Thursday, February 5, 2015

I need to write.... and I do have this little thing called a blog....

So much has happened in the year that I stopped blogging.  We are no longer on the east coast and now find ourselves in the snow covered North Midwest.  Brrrr.... However, before winter, we sold our house in 24 days and I survived 60 days in a hotel with five kids.  It is NOT something I would like to repeat again any time soon, if ever. 

Children iceskating on a lake after school

Some other brief bullet points that I am not going to have time to give full justice to today:

1.  My beloved Auntie Karon died June 6, 2014.  I'll never forget the look of pain and fear as Brandon came home early to tell me the news.  I remember bits and pieces after that, but my life has been a blur for a bit.

2. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia by Mayo Clinic.  I have good days, bad days and worse days.  I've not yet figured out how to not overdo on a good day so the worst days usually follow good days.  Then I have bad days and eventually another good day.  Rinse and repeat.  

3. We are no longer homeschooling.  Due to the move, my new diagnosis and the lack of support system (see #1) we felt that God was calling us to put our children in public school.  I currently have 4 children in 5 school programs.  (Solomon goes part time to a developmental public program for apraxia and then a private program on Friday mornings.)

But back to the need to write.  I recently decided that I needed to set up an appt with a therapist.  I needed a neutral third party that was skilled in helping me sort out feelings.  I have many friends that are a listening ear but I needed someone that could get me FROM point A to point Z.  As I told T, my therapist, "I don't have issues, I have subscriptions!"  She laughed and said, "Well, we will start with the first one and see where it leads us."

Days leading up to therapy appointments are filled with dread and anxiety.  It's not that I think I'm wasting my time or dread seeing T.  It is that the subjects/past/emotions we deal with are all just exhausting.  I literally show up in a sweat shirt, big sunglasses and some comfy pants and leave the same way.  Today, a tear slipped out past my sunglasses and froze to my cheek.  Who knew that 8* could do that? And then I'm worthless for the rest of the day.  I lounge around, doodle, read to the end of the internet and hold our couch or recliner down.  And then I do it again- a week or so later.  I'm hoping eventually it won't become so exhausting. 

Today's topic was my FOO.  That is short hand for Family of Origin.  Until this point, I've only said bits here and there about my mother and my childhood.  I've decided that while I've nicely done that out of being overly nice and super sensitive to her feelings... I also deserve to be able to share my past, my history, my experiences without whitewashing the crazy I grew up in.  

So if you happen to be the woman that gave birth to me, I've given you 31 years of (mostly) silence.  It's my turn.  (Not that I think she is reading, because we've not had a relationship for almost 9 years--- I have three kids she has never met, she doesn't have my phone number or address, etc.) 

Several of my blog readers are childhood friends-- to those of you that spent time with my family and didn't experience any of the things I'm going to speak of, know that my family was incredibly great at faking normal. 

Anyway, this week we talked about my relationship with my mother.  My mother is incredibly controlling, has very high standards for everyone but herself, has revisionist history tendencies, is verbally, emotionally and has been physically abusive and is always the victim.  As I told T, for many years *I* thought *I* was crazy because her remembrance of things was always vastly different than mine.  Until one day, Brandon experienced an episode and afterwards was like, "WOAH, you weren't kidding."

For instance,  in 2nd grade I got my first B on my report card in Math.  When the teacher passed out the report cards and I saw my B, I burst into tears.  I was afraid to go home.  If an A wasn't good enough (A PLUS was) then I knew for sure a B was going to get me into major hot water. 

When we moved to Georgia, I had to be re-tested for the gifted program and missed entrance by less than a handful of points.  My mom was furious---- with me.   I was retested in 4th grade.  From then on, I had to hear how "gifted children don't do this or that" or that "gifted children are capable of all A+."  I grew to HATE being labeled as gifted

I had my hair cut (with permission) in the 7th grade and my mother didn't speak to me for the rest of the day.  She is the one that drove me.  At dinner, when she still wasn't speaking to me, I asked her why she had given me permission and taken me if she was going to be so upset, and she announced to the entire family at dinner that "no one had anything to look at me for other than my yellow teeth."

At 17 years old, she told me I caused her breast cancer and *I* was the one making her hair fall out.

