Tuesday, June 28, 2016

When You Look At Me


We live our lives making assumptions ... judging others by what they look like on the outside before getting to know them. We look in the mirror and judge ourselves. We assume others are judging us for our "flaws."

Over the past few months I've encountered negative comments from people who don't know me well, or at all, about my physical appearance. The negativity has been slowly eating away at my own self-image. I'm tired of feeling horrible about my appearance. I need to get to a place where I can practice on myself the same non-judgement I practice on others.


When you look at me, you see my tattoos. 


You judge me because of them. Perhaps you like them. Perhaps you assume they were something I did in my rebellious youth - a bad decision that I must regret, or will regret in the future. Perhaps they look horrible to you.

What you don't see is the meaning behind these tattoos....memorial tattoos for four of my babies, born into God's hands, not mine; two tattoos covering scars from abuse and self-harm, God's Word covering the wounds, reminding me how I strive to live my life; my family, friends, and memories etched onto my arms and legs. I love my tattoos. As a matter of fact, I was blessed to have a talented young tattoo artist do many of them over the past year. 


When you look at me, you see my weight.

You judge me because of it. Perhaps you don't mind it. Perhaps you assume that I overeat, eat fast food daily, or survive on junk food. Perhaps I look disgusting to you.

What you don't see is my struggle with multiple autoimmune illnesses and all that entails. You don't see the steroids and other medications that help keep the weight on and the lack of mobility that adds to the problem. You don't see that I get very little sleep due to extreme pain and medications - sleep deprivation messes with your digestive system and causes weight gain. You don't know that untreated Celiac disease caused damage to my gastrointestinal system that is healing thanks to a gluten-free diet. You don't see all that it working against me when it comes to losing weight or that I rarely eat out, and do eat healthy foods in proper sized portions. 


When you look at me, you see me walking like a healthy person.

You judge me because of this, too. If you know me, perhaps you're impressed. If you don't, or don't know me well, you might ask why on earth I would have a handicapped placard if I can walk. Perhaps I don't look disabled to you.

What you don't see is the pain I'm in with every step, every movement. What you might not realize is that, for me, walking is preferable to being in a wheelchair due to the severe pain sitting for prolonged periods causes ... or that some days my arms don't work well enough for crutches to be an option.

When you look at me, and then comment to me what you see, I start to look at myself that way, too. 

The negative comments do get to me. So do the positive ones. The funny thing is, when the negative comments pile up, they make the positive comments more difficult to believe. 

To those who chose to comment on my appearance...
Yes, I'm fat. I struggle every day not to gain more weight, despite all that is stacked against me.

Yes, I have lots of tattoos. I love them. They mean a lot to me. This is my body, my skin, and I'll do what I want with and to it, thank you very much.

Yes, I'm mobility-challenged. Thank you for standing up for people like me with your concern for me using a handicapped parking space when I can walk on my own two feet. Please believe me when I say I only use the space when I need to. 

What if, when we look at others, we look past their physical appearance and instead offer a kind word, an opportunity to get to know the beauty within? What if, when we look at ourselves, we do the same?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Not Sure What Happened



Six months ago, I was thinking about how calm this new year was going to be. My word for the year was GROW, and I was excited to do just that. Keeping life fairly low key, we'd do a few activities that we love and live our lives to the fullest. My health, although not wonderful, was on somewhat of an even keel.

Now, I can't figure out how six months have passed and how I ended up here. 

We've gotten through two semesters of homeschool co-op, Arts Reponse, Dinner Theater, Beautiful Things, a St. Paul Puppet Academy performance, and homeschool prom. I'm now somehow packing for our time at Camp Calumet, which is less than a week away, while thinking about the 2016-2017 year of Tuesday Night Sunday School, and what I need to work on for the New Start Ministry. 

New Start? I've somehow found myself the Team Leader in charge of Social Security and DSS for the refugee families that New Start will begin welcoming in a month or two.  It's going to be wonderful to be involved in something new and different! Growth requires change and new experiences, after all. 

I'm not sure what happened to the first half of the year!

