Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thoughts on Change and Control

I've been a royal mess lately. I really hope it's just the seasonal blahs and that once sun and warmth reappear I'll reach an even emotional level again. But for now I haven't been this moody and seriously down since I dealt with postpartum depression.  And, I can't figure out what's going on.  Is it spiritual?  Is it just the winter blues?  Is it clinical depression?  Is it changing hormones?  Is it the result of the dietary changes I've made?  What is making me feel so crappy??

There's a lot on my mind.  There's always a lot on my mind.  I think and I think and I think.  And, then I analyze what I've been thinking.  I'll even analyze my analysis.  Frankly, I drive myself crazy.  But for today here's what's been on my mind - change (and how I hate change) and control (and how I feel such a lack of it).

There's a lot of change happening around me.  Perhaps not change that directly affects me....and yet I internalize that change and it affects me deeply.

Here in Lancaster County, we've always been known for our farmland and our natural beauty.  Growing up in the 70s and 80s I was always surrounded by wide open spaces...farmland, gardens, green yards, long driveways, and neighbors were spread out... not closed in together.

Lancaster County is changing....drastically.  Developers are turning farmland in housing developments and strip malls.  Land is no longer affordable.  Everything ends up being subdivided and used by the rich to make themselves richer.

Here in our town, we've been experiencing the same thing.  We used to live on a fairly quiet, country road.  But the next road up from us is a fairly major road route which  then intersects with the highway.  Actually, my husband and my father-in-law remember when this road was really quiet.  My husband grew up in the house next door.  He can remember sledding down the road in the winter because it was so seldomly traveled  My father-in-law grew up in the farm behind us.  He can remember when the highway was built and farms were divided to make way for the thoroughfare.

Now, more change is coming.  Houses on that main route at the end of our road have been torn down.  A strip mall has already been built on the one side.  More development is coming on the side that's at the end of our road.  My neighbor, Judy, who used to live at the end of our road (on the corner of our road and the main road) passed away last year.  Six months later, her house and the house next to hers (belonging to her elderly mother who could no longer live there without Judy's help) were purchased by a developer and torn down.

Talk about depressing!  Winter is always a difficult time, but watching machines demolish the house she called home.....a house that had stood probably 100 years...in a day's time overwhelmed and saddened me deeply.  The same thing had happened just a couple months earlier to another home with history on the other corner.

Now today, I saw another neighbor lady who takes a walk down the road each and every morning.  I was putting Joseph in the van to take him to preschool when she came by.  She and I said 'Good Morning' and then she told me she wouldn't be taking her walks on this road much longer.  The same developer  who bought & demolished the other houses at the end of our road had bought their property as well.

I then saw on Facebook that apparently a Taco Bell is one of the things that going to be built at the end of our road.  A Taco Bell!  Yup.  Let's tear down 100 year old homes to build a Taco Bell!

This is still the view from our back yard...for now.  We overlook the farm that my father-in-law grew up on.

It just makes me so angry!  And, I feel so helpless!  This change is constantly happening all around me. It's pressing in and there's no escaping it.  It's working it's way down our road and the little bit of peace and quiet that we have may be stripped away.  But as long as there are people with money to buy up more land, and there's money to be made by developing that land, it won't stop.

A couple nights ago I dreamt about my grandparent's old home.  It's the one I spent so much time at during my childhood.  While their house wasn't actually all that old...it was built in the 50s or 60s, they still had a lot of land that went with it.  My grandparents kept three different gardens.  On the front side yard was a HUGE garden plot for growing potatoes.  In the back yard there was another large garden plot for growing sweet corn, and then a slightly smaller one for growing other vegetables - beans, tomatoes, etc.  They also had a long row of raspberry bushes along the back and fruit trees.  My grandmother also kept a rather large flower bed in the rear of the house and there were flowers and plants all along the perimeter of the house.  A patio framed with brick walls was right off the back of the house.  And, the back yard also had a long washline that got a lot of use in the summer when my grandmother hung up everything that she washed.  And while they had neighbors on either side of their three acre property, behind them stretched acres....miles actually...of farmland.

