Latest Entries »

It’s All About Love

No, this isn’t a Valentine’s Day post. Just something I was thinking about on the way home.

I haven’t always known what was right or wrong in my growing up. For a long time I knew something was wrong and tried to keep the “outside world” from finding out what it was. Frankly, though, I didn’t really know what it was myself. I knew some things. But not everything. Then when I started wanting to talk to people about things, I didn’t know what was actually the “wrong” part of things.

 

So I remember times in high school and college when I would talk to people about my life at home, about the things I recognized as somehow being related to something that was wrong, but I just didn’t know precisely what was wrong. I think I often came across as a spoiled brat or as arrogant and entitled. I remember talking to a friend/mentor in college shortly before the end of the semester and saying, “My parents know they have to pick me up at the airport and they didn’t even save aside any money to go out to eat.”

Okay, that sounds spoiled and bratty and entitled. I realize this. Breakdown in communication. I consciously knew other people had a different life but still assumed the problem with this would be evident, as though somehow everything would be understood. But it wasn’t. If I’d been smart enough to break it down further, I would have explained the real issue in these smaller portions:

First, in this case, “go out to eat” didn’t mean, “Go out to a fancy restaurant,” or even, “go out to Applebee’s.” (That’s about as fancy as I get.) More like, “swing by a fast food restaurant.”

Second, the reason doing so was important is because every bit of money I earned at my job went to my tuition (straight there–I never even saw it) and I had absolutely no money to buy food in the airport in the 8 hours or so that I would be traveling. Further, I was getting in about supper time, and the airport was an hour and a half from our house.

Third, there was no guarantee of food at home. As it turned out, my parents brought some “food,” but it was Christmas treats. For someone who’s only eaten airplane pretzels and crackers all day, sugar wasn’t exactly what my stomach needed. And I remember getting back to the house and eating . . . oh, a can of green beans or something simple like that. Because, as I suspected, I couldn’t find a whole meal.

That’s just one example. I can think back over dozens of conversations I’ve had that I absolutely didn’t know what was wrong, or how to express it correctly.

But when it comes down to it, the most wrong thing was never the lack of food. There are tons of families with very little who still have wonderful relationships. Lack of money, and lack of certain necessities as a result, can often be hindrances to relationships. But then, so can too much money and distraction by stuff.

No, what was missing was love. I don’t mean a strong emotional attachment. I know our parents had (and have) a strong emotional attachment to us. But love is more than that. Biblically speaking, love is patient, kind, not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice in wrong, but rejoices in truth; bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things; and never fails. (I Cor. 13:4-8, summarized)

All I remember hearing from my parents was blame, shouting, reasons that everything was soemone else’s fault. I remember feeling scared, wrong. I remember an overwhelming sense that anyone who managed to figure out a secret or a mystery or whatever else was triumphant, and everyone else was stupid. I remember feeling like I was destined to fail, no matter what. Like it was impossible for me to every do anything right. The drawing I was proud of was met with, “You’re not very good at hands, are you?” I remember being downright shocked when my father expressed pride in me my senior year of college. I didn’t know he was actually proud of me.

So yes, the emotions of love, the attachments, were there. But the agape love, the unconditional love, that the Bible speaks of–the very Bible my parents claim to believe, and the agape (that’s pronounced ah-gah-pay, for those of you not familiar with Greek) love that comes from Christ alone as He changes us, was sadly lacking.

I often think maybe it’s my imagination, maybe because some things weren’t right, I’m exaggerating those things in my memory. Then a sister says, “I just realized I’m having popcorn for supper for the first time since I moved out of Mum and Dad’s house.” And I realize that the food really was lacking. And we kids really did get the blame, or (as mentioned in the link I shared near the beginning of this post) were called “selfish” because we were hungry and wanted a meal, as though it was our responsibility to think of our father first and not the other way around.

Here’s the thing: agape love is a change made through Jesus, but learning to think of others first can be taught. It’s not taught by saying, “Hey! Think of me first!” It’s taught by saying, “Hey, I love you and I’m thinking of you first.” Or, more accurately, by DOING that. Not in an indulgent way–that would lead to spoiled brats. But in a way that clearly shows that the needs of others come first. That is how you love. And that is what I don’t remember experiencing in my home as I grew up.

I Am Not My Parents

Okay, I’m just putting a warning out there right now, right at the start of this post: there is a high chance that this post could sound defensive. And in fact, it is. But not defending myself to other people. It’s defending myself to me.

The better part of a year ago, someone was mad at me for several various things–some of which I honestly don’t even understand still–and to this day I don’t know how much was legitimate and how much was based on other things in her life. But I’ve always been a firm believer that most things people say in anger, even if they’re largely untrue and just said in anger, usually have some basis in truth. Or at least in truth as the speaker perceives things.

This is what she said, or the general idea of it anyway: “Why can’t you see that you already have become your parents?”

