Tag Archives: Kids

Psalm 27 to the Rescue

Silhouette of helping hand between two climber

The last couple days have been kinda hard. Actually, the last couple years have been hard. My mom had a stroke two years ago, and my siblings and I have been increasingly taking more care of our parents. With my mom’s partial paralysis and my father’s decline into early dementia, the responsibilities as well as the emotional toll are being felt deeply by all of us. On top of that, aching old scars and fresh wounds seem to have resulted in acute estrangement from them and from one another.

Saturday night I went to bed carrying a lot of this emotional weight, not the kind of weightlifting I resolved to do this new year. Saturday was tough enough dealing with one of the kids’ issues, and I was looking forward to collapsing into bed and getting a good night sleep without having to get up early in the morning for work. Texted my son, who was out, “you good?“, his reply:

“Yea gonna be home around 10”

Good, one daughter was out babysitting, and she’d uber home whenever, late, no doubt. Around 9:30, I crashed and slept fitfully for over two hours. I woke at midnight. Checked my phone and there was a text. An hour-old text from an old friend: “Hello Donna, I know its late please can you life me up in prayer/medical issues. need them thank you so much. I texted back: “praying…”. I said a little prayer, then got up, went to bathroom and checked son’s room. Not home. Quick text to son, “You ok?” Ten minutes later:

“Yea”

Ok, good. Probably be in soon. He sometimes stays out late even if he has to work in morning. I sent up another quick prayer for my friend. Then I tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t.

My mind went into manic mode as it got swept up in the family drama and distress. Every time I closed my eyes, the feelings of estrangement and rejection swirled and churned inside me. After about an hour of wrestling with fears, doubts and feelings, I checked the clock: 12:54 AM. Son still not home. Well, as any reputable helicopter mom could tell you, my mind was ripe for panicking about what possible harmful scenarios my son stumbled into. I sent another text, thinking he may just spend the night at a co-worker’s: “Are you coming homr”, ( I was tired.); another at 1:20 AM: “Ok?”; and the last one at 2:09 AM: “You good?”. No answer to any of those texts or the couple of texts I sent my daughter. But, I figured she’d just stay over and get a full night sleep away from the baby.

As you can imagine, I was getting frantic. Sleep was impossible. Even if he came home, I was so wound up, that an all-nighter was inevitable. I hate these kind of nights.

I put on my Bible study, often that would put me to sleep. J. Vernon McGee on his Thru the Bible radio show has been going through 1 Chronicles. It is his opinion that 1 Chronicles, a seemingly rerun of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings, is the same stories and characters, but from God’s point of view. The latest Bible study was about David’s great sin. No, not the one with he and Bathsheba, but the one when David numbered the people. McGee contends this sin, in God’s eyes, was worse in the sense that David was no longer trusting God, but in the numbers, in the strength that he thought he had accumulated. Wasn’t I failing to trust God like David? Yep.

In my emotional mania, somehow that lesson began to seep into my mind. I’ve been trying to be more trustful of God. And I was failing miserably, I was not trusting the Lord at all. I could not get a grip on the worrying, the pain and the despondency. I checked my email, and my daily Henri Nouwen devotional was already delivered. I read it:

Nouwen post

The further reflection took hold of my attention. I got out my Bible and read all of Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

I read it again. I saw that even if my parents forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Even if what I feared was true, I had God to turn to. Then, finally, wait for the Lord. Not my strong suit.

As I let these words, these words of healing and solace, soothe my tempest-tossed mind, the storm slowly stilled just like when Jesus stilled the storm at the behest of his frantic friends. I began to trust, trust Him that my son would be OK, trust Him that my family’s issues would smooth out, trust Him that my financial situation will prove to be enough and trust and believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Far past two o’clock and as I drifted to sleep, I heard the jingle of his keys and the door unlocked. Before I fell asleep, I muttered to him as he passed my door, “Ten, huh?” He said something about dropping off friends (good kid!), and I finally said so he could hear, “glad you’re home safe.”

Good night.

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Playing in God’s Backyard

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This blog was featured in my self-published book, “The Plight of the Hare & Other Stories From the Shoe”.

