Art School

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I left home at age 18; headed for college that was basically paid for by my face.. It was the most wonderful liberating experience of my life! I’m certain my parents felt the same way about their lives as I was leaving, because while charming as I could be, I was a stressor to my parents all of high school. I think they were pretty much ready to pass the torch to the world to take over for them. I couldn’t have been more fine with this.

My first apartment had orange shag carpeting (which complimented our salmon colored sectional couch that was donated to us by my manager at a pizza joint.) I’m pretty sure we vacuumed up sand in the carpet eternally, because the previous renters had children that would dump their shoes out on the carpet after playing at the park. The best part about my first slice of independence from my parents, were the hissing cockroaches on the outside steps of the complex which gave a foreshadowing of what was to come inside our third story unit. Roaches EVERYWHERE. Little ones, tall ones, jumping ones, small ones. Ones that lived in our boxes and scattered the minute you opened them, ones that preferred the kitchen… ya know, just an extra added bonus which mortified us just enough to adopt a cat to eat all the bugs.

I lived with 2 of my high school friends who were also attending the same art school located a glorious hour away from our hometown and our parents. I believe after we were all settled, I didn’t call my mom for an entire month until she left a passive aggressive message on my answering machine about never calling her. I think we both needed that break and our relationship changed for the better being apart.

My college job was waiting tables with my sister Leah at her restaurant she had worked at for years. To this day, she has made more money being a waitress than I ever did with my degree. I hated waiting tables with a passion. I’m one of those people who doesn’t have equal control over both sides of my body and wasn’t too coordinated with the huge tray I had to carry. I hated every second and wanted to walk out. But alas, I had rent to pay now. I was a big kid.

I’ll never forget the day this hippie guy with dread locks and a hemp necklace came into my restaurant and left me a poem with his tip. He went to my school and completely schmoozed me. Poetry? Hello!!  That was the beginning of me dating my classmates. Of course it didn’t work out. My “Astrological Signs Birthday Book” pointed out that Scorpio’s and Capricorn’s would never make it anyways. That was practically my bible my first year in college. All sorts of New Agey stuff was introduced to me that first year. It was like a fascinating glimpse into the world for me after having been sheltered in Catholic school my whole life, as street smart as I thought I was during that time. Art School was crazy!

We had such an interesting class equipped with the quintessential goth kid, some witches, hippies (me), some jocks, kids whose parents paid their rent and didn’t have to work, kids who worked and went to school, punk kids, skater dudes, and The Christians. Oh, “The Christians” were the fundamental fun crushers! They were always inviting us to their worship prayer sessions and asking us if we’ve “accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior” and such. And of course I would scoff it off saying “My dudes, I’m Catholic. That’s pretty much the top of the totem pole of Christianity…duh.”  Of course I’m paraphrasing. But no wonder Catholics have such a bad rap sometimes because here, you had a non practicing fallen away Catholic representing the faith to a bunch of people who already disliked Catholics. I think that is the case for most of the bad reps of Catholicism.  You gotta be careful who you speak to. Any who. That was me, acting cocky and inviting people to parties at our apartment and loving my freedom and my sins while still claiming my Catholic label.

At one point after my sister’s ordeal with her husband, she gently mentioned to me; “Spring, maybe you should just date one person at a time. Like just pick someone and stay with that person for a while. Maybe be exclusive.” I had a tendency to not settle, like ever when it came to relationships. And so I considered what she said and took her advice picking one of my friends to settle with. Shawn. He was punk, had a few tattoos and piercings which was great because we had matching eyebrow rings. By this time I was 19 and Shawn was a tough guy. Ya know, a guy who wanted to “punch anyone who looked at me” type of guy. That was cool to me. No one had ever been jealous for me. He was also the first guy to tell me he loved me. He had cheated on me once before when a classmate of ours kissed him and he kissed her back, but he totally made up for it saying “He’s never met anyone like me and he wouldn’t let me go without a fight.” Like literally wouldn’t let me leave his premises until I accepted his apology. He locked the door and I was trapped. No one had ever fought for me before! He was equally resistant of The Christians as I was, thinking they were all a bunch of freaks wanting us to feel guilty for the things we liked. Shawn’s fallen away Baptist parents adored me. They couldn’t believe he had scored this “little Catholic girl” and they wanted to bring me into the family right.

Shawn and I talked about marriage (even named our future kids) and I believe when he asked my dad for my hand at age 19 (per my request he didn’t think he should have to) my dad wasn’t super easy on him. But my mom bought me a wedding dress anyway and all my dishes and a hutch to hold it all in and we were to be saving money for our big day. My parents were not sure about Shawn but they never let me know. I know every parent hopes and prays their child is making the right decision. I’m certain my parents had all forces going out in prayer for me, while still letting me find my way…

Shawn liked to use the money he made for more tattoos instead of putting it in our wedding fund. I remember his dad went gambling one night at the casino and won Shawn enough money to finally buy my ring. Before he officially proposed, I found out the most devastating news of my life from one of his family members. The person I was supposed to marry had a secret past I’d never known before. One that made me ashamed to be associated with him. Of course when I found out this news we were hours away at his parents house and once again I was trapped and couldn’t leave. I couldn’t call my parents because then they would tell me to leave him and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be in charge of my decisions. Eventually Shawn’s parents found out I had learned his secret and they blew it off as if it was nothing, denying the severity of the situation. I was so torn. I had spent almost a year with this person who I thought I was supposed to marry and he wasn’t who he said he was. I mean, I picked a friend to date and thought I was doing it all the right way this time! We were so serious that it was hard to separate that from the situation because I felt so committed already. So instead I chose to forgive him for lying to me and tried to carry on like normal. He eventually proposed to me with his opening line being,  “Can I trust you?” …Me? He wanted to know if he could trust me??? But I said yes to being with him forever.