I have no idea what the next few months are going to bring to me. I've just changed to a new medication (Cimzia), so in the three to four months that it should take to really start working, my health will be unpredictable and most likely in a downward spiral . The Summer full of hiking new and more challenging trails I had envisioned could easily transform to a Summer on crutches or in a wheelchair, reading lots of books and doing tamer things. But that's OK, too. I've prettied up my crutches in anticipation of being as active as I can be. 



I suppose I should stop procrastinating and get back to packing and planning and all that I need to do. I'm excited to find out what the next six months have in store. I'm sure, before I know it, it will be Christmas and I'll be wondering what happened to the past six months...again!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dads

A Dad is someone who takes you to the driving range when you're home "sick" from school with the chicken pox, and then lets you play a game of miniature golf on the deserted course because you entertained yourself so nicely in the car while he was practicing his swing.

A Dad is someone who answers your calls of  "Mom or Daaaaayaaaad" in the middle of the night and escorts you to the bathroom so the snakes under your bed and the alligators in the toilet don't get you. 

A Dad is someone who lets you curl up next to him on the couch on Sunday afternoons when you're little while he's watching "old movies" and then is surprised when you reference movies such as "The Bridge Over The River Kwai" and "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" as a teen.

A Dad is someone who gets so excited when you and your husband announce you're pregnant that he asks if you've told your grandmother yet while dialing her number and then hands the phone to you when you say no ... and then runs out the door to tell the neighbors. 


A Dad is someone who wears orange corduroy "pumpkin pants" trick-or-treating every Halloween, but is nice enough not to wear them - at least not in your presence - the other 364 days of the year. 

A Dad is someone who, if he doesn't know the answer, will generally make something up. 

A Dad is someone who helps carry on family traditions - like putting the angel on the top of the Christmas tree. 

A Dad is someone whose face radiates joy and love when he looks at your kids. 


At least my Dad is. 




A Dad is someone who, despite insisting he was only having two children, looked into the face of his second child and announced that it would be good to have a third. And then ended up with a fourth and a fifth as well.

A Dad is someone who encourages the kids to do things that make Mama nervous, but usually only when Mama isn't looking.

A Dad is someone who puts the kids to bed by getting them riled up first. 

A Dad is someone who, if he doesn't know the answer, will probably make something up. (Some things never change!)

A Dad is someone who is cool because he knows how to make fire, swords, magic wands, and babies laugh. 

A Dad is someone who takes you on grand adventures, often without going much farther than the back yard. 

A Dad is someone who melted the first time he held you in his arms, and continues to do so even when you're a teenager. 

At least my kids' Dad is!

Happy Father's Day to all the rad Dads out there!!! 

(Originally posted in 2012)

Friday, June 17, 2016

She

Sunrise kayaking on Ossipee Lake at Camp Calumet.

She turns fourteen today.

Birthday bowling and laser tag

She's done amazing things in the past year ... she has grown in so many ways. 

OMG performing at Cathedral in the Night

She grew in her faith, performing with the Outreach Ministry of God, finishing Confirmation class, and affirming her Baptism.


She has performed in a musical at Camp Calumet's Drama Camp and renewed her love for horses at Equestrian Camp, both last Summer.

Haley in The Fisherman and His Wife at Camp Calumet

She has been the source of smiles and cuddles for various babies and toddlers.

Hiking with Epoch Arts Homeschoolers

She has discovered a love for nail art and make-up; for acting and singing; and has done a wonderful job of balancing priorities in her life. 

Princess Pea gone wrong for Epoch Arts Haunted House

She excelled as an actress as Claudia the elephant in Beautiful Things, making memories that will last a lifetime along the way.


She has reached new heights, surpassing her mother's five feet three inches, especially when she wears those boots of hers. 

Dinner Show 2016: Hello Little Girl - Haley made the blacklight wolf mask for her performance
She has given of her time and talents to many people and places... at church, homeschool co-op, Epoch Arts, and beyond. 

Arts Response 2016: Addiction

She is becoming such an amazing, extraordinary young woman, deep in her faith, in her feelings, and in following her passions. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Beautiful Things


Amazing.
Extraordinary.
Life-changing.

Beautiful Things was all of this to a cast of teens.
These teens were all of this at the end of this incredible adventure.


