I've been thinking a lot lately about my family's life, and what it looks like now and what it used to look like. I'm also learning that we change over time and our schedules and routines have to change, too. I, however, do not like change and have been clinging onto some ideals and routines from our past. I think it's time I learn to let those go!
We were always what you would describe as the typical Type A, scheduled family. When I first met my husband we both worked full time jobs and were up and out by 6:30 each morning. I was teaching public school, getting a masters degree in education administration which I fully intended to use, and voluteer directing the children's choir at church. Oh, and I learned to scrapbook in my free time and had a guest bedroom to store all the supplies. Along came our firstborn (and a month later September 11th), and I made the decision to stay home. I wasn't up and out at 6:30, but there was very much a routine to our days, and anyone can tell you bedtime was at 8 p.m. sharp each night. My being at home allowed my husband to focus on his career and God provided promotions and raises to get us through the first few years of being a one income family. I continued to run a studio of almost 20 piano students and my house was very well run. My daughter's scrapbooks were beautiful. My life looked a little different than I had envisioned for myself, but not much. I had just turned 30, and things were looking good.
Along comes child #2 and I had it all under control, and that's when God started laughing at me. Six weeks into my son's life I was hit with a deep postpartum depression , something I had never known before. Suddenly, I didn't have the desire to be with my children, take care of the house, or even get out of bed. Thank goodness for my husband, who got me the help I needed (my mom and medication!) and within a couple months I was good as new. I thank God for Brooke Shields, who told her story of postpartum depression at this exact time. Someone gave me her book, "Down Came The Rain", and I could relate on so many levels. Being severely depressed taught me the importance of extended family and also really let my husband and I see that we needed to move to a smaller town closer to our family. It was also during this time that we were in a Bible study with an amazing group of people. For proably the first time in my life I started relying on God each day. I was 34. Oh - my scrabpbooks were still beautiful, but they were just smaller now (I had lost the guest/scrapping room to my three year old daughter!).
Our move was such a blessing. We now lived in a spacious home on a couple of acres. My daughter had settled in a preschool we all adored, and I spent mornings with my son in the jogging stroller and me hitting the pavement to lose all that baby weight. My husband's commute had been cut in half, which made him very happy. We liked being closer to my husband's father and I loved the fact that my children were close to him now. I took a year off from teaching piano to get settled in our neighborhood and just enjoyed taking care of the house and (you guessed it)..... scrapbooking! I had a huge bonus room to spread out in and an entire closet for all of my scrapping paraphernalia.
Life was good. It wasn't like I had imagined it would be, but it was good. I was still relying on God, but mostly when I needed Him, certainly not on an everyday basis. If things were ok in my world I guess I didn't need to depend on anyone else, right? We were heavily involved in our church and I was on the preschool board as well. I loved being a Sunday School teacher, and all around volunteer queen. My daughter's public school teacher knew me well and I did a weekly music class to "keep my eye on things" in her classroom. I had it under control - and you know what happens when you think have it all under control right?
Right. Almost two years ago now it was the most difficult year of my life. For some reason my husband and I had started thinking about homeschooling. I borrowed books from a friend of mine and read up as much as I could. We went on vacation to my mom and dad's house and told them we intended to homeschool. That announcement was met with (and I quote), "Oh Mary. What makes you think you can do that? What happens when it's time for math?" Ouch. Feeling slightly defeated because their opinion means so much to me, I stood my ground and said we were proceeding and I would like their support. We finished our vacation with a trip to a beautiful wildlife sanctuary. I had not been feeling so great on the drive home and decided to call the doctor when we got back. I haven't gotten around to scrapbooking that trip yet, either.
When we got home and I made it to the doctor she told me I needed to have surgery asap to remove three large ovarian cysts that looked "suspicious". I was scared to say the least, but focused on an upcoming volunteer commitment and my family and the day of the surgery arrived. The news that the cysts were benign was a huge relief that day, but I had no idea how difficult a recovery from a major surgery could be. I had planned to be out and about within two weeks and ready for all of the end of the school year activities with my kids. I know now that God had different plans for me.
I struggled and struggled with recovery. My mom had to come back after being here once after the surgery to help me get on my feet. I needed help with everything. My church family was amazingly helpful and my husband was running ragged from grocery shopping, cleaning, etc... I had never been dependent on anyone and this was not going over well with me. Eventually I did recover and the summer arrived. Things were almost back to normal when my dad called me and said my mom was in the hospital because of her heart. After tests and adjustment of medication she was just fine, but then I started having excruciating back and leg pain. Would this string of bad events never end? What's a scrapbook, anyway?
