Oriental Poppies

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

I’m making an effort to think clearly tonight, being honest with myself. Certain things that bother me are bothering me again, and normally this causes a type of confused panic to begin. Lots of points and counterpoints going on in my thought processes, and I get lost and start wondering which point is “the most true.”

Well, here’s my attempt at removing myself emotionally from my own situation.

God loves His children. God can be trusted. God is in control. God’s plan is beautiful.

What do I like about this poppy painting? The heart of small things are monumentally important. Something traditionally beautiful (like flowers, or say, a marriage) can show unusual beauty and interest when examined closely. But see, I can’t even talk about a painting without trying to talk about my own problems. How about this: the painting is startlingly beautiful, kind of like seeing a flower in real truth after only seeing fake flowers.

I just realized how great school was for getting your mind off your own problems. You can bury yourself in the world of academia. Homeschooling doesn’t work so well because it’s studying in the environment of home. Home is vital and must not be buried.

And God’s plan is always the best plan, no matter what I think.

[Afterthought: I suppose choosing a Georgia O’Keefe painting to help me remove myself emotionally from something wasn’t very smart. I probably should’ve gone with something still clinging to the Middle Ages, like Giotto.]


Crazy Things in Our Brains

I just wrote an article about postpartum psychosis, which is thankfully rare among new mothers. It’s a crazy thing when you feel like you are being controlled by something else, you’re hearing voices that aren’t there, you are paranoid of people you used to trust, and you can’t tell anyone about it because no one is going to understand. And that’s just some of the nasty tricks our brains are capable of.

I remember the mood swings and the mama-bear mentality. I remember hating people who said things that I didn’t want my baby to ever hear. I remember really wanting to do things correctly and biblically; I wanted to sing my babies the right songs, teach them the right values… all these major issues that I was squaring away right there and then. I wasn’t psychotic (thank goodness), but I was different after giving birth. It’s a changing time, for certain. I think there should be more awareness about this, especially for the husbands, because the moms just believe in what they believe. The moms are super aware.

Homeschool Update

Another homeschool year is winding down, and though I’m not ready to report on the entire year (because there’s more than a month left yet), I do want to inform myself of where I’m at right now.

Math: This may be the first year my kids don’t finish their Math-U-See lessons. No big deal. It just means we start with the old books next year. I attribute this to a slower, more deliberate pace and not doing math on Fridays. As far as progress goes, they’ve made huge strides!

Reading: Going well! Keep doing what I’m doing, and try not to get upset when the second child refuses to read while one of the others is on the couch with her. (She will eventually get over that!)

Phonics: The oldest is a few pages from finishing the entire Explode the Code series! He deserves a treat. The other two are plugging away at it. No complaints here.

Spelling: SpellWell is wonderful. Anyone who studies Charlotte Mason, listen up: my kids don’t learn how to spell through reading good literature. They really needed a workbook. It’s okay to admit that CM was wrong.

Bible: I like the devotional we’re doing by Max Lucado called Grace for the Moment. It explains biblical thought in an appropriate way for my kids’ ages. I think my kids (especially the girls) could benefit from more lessons that are similar to Sunday School lessons. We played Bible trivia tonight and one of them didn’t realize Solomon was David’s son. Hmm. I wonder what I can do about that?

Science: The Sassafras Twins Zoology book is a big hit! We love it, probably more for the exciting adventure story than for the science learned. I think it is pounding into their brains which animals are herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. Plus, it teaches a lot of geography on the side.

Geography: Other than the geography that gets taught through other subjects, this subject in itself has become a non-subject. The oldest is almost finished with his big geography workbook, but he’s struggling with accuracy when it comes to latitude and longitude lines and time zones.

Literature: Well, this is off and on (other than the Five in a Row curriculum we do). But I’m not stressed out because we do literature year round, and sometimes we read intensely!

Writing: I’ve been doing weekly writing projects (things like free writes, writing a poem, making some dialogue, etc.). This is a good idea. They struggle with it somewhat, but that’s good. As long as I can keep myself from getting down about their attitudes, we can get through it. I’d like to do more fun writing projects, maybe a week or two that are writing intensive.

Grammar: They hate grammar. But I see a need for knowing the basics. So we do it together once a week, like it or not.

Five in a Row: Still awesome! We are now two-thirds finished with Volume 1 (we didn’t do them in order, and that has been fine). These books are more familiar to us, but we have found a few new ones to love. (Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha!) I love how low-key this is, and yet we are learning new things.