From that point on, all we did was fight. Our wedding plans became him planning his bachelor party which sounded more like cheating on me, and I felt belittled. Trapped. It was like, once I had learned of his past, the true person was revealed to me. But I wanted to prove to my parents I knew what I was doing… I didn’t want to be wrong! They never knew what I was keeping from them. I felt I had to figure it out by myself… which was unbelievably hard.

Shawn slowly started to seclude me from my family. He didn’t like me being around them and he stopped coming with me to my family events. I noticed this and started to wonder if I was doing the right thing. I thought I had loved him. But I wasn’t so sure anymore… One day I saw a commercial advertising some Christian CD’s and … “Shout to the Lord” was playing on my TV and it brought tears to my eyes. I instantly wanted to go to my local Catholic Church and sit there and pray… I even drove there only to find the doors locked. I remember coming back to my apartment and Shawn (being let in by my roommates) was there and he said, “Why on earth would you go to church?” He was not happy with that idea and truly believed we should not have “God governing what we knew in our hearts to be right”. We got to make up our own rules. He was not open to ever going to church and there was a little part of me that possibly wanted to explore that again in the future…

Around this time I was working a new job as server at a steak house. There was this one guy who started working there after I was hired.  He had moved back home after living in Colorado…his name was Joseph. He just had this way about him. This confidence. This humor. I learned he was just a year older than me and had gone to a local Catholic high school, which for some reason intrigued me because that already meant we had similarities. He ran my food for me sometimes, and got down bread boxes for me… Ok, so no big deal right? I found that when we rolled silverware as side work together, I would hide my engagement ring which confused me and made me feel guilty all at the same time. Joseph really didn’t pay too much attention to me other than speak in movie lines all the time which made me roll my eyes and laugh at how funny he thought he was. I even tried to set up my roommate with him but she declined! I was shockingly offended that she couldn’t see what an amazing catch he was!

I took mental notes of all of this. Shawn and I would fight the same fights all the time. They never got resolved and it was exhausting. Would my life with him be like that? Would it be better after the wedding? I thought of my sister Leah and her telling me love didn’t have to be hard…  But I was so scared! I had a wedding dress already! And a hutch!! I was worried my parents would say, “I told you so” or be so disappointed in me for getting this far before realizing Shawn wasn’t the one. I had been with the same guy for a year and I felt like an old maid, which is ridiculous because I was barely over 20. I really didn’t think I had much to offer anymore and after being with Shawn for so long (in my book), I really felt my confidence was zero. I knew in my heart of hearts I had to make a choice. And soon.

I decided to do something I hadn’t done in YEARS. I prayed. And I prayed big. And specific! Like “zeroed in specific”. My prayer was articulate and heartfelt. It went like this: “Lord, I know I haven’t prayed in a really long time. I don’t even know if you are there anymore, but I need you. If I am not meant to marry Shawn, will you have Joseph come in to work tonight?”  (Joseph had the day off.)  I know. An impossible, outlandish request. But I needed an obvious sign. My whole world depended on it.

I was cleaning off a table about 2 hours later and looked up right as the big wooden doors swung open and in walks Joseph. I knew instantly that this was my answer from God and that no matter how foolish I felt, I knew what I had to do. The blast to my reality and senses that a prayer was answered so specifically for me, was the craziest feeling I have ever felt!

I had courage that came from somewhere all of a sudden, and so I went over to him as he stood by the hostess desk. I took his arm while turning our backs on the people up front, and I showed Joseph my ring and said: “I’m engaged and I don’t want to be. Can I talk to you?”

Yellow Light

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I do believe that “God can make straight your crooked lines”… I am tempted to worry about judgement from the outside world-like anyone else, but I’m more scared of someone wilting away in the lie that they are alone or doomed for a life of despair. So I share my life in hopes of reaching someone where they’re at. And if my story of fumbling for joy leads them to the Healer… Glory to God!

The reason I changed my blog name to “Fumbling For Joy” is because it sounds more true to my life than “The Bridge to Joy” 😉 and my own personal growth wasn’t a quick or easy transition. It wasn’t always pretty or graceful and some days I fell on my face. I searched for happiness in all the wrong places which, pretty much, makes me an expert in screwing up. Or something like that.

***

Most of my teen years I had this cloud over me. It hazed the way I looked at the world and my circumstances. While internally sad, I was good at appearing happy (in therapy it’s called pushing your emotional button.) Yet, I felt like I was waiting for something really bad to happen. I worried excessively about everything. I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when, this alleged bad thing was going to happen to someone I loved. Or to me.

Junior year I went to this amazing Christian retreat where at the end I made a public vow to respect and love myself in front of a whole room of teenagers. After the weekend I came back to horrendously stressful teenage drama at school. I forgot instantly the amazing faith filled experience I had just encountered, and back I was, in the pits. Devil-1, Spring-0. I figured that happiness and healing were for others and I was doomed for this reality of heartbreak; that all I had experienced on my retreat wasn’t real.