It was idyllic.  It was beautiful.   My childhood memories are tied in intricately with that house and that land.   But in the dream that I had, everything had changed.  In my dream, people had come in and totally changed the house itself...turning it into something garish and really ugly.  It was like a Las Vegas nightclub.  So, in my dream, I was upset, but I thought that I'd go outside and at least see something familiar and beloved.  And, in my dream, I was horrified to discover that the outside land had been completely subdivided and built up and there was nothing left of what was in my memory.

I was thinking about that dream last night and today and it's literally had me in tears.  I miss the quiet and peaceful years of my childhood.  I miss my grandparents.  I miss that house.  I miss the beauty of unspoiled land.  (Note:  In real life my grandparent's house, while no longer in the family, does still stand much as it did when I was a child.  It's been years since I've seen it though).

To know that I have absolutely no control over change that is happening all around me is overwhelming and depressing.  My husband says I can't allow circumstances to control my emotions.  But, when I see God's beautiful creation destroyed and paved over, it just absolutely hearbreaking.  Development spreads like a disease.  So, if we someday have our dream of a long lane with an old farmhouse and lots of land around us, it doesn't seem like it will happen in my beloved Lancaster County where my roots run deep and strong.  We would have to move somewhere... away from friends and family...where development hasn't taken over yet.

And I feel helpless.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Last Night's Downton Abbey

Ok.  My first question.  Did Anna kill Green????  Could THAT be where that whole mystery is headed????



Next, what was Thomas Barrow injecting himself with?  Is he sick as Baxter suspected?  Or is it somehow tied in with that magazine that was found laying on the floor?  When Baxter was looking at it I didn't catch a glimpse of anything that gave the answer.  Barrow snatched it away so quickly.  Did I miss something?

I love Violet.  She cracks me up.  Every. Single. Time.  Now that's a character with layers!
She and Isobel have such amusing banter back & forth.  They are so deliciously different, yet they've really become quite a pair.  Last night as they were meeting with the Russian refugees/ Violet's old love interest the subject of hope came up.  And, as usual Violet made some droll, non sentimental comment about hope (I can't remember her exact phrasing).  Isobel looked at her and 'Now you're just making that up to sound clever.'  And, not missing a beat, Violet shoots back.  'Of course I am.  You should try it sometime.'



Speaking of Isobel.  She received not only a marriage proposal (which she seemed to be expecting and was quite prepared to dismiss) but also a declaration of love (obviously unexpected!).  To see the look on her face was priceless.  She agreed to 'consider it' rather than saying 'no' outright.  Although, I have a feeling she'll still turn Lord Merton down.  I still feel a bit sad for the Doctor who is also obviously sweet on Isobel.  I wish he'd be the one proposing.  They seem such a good match.


Poor Edith.  She's not to visit Marigold for now.  And when she couldn't stay away any longer and stopped in hoping to see her, the farmer's wife quite dismissed her!  She claimed Marigold was tired and about to go down for a rest and pretty much shut the door in Edith's face.  I have a hard time believing that would have happened in real life.  She's still lady of the manor as much as the farmer's wife wishes she'd disappear.

Lord Gillingham is apparently not accepting Lady Mary's breaking up with him.  And, quiet unlike Mary's usual self, she seemed a bit taken aback and unsure how to handle that.  Sooo, they're still together?  And, was Mary totally making eyes at her other suitor who she previously dumped?  Charles Blake was at the fashion show that Mary attended and there definitely seemed to be some sparks flying across the room.  (My other takeaway from that scene was Mary's comment 'Oh yummy' when she saw one of the dresses on the runway.  It seemed a bit out of character for her.)