When I told her I was pregnant with DeLainey, she offered to pay for an abortion.  When I said I wasn't interested, she made an appointment for me anyway.  When I told her that I was not going (I was 18) she told me that I'd have to tell my step dad.  He was working in Germany at the time.  She told me how disappointed in me that he would be.  How *I* was going to ruin the image our family had and so I needed to tell my step dad.  She NEVER told my step dad about the abortion plans.

When Brandon and I found out that we were expecting Julianne (after trying for over a year!) she told me that she had given all of Lainey's things away that she said we could store in her attic because she didn't want Brandon and I to have any children.

The list goes on and on and on. Don't get me wrong, I have never been perfect,  but I have hundreds of these sorts of things I could list. 

Anyway, almost 9 years ago, I set a boundary by telling her that she couldn't treat me or my family like this anymore.  And she walked away.

And yet, as my therapist pointed out, *I'M* the one carrying the baggage.  My mom doesn't have to say mean things to me anymore, because I hear her in my head now.  And it is so true.

When I had that spin out about my 3.8 while homeschooling, with two children with my special needs, taking a full load plus and my husband working full time, I wasn't happy about it.  I heard my mom tell me that if I had just worked harder, if I had studied more, if I hadn't been so lazy, if if if....  THEN I would have a 4.0-- I'm gifted afterall.  Yuck.

I've spent my life beating myself up.  I'm 31 and I am in therapy to learn how to love myself.  I want to be kind to myself.  I want to be my own friend.  I want that voice in my head to say nice things to me.  I'm two sessions into this and while it's exhausting it is also freeing to be heard and to gain insight. 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Things never slow down here in Bee Land.  LOL

I finished last semester with a 3.8 and then it was Christmas!  We had an enjoyable Christmas and really focused on creating memories and starting traditions this year.

For New Year's we introduced some new friends to a southern New Year's Day complete with black eyed peas, rice, fried chicken, collards and fried cornbread..  YUM!

My one month break off of school flew by.  And school started again yesterday.  I don't know where the weeks went.  I don't have too much to show for it all.

I managed to continue to lose weight during the (food heavy) holidays this year.  That is a first.  I weigh 15 lbs less than I did before Thanksgiving!

I'm doing better at finding balance in my life and slowing down.  It is still a constant battle though.

Yesterday, we got bad news.  A friend from our old church here was hit on her morning run by a drunk driver (at 8:15 AM!) and didn't make it. I didn't know her well, but I do remember her telling us she was praying for us when Xander was ill and when I shared in our Women's Bible Study that I was still heartbroken about our failed adoption.  We used to chat while we waited for the children to get our choir on Sunday nights. 

She was incredibly down to earth and genuine and she LOVED to run.  Interestingly, we had another death at our current church this past week, and our pastor was making the arrangement announcements during service.  He stopped mid announcement and said, "Guys, you do all know as Believers we graduate when we die, right?  We go onto something much better.  It's those left behind that grieve and mourn." 

It's ALL I could hear in my head yesterday.  Meg graduated. She has met the One that she loved and served.  Those of us left behind are the ones that grieve.  I somewhat held it together until I started looking at her family pictures.  Three sweet children (5, 7, 8) are left behind... and her husband (who is a police officer) and their family and friends.  I cried so hard looking at their Disney pictures and Christmas pictures. An instant has robbed her family of a future with her.  One dumb decision has changed everything. 

If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, seek Him.  While we all hope to leave our mark here on earth, eternity matters most.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Processing the Spin Out of a Perfect Storm

Whew.. I'm back for a little update.

Xander is doing well in OT.  He's been discharged from speech and will be re-evaluated in a year.

Solomon is doing okay in speech.  We've been working hard (twice a week in formal therapy and lots of exercises at home) but we aren't seeing a ton of progress.  It's frustrating but I'm trying to just pray it out.

I've been going to Weightwatchers now for 6 weeks.  I've lost a little over 12 lbs.  I'm thrilled and the plan is working for me.  I need the accountability and social interaction.  It's been a wonderful experience so far.  

Brandon and I both finished our school this past week. And that is what the rest of this post will be about.

I had a hard time last week and since I'm no longer EATING my feelings, I nearly spun out of control in other ways. 

