Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sidetrack Sally, Suffering and Sacrificing

Since I was raised a good little Catholic girl, I always gave something up for Lent. Usually candy, soda, chips...I was always a healthy eater--insert eye-roll and confession that I lived a whole year on cheese puffs and Tang. Although I moved away from the Catholic church, I love Jesus and have always identified with His praying, fasting, and meditating and wanted to offer something in return.

Now, to quote my friend Jen: Let me back up a minute. Whether it was the church, my family, or simply my own perception, I came to this conclusion as a child: Suffering is good, and the more you suffer the better of a person you are. Since Jesus suffered tremendously, my wee little girl mind believed that by suffering, I could earn favor with Jesus. 

So my takeaways from a childhood of Catholicism: Suffering and guilt. When I was about Lily's age (6), I used to kneel for hours in church on November 1, All Soul's Day, praying for souls in purgatory and unbaptized babies in Limbo. Always an intuitive empath--though I didn't know that until my 30's when an honest-to-goodness definition for my particular neurosis emerged bringing validation and relief--this weighed on me tremendously. In my little kid mind, unless you left the confessional, did penance, and then dropped dead, you were probably going to go to purgatory for a couple hundred years until some good little girl prayed you out.

And what about people who had no family? What about the orphans? I hoped that God would make exceptions and use my excess prayers for them. When I think about this as an adult, as a mother, it makes me sad. I want to give my little girl self a hug and reassure her. My darling son is an empath too. He would agonize over souls in purgatory.

Back to Lent, see why my kids call me "Sidetrack Sally?" So, I share my feelings and interpretations about Lent with my own children not as a way to make them feel guilty or as if they need to suffer, but as a way of acknowledging Jesus' suffering on our behalf. No pressure. Chloe is taking 18 credit hours and running 5 miles a day. I didn't mention this to her: She's all ready suffering enough. Peyton gave up computer games. Lily went back and forth and ultimately chose soda, but last night she climbed like a spider monkey onto the counter to finish Brad's Coke, so we might need to revisit that.

I chose alcohol. I'm not an alcoholic. And for those of you who know me, I don't drink excessively anymore. Yes, I know I had a drink in my hand in every Florida picture. Have you been to Key Largo without your kids? Cut me some slack. The point is: I really enjoy an adult beverage. I love a good glass of wine or a craft beer. One of our friends brews his own beer. It's AMAZING. I'm looking forward to enjoying one in 30-some days. So, I thought this would be a good sacrifice as well as a liver cleanse.

If you're still here, you probably need a beer. This post was rough and disjointed. Maybe I am an alcoholic. Maybe this is what withdrawal looks like. Go ahead. Have a drink. Call my girlfriend; we made a pact never to let the other drink alone. She'll have a beer with you. She promised.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Always Say I Love You

Most people have a hero. Or at least someone they admire. Someone who makes us want to be better, be fearless, be who God designed us to be. Our pastor says, "Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better." 

For me, that person was my brother Chris. 

  • He wasn’t afraid of anything. 
  • He was the first person ever to tell me he loved me--my family didn't say I love you; you just "knew"--and he told me all the time. 
  • He took me to Cedar Point with lifts in my shoes so I was tall enough ride every roller coaster. 
  • He taught me to drive automatic and standard. 
  • He bought me a trampoline so that I could be as good of a gymnast as he was. 
  • He drove my best friend and me to cheerleading practice in his Corvette and laughed as all the girls whispered and blushed and said, “Who’s that???” 
  • He made me drive that Corvette on the highway when I only had a permit. “I’m scared!!” I said, and he replied, “You should be—you’re going 25 on the highway. It's a Corvette! Put your foot on the gas before you get us killed!” 
  • He took my best friend and me to see INXS, my favorite band, and bought us wine coolers. 
  • He dated beautiful women, who became my big sisters and trusted friends.
  • He was the coolest person I knew. 
  • He jumped out of airplanes and promised me that when I was 16 he would take me. 
Unfortunately, he died 5 days after my 16th birthday. I never jumped out of an airplane.

The last time I saw him he gave me a card congratulating me for getting my driver’s license and reminding me to go at least the speed limit on the highway. He hugged me and kissed me and told me he loved me, and I never saw him again. 

I’ve heard lots of stories about who other people thought he was. I have heard negative stories. There is truth in them. But he will always be the big brother I adored and admired. I see glimpses of him in my kids every day and wish they could have met him. Chloe has drive and determination. She pushes herself harder than anyone I know. Peyton has his feet, hitchhiker thumbs, the same curls around his ears, an adventurous spirit, and the ability to make me smile regardless of the circumstances. Lily is fearless. She does flips off the end of the couch and makes my heart stop on a regular basis.

When he died, my heart shattered. But God has slowly healed it using the love of my family and friends to fill in the cracks. Often, I wish I had told him how much I loved him and admired him, but I always thought I'd have a lifetime to do that. I hope he knew. For the past 24 years, I have dreaded my birthday because it reminded me that in five days it would be the anniversary of his death. This year, I got my birthday back. Even though I will never forget him or the pain his death brought our family, this year the love and joy finally overcame the sadness and grief.

I've wondered many times what I learned from Chris, and there were many lessons. Don't let fear stop you. Live every day like it's your last. But the most important is definitely: Always say I love you. You never know when it will be the last time.