By junior or senior year I had convinced my parents that I was truly depressed and that I should be medicated.  I was hurting myself with the choices I made. I was continuously feeling hopeless and empty. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 17. I could barely get out of bed and I believed I should be punished for my existence. I was in hell and I didn’t care what happened to me.

I heard through the grapevine that there was a magic pill that would make the clouds go away. One of my friends took said medication. I tried a couple different versions of these happy pills, but all my troubles went unchanged. All it did was make me even more drained than I already was. I’d come home from school some days and lay down by the front door and crash. I could nap anywhere. My lifestyle didn’t help with any of that. I was a night owl with a sugary caffeine addiction. I was an extrovert who went out every weekend and most week nights. I did not want to miss out on a thing… Whatever I could do to escape the “blah” I did. I hated to be alone unless I was sleeping. Sleep became a powerful way to just shut off life for a while.  Things just felt so heavy…all the time.

I thought about doing choir, but the long gowns and churchy sound completely bored me to tears. My parents tried to talk me into swing choir like my older sister Leah, but singing and dancing did not fit in with my vibe I had going on. And the possibility of not being picked or being good enough crushed me and I had no courage to take that chance.

In art, there was no right or wrong, it was just my perspective. It was therapeutic and took me to my peace. I let my parents know that I wanted to attend art school for college and they were trying to figure out how to make that work for me. No one in my family had gone to college but they all paved their own paths in spite of that. It was going to be a financial pain for my parents to send me and we were trying to qualify for grants or student loans. My creativity was all I felt I had. Having to take prerequisite classes seemed like a huge waste of time to me. I wanted to spend my life doing what I was passionate about and only that. A technical school seemed the perfect for me. Get in, get out.

On a Sunday afternoon in the winter of my senior year, my friend Lacy and I were driving on our way to the library to work on a school project. She drove a cute jeep wrangler and I sat side ways in shotgun talking to her about the events of the night before. We were laughing and chit chatting while about to pass through an intersection. The light turned yellow and I recall my reality in slow motion as the white truck turned in front of us. My thoughts were: “It’s icy out; we may flip over” and “I’m not wearing my seatbelt”. And maybe a four letter word. I saw Lacy slam on her breaks (or shift down?) and before I knew it life sped back to normal speed and then my face was in the windshield.  I smashed out my front teeth on the rearview mirror and as I crunched down involuntarily on the pieces of my teeth, I screamed as the blood poured into my mouth from the gaping wound on my forehead. I remember thinking how disgusting blood tasted and how it was all over my amazing vintage cowhide jacket I had bought from a thrift store!

Lacy, who was not wearing her seatbelt either, hit the steering wheel before her head hit the windshield. I couldn’t believe it. All I could do was scream. I don’t even remember how we got out of the jeep. I just remember that people laid us on the sidewalk and a nearby neighbor gave me a t-shirt to hold on my head to stop the blood. I recall the ambulance ride and how attractive the male EMT’s were, and I was mortified that I was missing part of my front teeth which felt like jagged shards in my mouth.

Once at the hospital we couldn’t get ahold of my parents for hours. No one could find them because they had been in a movie. I gave the ER nurse my brother Mikey’s phone number and he came to the hospital to give permission for medical treatment. He didn’t know what he was walking into because the hospital only told him I was in an accident, but they couldn’t say if I was alive or not. I remember how he had to leave the room when they started the stitches. I still don’t know if he got sick or if he couldn’t handle seeing his little sister getting stitched up. Maybe both? I do know that my skull was showing under the flap of skin that was lacerated from my forehead. I probably would have thrown up too if I had seen it myself.

Finally, my parents came in the door after I got my stitches… I was so nervous to see their reaction. Would they be mad at me for not wearing a seatbelt? Or for ruining my smile they had paid so much for with braces? I was not prepared for them to walk in that door. I think I would have preferred anger. My mom immediately gasped and turned away clinging to my dad who looked so painfully sad and broken to see me like I was. That memory will be forever burned into my brain. It broke my heart to see them so worried. My mom was sobbing and said.. “Oh honey, look at her face!” and I was like: “It’s not as bad as it looks. It doesn’t hurt.. I’m okay!!”  I could feel their pain. I could see it in their eyes that it could have been so much worse. So much worse.  My parents could have lost their youngest child in a car wreck. I had been so selfish for not wearing my seatbelt and for thinking I was invincible. I also realized that I did care what happened to me.

I had my teeth repaired a couple of days after the accident.  The laceration on my forehead paralyzed half of my face for a handful of weeks while my nerves healed. I looked a little like “Cave Man Lawyer” from Saturday Night Live until the swelling went down. I would crawl in bed with my mom when my dad was working overnight on the railroad. I had these horrible dreams of hitting that truck whenever I closed my eyes. The dreams went away about 6 months later but I recall sleeping next to my mom at age 18, those first couple weeks after the accident, just needing to be close to her. It made me cry when I thought about the worst happening. I felt so much guilt for putting my mom through that scare.

I stopped going out as often as I used to the rest of that year. I don’t think I was making a conscious effort to change, I think I just became more withdrawn as the months went on. I became very introspective and stole away to coffee houses for hours to write and try to process this whole “life thing” and what it meant for me.

One day in the Spring of senior year, I got a letter that would change my life. I was accepted into art school and was getting a scholarship! I could hardly believe how happy I was!!

All the stress of trying to figure out how we were going to pay for college was wiped away after I received notice I would be getting a settlement from my accident which was nearly the exact amount of my college tuition. It seemed like a dream come true… like it was meant to be.