I've carried an amazingly large amount of baggage for many years.  Most of it stems from my childhood.  I was NEVER good enough.  Some of you that have known me for many years, know that I have a perfectionism issue.  It is not my natural nature.  I am MUCH more of a "good enough" person.  Try your best, do your best, etc.  I regularly tell my children, "Did you truly try your best?  Yes? Well, that is all I can ask for!" 

This is very different than how I was raised.  I had what I now consider the "misfortune" of being labeled "gifted" at a very young age.  I learned to read very young and I loved to read, so I really read anything and everything I could get my hands on.  Some things came very easily to me.  And honestly, I was pretty bored in my regular classes.  But my life really changed once my mom pushed the school to test me for the "gifted program."  I loved the gifted program in elementary school, but I quickly realized that it appeared I had to "work harder" than many of my "gifted" peers.  I couldn't do cool things like multiply two 5 digit numbers in my head when we were in the 3rd grade.  (Heck, I still can't!)

Looking back, I wish someone had gently said that we all have our gifts and that for SOME OF US, it is our work ethic.  God gifts each of us individually.  He uses gifts that aren't recognized by our culture or the world.

As an adult, I also see that testing can be biased.  There is comic going around facebook that has a few animals like a fish, a monkey, a bird and the "test" is to climb the tree.  Well the monkey is obviously going to win.. 

Anyway, getting back to my original point.  I'd bring A's home and it was "Stephanie, why didn't you get an A+? You are GIFTED!  You are smarter than this!"  I brought my first B home in the 2nd grade in math and you would have thought my world had ended.  I was afraid to go home.  I cried from the time that I saw my report card until I went home.  And I cried for good cause.  I was grounded from everything (including my beloved books) until progress reports came out.   My teacher suggested that perhaps my mom had overreacted and I remember my mom telling her that she wasn't raising a "mediocre" child-- she was raising a GIFTED child.  The G word has haunted me for many years. 

In third grade, I used to lay awake with worry the night before progress reports and report cards.  Sometimes I'd lay there thinking up really cool things I could propose for extra credit, just in case! Sometimes I just laid there with racing thoughts.

My heart used to race when papers were returned to us once a week for our parents to sign off on.  Mistakes (even while learning something for the first time) were unacceptable.  The line was drawn in the sand.  At 8 years old, I knew that to be considered "Good" or "Smart" by my mom, I had to be perfect- no exceptions, no excuses, no "off days".  The end. 

Perfection was driven into me at every point.  I remember testing for chairs in Band.  (For you non music folks, you test with your instrument and are "ranked.")  I was third chair.  Not good enough. "You'll never get a solo, Stephanie.  You are THIRD!"  I made the county honor band but was like 18th chair. (18th in the COUNTY with a very strong music program...)  Not good enough.  I didn't make All State.  "I don't know why I paid for your clarinet, you don't deserve it."  

Onto high school it continued.  Only now I was taking Honors classes, involved in multiple extracurricular activities, in a tough band program AND working 35ish hours a week.  I graduated with a 3.875 and was 7th in my class.  "Stephanie, I don't even know why I came.  SIX people beat you.  You don't even have a 4.0. Some of those kids weren't even in the gifted program!  It's not like you did anything special.  High school graduation is an expectation, not an option." No one else from my family came to my high school graduation. 

I was once told that I caused my own mother's breast cancer and that I am the reason that her hair fell out.  Not because she was undergoing chemotherapy.  It was me.  I was sixteen years old. 

Because I was not "good enough" at home, I found my worth other ways.  I developed a ridiculous sense of sarcasm.  I discovered the art of wittiness.  I was a model employee.  I did other things that were the exact opposite of "good" since "good" wasn't "good enough.  I smoke, I drank, I partied.  I put myself in dangerous situations and have lived with those consequences.  And eventually I thought I had found "love" even if it was from the wrong place.   We all know the story, because I've told it here a few times.  I married at 18 to a "man" that was verbally and emotionally abusive.   Hmmm... I didn't even realize for awhile.  I had lived like that as a child for many years.  I expected nothing more from the man I married.  *sigh*

 And later he became physically abusive.  He cheated.  He lied.  He fathered another child in our marriage. He spent money selfishly.  He put his fist through a wall.  I left.  I went back.  I left again.  I found out I was pregnant.  And I went back again.  Until he pinned me down one night and choked me.  I remember thinking he was going to kill me.    