This tumbles around in my brain frequently. It terrifies me. And sometimes fear can be a good motivator, but sometimes it can be utterly paralyzing. So for the times when I move from fear of becoming like them into a paralyzing depression that screams at me that I’m already ruined and can’t possibly ever be “good enough,” I am making this list.

Why I am Not My Parents

1. I am actively striving to improve. My mom will tell you that she’s a “terrible housekeeper,” but she doesn’t do much to try to improve in that. She’ll tell you that maybe she yelled more than she should have, but she doesn’t do much to try to improve in that. My dad . . . well, I really can’t think of any imperfections that he’ll willingly admit to, but there might be some that just aren’t coming to mind. At any rate, neither of them actively strive to change. They talk about it, but they don’t do it. Not only did I seek counseling on my own, and seek other ways (support/accountability housekeeping groups, striving to find my own groove to be able to keep up with things regularly, etc.) to improve, but I can actually look back just over the past three years and see marked differences and improvements in my life. I’m learning to throw things away without feeling anxious because it might possibly maybe eventually be useful. I’m learning to keep up with dishes regularly. Am I perfect at them? No. Do I have more improving to do? You better believe it! More importantly, I better believe it! And I do. And I work to improve. Because I am not my parents.

2. I don’t ignore problems until the last second. Okay, I have to admit, this one is DEFINITELY still a work in progress. It’s my natural tendency to. “If I ignore it maybe it will go away.” I don’t like to deal with the hard stuff. But I’m LEARNING to deal with the hard stuff. I’m learning to do things promptly and not ignore them until the last second. I’ve also been in circumstances when I know there have been some times that people have thought I ignored something until the last second when, in fact, I was actively working on the problem (eg. finding a place to live before it was time to move) but because other people weren’t privy to the process they seemed to assume that we hadn’t done anything. I don’t know why. Because I am not my parents.

3. I don’t blame the mess in this house on my child or expect him to just know how to fix it. Does he make messes? Sure. He’s a toddler. What’s more, it’s incredibly difficult to clean anything with a toddler. While you’re cleaning one thing, he’s uncleaning something else. But you know what? I wanted to be a mother. I decided to be a mother. And I hope to have several more little people eventually, making messes and making it difficult for me to clean. That doesn’t mean that I just let the mess grow. (I really hate when I see memes that say something about just not cleaning until the kids are in college. Intended to be funny, but makes me cringe. But that’s another post for another time.) It also doesn’t mean that I yell at my son for the mess and expect him to clean it up. If he was 8 or 10 or 15, it doesn’t mean I yell and expect him to clean it up. Not unless I invest in his life NOW and make sure he knows how to clean. Sure, he’s not even 2. I don’t expect him to do my dishes for me. I don’t expect him to clean things perfectly or without a lot of help and supervision. But he is my son, and it’s my responsibility to invest in his life and make sure he knows how to clean. If he unloads all the books from his shelf, with however much supervision it takes, he puts them back. If he takes his toys out, with however much supervision it takes, he puts them back. And that boy LOVES to sweep. Not very effectively yet, but that’s okay. He’s still learning. And I’m still learning too. I’m learning that I am not my parents.

Well, that’s only three ways right now. Maybe I’ll post more later. But hey, meanwhile, I have a few tools in my arsenal to combat my feelings of uselessness when I’m sitting in a house that I know was clean the day before, but somehow is extremely messy now, and I think maybe I should just give up because I’m somehow forever doomed to be just like my parents. The fact is, I am already not my parents. If I give up, if I refuse to try anymore, then, and only then, will I have become my parents.

Individuals . . . Together

Wow. It’s been a while. Quite a while.

Well, I did warn you all that I would probably post irregularly. Don’t know if this’ll be the beginning of another spurt or if it’ll be a single post before another long silence. Either way, I just have to get this out somewhere “safe” to get it out.

So here’s the thing: I love being with people. I love joking around. I love good-natured teasing.

But I also am very sensitive. And for all that I love people, I’m not very socially adept. Sure, I can walk around a crowded room and say hi to everyone there, compliment people, give smiles and handshakes and hugs, and just generally feed off the energy of everyone. I can also read some people really well, even right from when I meet them, and tell when they’re upset and might need someone.

I just don’t understand people. Not really. I love, as I said, the joking around and good-natured teasing, but I’m all too well aware that there’s often a grain of truth in that and sometimes I can’t tell where jokes stop and truth starts. I’ve had people tell me–in all seriousness and trying to help me, or just to be mean–that I was annoying because of one thing or another. So when people tease me, and especially when they tease me about those very things that I’ve been told I’m annoying about, I don’t always know when they’re just joking and when they’re serious. And I also can’t always tell this when people are teasing each other, and I want to step in and defend the person being teased. I am more sensitive to when someone is being teased and not taking it well, but if I step in and point it out, the person doing the teasing accuses me of being a kill-joy, and often the person being teased doesn’t want to admit to not liking it and . . . it basically just all ends up complicated and uncomfortable.