We put my daughter back in public school that fall so I could have some time to get on my feet. I had spinal injections for a herniated disc, which did absolutely no good. I was pretty much dragging myself through each day. Maybe homeschooling her wasn't such a great idea after all. My son went to four year old preschool and I had my days to myself. Ahhhh... peace and quiet and time to scrapbook! Somehow, I didn't get any scrapbooking done, and when I would go into my daughter's class to volunteer I got a sick feeling each time that she should not be there. Oh, and my back still hurt. Bad.
Thanksgiving was approaching and my daughter was exhibiting a lot of bad behavior and just becoming too worldly for an eight year old. My husband and I discussed it and pulled her out of public school at the Thanksgiving break. I should probably mention that on the day I was going in to withdraw her, my son woke up and couldn't move his legs at all. He also had huge red spots on them that looked like burst blood vessels. Check out the link I provide for you a little farther down; it's pretty scary looking, and when your child can't walk and cries when he puts a foot on the floor that can do a number on you. (Now I was talking to God because I was angry with him for making so many bad things to me. What had I done to deserve this?) After several trips to our pediatrician and finally the Children's Hospital, he was diagnosed with HSP, a very scary condition that wasn't treatable, but it would go away in time). Just so happens our pediatrician had done a huge study on HSP in grad school and took such good care of my little guy. My dad had also just undergone hip replacement surgery and had a huge infection afterwards. My parents were struggling right now and I couldn't go and help them. As I type all of this I wonder how I really made it through those days. An outsider probably always saw me as happy, because I tried not to let on that anything was wrong. Wouldn't that have been a sign of weakness? We schooled very lightly and my daughter seemed happy to be out of school. At least something was going right.
The winter and spring came and went without incident (thank goodness). I bought a pre-made scrapbook at an auction and felt like a failure because I hadn't made it myself. My back still hurt, but I had a recommendation for a good physical therapist in the area and started sessions. Our wonderful little church underwent a split because of a social decision the national church had made. This was breaking my heart because the church had been my lifeline during the difficult previous year. Notice I say the church had been my lifeline - not God. Oh, I believe God was working in every one of my church friends, but I still wasn't studying the Bible or praying on a regular basis. We made the painful decision to leave our church. I felt alone and so sad.
The summer came and now that I would be homeschooling two in the fall we needed space for all of that. I packed up my scrapbooking closet and converted the room to a school room and gathered all of my curriculum. Physical therapy sessions were going well and I was beginning to feel lots better. We had joined the YMCA and we began getting physically active again. The kids spent the summer taking swimming lessons and just having fun in general. My good friends from the church still stayed in touch with me, and they are still my closest friends now. I don't see that changing. All activities had been cut out of my life (by my choice) except for my family. I started to read my Bible each morning and even searched out Bible studies for myself. Do you see where I'm going with this?
So, here we are approaching the Fall of 2010. My life looks like this: I am a homeschooling mom of two children (whose parents and immediate family and friends are my best advocates!!), married to a hardworking, committed man. I give piano lessons and have several students I adore who have been with me for the past four years. Currently we are visiting a church we enjoy (it's Methodist and I have been a life long Lutheran, but I'm learning that denominations don't mean a thing when it comes to God). I have no volunteer commitments and I don't predict a big scrapbooking session in my near future. I did, however, start to blog, which fills that creative void in my life. I look forward to the time in the evening when I lay down in bed and read my Bible study, and I feel faith and peace creeping into my everyday existence.
This isn't how I pictured my life would be - but I think God's plan for me is better than the one I had laid out when I was in my early 20s (or really at any age for that matter). The truly difficult events of the past 18 months have shown me to let go and trust God, and they've also shown me that difficult events have brought me closer to God and softened my heart and my will. I now view my children as precious gifts that I have precious little time with, so I try to savor each moment. When moms talk about being so glad summer is over and the kids are back in school I think how sad they don't enjoy being with their kids. Oh, mine drive me nuts occasionally, but it's nothing a good babysitter can't cure! I even sat down over the weekend and played around with digital scrapbooking! As I approach 40 I know that this is LIFE, and it is life how God intended it to be.