Eighteen young adults brought Elizabeth Namen's original play, Beautiful Things, to life at Epoch Arts in East Hampton, CT.  In February 2016, the seed was planted during the first read-through of the play. Laughter, tears, awwwws, and words of disgust filled the room as the cast got a first glimpse at the story they would cultivate, the characters they would become. This would not be easy for many of the cast, as evocative as some of the roles were. 


A missed opportunity hardly gets a second chance.

Lines were memorized, backstories created. The cast not only learned what to say and where to be when they said it, but what compelled their characters to say and do the things they did. They learned to fully bring their characters to life...characters that live on in our imaginations.

It started with an elephant and a traveling circus - with love and kindness and mercy - with one little seed. 

One tiny seed can be worth more than an entire garden. 

It ended with truth, healing, community, and one tiny plant ... with putting one's self aside to seek something real... with redemption. 

Love will make you do crazy things.

The "movers and shakers" are creatures in the garden, most with amazing masks thanks to the talents of Sam, who played one of the wolves. 

Cashlin and Vanti are cringeworthy yet entertaining portraits of big business, always serving their own interests while claiming to be serving yours.


We can all see a little of follower and people-pleaser Ash in  ourselves. 


Bevin provides wonderful comic relief while reflecting the anxiety and mistrust that all too often informs our actions. 


Darby reminds us of a friend we've all had...or been... at some point in our lives. She thinks the world of herself, and expects others to do so as well, while nursing her own insecurities




Madeline, the shaking girl, reflects the (little g) gods in our lives that we all too often let consume us, and the ease at which we seek out quick fixes or whatever makes us feel good, at least for the moment. 

Ringleader and magician Marcello, Harriet the clown, Florenzo, and Rain make up the Kingdom Circus, a band of travelers who see beauty in the destruction and quickly get to the root of the situation. 

They have no trouble taking a big bite out of life and encouraging others to do the same. They trust that we all have a unique something within us that we can use to help make the world a better place.

They encourage us to have a sense
of humor about life; invite the Spirit to motivate and inspire us; and trust God's ability to do beautiful things with one tiny seed ... and with the messes in our lives. 




Wise Demali brings people together for a greater mission - to work together, to accept differences, to uplift and encourage, to do things the right, and usually the hard, way. She's all about building community, good growth.

Goodwin is perhaps most endearing, even if he, in his exuberance, was a bit misguided. He reminds us that, when we make mistakes, the best thing to do is own up to them and help make things right ... that a bag full of manure can often be the beginnings of something beautiful.


Claudia, the elephant, is motivated by the unknown. She has a faith like no other and self-confidence enough to stand up for what is good and true and right. She's all about hard work and determination, building a firm foundation, and spreading faith and love always. 

This cast was truly amazing. Sam (wolf), Liam (bird), Mikayla (wolf), Sara (cat), and Zachary (neon wolf) added life to the garden. Ben (Cashlin) and Bailey (Vanti) clearly had fun being creepy and self-serving - quite opposite of their true personalities. Angela (Ash) really warmed my heart, never losing her disgust with how Ash treated others while powerfully embodying her character. Joey, sweltering in his quilted costume and under his hardhat brought everything he had to Bevin in every rehearsal and in each performance. It was wonderful witnessing Sophia grow into her role as Darby. Emma's beginning struggles with her character led her to her stunning portrayal of heart-wrenching and heartwarming Madeline. Megan's monologues as Marcello grew more powerful with each rehearsal, culminating in true inspiration. Erin, as Harriet, added much needed pizzazz to the play, culminating in a surprising bite to Bevin during the last performance - strange faith, that is! Ronan blossomed into embodying Florenzo and seeing Jace fully embrace Rain's circus freakiness was amazing. Lexi's transformation into Demali was inspiring, her presence on stage powerful. Robin, like his character Goodwin, grew from perhaps a somewhat timid earthworm to owning his earthwormy gifts. Haley's metamorphosis from young inexperienced actor to wise old elephant made my heart runneth over. 

Beautiful things is all about leaving behind what doesn't serve you and risking it all if you have to, even if it isn't the popular thing to do; growing beautiful things from even the darkest of times; and about making things new. 


"Winter is leaving. It's redemption season!"


As if there is no such thing as being made new.




Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Metamorphosis





There is a point in a mainstage production that everything comes together and a transformation takes place. No longer is there a set and a bunch of actors, but a new world and its inhabitants. 


This metamorphosis took place this week at Epoch Arts, as Beautiful Things blossomed into its own being. 


This chaotic band of teenagers loved... and loved to hate ... their characters, memorized lines, blocked and reblocked, rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed, and finally they own their characters, their parts, this world they created. 


Seeing their actions, interactions, and reactions this week as compared to just a week ago amazes those of us who have witnessed this process from its genesis.


Elizabeth Namen's inspired work is brought to life by these teens who have so much more going on in their lives, but devote great amounts of time, especially this tech week, to create something amazing, earth-shaking, and extraordinarily important. (And also hilarious, tear-inducing, and thought-provoking.)


I am truly blessed to have been a part of this beautiful thing ... from cooking for the cast, to some costume and prop design and fabrication, to spending a great deal of time with lots of inspiring people.

To each and every cast and crew member ... you make BEAUTIFUL THINGS!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

What About Prom?



If you're unschooling, your children are going to miss out on so much!

I get that a lot. People fear that by my children missing out on "normal" growing up experiences, they're somehow going to be harmed, or incomplete, or something. 

Questions abound. What about learning to stand in line, take turns, and relate to their peers? What about learning to meet deadlines, memorize, take tests? What about graduation? What about prom? 

We stand in checkout lines and ticket lines and many other lines. We have five children who have friends. Taking turns happens all day long. Not only can my children relate to their peers, they can relate to people of all ages, because they spend time with people of all ages - a wonderful skill to have as an adult. 

Ask Haley about meeting deadlines and memorization. For the upcoming mainstage production she's in, she's had to memorize all her lines, entrances, exits, where she needs to be on stage, and all of that by a deadline. Our other children have been involved in other theatrical productions, projects, and events that have taught them to meet deadlines, memorization, and myriad other skills. There are tests in other aspects of life. 

But prom? Prom has been on the minds of many families with teens lately, and I get asked often how I could let my children miss such a milestone? Considering I never once went to a prom - I had "we're not going to the prom" parties at home with friends, food, movies, and a hot tub instead - I don't see prom as that big a deal. But never fear - Homeschool Prom is here! Yes - there is prom for homeschoolers, and I just got back from bringing Zachary to Laila's house, where we took pictures of our way-too-grown-up-looking children before they were off to Homeschool Prom for the evening. My husband will pick them up at 10:30pm and take Laila home. I'll be excited to hear how it all went, although I have a feeling that will be days from now, as we all need sleep before getting up early for the Robin Hood Springtime Festival tomorrow. 

I'm not worried about prom, or tests, or any of it. Unschooling provides plenty of valuable life experiences for my children to prepare them for the real world. If you talk to them, they worry about schooled children missing out on all the things we get to do. Prom or no prom, my homeschooled children don't miss out on life. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blissfully Exhausted


It's gone. Just gone. I have no idea what happened to it. 

In February it seemed it would last for such a long time, but none of it did.

The time just sprinted by without looking back. There's still so much to do, even with several events behind us. The countdown has begun. Ten...nine...days and counting.

I'm blissfully exhausted.

Life is so busy I barely have time to come up for air. It's good busy - my creativity overflows as I work on costuming and other endeavors for Beautiful Things, a mainstage production in which two of my teens are taking part. I am having entirely too much fun making patches, adding to costumes, and creating whimsical hats, not to mention hanging out with an amazing bunch of teens.



I've had the opportunity to test my ever-changing physical limits during Spring Cleaning Work Weekend at Camp Calumet and on weekly hikes with fellow Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-opers. From shoveling and spreading mulch to crutching up steep forest inclines, I've relished every painful movement. 


The people with whom I've spent my time have been true blessings. The thoughtful and inspiring - if sometimes overly rambunctious - teenage cast of Beautiful Things ... and the wonderful Epoch Arts staff; the welcoming and passionate crew at Camp Calumet; my beautiful Women's Circle friends; the EAHoCo Crew; and my own wonderful (if I do say so myself) family, overflow my cup with joy each day. I fall into bed each night exhausted, yet fulfilled.