History: Almost finished with our very long Revolutionary War unit study. My kids know tons about the Revolutionary War. Way more than I did as a student. The key was not in the unit study material itself. I bought them a series of Liberty’s Kids DVDs, and the animated shows made history alive for them. We have learned so much about history, and this is the last of the unit studies I bought at the beginning of the school year. I think I might poke around in Ambleside Online and find a couple good history read alouds to finish up the year.

Art: Well, nothing specific to say. Complete cooperation between all three children is almost non-existent these days, so usually the girls do art projects on a whim, and the boy just mopes around and acts bored. But he can draw! I’d like to do something more consistent with art… maybe during the summer, when we have lots of time!

Music: Nothing. They are so opinionated about music, and how am I supposed to get them to listen to music when putting in a CD causes loud arguments? The oldest has been motivated to learn from my old piano lesson books, so I try to be available to teach him sometimes. The youngest could benefit from real lessons by a real teacher, but they are so expensive! The free online lessons have been too intimidating for her. The other girl doesn’t like music much, and that’s fine.

Phy Ed: I don’t care about Phy Ed. They learn stuff at homeschool co-op, and that’s good enough for me. The middle girl takes gymnastics classes because she is obsessed with gymnastics. Good for her. I guess I don’t mind sitting in the bleachers for an hour and a half and reading a book.

I think that’s all. Sometimes I wish for more structure, but I know I wouldn’t like a boxed curriculum. I’ll be researching some language arts and history curriculum over summer break. I’m looking forward to the break, but also remembering how awful the beginning of last summer was… the girls can keep themselves occupied, but the oldest has to go through a whole system of teasing people, bugging me to play computer games, and acting really bored before he gets down to being creative and self-sufficient. I honestly wished last summer that I was brave enough to school year round. I doubt that I ever will be. Seems like it would be hard to stop schooling year round if we ever started it.

A Time for Everything

Reading Ecclesiastes 3 when you’re having a rough time leads to unusual thoughts. If there’s a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, does that mean I’m in that time to refrain? If there’s a time to seek and a time to lose, does that mean it’s God’s will that I lose (and what exactly am I losing?). I kind of get it, though. Solomon is looking wisely at life and seeing that many stages happen, just in one life. We change, we go with the times, we act differently in different situations.

In a way, that’s a comfort. It’s normal to change. It’s normal to have stages of pleasure and pain. God is a constant, but this life is not.

I returned my very helpful marriage book to the library, and already, only two days later, I’m missing it. I’m backsliding into blaming myself for things. You’d think I wouldn’t be so attached to the physical words printed on physical paper, but apparently I am. It’s as if a wise, supportive friend just left me. What would Solomon say? There is a time for reading, and a time for thinking alone. Or maybe like this: There is a time for books, and a time for (hmm… emptiness, thoughts, independent thinking, blogs?) Okay, I’ve got it: There’s a time for leaning on others, and a time for standing alone.

Except my standing alone is more like falling down. Oh well. I’ll get there, I hope.

A Prayer for Power and Strength

Dear Lord, You are God. You are all-powerful and mighty. You are also compassionate and loving. You are also just and wise. Dear Lord, I ask You to do what I cannot. Grant me the strength I need to live the life You gave me. I ask for the power to overcome evil thoughts. Please dispel the evil in me and around me.

Lord, You made me Your child. Please be near to me. My own children ask me for hugs and kisses. I come to You for comfort and love and an assurance of safety.

Lord, thank You for keeping all Your promises. Thank You for never letting go. And Lord, I know You speak through Your written and preached Word. Please help me to understand it correctly this time. Forgive me if I misinterpret, and lead me toward Your truth. I love You. This whole family needs You. I no longer ask You to pull us together; I ask for peace, however You design it.

Thank You for being all-knowing. Please care for those reading this prayer. Please grant them a measure of peace as well. In Your Name, Amen.

Moving Toward Healing

I am going to attempt one of my most careful and sensitive posts on Revision 3. Why? Because I read a marriage book in an attempt to help me with my marriage problems, and it was unlike any other book I’ve read. I did write some posts on another, more private blog, documenting my reactions and confusions as I read the book. I have since turned that blog off, and this post will be where I stand concerning The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick (2013).

