were talking about Rusty’s 33rd birthday, which we celebrated in Japan, surrounded by so many close friends, just a little over a month before we found out his mom had a brain tumor and the whole course of our lives was completely altered. Rusty still looks back on that as one of the best birthdays of his adult life. It was an awesome party, and it was awesome because of the people who were there. And I can’t gather all of Rusty’s close friends for a similar party to celebrate his 40th — they are too scattered, and it is logistically impossible. And knowing I can’t recreate that makes me sad.

We are hosting the Operation Ecuador monthly Praise and Potluck in our home tomorrow, and it is going to include a curry buffet and a birthday cheesecake in Rusty’s honor, but it’s not like we are particularly close to anyone in Operation Ecuador, with the exception of Josh and Julie. So, in some ways, it’s like we’re just tacking the party on to an already existing event, which is kinda — lame.

So, yeah. Husband’s 40th birthday — fail. Maybe going to see the new Star Trek movie on Monday for Date Night will sort of make up for it?

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Tomorrow

I am an anxious person. A worry wart. A pessimist. I worry so constantly, I’m actually surprised I don’t suffer from ulcers or some other chronic condition. The other day, when I went in to get my driver’s license, I was so nervous, I had butterflies in my stomach and sweaty palms. I couldn’t even read the book I brought with me! I was worried I wouldn’t understand something that they said to me in Spanish; I was worried I wouldn’t pass the eye exam (it has been 11 years since I had new glasses!); I was worried I wouldn’t pass the theory exam. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about any of those things. I communicated well; they didn’t even make me take an eye exam, just noted that I was wearing glasses; and I got a perfect score (20/20) on the computerized theory exam.

As we were walking out, my husband said he didn’t know why I get so worked up about things like this. He wasn’t being mean, but I know he thinks I’m silly. It’s hard to explain this aspect of my personality to someone who generally flies through life by the seat of his pants.

And the thing is, there is always something to worry about. It’s part of being human and having a life, I think. Tonight, I find myself worrying about tomorrow. Tomorrow, I am taking Alex in for a psychological evaluation. We are having him tested for ADD/ADHD at his school’s request, and they are also going to do some type of intelligence test as well on him. I know I shouldn’t borrow trouble before we know the outcome and the official diagnosis, but the questions keep whirling around in my mind. What if he does have ADD/ADHD? Does this mean expensive medication with tons of side effects? Does it mean other lifestyle alterations, such as a strict diet? Does it mean a permanent label among teachers and authority figures as a “difficult” or “problem” child?

And beyond the practical questions, lurk the more sinister, guilt-inducing worries — that my son is the way he is because of my own failings as a parent. Have I been too lenient? Have I been too strict? Do I expect too much? Should I expect more? Has the transience that has marked our life since he was an infant done irreparable damage? Have we made him the way he is because we have denied him stability and permanence?

Like most parents, I’m trying to do my best with the precious souls God has entrusted to my care for the time being. But what do you do when your best doesn’t seem to be good enough?

It’s at times like this that the following verse is such a comfort to me:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7, MSG)

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 4

Week 4 is about rising early. Read the entire post here.

I had a feeling this one was coming. Now I see why the sleep challenge was so important! After all, you get enough sleep and go to bed on time so you can rise early, right? It really is a noble concept, and in my life BC (that’s Before Children), I actually was an early riser. Back when I had morning classes or a job that I had to be on time for. Back when I was more self-motivated and way better at time management than I am now. Back when I had yet to experience true, mind-altering sleep-deprivation.

I really do love getting up early (as in, before my kids)… when I’m well-rested, that is. I love the stillness of the house in the early morning. I love watching the sun rise and greeting the new day. I love having that time all to myself, not having to meet needs and demands and be a wife and a mom, but just BE. I love spending time with God — studying His Word, spending time in prayer, writing in my prayer/gratitude journal.