All my life I’ve just wanted to be loved, and sometimes I struggle to accept that God’s love is enough–but that’s my own battle to fight with (not AGAINST, WITH) God, and not something that other people should have to constantly keep in mind while they’re interacting with me. I realize that. But for all that I love people and want to just have friends, I constantly feel like I’m just annoying people. I’ve always studied other people, people who seem to fit in right, and seen how they joke around with people and how they interact, and tried to emulate that. Tried to take the good-natured teasing as such, tried to joke around and everything. I like joking and laughing. But my sense of humor isn’t the same as other people and I’m very sensitive. Sometimes it’s hard to know when I need to change something and when I need to just be who I am. When it’s a matter of being true to myself and when it’s a matter of needing to improve as a person.

For example: one person points out how much I interrupt people so I work hard to not interrupt. When I do accidentally interrupt someone (I don’t do it on purpose!) I have people tell me to stop talking, I talk so much, I’m so rude, I need to let other people have a turn. But then I see good friends interacting in the same way–interrupting each other, laughing and joking and not caring about the interruptions. And I wonder what it is about me that grates people so wrong.

Or several people say that I’m just constantly correcting people. So I try really hard and I feel like people make a point of correcting me all the time, but I’m not supposed to ever correct anyone. Yet I can never shake that image. Something about how I say things–even when I’m not trying to correct someone, but just adding to what they said–that makes people think that I think they’re wrong. And I can’t even figure out what it is so I CAN fix it.

Or when I’m asking clarifying questions or just sharing why I make a personal choice in my life, it seems like anyone I ever say anything like that to thinks I’m arguing with them. Or when I don’t take someone’s advice and they think I’m just ignoring them, when the fact is, I’m not just going to blindly follow someone’s advice. I like advice from several people and my own research to weigh all together and make an informed decision. But no matter how many people I know who do that, somehow from ME it becomes a slight or like I’m just arguing with and then ignoring someone, when all I intend to do is to ask clarifying questions and then ultimately make my own decision based on ALL the information I’ve gathered.

And the thing is, none of these–NONE of them–are isolated incidents. It’s just something about me that people seem to like when they meet me, but hate upon closer contact. Not everyone, of course. I do have some very good friends (some of whom will probably read this post). But overall, it seems like my social life is more riddled with misunderstandings and times I’ve rubbed people the wrong way, than it is with legitimate good interaction with a good friend.

I am in a group on Facebook with several people who have weird and fun minds like mine. But they don’t share one element with me: a love to analyze. I often get accused of being too logical, but it’s really not about logic, it’s about analyzing. Thinking. Which, contrary to seemingly popular belief, is not ACTUALLY a bad thing. I like thinking about reasons. I like thinking about possibilities. Sometimes that means thinking about logic. Sometimes that means thinking about nonsensical elements.

But when you’re in a group with a bunch of people who like talking nonsense, it’s the logical aspect that usually comes out. Just for the sake of balanced analysis. So, in that group, I have become known as the Vulcan. And one person in particular likes to tease me about being so super-logical. So today he posted a comic and asked if it was me in it.

Image

Fact: I love that. I love her reasoning and logic. I love the thoughts behind it. And really, I don’t mind being teased about being this logical.

What I do mind is this: I pointed out that we’re all individuals and just because something enjoys a joke differently doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy it. To this, one person said that I make her want to crawl back into her hole, and another (the person who posted the picture) said that yes, we’re all individuals, I just happen to be an individual wrong.

Of course, they were both joking. I realize that. But I also realize that a lot of humor has a basis in truth. And at this point, I just don’t know how much was just joking around, or it just sounded like the funniest thing to say, and how much (if any) was based in truth. Do I actually annoy them with my analytical way of appreciating jokes? I can see how it could be annoying, but I don’t actually do it every time. And simultaneously, sometimes I’m annoyed by that person’s constant insistence on joking incessantly and never being willing to make a serious acknowledgement of something. It’s like he’s an actor who refuses to ever break character, until I don’t know if there’s anything under that character or if he really thinks that way. And I almost feel like he would see that as a success, but I think it’s detrimental.

So. Ultimately, we all have different personalities for a reason. Western civilization is so focused on how we’re all individuals, but I think there isn’t enough focus on how the individuality all ultimately works together. We should all be improving as individuals, but we need to recognize that sometimes the “problem” we see in someone else isn’t really a problem, it’s another part of the mosaic of humanity. For instance, the person I was talking about can be a reminder to me that sometimes it’s okay to just laugh at myself (something I happen to not be very good at). I can be a reminder to him that sometimes it’s okay to NOT laugh about something and to take something seriously.

And we can all try to remember that some things aren’t moral imperatives, they are, as my father-in-law likes to say, “Not wrong, just different.”

I don’t know how to interact with people.

This isn’t entirely a new discovery, but it’s something that I’m learning more and more. I’ve always had people whose company I really enjoy and with whom I would like to be friends. I want to be around them. Just to hang out.

But most of the time, they don’t seem to want to be around me. Or they want to help “take care of me,” be there for me when I need something, but they don’t want to just hang out.