Why I find this book helpful: The early chapters consist of two quizzes, one longer and designed to help me figure out which specific areas of my marriage may be emotionally destructive. The second is shorter and designed to determine if indeed my marriage can be called destructive or if it is merely weak or unhealthy. I did indeed end up with the “destructive” result. Although I didn’t even want to write about this second quiz at first because I didn’t really want to admit my marriage was that bad, now I have found this helpful. My mood swings, my depression, and my “feelings of craziness” are easier to explain. I can now pinpoint ways my husband acts that I don’t like and I don’t want to cover up. I have realized that I’ve been doing a lot of personal freaking out over things my husband does, and then I blame him privately, which makes me feel bad, so I shift the blame to myself, which doesn’t really make anything better, and I end up being enormously confused and feeling crazy. I now can put specific words behind what I’m freaking out about. That is very helpful.

What I don’t like about the book: The author, who is a Christian counselor, covers a lot of different types of emotionally destructive marriages here in this book. While the problems in my own marriage are subtle (yet awful) things like playing mind games and being indifferent to what I want, many of the examples in the book are severe abuse, and so the author is often showing how the husband and wife need to be separated, even to the point of divorce. She certainly doesn’t advocate it in every case, but her advice to leave your emotionally abusive spouse comes easier and more frequently than the advice I’ve grown up with. I wind up wishing for more advice for the less severe abuse cases.

The hardest (but maybe best) advice from this book: The author promotes something called “living from your CORE.” This is a personal strengthening-up. It is about what I do to keep myself strong and well. I need to be committed to truth and reality (that’s a big one for me – as I said before, I was covering up). I need to be open to growth, instruction, and feedback. (I’m open for feedback here, folks.) I need to be responsible for myself and respectful toward others without dishonoring myself. (Another big one – I tend to dishonor myself, and being responsible for keeping myself strong against the ways my husband acts is difficult. I haven’t really figured out the best ways to do that yet.) And I need to be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me. (Again, this is difficult. I’ll explain why in the next paragraph.)

My big confusion right now: My confusions tend to change and multiply depending on the day, but right now I have this thought: how do I be content in all circumstances, be forgiving, and still not enable my husband to treat me badly? I can’t even write my way through this one. I simply don’t know.

How am I currently handling the information from this book? One of the things I don’t like about my husband’s way of communication is his tendency to keep important information from me. I am the opposite. I tend to spill out too much emotional information that I probably would be better to keep to myself. So, yes, I’ve already discussed much of this with him, for better or worse. And he says he will work on some things, which I’m happy about. Because I now am noticing what upsets me, I get more pointedly upset at him, but this still leads to better communication between us. It’s better than senseless depression that seemed to have no source.

I am also seeing a need to emotionally withdraw from the relationship sometimes. It’s important that I don’t do this all the time, or I’d be totally cold-hearted and impossible to live with. On the other hand, this marriage isn’t going to be fixed by me alone. So I need to detach myself until my husband is willing to put in some effort toward the marriage cause as well. His big problem is that he’s too busy for anything. I feel bad about pressuring him to change when he has so much work stress as it is. But it’s exactly that stress that is spreading its toxins throughout the rest of the family. I can’t change that. So I have to shield myself against that bad stuff resulting from his bad situation. And I have to do that without allowing it to abuse me. That’s really hard. (Open for feedback here.)

Quote of the Day: “God calls us to be biblical peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peace fakers” (104). I have definitely been trying to be a peacekeeper and a peace faker, and now I have to try to be a peacemaker, which isn’t easy for me. Please pray for me. Thank you.

Forget-Me-Nots in the Window

Forget-Me-Nots in the Window, Henri Matisse, 1916

Writing is such a helpful thing for me. I don’t personally know anyone except myself who needs to write in order to think properly. When I take a break from writing, my thoughts build up and cloud my mind. If I’m not writing, I’m not communicating well.

So thank you for coming and reading and sharing my conversations. Some days I’m crying out my words, and other days I’m sitting in a cool blue-green world with a bowl of simple little flowers blooming in the sunlight. And that’s a nice place to be. I wish this lovely little spot of existence transformed itself into a real place here in my real life, but after all, isn’t this whole life just a shadow of the higher reality? Who am I to say that the home I live in is less shadowy than the words I write or the artwork I look at? Maybe God gave me these other worlds as real comforts to me. Reprieves. Because He knows I don’t get out much!