Like a lot of San Francisco families, my parents have a cabin up at the Russian River. We’d spend all summer there when we were kids until the summer of ‘72 when we all got busted raiding the parents’ bottles. Before that though, after our chores, we kids would find our friends and hang out. We’d walk into town and get candy at Lark’s: the berry lollipop, the apple rope gum and even the candy cigarettes. We would hike up the hillsides and build forts. But most of all we would spend our summer days swimming in the river.

I took my kids up there a lot too. We couldn’t swim until the sun hit the pier. So while we waited, we would go to the park or to Armstrong Woods or even hit up Lark’s like I did as a kid.

Sometimes though, we would just hang out in the backyard, and the kids would start digging holes. My kids love to dig holes. What is it with kids – a shovel, a pail and a ton of dirt? I don’t know, but they can be happy for hours playing in the dirt. Sooner or later though, my father would holler from the deck some 25 feet above them and tell them to quit digging holes and to fill ‘em up. We sadly filled the holes and just waited for the sun to hit the pier.

Another time, my kids were in their own backyard in the East Bay, and they started to dig a giant hole. They spent hours and hours digging it real big and played in it like it was a fort. I couldn’t care less, I always enjoyed when they were wholesomely occupied. But their dad showed up and told them to fill the hole and not to dig anymore of them. What a bummer!

One day, years ago, my sister, her kids, my kids and I went to Pacifica State Beach in Linda Mar. We grabbed all of the play toys and marched to the shore. What do you think was the first thing the kids did? Yep, they started digging holes. But, unlike the other times, no one told them to stop. Rather, it seemed like God joined them in their play. His laughter roared in the sound of the waves as they played. The waves would playfully fill up their holes. And as the surf retreated, the kids were challenged to dig more holes. And they did!

The waves roared back, laughing, playing with the kids. They played all day digging and running away, only to dig and run away again. It was delightful to watch. No one told them not to dig holes; instead it seemed as if God was playing with them. He didn’t mind them digging holes in His backyard.

The Day I Shot the Rat

annie oakley We had many interesting stories when we were remodeling our house. One of the best stories I remember is The Day I Shot the Rat. Yes, a rat. And yes, I shot it!!! Now you must understand, I am a lily-livered coward that screams and jumps at imaginary mice or rats. When we moved into our little one bedroom bungalow, mice were already there. However, since I had just had our fifth child, the oldest being 6, I was so plum tuckered out by the end of the day that I didn’t care if a capybara was crawling through the house.

After we decided to evict these previous occupants, we wanted to be humane, and also, I feared one of the kids would get their fingers caught in a snap trap, so we got glue traps. Soon it became a quest of how many mice we could get on one glue trap. We were especially proud when we got six mice on one of the bigger glue traps. Anyway, we continued to have mice on and off until we got a couple of awesome cats and then our problem never reappeared.

On very rare occasions, we would see rats. Usually toward the end of summer when the creek dried up down the street they began to appear. Once, when we first starting remodeling, the one bedroom was demolished and my husband had framed up the two bedrooms. After he put up the exterior plywood,  the exterior wall at the existing bathroom was left intact. The waste stack was left there until the new bathroom was functioning. For a time, this wall length exterior pipe was inside the house.

As I used the bathroom, I would hear strange scratching from the pipe. Since I was probably pregnant or nursing and suffering from extreme sleep deprivation, I ignored the sound. One time, however, after using the bathroom and hearing the noise, I became curious and went to look at the pipe. The pipe was now inside the new structure so I just turned the corner after leaving the bathroom. I peered through the studded walls and looked at the top of the pipe, and instantly an enormous rat stuck its face and chest out of the pipe. I let out a scream that I didn’t think I was capable of. (I secretly envied the Tippi Hedrens and Janet Lees that could produce blood curdling screams. Ironically, I gave birth to several of those kinds of screamers.) I yelled for my husband and he put a rock on top of the stack, but the image of that face and the way he looked at me still haunts me.

