Friday, June 25, 2010

A Friendly Face . . . in Downtown L.A.

Upon entrance to Disneyland Resort on our vacation last week, there was an 'All-Star' clad Mickey Mouse on display in honor of the upcoming All-Star Game.  It seems that scattered throughout the city were other Mickey's displaying pride for all of the teams in the MLB club.  It just so happens that to kill some time before our plane departed to bring us home, we decided to make a stop on Hollywood Blvd in downtown LA. As we headed to lunch at the Kodak Theatre shopping center, we stumbled upon this handsome fellow.  It was a sweet surprise for all of us and we couldn't resist getting a picture with the best-dressed mouse in town. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My life today . . .

I would like to warn you before you go any further that this is a VERY LONG and not a particularly touchy, feely, sunshiney post about the joys of motherhood or how much I love this wonderful Northwest weather we're having or even how much fun I had this weekend.  What follows is a nitty-gritty, down and dirty, ugly and honest truth about my day today.  If you're not in the mood to hear my sob story, stop here.  However, if you are interested in my honest to goodness, unpretty, non-foofooed, emotional reality, I would appreciate it if you would read ahead, keep me and my family in your prayers and comment with any encouragement or honestly with which you feel lead to respond.  ~Mandy

I'm not going to lie, today has been a rough day emotionally.  Call it PMS, seasonal affective disorder or plain ol' stress.  It doesn't really matter, the tears have felt almost non-stop all day.  Most days in our new surroundings are manageable but some days, the crazy pace of life and the loneliness gets the better of me and I overflow seemingly at the drop of a hat.  Today was one of those days.