 

 

 

Vantage Point

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I am the youngest of 7 kids. My mom always assured me I was NOT a mistake and that they “left the door open” so God sent me. My parents were 38 and 40 when I was born. I grew up with a lot of people asking me if I was a mistake. Or if I was an “oops baby”.  My mom must have foreseen that happening and she prepared me well. I never felt not wanted.

I grew up with a sober, God-loving father, who tried his best to love us and pass on his wisdom he learned through his mistakes. Although all 7 of us kids have the same parents, my brother’s and sister’s childhood experience differs from mine. Admittedly, I probably had the best years of my parent’s life, as did my older 2 siblings who I primarily grew up with since the others moved out by the time I was a toddler.

I deeply loved my parents and my siblings, and at times I didn’t understand where either side was coming from when resentments would arise from the past. The first half of us kids grew up with an alcoholic dad and the last 3 grew up with “Sober Dad 2.0”. I felt it was my job to somehow hold us all together, if even just in my heart. I took on the unassigned mediator role from an early age.

A wise person once told me, “We are wounded people, raised by wounded people” and it goes back and back and back all the way to Adam and Eve.  No family is without flaw. My own family won’t be perfect either but it can still be beautiful in spite of it all. That’s why God created GRACE, to fill in all those parts of us that aren’t up to par so we can do the hard things. So we can be good forgivers and find that peace that only grace can sustain.

I had a wide age range in siblings and a couple were old enough to be my parents. I took so many mental notes growing up. Definitely do this, don’t ever do that… Little did they all know, I was learning from the “do’s and don’ts” of life based on their own life choices and influences. Some paths of theirs I took and other paths I went as far opposite from them as I could go.

But nonetheless my brothers and sisters were kind to me and I longed to have been included in their comical  stories of growing up, long before I was even a glimmer in my parent’s eyes. There were funny stories told and there were some stories that compelled a sibling to leave the family for a while. I like to think I prayed him back home 10 years later with all of my rosaries I said in middle school with my friend Missy, the one who prayed for me later on in high school.  I’m sure my entire family probably prayed for peace and forgiveness, and I do believe I will see it all healed this side of heaven one day.  When you know better, you do better. My father’s life is a testimony of how God’s grace can turn a broken life into something beautiful.

I may have been the youngest child but in my little heart, nobody better mess with my siblings! Particularly the ones I grew up with. Mikey and Leah. Mikey was the youngest before I stole that status from him by being born when he was 6. Leah was 11 when I was born. Those two were in every fond childhood memory I have.

When Mikey was in grade school he used to know this kid that bullied him. Not just name calling but pushing and shoving and tripping him. I would witness my dad giving my brother self-defense training and having pep talks with him on how to deal with this kid. Sometimes I would see my big brother cry out of humiliation from the bullying. This raised my mama bear radar…

One day when we were walking out of school (we went to a K-8 grade school together), and that bully yelled something mean to my brother as he was headed to the carpool. Lucky for Mikey I was there and I was ready to stick up for him. I yelled my kindergarten mouth off to that bully and I told him, really TOLD him: “he didn’t get to talk to my big brother like that”. Followed by a “DUMMY!!” or something sharp and thought-provoking like that. Ya know, something that stopped him in his tracks and really made him think about what he was doing. He turned to me and laughed his butt off and just as I was expecting to see my brother’s appreciation to me for looking out for him; I saw his face turn red with mortification as the bully yelled to Mikey that he was “such a weenie that he had to have his little sister stick up for him”. I was completely floored that my big brother was not proud of, but furious at me for “making things worse for him.”

But have no fear. Mikey grew up big and strong and those self-defense tactics ended up working in his favor in high school. Kids didn’t pick on him anymore. In fact I think that bully got a butt-kickin’ from that “weenie” in 11th grade; which shut his mouth from then on.

In fact, when I was in high school, Mikey tried to return the favor of loyalty to me in his own way. He’d heard I’d been crying in my bedroom, because after my very first date, the boy hadn’t called me back for 3 days. THREE days!! I was a blubbering mess. So Mikey and my dad went downstairs in the work room where my dad kept his vintage hunting rifle on display, and came up to my bedroom knocking. “Go away!!” I said, but they came in anyways with the unloaded shot-gun in hand. “Hey sis, I heard some loser hurt your feelings and didn’t call you back. Want me to go take care of him?” Oh my gosh!! And then my dad chimed in, “Yeah, me too! Let me at ’em! We’ll teach that boy how to treat my daughter!!” I think I laughed them both out of my bedroom. My heart swelled with love for them. Their efforts did not go wasted on me.

Then there was my sister Leah.  She was a beautiful curly redhead with bright blue/green eyes.  Her smile lit up a room whenever she walked in. Her perfume which she borrowed from my mom, left her scent wherever she went along with the waft of her Aqua Net hairspray.  Oh how I adored her! She was a good artist and was in charge of making all the family birthday signs. She taught me how to sing when I was little and would make up duets for us to sing together. She fixed my hair all the time and taught me how to put on make-up.
Leah kept me up to speed on all the hilarious stories I’d missed out on from my older siblings, because I wasn’t alive yet. They all used to live in this old craftsman house equipped with all the charm and a spooky attic that made for a lot of the best stories. So many adventures were had in that house that I wasn’t a part of.  Their life was so captivating and amazing to me. I was a child of the 80’s and the other kids in my family were kids of the 60’s and 70’s. It was like a whole other world and I was fascinated by it!!