And, can we say 'STOP inviting Sarah Bunting to dinner!!!'  This is another area that seems highly unrealistic.  After her first disastrous visit, would they really continue to invite this abrasive woman who is so entirely out of their social structure.  I suppose the reasoning is that they tolerate her for Tom's sake.  But, does Tom even really like her?  He claims that she reminds him of a part of himself he'd forgotten.  But, she's so confrontational.....she's nothing like Sybil was.


Anyway, while I think Lord Grantham can be totally self-absorbed and haughty, I have to admit I was cheering a bit when he lost his temper with Miss Bunting's constant needling and stormed out of the dining room.

Prior to that of course, poor Mrs. Patmore and Daisy were summoned to the dining room to try to satisfy this debate between Miss Bunting and Lord Grantham.  You could just feel their discomfort and awkwardness.

And Tom, Tom, Tom.  Can he stop moping around and have a personality again?   He's lost his fire since Sybil died (how many seasons ago?).  I liked fire-y Tom.

So what are your thoughts from Downton this week?

New Habits Weekly Check-in....The Word of the Week is Discouragement

So, I had hoped by this point (beginning my fourth week) I'd be singing the praises of a life without sugar, caffeine, & adult beverages.  By this point I thought I'd be past the cravings and the 'withdrawal' symptoms and all would be smooth sailing.  I thought I'd be energetic and clear-headed and motivated to keep moving forward.


Instead I've hit a wall.  Giving up caffeine & adult beverages was tough but manageable.  Giving up sugar has completely left me reeling.  And, I don't remember it being this hard when I did the Daniel Fast last year.  But, then again I completely altered the rest of my diet pretty drastically all at once.  And for some reason my body seemed to adapt more quickly to that?

For the last two weeks I've been head-achey, body achey, tired, extremely irritable, and just overall blaaahhh.   To top it off, in the three weeks that I've started my new habits, I've only lost 2 1/2 pounds.  And I find myself asking 'Why am I doing this?'  I know I said I want to be healthier, to have more energy, to feel lighter, and to hopefully fit into my jeans again.  But, in the meantime, I feel so miserable.

And part of me knows that in our weakest moments (and I feel pretty weak right now) God wants us to turn to Him, to rely on Him.  And if I could just remember to run to Him when I'm at my lowest He can actually use that to improve my relationship with Him and my spiritual health.

But, sometimes the voice of discouragement is so loud and it seems to drown out the still, small voice of God.  And discouragement snowballs.  My discouragement in this area quickly rolls over into other areas of my life.  I've been a pretty rotten wife & mother.  I don't see a way out of my anger & irritability.  I really don't.  I sometimes feel invisible in the house full of male energy.  I feel like I'm not understood.  And, when I'm upset about something it's chalked up to 'hormones'.

  Sometimes I feel trapped in my house & helpless to change anything in it.  We've done zero work on our house in years.  And, there are unfinished projects that need to be done all over the place.  John is always busy.  I don't know how to do them.  And, we don't have the money to hire someone.  I'm not just talking the kind of projects that other people seem to do all the time.  This is not...oh I'm tired of the paint color.  I think we'll spruce up our already beautiful bathroom.  No, these are major issues (an un-insulated sunporch just off our kitchen which is really used as part of our kitchen because it houses our refrigerator and some of our cabinetry.  But, it's literally falling apart.  There's at least a 4 inch hole in the one corner of the wall where the wood is rotting away.  A stairway that has 1940s linoleum on the WALLS and crumbling plaster overhead. A downstairs bathroom with an ancient shower stall that is really kind of nasty and a rotting floor.  Just to mention a few.  Trust me.  There's more. )

So this feeling of discouragement & helplessness turns into despair.  And, dang it!  I just want a cup of coffee or a nice cookie!  I've been trying to replace my spirit of despair with a garment of praise ( Isaiah 61:3).  But it seems to take a strength of will that I just don't have.

Man!  I really didn't intend to be Debbie Downer.  Maybe it's just the winter blahs.  Maybe I AM hormonal.  I just don't know what to do with myself when I'm in this kind of funk.