Somehow, this has led to a tendency to interact with people on the basis of needing something. I don’t like asking people for things. In fact, I downright hate it. Yet I feel so often like people just don’t want to be around me unless there’s something wrong, something I need, or unless there’s something they need that I can help them with.

I wish I had some major break-through to say on this topic. And this one–I’m not even saying that this has anything to do with my parents, except maybe that I’ve used my issues from growing up as a way of having people talk to me. (I didn’t invent things, mind you. Rehashed some elements more often than I should have, sure, but I didn’t invent them.)

But I don’t. My only break-through is a realization that I seriously have no idea how to interact with people. I want to be there for other people. I want people there for me. But that isn’t all there is, that can’t be all there is. I love laughing with people too, but somehow I end up too intense and even getting together and laughing together starts to feel like a burden, a strain on time. I even like getting together and just doing our own thing in the same room, just to be around each other.

I know that kind of friendship takes a long time to build for most people. But it doesn’t take me a long time to feel that close to others, and it’s so frustrating to me that it takes that long to build that friendship locally.

I do have friends. And a wonderful husband, who is most definitely my best friend on earth. But other than my husband, I don’t have many local friends. Most of them are spread across the country and (in some cases) around the world. I have one amazing close friend, one who mentored me throughout middle school and high school, and has been an amazing friend always. I don’t know how or why she’s put up with me, why I don’t become a major drain on her as well. But she is such an amazing blessing from God and I can never possibly repay all she’s done for me.

But she lives a little over half an hour away and often travels for work, so we can only get together every once in a while.

I have recently developed another friend, one who lives almost as far away as that friend. So far, things are fine, but having recently lost a good friend of many years to my own inability to interact correctly–and I don’t say there wasn’t fault on both sides, but I do know that the most major issues could easily both have been my fault*–I’m terrified of losing this new friend as well. I second-guess everything I say, I don’t know how often to ask to get together, or how often is too often. My intensity and social cluelessness has, in the past, driven people away from ever being a close friend, but I’ve never lost a close friend like that. Drifted away, sure, but never been cut off like that. And I know that, in this most recent case, I lost her as much for the things I did without realizing it, as for the things I didn’t do because I kept second-guessing myself.

And the worst part? I tried asking her how to do things differently, and I’ve tried asking other people how I could do things differently, and they’ve always said basically the same things that make me second-guess myself.

I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to be who other people need me to be. And that is all I have to say for today.

 

*The two issues that I know could easily both be my fault: she felt like I was draining her, I felt like she was draining me. I know they can definitely both be my fault because I don’t know how to interact with people. I made her feel drained because I didn’t know how to interact with her. She made me feel drained because I didn’t know how to interact with her. When she’d struggled with something in the past, I didn’t know how to know that those struggles were done. That was my fault for not making her feel like she could just talk to me about these things. This friendship was drifting apart anyway because we just don’t have enough in common anymore. A friendship may start with just a few things in common, but it can’t be maintained with only a few things in common. And since I’m obviously not good for her, I have no problem with letting her go, though I still miss her and it still hurts. But I wish it hadn’t ended with the anger that it ended with. She told me in a very loving way that she felt drained by me. I tried to say in a loving way that I felt drained by her, and was even ready to admit that that could all be my own fault and nothing to do with her, but apparently I didn’t say it right because she got very angry and started telling me things that I’ve done wrong to her, things I never knew had upset her. I’ve hurt her in so many ways and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s been many weeks, but I haven’t yet gotten past this or figured out how to repair things, not to the point of friendship, but just to get past the hurt and anger. I’m yet again in that place of not knowing how to interact–I should be the “bigger person” and go to her, but I have no idea how to, or if I’ll just make things worse.

And that ended up being a whole sub-blog post to the regular one up there, but I don’t feel like I can separate these, and since my ultimate goal isn’t readership anyway, but to just have my own outlet for dealing with things, well, I’ll keep it the way it is.

Contradictions

Sorry I’ve been absent for so long. I’ve had about 30 potential posts run through my brain, but always when I was doing something that didn’t even allow time to stop and jot the idea down. And I’ve had several things to work through mentally. So after all that, I don’t really have much to share–at least, much that I should share–except this major point of frustration that I’ve hit:

1. If you are financially stable when you get married, but the main breadwinner loses a job shortly after you get married, even if you spend a whole year searching for a job and living on savings that you DID have built up, apparently you weren’t financially stable enough to get married in the first place and should have waited until you could support yourself. I can only surmise that this means no one should get married until they’re able to live on savings for the rest of their life.

2. If you don’t work, you’re lazy. Even if you’re searching for a job and can’t find one. Even if you’re applying outside your field of expertise. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have a job so you’re lazy.

3. Don’t keep things bottled up inside. You must get it out. If you just stuff it down, that’s unhealthy. But don’t tell anyone. Or say it out loud where anyone could possibly overhear. Or write it down because someone might read it. Or record it because someone might see/hear it.

4. Keep a clean house. Because you’re a terrible person if you don’t. But stop worrying about cleaning and spend time with your children. Because you’re a terrible person if you don’t.