Leah was involved in swing choir in high school and I got to go see her plays. She was so confident and cool.  She would introduce me to her friends as her “pride and joy” and they’d all say hello and tell her how cute I was. I wanted to keep her close to me forever and I would cry when she’d leave to hang out with friends. So while she was gone, I’d play in her makeup and try on all her jewelry. She only got mad when she couldn’t find something. So one day I decided to clean her room for her and write out in detail where I’d put all her stuff for her. Except I couldn’t spell yet. I had to ask my mom how to write every word as I sat at the coffee table, while my mom watched Dallas and Falcon Crest on TV. All my friends loved Leah and they looked forward to seeing her when they would come over too. I had the coolest sister on the block.

When I was about 10, Leah found the man she was going to marry. She was 21 but my mom was 18 when she married my dad.  Richard had us all smitten with him and he swept my sister off her feet. He was going to marry her and move her to another town. As happy as I tried to be for her, I was so unbelievably sad to be losing her. I cried the night before her wedding. My mom wouldn’t let me sleep with her one more time (something about a good nights sleep before her wedding day) and then she was gone. I got to be a junior brides maid and wear a long teal dress which was all the rage in 1988.

My sister fibbed to me weeks earlier saying that they didn’t have my favorite song to play at her wedding. But then the DJ announced over the microphone the dedication of “Footloose” to Leah’s little sister, Spring! I’ve never danced so hard in all my life! I remember my sister’s laughter as she saw me dance so furiously across the floor in my elation.

She announced a year after the wedding that she was expecting a baby. I was excited but it just felt like she was growing farther and farther away from me. I missed her terribly and now, good gosh, she was having a baby! She was totally not a kid anymore.

Well, Richard, who swept her off her feet, had not been cherishing my bright-eyed sister like she was used to. He actually tried to put out her light. He got rough with her sometimes and took away all the love he promised her. He told her lies about herself and refused to get help for their marriage. I overheard my sister telling my mom that sometimes she would be so lonely that she would cry in her closet hugging a teddy bear because he wouldn’t hug her anymore, just to punish her. My heart was broken for her. He took my precious sister and treated her like garbage and he was wasting her away. Leah gave Richard an ultimatum and when he refused marriage counseling again.. my parents and siblings drove to their town while he was at work; packed up everything that was hers from their apartment and moved her out. My brother Thomas joked that being how the towels were the only thing left, he was going to spray them with Rain-X so the bastard couldn’t dry off. It felt so good to get her out of there and back home.

Later that night around midnight there was banging at our front door. Leah’s car was parked out front and Richard had found out where she was. My dad went to the door but wouldn’t let him in. Dad said; “Richard, you’re drunk. Go home. You had your chance and now it’s time to leave.” But he kept trying to come in. My dad shut the door locking it and my parents called the cops. Richard continued to beat on the door and scream pathetically for my sister… I snuck down the stairs to Leah’s old room and climbed in bed with her. She was terrified and we held onto each other crying. Her window was on the ground level and she said “Spring, if he comes to the window and bangs on it, don’t scream or he’ll know we are in here.” I told her I wouldn’t scream. We soon heard the sirens come to the house and my father talked to the police officer as they dealt with Richard. Later my sister and I learned there were 2 cop cars and 3 K9 units at our house. Nobody knew what to expect, so they sent a brigade!

After months of counseling, Richard made his way back into my sister’s trust promising her and our family he would treat her right from now on. She eventually moved back to be with him. Three children and 10 years later, Leah asked me to meet with her late one night. I was already living in the same town for college and so I met her on a neighborhood street between our houses and hopped into her car. She had just found out Richard had been cheating on her and she knew it was the end. Forever. He was leaving her for another woman. This confident, vibrant, beautiful sister who helped shape so much of who I was… was devastated beyond recognition. Richard took 10 years of her life and left her empty, and was going to leave their children fatherless. What could I possibly tell her with only my 18 years of life experience that would give her any comfort?

Instead, I sang her a song asking how I could help her say goodbye…

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Tape

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When I was about 5, I remember telling my mom that sometimes when I am sitting alone, my heart feels like someone just hugged me yet there’s no one there. She explained to me that was Jesus telling me He loves me. I always thought that was so cool! From that point on I would kiss this huge charcoal drawing of Jesus that was in our house. It’s a famous print and ours was huge. The look of love sketched in Jesus’ eyes was so beautiful. It was my way of telling him “I love you” back. I knew it was just a picture, but I kissed it like you would kiss a photo of a loved one you missed. Sometimes if it was hung up too high and not accessible from standing on the couch, I would kiss my fingers and touch them to His lips.

When I was around 8, I remember sitting at my desk, which was also my vanity, drawing pictures and listening to music.  I remember watching myself singing in the mirror and sensed I was loved.. I just had this feeling emanating from within that I was precious and it felt like warm hug. I knew it to be truth… And it was awesome. And then I recall turning away to the direction of the music, hearing the beat and the lyrics and I felt this powerful pull… which was equally captivating, yet completely different from the other feeling. This one was more of an allure of something I didn’t know. And I wanted to know more.

I remember thinking to myself how difficult it would be to have to choose from the two experiences.  One seemed dangerous in an exciting way and the other felt like peace and light.  I made that note in my young mind, and it stuck with me the rest of my life. Not always in my forethought but always there. Like a book mark to resort back to at some point.  In hindsight, I believe it was a premonition of the war being waged for my soul, as crazy as that sounds.  But that’s the truth for all of us really. There is a constant tug of war for our souls.