Now, I am aware that in the grand scheme of life, things are pretty good.  I have a job, a roof over my head, money in the bank, a husband, family and friends that love and support me and a beautiful, charismatic daughter.  But like many of us, I also have dreams and desires that are unfulfilled.  I feel guilty sometimes because I know there are others out there with challenges much greater than my  own.  Those who are without jobs and have been for many months, or even years.  Those who have lost husbands, who are battling sever disease or walking through life with someone who is.  Those who have lost precious children.  The list goes on, I know.  But as a wise woman (who lost her husband suddenly at a very young age to a brain aneurysm) once told me. . . the size of anyone's pain is really irrelevant.  To compare yourself to others and make admissions for your own hurt is basically useless (thought I don't think she would EVER use that word specifically) because to each of us, our pain is unique and no matter how great or small it may seem, it still hurts and that hurt is very really to you.
So please bare with me as I invite you to be a witness to my "pity party".  I ask that you would extend grace and prayers to a woman who is just trying to find her way most days.
As many of you already know, Kenton and I felt lead last fall to leave behind our (large) home, our friends, two church families and a great deal of security for new opportunities in Olympia, WA.  We felt very strongly that the Lord laid out step-by-step the path to take.  He opened many doors for us, making it impossible for us to deny that He was at the heart of the plan.  However once we reached what we incorrectly thought to be our final destination, we lost sight of the path,  Possibly, it was our own fleshly understanding of what the path was going to look like or perhaps we began making our own plans, rather than letting the Lord reveal HIS plans to us.  Whatever the reason, thing have not been as easy or freeing as we had hoped. 
We expected for me to take a full time job with the state in order to allow Kenton to cut back to part time work (or not work at all) in order for him to focus more time on his schooling and become a full time (as opposed to part-time) student.  We expected to have enough money to add a few necessities to our budget that we were not able to have in Oregon (like clothes, co-pays and car maintenance) and to have enough money to save for the future (a fully funded emergency fund, down payment on a house someday, etc . . .).  We expected to have more and consistent time together as a family, with both of us being home in the evenings. And we expected to find great childcare for Jilly similar to the options we had been blessed with in Oregon.  But . . . none of these plans came to full fruition.
I work 40 hours a week, M-F, outside of the home in a job that has proven itself to be extremely frustrating and discouraging for a forward-aspiring, technologically advanced, big picture thinker like myself.  The people, for the most part are friendly and kind but the work is mostly, mundane, tedious, and significantly lacking in efficiency.
I arrive home at 5:15 to a often delicious dinner.  prepared by my adoring husband (for which I am very grateful).  We sit down immediately so that we are able to eat dinner together as a family and most days Kenton is out the door at 5:45 for his swing shift at Fred Meyer.  When he arrives home around 11:30 (on a good night), I am sound asleep and he does not want to wake me, just in case I am preparing to fulfill my desires of going to the gym before work in the morning (at 5:30 am).  My alarm goes off in the morning, loud enough to wake me, but quietly enough to allow hubby to stay asleep.  On a good day, I get dressed and head to the gym (it's a 50/50 shot as to whether this happens or not) which usually depends on whether or not I have given in to my natural night owl tendencies the night before. I return home to shower and get ready for my work day.  Usually by this time, the Bean has crawled in bed with Daddy and they've both fallen back to sleep.  Most days, Jilly wakes up as I'm walking out the door (usually in a mad rush to get to work on time).  It's sad to say, but I prefer the days when I am able to sneak out unnoticed, only because I am not bear the sleepy eyes, outstretched arms and longing desire for mommy to give her cuddles. 
Now, if you know my girl at all, you know that she has never been a cuddler so when she comes to me on my way out the door wanting nothing more than for me to sit down and hold her, and I can't, it is heart wrenching.  And so my day begins again . . . .
Though we are grateful that cutting back to part-time work has allowed Kenton to limit his availability and thus give us Saturdays and Sundays (until 5:45pm) to have quality time together as a family.It means just enough money to get by (and not nearly as much as many people we know need to live).  Even now, nearly four years into our journey, I wonder how single income families do it. And more often than not, I am envious of them no matter how they manage to accomplish this.  I know it is not right and I do love my SAHM friends dearly, but it is still a challenge I face most days.
Kenton's schedule and not having someone at home in the evenings to watch Jilly has made it very difficult for me to get involved in any small groups or Bibles studies as I have yet to find on in the evenings that offers childcare.  Once in a while, I might be able to schedule a sitter but the budget really does not allow for that to be a regular occurrence.  And so far we have found no opportunities for a married's group or Bible study the we can attend together because of the childcare issue &/or Kenton's work schedule.  So aside from my walking buddies at work (who are old enough to be my mother and have grown children of their own), my mother and Facebook, I have yet to establish any other relationships that can offer me any support, encouragement, or just female interaction.  This simple (and very HUGE) fact makes for significant loneliness most of the time.  And especially on days like today where I just want to have someone understand the challenges of being a Christian mom who works outside of the home full time.  
When you add to that, the fact that Kenton is taking full-time classes online through PCC in order to obtain an associates degree in Computer Science (which we hope will allow him to get a job that gives us opportunity to turn the tables on our current situation) and taking care of Jillian during the day, squeezing in studying during nap or TV time, it is hard for either of us to keep up on the daily duties of maintaining our home.  I can't tell you the last time the bathroom floors were scrubbed or the mirrors were cleaned.  There's currently about 4-5 loads of laundry waiting patiently in a pile in the living room waiting to be folded and we're extremely lucky if any of us can find clean underwear or socks on a given day, much less that they be in the appropriate drawers or shelves. 
All of this while raising a temperamental toddler who takes after her mother (and is having bedtime battles of will MOST nights) and the gloomy whether outside, I am tired with little to no time or energy to keep my composure all the time.  And with dreams that seem so unreachable given current circumstances.  Dreams of being self-employed, owning a home of our own again someday and expanding our family.  Most days, if I think about them too much, I get tear eyed.  And some days, I am strong enough to let go, lay them at the foot of the cross and say . . .  "Father, YOUR will be done."  On days like that I am grateful and rejoice in faith, but on days like today, I just cry.