5. Similar to 4, make sure you put a lot into your job and try to get ahead. For your family. To support them. Because you’re a terrible person if you don’t. But don’t spend all your time working, your family needs you. So stop working and spend time with them. But work and make money to support them. But to make the money necessary to support them, you’re working too hard. Stop working and spend time with your family. But don’t forget to work.

6. If you don’t have money to spend on a gratuity gift (or, if you prefer, an obligatory gift) for someone, you’re financially irresponsible. This one really throws me for a loop. You’re taking care of your money and being frugal, but because you don’t have the money for something that really isn’t essential to life but is just expected based on the mores of our society, you’re financially irresponsible. For NOT spending money, you’re financially irresponsible. Mind boggling to say the least! (Kind of like the fact that if you thank someone profusely, it’s still not thanks enough until you send an obligatory thank-you card. Because apparently gratitude is only real if it’s on paper and written in a pre-formatted and stilted style. But that’s a separate irritant of mine.)

Are you catching the general drift of my frustrations? Everyone has opinions, and that’s fine. But sometimes it’s like every single person has an opinion on exactly how I’m not living my life right. And according to those opinions, apparently, a successful life is impossible.

And ironically, the thing that people push the most seems to be whatever they struggle with the most. “Stop cleaning and spend time with your kids, moms!” says someone who cleans a ton. “Stop texting and look up, you’re missing the moments!” says someone who spends too much time on her phone. “No, you already spend plenty of time with your kids, take some time to yourself!” says the one who needs a break.

I’m tired of it. No one is perfect. I’m still learning and growing. You’re still learning and growing. We’re all still works in progress. We can help each other and encourage each other and share the wisdom we’ve acquired with each other, but how about we give each other a little bit of a break? Life is a delicate balancing act. When someone is tipping one way, how about we stop shoving so hard that they fall off the other side instead? How about we just support each other sometimes? I mean, yeah, part of that balance is that we might need a little shove here and there. But not a barrage of shoves back and forth. We’re not tennis balls.

That’s all I wanted to say today. Not about hoarding, not about my childhood, not about my personal struggles right now. Just about the barrage of accusations that surround us, and surround us even more so since this lovely thing called the Internet came about. Let’s just remember that part of helping each other balance is to give each other a break sometimes. Speak in love, because you don’t know how many verbal (or written) shoves the person you’re talking to has received lately.

Amendments

It has been brought to my attention that my post Personal Cleaning Responsibility may not have exactly expressed what I intended to express. I want to make this clear:

There was a lot of cleaning to still do in the house. But we were not told the exact day we needed to be out (YES partly through our own fault of not checking earlier to verify it) until a few weeks earlier, and we had been told by our friend we lived with that he wouldn’t be leaving until Tuesday, in a way that made it sound like we could keep coming and doing different things in the meantime. We had worked hard and tried hard to get things done, but we just hadn’t finished everything. We didn’t know that there was a time crunch involving more to be done that weekend, rather than just having it done by Tuesday. Our plan was to spend as much of Saturday as possible, then all day Sunday after church until it was done. We literally found out Friday night that they needed more done that weekend and were moving some things in. So like I said, yes, it’s at least partly our fault that we didn’t know about some of this stuff, but I wasn’t frustrated about being told there was more cleaning to do, but about having someone check with us to make sure we were going to be doing it, and really, about that being the first time we WERE told that there was so much that had to be done that very weekend. Which I think was also partly because we were talking to the person involved who tends to be super easy-going, and the other one doesn’t know us as well and may not have felt comfortable mentioning it to us. And possibly didn’t even know that we didn’t know that. So basically, I’m just saying it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, especially not anyone else’s fault, it was just frustrating.

And the other thing is, I may not always come across this way, but when things happen I’m usually more angry at myself than at other people. This blog is my way of working out my frustrations, so yes, it probably sounds like I’m blaming everyone and everything else. But I’m seriously just really mad at myself because I can’t seem to rise above all of this. I’m getting there by baby steps, but I’m not there yet and I feel like I should be. And people tell me I should be–I’m an adult, part of an adult is just taking responsibility and doing what I need to do, just because my parents didn’t doesn’t mean I can’t. But it’s a LOT to learn all at once, and I’m not there yet. Then I’m mad at myself for not being there yet. And yes, sometimes at other people for not understanding why I’m not there yet, but I’m not REALLY mad at the other people. Most of the time, at least. And in this recent situation, I wasn’t mad at the other people. I was frustrated at the situation and mad at myself for not being a better person. So I try again. I’m doing better in this new place we’re in–fresh start–but not perfectly. But we’re at a sort of weigh-station right now, off again in just a few weeks, and then it’ll be a fresh start yet again. So this is where I’m trying to focus on doing well for a short time, so that it can become more ingrained and hopefully I’ll do better at the next place.

I am improving. And I am fully aware that a lot of things are my own fault too. Even if I don’t always come across that way in this, my venting place.

And that is all I wanted to say.