When our family would go camping in the summers I would write songs during downtime. I didn’t have my tape recorder with me so I’d worry how I would remember the melody the next morning. My mom just told me I would remember, and she was always right. One summer when I was 10, I wrote 2 songs. To this day I still remember how they went and the lyrics! One was totally rock and roll (Think Pat Benatar style) and it was about lies. The other one was more of a folk song about rainbows and goodbyes. My parents would do all they could not to giggle when I sang these songs. I know now being a parent myself, that they weren’t laughing at me, but giggling because it was cute!!  I didn’t think they were taking me seriously enough.
I used to be really good at recording my voice on one boom box and then recording myself singing with myself on another boom box. I was layin’ down tracks baby! …Right over my Top 40 recordings from last weeks countdown. Oops. That was always a little awkward when I’d be playing my tapes with a friend over, and then all of a sudden my voice would interject loudly, singing random verses of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. I’d jump up like lightning to fast forward it.

I am a piano, guitar, and flute quitter. But I always loved to write. Journaling and poetry… I could get my thoughts out on paper and make sense of things. My brain wasn’t patient enough to put in the long hours of practice the instruments required, and it felt more like work than fun. But writing came easily and it was instant gratification.  I felt that way about art too. I made a comic strip as a kid and found other illustrator friends to draw with me and we’d sit for HOURS coming up with funny cartoon scenes. Art felt like play to me and before I knew it I was honing a lifelong skill.  

I didn’t really get into painting until I was 16. That’s only because my parents intercepted a note I had saved in a drawer, explaining in detail all the dangerous things my friends and I had planned to do that weekend. So I was grounded for month over Christmas break and happened to get a Bob Ross paint set as a gift. I taught myself to paint via Bob Ross book tutorials. It was like a whole new world opened up for me and I loved everything about painting. I was grounded from the phone and pretty much all of the outside world… At least I had something to do now.

My self-sufficiency and “tough girl façade” I brought over from the 8th grade into high school evolved into an apathetic state of “teenage nightmare” for my parents.   It felt nice to have my parents know the truth of my rebellion even though I was ashamed I’d made bad choices aka: (gotten caught). My dad took me to confession (didn’t get yelled at this time) and adoration at the Pink Sisters chapel. I really liked sitting with him, in that place of peace. He also had me attend AA meetings with him (he is a long time recovered alcoholic) so I could see what real life addiction looked like and stay the heck away from drugs or alcohol.  I enjoyed that time with him immensely. Looking back I appreciated being grounded. Then I didn’t have to choose not to go to parties on my own. I couldn’t go because I was grounded. I was protected from the pull of the world. Everything in high school seemed alluring and dangerous and exciting and “grounding worthy”. It was really hard to withstand that lifestyle because I secretly liked it.  I eventually had to write my parents an essay/apology to be ungrounded. Telling them I would never betray their trust and I would stay away from trouble. And I did just that, for a little while. Eventually I was right back where I’d started. And worse.

My depression escalated to a new level and I’d listen to depressing music that would perpetuate and agree with my mood.  I wrote poems and songs about the depths of my misery. I really felt like my life motto was: “Life Sucks and then you Die.” I probably  made it into a piece of art and hung in my locker.

We were heavy into the 90’s grunge phase then, with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Hole, and folk artists like Jewel who sang like poetry to me. I also listened to other female artists lamenting about their bad life choices and the misery it caused them when they let themselves be trampled on. Ya know, good quality stuff. (Eye roll)

I had a friend who loved my voice, and she was the only one I was comfortable singing in front of. She would ask me to sing and would tear up sometimes when I did. She liked to go to coffee houses and hear people singing their poetry on their guitars, lamenting all their emotions through song and so did I. All I could think about was how terrifying it would be for me to sing in front of people and how mad I was at myself for quitting guitar because no one hires an a Capella coffee-house singer! Not that I’d ever be brave enough to sing in public. Because: Debilitating Fear. But still! I was deeply saddened by the “false hope” she gave me that I could sing. She was biased after all. That Lie “You can’t sing” was engrained in my mind.

Life imitates art. I filled my mind with all of it. And my life choices reflected all I absorbed. I didn’t feel that peace or light anymore. I was addicted to the cycle of dark.  I really think in the earlier days, my music, television choices, magazines and movies drew me away from the Truth. If you saw the things I was watching or reading growing up…(my kids aren’t allowed to touch it!) Or the music lyrics I sang over and over again like a prayer or a vow… It all wrote the script I was believing in my heart. I believed that me being a precious girl worthy of love, was a big fat lie, like my thighs must be (because YM magazine said so). The world told me I was never good enough. It kept making me promises of happiness that only left me deflated and wanting. I was searching for things to fill that emptiness that never seemed attainable. I felt disposable, especially in my relationships with boys. I played the field quite a bit and got played myself which was always such a shocker to me. Like, how dare you! (but made for great subject material in my poems, believing I was the innocent victim.)  I based a lot of my value on how desirable I was to guys. I was always in a relationship through high school or working on getting in one. I loved the chase. And if the relationship didn’t work out, I had a back up plan already picked out. I measured my worth that way. It was a delusion of power while being completely unfulfilled inside. I didn’t want to be alone.  I wanted someone to save me and so far no one had those qualifications.

