Tag Archives: family

Rebecca Kathryn

…or Kate as the world knows her.

She is my sister-in-law, my husband’s little sister.  (Incidentally, it’s pretty great when you marry an amazing man who comes with an incredible family who loves you like their own!)

Truthfully, I started this post to push through some writer’s block.  Kate has always been an “emotional portal” of sorts for me.  You see, I’m not an overly emotional person.  I’ve been asked before if I ever cry.  I’ve been likened to a robot and had my heart compared to that of a cow.  Clearly, I’m not very sentimental.

There are many times when I desperately need to “lose it” and can’t.  When I know I’d feel better to ugly Oprah cry for a few minutes.  When I need to feel awake or alive or you know, human.  Whenever I’m really stuck, I can think about Kate and it takes no time at all for my rusty tear ducts to get to work, for the words and inspiration and feeling and life to come back.

My first memory of Kate was in the den of her parents’ home in Columbus, GA.  She was reenacting some scene from Drop Dead Gorgeous.  She was just as silly and beautiful and fun when I met her at 16  as she is now.  I don’t know anyone else like her.  She is this rare breed of fun and spontaneity mixed with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.  She is sassy and passionate as the day is long, but she is the most tenderhearted and loyal friend you could hope for.

I turned 33 a few weeks ago.  Kate surprised me with a birthday cake made from scratch.  If you don’t know her you can’t possibly appreciate that sentence.  This is the girl who just a few years ago had to call her friend to ask how to make boxed mac n’ cheese.  It’s like THAT.  She made me a two-layer homemade cake with homemade icing, y’all!  It was the sweetest and messiest gift ever.  As I sat across the kitchen table eating cake and laughing with her, my heart was full.

Kate is most known for 2 things:  dancing and laughing.  She’s been dancing for 20+ years and any time I see her on (or off) stage dancing, my heart leaps.  She’s a Rouse, so she’s been laughing from birth, I feel certain.  That laugh is unmistakeable and infectious!  It melts away self-consciousness instantaneously.

She’s one of the only people I’ve never tired of.  I’m always happy to see her and always sad to see her go.

Seems to be a bottomless ocean of love I have for that girl…even if she does keep me waiting and is always dressed better than me.

She makes me better.  She makes me grateful for life in all its beauty and complexities.  She’s one I could never do without.

______________________________

Who is home to you?
Who is your “emotional portal”?
Who brings light with them on your darkest of days?
Who are the people in your life that make you feel alive?
Who are the ones who make you want to be more yourself than you’d ever dare to be otherwise?

Those are your Kates.  There can’t be many.  Probably just a handful.

In fact, one is enough to make the poorest soul rich.

rouse gallery (220 of 242)

Choosing My Own Adventure

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

My husband and I recently attended a parenting class hosted at Renovatus based on the popular book Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk.  The second week of class revolutionized my life.  It was literally mind blowing to me.  In the lesson Silk declares that we’ve all bought into the great lie that we can be controlled and that others can control us.  The longer I thought on this, the more apparent it became that I have swallowed that belief hook line and sinker.  And while the point he was making was largely confined to how we raise our children, I knew this was far bigger for me than my 2 & 4 year old.

I grew up an Army brat.  My father grew up an Army brat.  My grandfather, my father, my uncle and my cousin all graduated from the United States Military Academy.  My grandparents were married there and are buried there.  Heredity has bred in me a profound respect (dare I say fear?) for authority and a serious understanding of the value in a chain of command.  To this day my father could put his hand on his hip and point his finger at me and I feel certain he could reduce me to tears without even raising his voice!  My sister and I were never spanked because the threat of my mother telling my father on us was enough to correct almost any disobedience on our part!  Ironically, neither of my parents are particularly controlling people.  They are not manipulative or coercive or overbearing.  However, respect and obedience were core values in our home and were taken very seriously.

Now let’s take a moment to couple my upbringing with my temperament.  I am a rule follower and a people pleaser.  I like (dare I say need?) for everyone to get along and to feel cared for.  I am easily influenced by a compelling argument or an impassioned case.  While rational and reasonable, I am not overly trusting;  yet I can be manipulated  by authority or strong personalities.  I presume they must know what they are talking about in order to be so dramatic or insistent!  And in this way, I can live a lot of my life at mercy of others with their intense feelings, opinions, and pseudo-authority.