So moving along....to recap:
Week One:  Eliminate caffeine & adult beverages
Week Two:  Eliminate sugar
Week Three:  Eliminate night-time snacking (Oops.  Goofed there this weekend for sure!)


Which brings us to....
Week Four:  Eat a healthy, Daniel Fast type lunch.  Goal:  Train my body to crave good things

This week I'm going to have to work hard to re-instate my week three goal while incorporating a new goal as well.  I'm envisioning eating a lot of salads, beans, whole grains, etc. for lunch this week.  The Daniel Fast calls for no meat, dairy, sweeteners, beverages other than water, white flours/ grains, or preservatives.  I figure I can make this happen for one meal out of the day.

Plugging on......Karen

Friday, January 23, 2015

To Tell The Truth

I have a child who lies fairly consistently.  It's usually over fairly mundane things like saying he's practiced his instrument when he hasn't, or that he's taken a shower when he hasn't.  He will also lie about about things like hurting his brother.  A brother will come to me crying saying that he hit him or hurt him in some way and he'll insist up and down that he didn't do it.   And, sometimes I was standing right there and SAW it happen.




I know that children will try to get away with this kind of thing from time to time.  But, the thing is most children 'fess up when they are confronted.  My son will swear quite passionately and vehemently that he's telling the truth....when I KNOW he's not.  He becomes angry and yells that I never believe him.  And that's the problem, I often don't because I really don't know when I can believe him.

We've tried talking about trust and how lying destroys trust.  I have to be honest.  I probably haven't had a sit down with him when we're both calm.  Usually this is the kind of thing I say to him when we're in the heat of the moment and both of us are upset.

I also have to admit that this is the child that I kind of tiptoe around on eggshells.  There.  Can I be honest? When he was younger he would have extreme temper tantrums.  He still can become very, very angry.  And then I get angry.  And, it just gets ugly.  So, when he's happy (and when he's happy he is seriously the sweetest kid...so engaging and charismatic and fascinating) I try not to do anything to rock the boat.

I guess those are the two areas I'm most concerned about for him....lying and anger.  I don't want them to take root in his life.  I feel partially responsible for the anger.  I feel like my children have been reflecting back some of the anger they've seen from me.  And, I'm working on that.  But, it's so so hard.  And, if it's hard for me, an adult...who should have a better handle on self control, how much harder will it be for my children?

So, what are some things I can do to help my child...specifically with the issue of telling the truth?

Monday, January 19, 2015

I Guess I'll Give My Downton Thoughts

If you haven't ever checked out the blog, Testosterhome, be sure to do so.  I love reading her blog because, like me, she's got a passel of boys.  But, she also gives a Downton rundown each week.  You can see her post for this week's show here.  I find myself anxiously awaiting her take on the week's show.  And, inevitably I share some of my own thoughts in her comments section.

So I thought I'd compile all the thoughts I left as comments & post them here as my own little Downton review.....

I loved when Mrs. Hughes mentioned that the visiting Russians were getting very emotional while viewing the artifacts. Definitely a profound contrast to the usual display (or lack thereof) of emotions in Downton.


Poor Mr. Gillingham! I didn’t particularly care for his character to start with. Any romance between him and Mary didn’t seem believable. But, I honestly thought HE was the one who’d end up doing the dumping & not the other way around.  Technically Mary hasn't done the dumping YET, but it sure seems to headed that direction.  That was an interesting little twist they threw in there.  And when Gillingham stopped in unexpectedly to see her back at Downton?  Awkward!


Edith's story is just awkward to watch.  It's painful really.


What’s going to happen with Thomas? It seems like something more is going on than him going to visit his supposedly dying father, only for his father to take a turn for the better & Thomas deciding to take a week’s vacation. Something’s a brewing I tell you.
And, I’m SO glad Baxter finally came clean with the rest of her story to Cora. Now, will she also share the rest with Mosley? And, what was happening in that preview for next week with Baxter & Mosley. There seemed to be some sort of mental breakdown happening.
Oh & WHAT in the world with that schoolteacher lady???? Forgetting her name at the moment. Good golly. She keeps showing up & saying something inappropriate every single time! She made an elderly Russian man cry for crying out loud. You could at least see Rose hesitating before inviting her this time. She seemed to feel obligated to do so.