When I am in the habit of rising early, I am more likely to have a regular and focused Quiet Time. And lately, since I haven’t even been setting an alarm, but rather waiting to be woken up by the pitter-pat of little feet (or, more often, the screams of the 3-year old being pestered by his older brother), Quiet Time has really fallen by the wayside. Honestly? This is one habit that I have struggled so much with over the years. There are some seasons when I do really well, but then something happens, and I get off track, and — well, sometimes, it’s just easier to stay off track than it is to pick myself up and get back on.

Beth Moore study, Bible, prayer journal, pen

Beth Moore study, Bible, prayer journal, pen

When my sweet, ever-so-disciplined sister came back from the States last summer, she brought two of Beth Moore’s new James Bible study workbooks with her for us to do together. I am so not a good Bible study partner (sorry, Julie). I started out strong, but life got busy, and I haven’t picked it up for several weeks. I’m ready to pick it back up again, but it’s going to require being more disciplined about rising early. As in, using an alarm and all that good stuff.

Our veranda. On a clear day, the view is beautiful -- even some snow-capped peaks!

Our veranda. On a clear day, the view is beautiful — even some snow-capped peaks!

So, today, I got up at 6:30. (The boys sometimes wake up around this time, but they are supposed to stay in their rooms and play quietly until 7:00.) I thought about going out on the porch, but it was raining, so I ended up downstairs in our comfy recliner. I read from the Psalms and then I got out my prayer journal. My last entry was in October of last year.

My other spot -- a comfy recliner.

My other spot — a comfy recliner.

I picked up my pen. What do you say to someone you haven’t really talked to in several months? How do you reconnect?

Hi, God. It’s me. I’m sorry I haven’t made my relationship with you more of a priority these last few months…

Well, it’s a start, anyway.

One of Those Days

It’s just been one of those days — despite all of my good intentions.

I feel like I’ve been trying to shake the cobwebs out of my head all day. I’m sluggish and tired. The constant rain doesn’t help this feeling. I love the rain, but it does make me want to curl up in bed and read a book all day, which is basically NOT going to happen when you have littles in the house.

I’m trying very hard these days to yell at my children less. And today? Today was an Epic Fail in that department.

We did do school, and had a rousing Nerf gun battle after lunch (the activity from the jar), so I suppose that counts for something. And story-time was very sweet with all the boys participating. Even Benjamin sat quietly while I read “The Little Red Caboose” — he has really gotten into books these days.

On days like today, I need to celebrate the small victories and just let go of everything else. I know that, but it’s still hard to do. I’ll be back tomorrow with the Stay Awake Challenge.

 

Goals vs. Resolutions

Well, I knew this day was coming. The day when I, for the first time, did not get in my daily writing practice. It happened yesterday. After going to church in the morning, we ate lunch and then spent the best afternoon just hanging out as a family. The little boys took naps… Rusty and I laid on our bed for a long time just talking and cuddling… then Rusty and Alex played Star Wars on the Xbox. For dinner, we built a fire in the fireplace and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. And after putting the kids to bed, we decided a movie was in order. Josh and Julie started Rusty on a collection of all the James Bond movies for Christmas this year. So far, we have all the Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, and Daniel Craig movies. So we started at the beginning with Dr. No.

And by the time it was over, it was late and I was tired and the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write.

I knew the day was coming, but now that it has come and gone, the question is how I am going to respond. I am a perfectionist, which means that when I don’t do something perfectly, I have a tendency to beat myself up over it. Do I tell myself I’m a miserable failure and just give up on the whole project? Or, do I give myself permission to miss a day now and then and take the attitude that tomorrow is another day and I can start afresh?

I think, because I made it a goal to write a little bit every day this year, it is easier for me to take the second approach. This is the difference between goals and resolutions. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. You fail at a New Year’s resolution the first day you don’t keep it. And then you just want to give up entirely. And who needs more feelings of failure and guilt? I have enough of those just as a mom, thanks very much. But a goal gives you something to strive towards. So what if you mess up one day? The goal is still there. Pick yourself up and keep going.

This is what I’m telling myself. 26 days of daily writing… 1 missed day. Pretty good track record so far, nothing to be ashamed of. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it,” as one of my favorite literary characters, Anne Shirley, once said.