Yup, changing topics today. Because I recently found out about ConAgra Food’s Child Hunger Ends Here campaign.

As a child who was hungry a lot–or just eating the same thing over and over–this strikes a serious nerve with me. Especially when I entered a code and started exploring the rest of the website. It lists how many children face child hunger in my state, then it lists how many codes have been entered in my state. Some simple math told me that with the amount of codes entered in my state, there are enough codes entered to give one meal to less than 9% of the children facing hunger in Maine.

ConAgra Food brands that may have codes on them (taken from the Child Hunger Ends Here website) are:
Healthy Choice
Peter Pan
Orville Redenbacher
Marie Callender’s
Chef Boyardee
Hunt’s
Snack Pack
Manwich
Kid Cuisine
Crunch ‘n Munch
Rosarita
Van Camp’s
Wolf Brand Chili
Blue Bonnet
Egg Beaters
Pam
RediWhip
Ultragrain
Banquet

In the event that some of you (hopefully many of you–I hate when other people have been in bad situations) don’t know what childhood hunger in the United States looks like, let me tell you a bit about what it looked like for me. We had many times growing up that we had bags of popcorn for a meal, buttered or plain pasta several days in a row, etc. And the Ramen! Since I left my parents’ house for college, I have alternated times of craving Ramen and times of being nauseated by Ramen–and, actually, sometimes both, when I would crave it but be nauseated before I was done eating it–because I ate it SO much growing up.

We would get creative, too. Pasta with various spices and some olive oil mixed in. Sounds good, right? It’d be great with a salad and maybe some chicken. But no, I’m talking an entire meal of seasoned starch. And boxed mashed potatoes can be prepared without butter or milk if necessary, and still seasoned to be at least palatable. If there was a can of corn somewhere, hallelujah! That was a delicious meal! And would you like to know what Hamburger Helper tastes like without any meat? Let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend it. The flavor comes out significantly stronger and slightly different. But hey, it was something to eat.

Yes, we had a food pantry–at least one–near us. Eventually, when we were down to eating sugar out of the bag (no, we never had to do that, though I think my brother did it voluntarily, but it’s about where we were) my mother would say, “I guess I’m gonna have to break down and go to the food pantry.” Actually, I remember hearing her say this for at least a week or more before she finally would do it. When she finally went, there was finally food in the house. I went with her a few times. She would fill out a form saying our income and how many people were in our house. And then people would give us bags of food. Generic cans of sauce, apple sauce, and vegetables. Bags of sliced bread and jars of peanut butter. We knew how to spice the sauce and apple sauce (since none of it had spices) but the peanut butter was something else. It was like eating oil in a peanut texture. I think that’s how peanut butter-and-sugar sandwiches were born in our house, actually.

No, my life wasn’t like this the entire time I was growing up. We went through cycles. My parents didn’t budget the money, so one month we’d squeak by, another month we’d splurge on tons of groceries but may or may not get all the rent paid, and another it seemed like we had nothing for anything. We got reduced lunch at school, and sometimes didn’t even have the 35 cents for lunch money. I don’t really know what happened with the money to make the months so variable. But I do know that when we had lots of food in the house, we didn’t know how to “budget” the food either, and would eat about 3 weeks’ worth in a week or so. Then we had nothing again.

So all I’m saying with all of that is this: it’s not a perfect system. I’m not sure what a perfect system would be. In our case, we wouldn’t have been without food if my parents budgeted properly. (And believe me, people tried to help them do that.) We also wouldn’t have been without food if my mother had been willing to go to the food pantry more regularly. And to be honest, we were very rarely completely without food. But there were times I was willing to miss a meal rather than eat plain pasta or boxed mashed potatoes again. And there were most definitely times when we could have had food if we were willing to bake a cake. Literally. Marie-Antoinette jokes notwithstanding.

But right now, I’m not able to offer any perfect solution. This is not a political post about how to fix this. This is just a post of awareness, to let you know that ConAgra Food is doing something to try to fix this by partnering with Feeding America. In fact, The Pampered Chef has partnered with Feeding America in their own way, so you could do more through them too. Because no, this won’t actually end childhood hunger as long as there are parents who won’t do what they need to do and go get the food available for them to get. But if you buy a ConAgra brand and enter one code to give one child one meal, that’s something.

Additional note: please take an interest in people. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be today without the many people who took an interest, and even though they couldn’t take me from my parents’ house (though several did make phone calls to try to get some intervention), they at least took me out to meals, bought me food, and just showed me that they cared. There are children without much to eat but with very loving and nurturing parents who sacrifice to make sure the children have something. But there are way too many children whose parents do not nurture them, perhaps even neglect them entirely, and this is why they have no food. They’re all over the place, in cities and small towns. If you encounter one, if you have an opportunity to provide some small amount of the missing nurture, please do. It can change two lives–yours and theirs.

As of when I’m typing this, we still don’t have internet. Supposedly it was going to be on yesterday, but after a big long ordeal . . . well, suffice to say, it still isn’t.