I tried on atheism for a while but it didn’t fit. After all, I’d dabbled in the Ouija board and had terrifying first hand experiences with the occult. I learned there were such things as evil spirits, so if there was a devil there had to be a God… There’s no dark without light. To say there was no God meant I had NOT experienced the provoked supernatural while playing the Ouija board the times I did. Oh, but I had experienced just that, and it’s forever engrained in my mind. So if I now believed in Evil, maybe there was a real God after all…   But I was still me, and I believed I was hopeless, even to God.

Do you ever feel hopeless?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reckless

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“You gotta be careful with this one… she’s extra sensitive. Maybe just shelter her a little more until she gets used to things. Don’t pass her around too much.”  My pediatrician gave my mom the above advice when I was an infant. My emotions were fragile even from the get go.  I recall how upset I would get when my big brothers would play fight when I was very young. I couldn’t differentiate between play and real fighting and I would cry when they would wrestle or “wrassle” as my dad would call it. I always thought someone was getting hurt and I would just bawl and move in to break up the “fight”. When people were sad it made me sad. I felt “all the feels” of those around me. I had a heightened perception of even other people’s emotions. At around age 5 or so, I remember my mom telling me, “Spring… you have such a big tender heart and that’s how God made you. You are such a loving, good girl.” And I believed her.

As an adult, I now suspect that I had an undiagnosed learning disability as a child. An obstacle that could have easily been corrected by teaching me the way I learn, which was different from the masses. But no one knew and that made my days pretty challenging. School had always been a struggle for me. I remember being in first grade having issues learning subtraction. My teacher used my paper as an example in class, to yell at the kids to pay better attention.  I had gotten almost all the problems wrong. I did pay attention, but I didn’t understand the concept. Later my little friend said, “I wonder whose paper that was that got all those answers wrong?!” I was too embarrassed to tell her it was mine.

I eventually had to get taken out of class for math help, in third or fourth grade with Sister Dorothy who was so frustrated with me that I didn’t “get” something that was so easy! Fractions were my nemesis! Eventually I stopped admitting I needed help. I lied and said I understood things when I didn’t.  I didn’t want to be different or stand out as the “dumb kid”. I pretty much took this approach throughout most of my school years even though my report card stated I needed help badly. I also earned the reputation that I was “lazy and unmotivated”, when in truth I was completely overwhelmed and in “shut down” mode not knowing how to say: “I have no idea what the heck you’re explaining to me” for fear of disappointing my teachers or my parents. Instead the tears would just well up when someone would try to go over something that was hard for me for me to grasp.

When I got into middle school that’s when I realized that a sensitive big heart may be my downfall. It didn’t do any good to be involuntarily transparent because others could see how much things bothered me. I could never stick up for myself because I was thick with emotion. I was bullied in 6th grade which set the tone for how I viewed myself down the road. My mom of 7 kids, who was assumed to be a great authoritarian in our big family, was hired by our school principal as the disciplinary lunch lady for about 2 years or so. I became the target of mockery and name calling and was pretty much the laughing-stock of my grade. I soon learned I was a geek, I was a nerd, I was stupid, I had an ugly pizza face, and the worst was, “You can’t even sing” told to me by one of the girls in the locker room after PE. I had been writing songs since I was 10 and my dream was to be a singer in a pop band. Oh the 80’s… I believed all of those kids and what they said to me because when you’re young, if enough people say it, it must be true, right? I don’t even remember how often the name calling happened but instead of the words bouncing off of me, it soaked in deep and made a home in my self-esteem.

So there was that. Later on that year I was taken out of volleyball due to my bad grades. This crushed me because everyone knew that I was benched at games because of academic probation. I really wasn’t good at volleyball anyways. When I was able to play, it was unlikely that my serve would even go over the net, but if it did, my dad would clap, whistle and yell loudly, “That’s m’girl- woohoo!!” Then we’d watch the ball go out-of-bounds. Either way, he’d tell me how awesome I was afterwards, and how proud he was of me, and I’d think “yeah, yeah…”

I had 2 best friends in 6th grade and if they were sick on the same day of school, boy was my day NOT awesome. No true friends to sit with at lunch was the worst, or having to play at recess with people who really didn’t like you. I got good at following the crowd just to laugh with and be included for 5 minutes and not be the “goody, goody” lunch lady’s kid.

By 8th grade my life was settling back to normal. My mom had quit her job at my school and the older kids in the grade above me had moved on to high school and pretty much all of the bullying stopped. I realized that year I was boy crazy. I got my braces off and I was starting to move out of my awkward phase. I decided I liked boys who didn’t take any crap from people, who appeared tough and didn’t care what people thought of them. I called them “Bad Boys”. My mom about had a heart attack when she found a note of mine I had saved, explaining to my friend my choice of boys. My poor mom.

I am friends with many people who will read this blog. My kids know some of my struggles growing up in an age appropriate way. I guarantee they have ideas of why I’m so strict. I’m very protective and for good reason. I’m pretty sure I have them convinced I can read their minds, so don’t even try anything because I will know! Ha. I told my older children that I parent the way I do, because of all the mistakes I made when I was their age. I tell them, “When you don’t know how much God loves you, people make choices based on how much they think they’re worth. Because when you know you’re a precious child of God, you LIVE like it.”  That day will come when I share everything with my kids. But not now. Even though I have raised them to be compassionate, understanding kids, this could go backwards for me during their formative years. I share with them plenty of stories though. They just don’t know where they came from. Like myself, I knew a lot of lost kids growing up.