But, Cora’s ability to diffuse an explosive situation is exceptional. I’ve often thought Cora to be a bit dimwitted. But, I will say this about her. I think she is genuine. And, she is talented at making the best of awful situations. And, I’m starting to wonder if she’s not as dimwitted as I first thought.
And finally, what about a romance between Lady Mary & Tom.  Now THAT would spice up the storyline!  Hmmm?


New Habits - Week Three

Good morning!  I'm entering my third week of trying to develop new and healthier habits.  And, I'm feeling pretty good.  Although, last week (my first week of no sugar) was a pretty emotional week for me.  I'm not sure if I should chalk that up to some spiritual questions and some other issues I was wrestling with, to mid-life female hormones, or to sugar withdrawal.  Maybe it was a combination of all three.  But, I was definitely an irritable mess last week.

To recap:
Phase One eliminated caffeine (specifically coffee) and adult beverages
Phase Two eliminated sugar


I have to clarify that I am not giving up these items in their entirety FOREVER.  I am giving them up FOR NOW.  It's part of detoxing my body and eliminating my dependence on these things (for energy, for relaxation, etc.).  And, hopefully when I do decide to add them back in, I can do so in moderation.

Moderation is something I have struggled to achieve all my life.  I'm hoping that old dogs CAN learn new tricks.  I  know the power that old habits can seem to hold over us.  But, I'm trusting that God can help work a breakthrough in this area of my life.  I sure haven't been able to do it in my own strength.  God's been working on me in a lot of areas...not just those related to my physical health, but also to my spiritual health.  So I'm moving forward as I cling to Him.

It's hard to believe it's only been two weeks that I've been doing this so far.  It seems longer.  I guess that's because each day...sometimes each moment of each day has been a struggle. I desire something & then I have this inner dialogue where I argue with myself about whether or not I can allow myself to have what I want.  I mean would one coffee derail all my goals?   The other morning my husband made coffee.  The smell tantalized and taunted me.  There is something so soothing and wonderful about the ritual of morning coffee.   I WANTED that coffee!  But, I reminded myself that this is just for now & not forever and I pushed through.

I have allowed myself some hot tea over these weeks.  I've been trying to stick to caffeine free teas, but I've also had some green teas that have some caffeine.  And, while tea can be soothing & it's nice to have a hot beverage on a cold day, it's just not the same.  I can't imagine having the same visceral response to a nice cup of tea as I have to a cup of coffee.  Tea doesn't make me say 'Aaaaahhhhh'.

My Downton Abbey tea for my Downton Abbey viewing.  The English sure drink a lot of tea.  I wonder if they love their tea as much as I love coffee.  

So this week is
Phase Three:  Eliminating night-time snacking.  Goal:  Eliminate unnecessary calories.  Go to bed & wake up feeling lighter.

This simply means I won't be eating anything after dinner.  Sounds simple enough.  But, night-time snacking is one of those bad habits that has become another form of relaxation for me.  After the kids are in bed my husband and I will often sit down to watch a show together and that inevitably involves some serious noshing.  All that noshing carries a pricetag....in the form of pants that I can't fit into without feeling like a sausage and that I can't button without squishing and pinching my stomach all day.

And, I know that when I don't eat at night I actually sleep better.  I feel better the next day.  And, I just feel lighter and less weighed down in general.

So, let Phase Three commence!  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Getting A Grip On My Anger....Again

I never identified myself as an angry or irritable person until I became a mother.  As I trudged into the unknown waters of parenting I often found myself mired down in murky, brackish spots.  I'd always imagined navigating motherhood would be more like floating blissfully down crystal clear, peaceful waters on a lazy, sunny summer afternoon listening to the tinkling of joyful laughter from a chorus of little voices.