But I’m personally more concerned about something else. See, we just moved. And someone else is going to the old place to clean today. Why is someone else going to the old place to clean? Your guess is at least as good as mine. There’s one more person living there until Tuesday. Some renovations are happening after that, so it’s not like it’s going to stay clean. And though we have some prior obligations during the day today, we’re going back this evening and tomorrow after church to get the rest of our stuff and clean.

I know most people would say, “Awesome! I don’t have to do all the cleaning!” But that is not my first or primary reaction. My reaction is more like . . . I cried when I found out they were going to be there cleaning today.

To be honest, we did as much Thursday and yesterday as we could. We had help Thursday, but I still have a young child and there’s only so much we can do with him while moving. Though he “helps” sometimes, it’s only so helpful and he still needs to be constantly watched.

And, as I said, we have some prior obligations today during the day and can’t be there until this evening. Probably at the expense of the better part of a birthday party that happens to be in the same area as the other obligations, and which I was really looking forward to attending. But duty first—we have to get the rest of our stuff out of there and get things cleaned. And I can not can not can NOT leave the rest of the cleaning to other people!

Why? Because the greatest shame of my life—more than when a friend told me she wouldn’t come over to my house anymore because it was so awful; more than when my mother would say things like, “It’s just impossible to keep the house clean with kids around”; more than when my father would say things like, “These kids complain about not being able to find anything to eat in the house, then I look and find things to make something fit for the [famous restaurant of some sort]”—more than any of that, the greatest shame of my life was when I realized that someone else had to clean up The Big House. The worst house we ever left.

And once I realized that, I realized someone had to clean up after us every time we moved out of anywhere. Whether we left behind a lot or very little, the place was always still a mess. Food splatters everywhere. Spaghetti still stuck to the ceiling from “is it done?” tests. Floors that we didn’t even sweep, vacuum, or mop on our way out. Sinks, mirrors, and windows that hadn’t known a cleaner since we’d been there. Sometimes some things that were broken—not necessarily even our fault, but that we hadn’t told the landlord about because then he would see the house. Not to mention the cat pee that was often left in carpets, and it’s hard to describe just what a toilet, tub, and bathroom floor that are never cleaned can look like when used by many people and several cats for a year or more.

To be honest, it’s not that we absolutely never cleaned in the time we were in each place. It’s just that it was mostly up to us kids, and frankly, we had no idea that the toilet should be cleaned at least monthly or more often. (Probably weekly for the amount of people we had in each house.) We had no idea that kitty litter should be emptied with a scoop every few days, rather than just waiting until the whole litter box was well beyond use and then dumping it all into the trash and refilling. We had no clue that we should be using a wand to vacuum the edges of the carpet, not vacuuming the middle and calling it good. We didn’t know how to pick up the little extra things that float around and get shoved into corners. If there was a clear path to walk through, wow, that room was clean!

I digress. My point was this: we left house after house after apartment after apartment after house with way too much cleaning left to do. I don’t know if my parents ever got a security deposit back. To be honest, I’m not sure they know they can get it back. (Well, they’re not stupid, they consciously know this. But I think they kind of assume it just never really happens and they blame it on unfair landlords or something.) So when I moved out on my own, I swore that would never happen. I will clean every place I move out of. I may still be learning how to keep a clean house while I’m there, but I know how to go back through and make sure it’s clean after I move out. No one will have to clean up after me.

But there’s something I still don’t have down: how to pack efficiently and get everything moved all in one day. I’m just not organized like that. I’m not efficient like that. I don’t know how to DO that. Which means I can’t just move everything out and then clean my way out of the house. (Especially not when our former housemate is still living there until Tuesday.) So I cleaned the whole bathroom. I wiped down the front of the cupboards in the kitchen, cleaned the stove, and mopped. Still need to move the fridge because there’s a ton of crud between the counter and the fridge—visible, but not accessible until the fridge is moved. I mopped the laundry room, but our bedroom isn’t empty yet to be mopped. The windows and mirrors have been cleaned, except the ones in my bedroom. The living room, dining room, and our bedroom have the most stuff still left in them. It’s just a matter of getting everything out and doing that last bit of cleaning. And even though they’ll get dirty again, I will still vacuum the carpets. Once all our stuff is off of them, they will be vacuumed. They will.

But people are going to clean today. What are they going to clean? I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out they already moved the fridge and cleaned up the crud in there that I didn’t clean yet. Maybe I’ll find they straightened out the liners in the kitchen cupboards and drawers and cleaned those before I had a chance to. Maybe I’ll find they piled all our stuff in one place and mopped the bedroom for me. Maybe I’ll find they cleaned the bottom of the full-length mirrors that my son smudged up with his fingers.

To be honest, I’ve done most of the biggest cleaning. Other than the kitchen sink, cupboards, drawers, and space between the stove and fridge, there really isn’t that much to do. But I still hate the idea of someone else having to do it.

There’s so much organizing to do in our new place, and I want to get more of it done before the landlord comes in an hour or so to fix something that wasn’t quite ready when we moved in. Yet all I can think about is that today, someone else is going to be cleaning up after me.