A shift occurred in me the end of 8th grade.  I started up some unhealthy behaviors at age 14, you know, to toughen myself up, but I did hold onto a snippet of the truth that I was still “good”. I tried to mentor to troubled girls freshman year, telling them they “were good because Jesus doesn’t make junk” (a favorite saying of my dad). Eventually I got lost in the shuffle and common belief systems of all the other kids who didn’t know their worth. You know, the kids trying to be tough and not care, like me. By Sophomore year, I was pretty much lost. I was so immersed in my escalating rebellion that one day, my loyal friend from middle school came up to me in the hall between classes and said: “Spring, I see that you are going down the wrong path and becoming a person that you’re not. I want you to know I am praying for you. Jesus loves you.” Some people may have scoffed or taken that the wrong way. Or laughed their butts off. But I knew this lifelong friend Missy who was my BFF in 6th and grade I knew her heart. She had a Christ light so bright. I took note of what she said, telling her I would be okay, but I was already running full force in the wrong direction.

That same year in my Catholic high school, I was scolded in confession for telling the priest my sins. In hindsight, I thought I’d been scolded, but it was probably something a parent would say to their child like: “You’re just 15!! Why would you do that??” I was so put off and mortified by his comment. Some other students (my like-minded friends) got the same response from the same priest. We boycotted confession at school from that point on. One time, as my friends and I were boycotting the next class confession a month later, the superintendent of our school, also the head Priest of the school, came over to me and my friend and explained his disappointment for us not attending confession. We didn’t want to tell him why we didn’t want to go anymore for fear of chastisement, so we just stood there like statues. He told us the bible verse: Saying that (this is how God feels about us.) Rev 3: 16 “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!” I remember my friend crying after that talk with him. What I took away from that conversation was.. “You are vomit and God doesn’t want you.” It confirmed my deepest fears. I didn’t understand the context of the verse at the time and the priest didn’t understand that were scared to go back to confession because we didn’t want to get in trouble! But a lie was planted in my heart that day. If God didn’t want me, I didn’t want him either. I hardened my heart and made future choices that reflected that closed heart. I sank into a deep depression and tried to self medicate with choices that compromised my health, choices that compromised my dignity, and choices that got me involved with all things opposite of God, hurting my soul.

I proceeded to believe the lie throughout the rest of my high school years and into college that God didn’t want me. It affected every choice I made. It made for quite the suitcase of baggage that I carried with me throughout the years. Throughout the next half of my life actually, and into my marriage.

Have you ever felt lost or believed God didn’t want someone like you?

Maybe He’s been chasing after your heart all along. Take a listen

Reckless Love

 

 

This is My Brain on “Time”

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I have spent more hours than I care to admit trying to figure out how to put my words out there for the world to see.  I am not that old but I am OLD SCHOOL.. I know how to use my smart phone and I’m pretty sure I am not even taking advantage of 75% of what it has to offer because I don’t care enough to learn. I can call, I can text, and I can take 1,700 pictures and videos of my children and cats. That’s all I need.

So here I am, finally writing the first entry to my first blog. Well not really my first blog. My first one had 1/2 a million visitors (is that even a lot in blog land?) and it was strictly for my son who was battling childhood brain cancer. It was an instant blog for people with sick children to update on their kid’s progress. But I used it as therapy. That’s the time in my life I realized how cathartic writing was for me. Back then, I wrote in survival mode. My fingers translated my heart while typing the words I couldn’t say and didn’t know I was feeling. And I also didn’t edit. At all. I could barely remember anything but the necessities of the day let alone hitting spell check or fixing grammar. Even so, my point got across to thousands of strangers of all faiths who were joined in agreement and prayerful hope that my son would be healed.

I hope to do better this time with my editing. But truly, I write how I speak and sometimes I speak in run on sentences or fragments. So you’ll just have to learn my “Spring Speak”. My kids all call it “speaking Mom”.  Most of the time I jumble my words together or the wrong word flies out, just trying to get them out of my mouth fast enough before the kids stop listening. I only have 4 seconds to convey my thoughts!
I once had a friend from high school visit me 18 years later, and ask if I’d lived somewhere else besides our hometown because I developed an accent. I explained that NO, not only had I never moved to anywhere cool with accents,  but my children did this to me!!!

So here I am with 30 minutes left to either keep typing (heavenly) or eat lunch (SO hungry) before I go pick up one of my 6 kids from school and start the evening grind. So that means I have to snap out of my tunnel vision and “Mom”. I’m still in my pajamas. Yesterdays makeup is sprinkled all over my face. I’m pretty sure I haven’t put on deodorant…

I want to do it all. I want to date my husband, spend time with my kids, paint pictures, write poetry and music, sing in worship bands, and sit on a mountain somewhere in the silence and take in the beauty and colors of this life that God created for me… The beauty that I couldn’t fully absorb for nearly half my life due to depression. But most of all? I want to bring people to Jesus. I want to help them heal like He healed me. I want them to see the colors again…

If you’re tempted to think I’m someone you can’t relate to because ‘I Love Jesus and want to shout it from the mountain tops’, (true story) and you’re wondering if we have anything in common; please note: I’m painfully human. Pretty much all the mistakes I made in the first 3/4 of my life, pointed me to the only One who could make me new. So hold tight. The pieces of my heart are many, and maybe after you’ve heard parts of my story you can begin to see the bigger picture of how amazing God is.

Peace to you,

Spring