I left, not for myself, but for my unborn baby.  In the moment, I didn't see my value-- only hers.  And yet... I still had moments of weakness where I thought we could make it work.  If I could just be perfect....  He'd be happy.  If I fixed everything that disappointed him,  he'd love me.  He wouldn't go outside our marriage.  I thought I could be perfect and it would make everything okay. 

I can close my eyes and still hear the words my mother spoke to me when she was trying to convince me that we could make this "whole issue disappear."  (Code for she would pay for an abortion and I could divorce without a child in the mix.)  I refused and it angered her.  She told me that everyone would know about my "mistakes" soon and I had a limited amount of time to change it.  She made an appointment for me anyway.  I had an image to uphold for our family.  And I dared to defy her and did not go.  Through that single instance of defiance I gained some freedom.

But I have lived in semi-bondage for years.

And it showed it's ugly side this past week.

Tuesday I weighed in at Weightwatchers and I gained 1.2 lbs. It was the first time gained since starting Weightwatchers   I was annoyed but tried to rationalize it away by saying it was nearing that time of the month... and I maybe had lost too fast all the weeks before it.  I even looked at their little chart and saw that I had been losing to fast and this gain had put me back in the "safe" range.

Strike One.  

Then I got an assignment back that took a bloodbath.  I worked very hard on it and had made all the corrections from the time before and suffered the same result.  I was frustrated.

Strike Two. 

Then I realized that it was mathematically impossible to get an A in the class.  Even if I maxed out all of the remaining points.

Strike Three.

I heard all the voices from my past. They all came flooding back. They all told me that I wasn't perfect.  That a B wasn't good enough.  That I had failed.  I'd not get a 4.0 for this semester and I might not get into grad school.   Couldn't I do anything right?  Why had I taken all the time from our family if I wasn't going to do it right? 

But I was determined to not turn to food.  I bawled in the shower.  I cried in bed.  I shutdown.

Friday, I just felt out of control.  I couldn't make myself focus on my school work. I couldn't quiet the voices from my past...  I seriously contemplated if finishing my degree was worth it.  I sat on the couch in pajamas all day.  I nearly called the school to withdraw. 

So I went to the gym.  I ran, I lifted weights, I swam, I soaked in the hot tub.  And I came home and finished the remaining assignments in that class.

And I cried again.

I reached out to some friends and they all told me that a 3.8 is incredible for a mama of five taking five classes a semester.  Several identified with the curse of perfectionism.  They all told me that they don't think any less of me because I got a 3.8 GPA.

I wish I could say everything instantly went away.

But yesterday the official grades came out and I had to look that B in the face.  Strike One.

And it was the anniversary of my first marriage.  I married him 12 years ago and the anniversary still brings me shame and disappointment.  A reminder of my poor choice and all I survived. Strike Two.  

I feel like I'm teetering again. 

I'm not going to lie.  I'm still struggling.  But I'm fighting still.  I want to be free.  I never want to forget where I've been and what I've survived, but I want freedom.  I want to be able to look at a B on my transcript and not instantly hear the disappointment from my past or try to drown it out with extra unneeded calories. 

My head knows that no one on earth is perfect.  I know the Bible verses.  I just need my heart to feel and know the same thing. 

2014 will be about finding freedom... I want to be free!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Blur...

Some days, I lay in bed and try so very hard to remember what I accomplished during the day.

It's all a blur.  I live in fast forward currently. 

Here is a brief run down of what's been going on in our world.  I managed to remember these things while I was on hold with a medical office this morning.  (ALWAYS MULTITASKING!)

- We have planned our Anniversary trip.  We will be returning to Disney--- ALONE*.  (Ahem, anyone shocked?)

- Xander should graduate from speech this Wednesday. His beloved, Mrs. Megan has done an AMAZING job with him.  Between Megan and Xander's occupational therapist and Solomon's speech therapist, we have the dream team, y'all!  I'm looking forward to slowing down a bit.