But the day I shot the rat is by far the most memorable story. My husband, the baby and I were sleeping on a sofa bed in the living room and the five or so other kids were in the little room. One night I was beginning to doze off, I heard a noise. Thumpety-thump. Thumpety-thump. My eyes flew open and I froze. My ears strained to identify this mysterious sound. A mouse?? A big mouse??!! Urgh. Thumpety-thump. “Uh oh, more than one?” I thought. A childhood fear prevented me from looking because it could have been a giant monster or something.

“Francisco,” I whispered to my sleeping husband, pushing him to wake up. “Francisco, there’s a big mouse in the kitchen. Francisco,” I shook him harder and he mumbled. “I heard a mouse, I think he’s under the fridge, sounds like he’s chewing on a tortilla or something.” Still asleep, I shook him real hard and raised my voice, “Francisco, there is a mouse under the refrigerator, can you go check it out?” Finally he turned over and paused, listened to the sound under the fridge; opened one eye, then bolted straight up. “That’s no mouse!” He declared quite loudly. He got up and grabbed his BB gun from the top of the bookshelf.

“What are you doing?” I whispered.

“I’m gonna shoot that rat!” he said determinedly.

“A rat, oh no, not a rat,” I moaned

I watched him aim; I couldn’t look toward the fridge because I didn’t want to see how big the rat was. It was quiet for a long time, the chewing stopped. Bing! A shot sounded from the BB gun.

“$#%^&” cursed my husband as he got his foot caught on the blanket while stumbling out of bed. He tried to hit the fleeing rat with the butt of the rifle, but just tripped and cursed some more. He came back to bed “I’m gonna get that rat.” He was getting back under the covers when I heard another noise, “What is that?”

The noise was coming from the sliding glass door. A beautiful mosaic of cracking glass was slowly climbing to the top of the door. It actually looked pretty with the street light shining in the background.

“You hit the sliding glass door?!!” I said, holding my smirk inside my mouth.

“I’m going to sleep.” And he turned over.

“Was it a big rat?” I winced at the question.

“Yea, a really big one.”

“Oh, no…” I went to sleep to the sound of crackling glass.

The morning was a buzz as soon as the kids woke up.

“What happened to the sliding glass door?” one asked, “Who broke it?” another asked.

“Your father shot it,” I answered, “Don’t touch it, it’s gonna fall apart.”

“Why did he shoot the door?” one asked.

“He didn’t mean to shoot the door; he meant to shoot the rat.” I said while pouring my coffee. “A Rat!!!” they all screamed, “there was a rat in the house.”   The chorus of voices ran down the hall to their little room and tell their big sister, “Dad tried to shoot a rat last night, but he missed and hit the sliding glass door. It is all broke now.” All kinds of hoots and hollers came from their little bedroom.

Dad walked in the door and the kids crowded him, “How big was the rat, Dad? Why’d ya shoot the door, Dad? You broke the door; I thought you knew how to shoot.” “Weren’t you in the Army, Dad?” The questions were fast and furious, and the look of irritation grew on my husband’s face. He grumbled as he passed them and gently broke off the pieces from the door and cleaned up the mess.

“You guys, get away from him while he cleans up or you’ll get cut.” I ordered.

It was a slow morning; I was too tired to cook breakfast so I got some donuts. I told the shoot-out story to the kids while we ate them, and Francisco left for work.

The day went by typically, and the kids were in the backyard when I heard a commotion begin. I waited to see if it would die down or get worse. Emilio ran in the house and immediately went to the bookshelf and grabbed the BB gun.

“What are you doing with that?” I asked him. “Gracie has the rat, and I’m gonna shoot it.”

“What, what!!!” I squawked. “Wait, no one is gonna shoot that rat…..but me.” I took the rifle from Emilio and followed out to the backyard.

The kids were excited, “Everyone get out of the way,” I ordered. Because of the construction work we were doing, the underneath of the house was fully exposed from the back side. From the backyard, you could see Gracie, our little black lab, slouching next to an unconscious rat under the floor.

“Did she kill it?” Emilio asked.

“I don’t think so; I think she just knocked him out.”

“Are you gonna shoot it?

“Yep, stay back and watch those babies.” I lifted the rifle and carefully aimed at the rat, and yes it was a big rat. In the line of vision, stood a very frightened Gracie.