Note: I wrote this several days ago, during the move and before we had internet again. Some of the details have changed a little–for instance, I apologized profusely for not being there to help finish all the cleaning, and was assured that it was okay. Some things frustrated me more, some things assuaged my frustrations. But basically, by now the whole house has been cleaned one way or another and I’ve more-or-less moved on with life. But I still figured I’d share this since it’s what I was thinking/how I was feeling at the time.

Blame

This is going to be a quick post, but I’m going to be internetless for a little while starting tomorrow. Not sure how long – anywhere from a couple days to a month. And I wanted to check in with you all really fast first.

So . . . I have discovered that everything is my fault.

Okay, clarification: I’m very good at finding a way to feel like everything is my fault. I’ve told people this before and they seemed to think that either I was kidding or I was just fishing for attention. But I’m serious. Whenever I get mad at someone for anything, I ultimately end up mad at myself for not being a better person. I inevitably believe myself to be more at fault than the other person.

And what does this have to do with anything at all? I have no idea. But it’s really bugging me tonight because a lot’s going on and everything that happens, I keep finding a way to blame myself. I’m sure it’s related to my growing-up years. Or something.

Honestly, I don’t really feel like thinking about it right now. Just felt like sharing in general, to (in some small way) get some frustration out.

That is all for now. I’ll be back . . . when I’m back.

My Mother, the Robot

I will get to talking about my father. I promise, I will. It’s just . . . right now I still can’t even think of something to write about. I can’t seem to nail down a memory. And the way to do that is probably to actually start writing something.

But not today. Today, I’m going to talk about my mother.

See, my father is a hoarder. My father has severe anger issues. My father is exceptional at putting on a show in public and at blaming everyone and everything else for what happens. For years I’ve wondered if he really blames himself or if he is genuinely convinced that nothing is his own fault.

But my mother . . . I don’t know what my mother is. She seems like she has nothing of her own, no personality, no nothing. Everything is programmed into her.

You know how some babies are extremely active before they’re born, or extremely laid back from birth, or in other ways just very distinct in their personalities even in utero? And babies that aren’t usually begin to assert a distinct personality by a few months old? My own son used to cry until he was moved to a different location, even just at a month or two. He required alone time–time in his crib when he can just scream for a while, even though he doesn’t nap–almost daily since he was five or six months old. He has a very distinct personality.

Well, I don’t know that this is true, but I picture my mother as a baby. I picture her not smiling automatically, but learning when to smile based on what other people do. Not like most babies do–smiling on their own, but eventually learning social cues for smiling and laughing. No, I picture her doing it only when other people did. I picture her learning–well, everything, her entire personality, from those around her.

She went to college for a career that never seemed to fit her quite right, but wasn’t quite wrong for her either, like it was just what made sense with her life rather than something she was truly called to. She even got her master’s, not only in that career, but in a technology-based facet of that career. My mother is not technologically inclined. At all. She got her master’s, but she got it because she reproduced exactly everything that was taught in the class. Because that’s what she does. Her brain has a 1:1 input-output. She doesn’t make connections, she doesn’t draw her own conclusions except precisely has she’s been taught to do. Sometimes it’s like she has no mind of her own.

And that doesn’t sound exactly fair either. Because that makes it sound like she’s a doormat, just going along with whatever she’s told. And that’s not true. But her decisions are based entirely on how she’s been programmed. I know cynical people who have claimed that that’s all anyone does, but trust me, it’s not. People have their own personalities, their own inclinations, their own gut instincts, that are maybe learned by experienced but that are altered by who they are. That’s why my siblings and I all have different reactions to and perspectives of everything that happened as we were growing up. I’m more focused on the blame, anger, and yelling. I remember that more. One sibling is more focused on the hoarding thing as the primary problem, where as (despite the name of this blog) I tend to see that more as a symptom among a myriad of others.

[Because I knowt hat sibling is reading this, I will specify: I know she knows that it's not the only problem. It's just where her focus tends to be more. Just like I know it is a problem, yet it's not where my focus tends to be first, or where my hurtful memories dwell.]

So yes, people learn from their environments, they change and grow, or don’t grow, in part due to their environments. But that’s the key: in part. They have themselves that they put into it.

I don’t know what my mother’s “self” could possibly be. I’m not entirely convinced she has a “self.” It’s like she’s just what other people have put into her and has nothing of her own. I just don’t know how else to describe her.

So! What does this mean? It means that my mother a hoarder. My mother has anger (and other emotional) issues. My mother is good at putting on a show in public and at blaming everyone and everything else for what happens.

I’m just not convinced that any of this is of her.

Does this mean she’s less at fault for all of their problems? Not in the slightest. She married him. She allowed herself to become this. I have a very hard time believing that anyone really has nothing of themselves, no matter how much my mother may seem like it. Somewhere in there, there MUST be a person who is her own. And by letting everyone else program her instead, she is at least as much at fault.

Unless my mother really is a robot.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.