- Solomon has an appointment with the ENT to see if there are any physical reasons that his speech hasn't recovered from the croup episode this past February.  He's been in twice weekly speech but we just need to make sure we look from all angles, just in case.

- I've started transforming the doors in our house from white to "black."  Black is in quotations because it isn't really black exactly.  It's graphite and tricks your eye into seeing "black" when it is next to white trim.  I have several inspiration pictures on my Pinterest board and finally worked up the nerve to try it on the inside of the half bathroom door.  Love it!

- Brandon's company has increased their adoption benefit for employees.  In addition to the six (!!!) paid weeks off he will get, they doubled their reimbursement rate from $5K per adoption to $10K per adoption starting in in January 2014.  We've been praying over a little #6 and this seemed to be some confirmation that this is His timing.

- Then I emailed our amazing social worker at the adoption agency we know and love and things have changed there in our favor too. (Anyone still doubt that God's fingerprints are all over adoptions?)  So I did what any normal (list making) person would do and sat down and made a dream list of things to accomplish during our 4 week break from school (mid-December to mid-January!) You know... because we don't have enough day to day stuff to fill that time. 

- *Speaking of that alone trip for our anniversary, things are subject to change.  But we have taken an infant to Disney before and lived to tell about it.  ;) 

- School is going well.  It's a little odd "only" having two classes this 8 week term (instead of three, which I pulled off with a 4.0, I might add!) but it's getting done.  My reading load is much heavier this term but I am taking an upper level psychology course (personality) and a biblical literature class. 

- I rearranged the livingroom while Brandon was at work.  The arrangement came to me in a dream.  (Seriously, I can't even dream of relaxing things like beaches and massages... I'm ALWAYS thinking about 2-3 things going on in our life.)  We have two doorways, a wall with large windows, and a fireplace.  It's REALLY hard to put enough seating in here to make it make sense.  But in my dream, one of the doorways was gone and we could fit a sectional.  So I did what any sane (haha) person would do and made a faux sectional in our livingroom and blocked the doorway just to see if we could live without that additional door way.  So far, so good.  When I moved the furniture around, I also finally (!!!) finished the white trim on the windows project and deep cleaned.  Oh! And we finally got the light switches swapped out.  We have white switches AND white switch covers (in this room!)  Moving on up....  

- We are also slowly tackling some landscaping for our yard.  This spring and summer we just let things grow.  We had no idea what The Flintstones had planted in every bed.  And here is the truth... a lot of what is planted is higher maintenance  than what we can deal with.  According to some of our neighbors, Mrs. Flintstone gardened every day without exception.  Some of it isn't our style.  So we'll be working on taking some things out and simplifying what remains.  

There.. I think I'm mostly caught up, for now. 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Big Announcement

There is a big announcement over at my new YouTube channel...

You can click on this and watch it yourself!

~Stephanie from Mason Jars and Sweet Tea  ;)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The term is over and I got three A's.  It wasn't easy-- not even close.  I did three semester courses in 8 weeks with my crazy schedule.

I plan on sharing how I did it.  I love hearing how others organize and get things done.  I can always glean 1 thing from someone (even if it is the realization that my system is working just fine.) 

The new term started Monday.  Just two classes this time but I have no nonsense professors for both.

Buckle up.. let's go!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Look What's "Cooking" During Finals Week!

I have nearly survived an 8 week term with three college classes, y'all!

I have alot to catch you up on (a blog move and relaunch and reformatting, therapy updates for Xander and Solomon, a video house tour of part of our downstairs with more to come soon, a "how cool is God to interweave a few of my social circles together in a blink" story, some house updates, and even some what is working for me in this busy season for organization and homeschooling coming ahead!)

I even got a new camera so we don't have to rely on my iPhone for pictures!

I really should be working on a 10 page paper I have due on Friday (!!!!) that counts as 1/3 of my grade (!!!!)  Pray for me... I barely have an A and need 273 of 300 points in order to keep said A.


I just have to share this.  It's the first draft of our potential kitchen upgrade/reno that a friend sent to me!  We are tweaking and weighing options.  But I'm incredibly excited!

Pet it with me and coo at it.  "Pretty kitchen, smart kitchen, purrr, purr, purrrr!" 

~Stephanie, who loves exclamation points!