“Get outta there Gracie.” I ordered and she eagerly fled.

I re-aimed, it was very quiet and I steadied my arm.

BING!!! PLUNK!!

“You hit it, you hit it!!” the kids all yelled.

“Do you think you killed it?” Elizabeth asked holding the hands of two toddlers.

“I’m not sure, but I will try again. Hold on to those babies, everybody stand back, I’m gonna shoot again.” I aimed again.

BING!! PLUNK!!

“You got him again, he’s gotta be dead now.”

I wasn’t so sure, and really didn’t what to do now. We pulled it out from under the house with a rake and tried to see if it was breathing. The roar of my husband’s van could be heard as he came around the corner. The kids dashed to meet him in the front of the house.

“Mom shot the rat!! Mom killed the rat!!” The kids were all talking at once.

Here was my chance to look like Annie Oakley, so I slung the rifle up on my shoulder and coolly sashayed out to meet my husband.

“What’s going on? Did you find the rat?” He asked, looking at me kind of funny.

“Oh, the rat,” I said calmly, “I shot that rat, and I didn’t miss.”

“Really, congratulations, Ma Barker.”

Dad finished the job and we stuck the rat in the donut box and threw it in the garbage.

THE END

Individuate!

individuatepic

I am a word nerd. I love words. When I had a boring job in Half Moon Bay back in the 1970’s, I entertained myself by reading the dictionary. I still have the lists of words I learned. Words are great, wonderfully great and terribly great. Words can harm, cut down and poison; but on the other hand, words can build up, inspire and heal. Just like I have comfort foods such as creamed tuna and pumpkin pie, I have comfort words, “Providence,” “hope” and “sublime” to name a few. I am always excited when I learn a new word.

Sometime in the 1990’s, my family was watching “Home Improvement.” Jill was having one of her talks with the fenced-obscured neighbor, Wilson. She was having trouble with her older son, Randy, and mentioned to Wilson that she believed that Randy was probably trying to “individuate” from her and Tim. That word caught my ear. I had never heard it used that way, and I took a psychology class in college (my worst graded class, by the way — that may explain a lot).

Individuate! Not only did I love the word and the way it gave my tongue a mini workout, I also understood immediately what Jill was talking about. As my children have grown, I have witnessed them “individuating” away from me. For some of them this came early, one at about a year and a half and one at three years old when she declared in front of many witnesses, “It’s my life” (this one was going to move out when she was 8), but the others were in the typical age range of 12-15 years. This is a hard stage of parenting; but I am in it for the long haul. I think I can, I think I can …

As I do with words and other things, I like to add my own spin. I think it is time for me to “individuate” away from my kids.  It was natural and exciting to pour myself into these little lives….but eventually, their personalities began to take over. Early on I should have known things were bad when after we got a set of Laurel and Hardy movies, I called my sister bemoaning, “Linda, I need to get out, I think Stan Laurel is hot!” Symptoms continued, singing the Rescue Rangers theme song while doing dishes, penciling in the “Good Luck Charlie” Christmas movie on the calendar and being more conversant with people under the age of 20 than my peers.

Those are the harmless aspects to full immersion parenting; however, things can get ugly. They are nice for awhile and then they turn on you. If you are not prepared, it can be brutal. “It’s not fair.” “You never do anything for me” “You like everyone else more than me” and, the topper, “I hate you” can certainly wear down one’s defenses. At first, I would indignantly defend myself as being a perfect and fair parent (LOL) and try to hide my hurt feelings. As they individuated away from me, I also had to individuate away from them.

My first step toward individuation was to build some strong battlements. I couldn’t be so sensitive. I had to garner some courage and fortitude to handle their time of individuation. In the process, I was delighted to find myself again. I didn’t need to spend every minute with them. I didn’t need to hover over them; I could pursue some interests of my own. I could listen to Barry Manilow instead of Tupac and Two Chains.

I still have young ones at home, and am appreciating the things that I used to love. Funny, I caught the 13-year-old listening to Barry Manilow awhile ago. That’s the best of both worlds.

http://pacifica.patch.com/articles/individuate