You see, I grew up caring for children.  My whole life was centered around children.  I was the oldest child and the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family.  Some of my cousins are a good 15 to 20 years younger than me.  I remember being the one to entertain them at family gatherings and I sometimes babysat for my aunts.  I also began babysitting other people's children at the age of 11.  (Eleven!!  Can you imagine?  My oldest son is 11 and I'm only starting to feel comfortable letting him home alone for very short periods of time).  I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.  I would force my sister to play school with me.  And although there was a short period of time in high school that I considered studying journalism or literature,  I got my bachelor's degree in elementary & early childhood education.  I taught a couple years in the public school.  And, I worked for many years in an early learning center....first as the kindergarten teacher, then the assistant director, and then the director.  This doesn't even begin to cover the other jobs I had during college & beyond that involved working with children.

I thought I knew kids.  And, if anyone should have had a grip on what to expect from motherhood, it should have been me.  I was creative, energetic, & patient with other people's children.  I was really good at what I did.  It came naturally for me.  And so I assumed that motherhood would come naturally as well.

My first run-in with my own anger was probably when my second son was born.  He and my oldest are only 20 months apart.  Making that shift from one to two children really threw me for a loop.  Throw in the fact that I was probably suffering from some serious post-partum depression but did nothing to seek help for it.  Not to mention the interrupted sleep (none of my boys slept through the night until after their first birthday) and frequents bouts with mastitis and continuing to try to breastfeed through the pain.   Motherhood became physically & emotionally demanding.

I remember snapping at my oldest son...who was only about 2...for various things.  One instance stands out in my mind where I was holding the baby while Wyatt was picking out his vitamin.  He wanted to choose which vitamin he wanted, but he was taking his time in making that decision.  I was anxious to get both boys upstairs and into bed.  I was done.  Mama needed bedtime to happen and happen fast.  I told him I'd just pick one for him.  But he started fussing that HE wanted to pick it out.  This went on for a while until I snapped & I yelled at him to pick one out and get up the stairs.  His little eyes welled up with tears and I felt horrible.

We added two more sons in relatively quick succession.  And I stumbled through those early years of mothering sometimes in a fog & sometimes barely holding it together.  I don't want it to sound like it wasn't also a  beautiful & breathtaking time....because it was.  I relish the memories of nursing my children, of holding their little bodies close and smelling their sweet smell, of rocking them, of watching chubby little hands delight in digging in the dirt, and little bare feet toddling through the grass.

But, somewhere in there I became someone I didn't recognize....someone easily irritated and quick to yell.  I would go through my day determined to maintain a calm yet firm approach to any frustrations, but inevitably that anger would bubble up inside until it exploded.

I never wanted to be a yeller.  But I became a yeller.

And now that my boys are a bit older....five, seven, nine, and eleven...the physically demanding aspect of motherhood has subsided.  But, now I feel like the mental and emotional demands may overwhelm me.  I feel so outnumbered.  And, I don't know how to deal with all the noise, energy, rough housing, & fighting that comes with four boys in a small house.

It's the fighting that gets me most.  It's constant.  All. The. Time.  And, as much as we talk about being kind to each other, encouraging & lifting each other up instead tearing each other down, there's almost a never ending stream of teasing, fussing, whining, & just general meanness toward each other.

And, I have to wonder if my own irritability and anger has set the stage for what takes place in our house.  I'm sure it has.  If I had been a calm, unflustered, consistent & firm mother perhaps my children wouldn't be so quick tempered with each other.

So now what?  When I'm in a funk (and I'm in a funk!) I can't see my way out of it.  When things seem so out of control in my house, I retreat because I can't seem to see a way to regain control.  Luckily today is a Saturday and my husband is here to step in....to allow me to have a little time to myself.

I have been praying that God would give me the strength, wisdom, & patience that I need for the day.  I know I can't do this on my own.
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