Subconsciously, my primary life goals then and now have been to avoid making mistakes, to keep the rules, and to make the people happy.  THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE!  Don’t get me wrong- these are decent objectives.  They just aren’t compelling or healthy life goals!  There is no adventure, no real freedom nor sense of self in those pursuits.

Realizing that day in class that no one could control me honestly felt utterly scandalous.  I’m sure I have understood that logically in the past, but never in such a way that made me feel liberated to take ownership for my thoughts, feelings, and choices.  Historically those things have always been incredibly contingent on others.  And if I’m being really honest, not living so contingently on others feels selfish when I do it, though it sounds healthy & right when I see others do it!

These days I’m putting a lot more effort into acknowledging myself and owning my thoughts.  I have a voice.  And it’s just as valid as the overly dramatic person’s or the overly confident person’s.  I am in control of what can offend me.  I can choose what I like even if no one else likes it.  I get to decide how to respond in any given situation.  Much like the books we read as children, I really can choose my own adventures in many ways.  I can do all of that and be a loving wife and mother and friend and leader.  It is possible and IT IS GOOD FOR ME.

These are new muscles I’m learning to flex.  I’m grateful for the people around me who won’t let my sense of self atrophy– the people who know when I’m deferring when I shouldn’t be, the ones who know to ask me the questions sometimes as I’d much prefer to hide behind asking all the questions of you instead.  Without them I’d surely give myself away to following the rules and avoiding mistakes and trying to make the world happy.  Instead, I think I’ll flip to page 52 and see what adventures I can get into.

The Constant

My sister, Trish, and I haven’t always been as close as we are now.

We use to fight over everything: who got to ride shotgun, who got to wear Mom’s earrings or whose turn it was to have a friend sleep over.

When I was 3 she convinced me to touch the electric fence in our backyard. When I was 8, I was insanely jealous that she got to go to the Tiffany concert and I didn’t.  (Can you blame me?!!)  Over the course of my entire childhood, my sister would find it amusing to sit on me, pinning me down and then proceed to pop my toes until I could break free.  She still thinks this is funny though it wasn’t and still isn’t.

I was forever blackmailing her and tattling on her. (In my defense, she was always getting herself into trouble. I was just using her rebellion to my advantage!) She was always trying to boss me around and I was always shouting “you’re not my mom!” at her.  It was a rocky decade or so.

Fast forward to 1993.

A shift happened when Trish left our home at the time in Mons, Belgium for college in Abilene, Texas.  I actually missed her! And I realized my need for my sister in her absence more than I could have known in her presence.  I was 13 and my parents were on the verge of divorce.

Fortunately for me, she came home to Georgia when they actually did file for divorce a year later.  That was the summer before I started high school in a new town.  Trish and I shared a room in an apartment with my mom. It was the first and only time in our entire lives that we shared a room.  (Luckily that didn’t last long!) For the next four years, I would have my sister by my side helping me navigate through the drama and friendships and relationships that are in full effect for any teenager.

Trish took me to freshman open house and dropped me off at band camp.  She attempted to teach me how to drive stick shift (which incidentally almost sent her into premature labor with my nephew)!  We ate pineapple pizza at crazy hours and watched the same movies over and over together.  She was always in the stands to cheer me on playing soccer and conducting half-time shows.

During that same season we watched our father remarry and our mother begin to date.  Both surreal experiences, I might add.

We survived it together, me & Trish.  When the foundations of our family began to be re-negotiated in every conceivable way, our sisterhood was the thing that remained.  It was the constant in the tumultuous equation we were forced to solve.

We stood beside each other on our wedding days.  Trish married an Army officer and moves every few years all over the country.  (In fact, he deployed for Afghanistan on the day of my wedding! What a bittersweet day that was for her!) We don’t see each other very often and don’t get to “do life” together now that we are adults.  But she remains a constant.  She’s my first phone call when I need another mother’s advice.  She’s who I want on the other end of the line when I have a problem I can’t solve or a crisis to weather.

I now have two daughters.

Lucy & Penny are 25 months apart to the day. They play and laugh and hold hands. They push and grab toys from one another. They vie for their parents attention and affection.  They hurt each other and cry and hug to make up.

I am smart enough to know it’s going to get harder before it gets easier for them.  They will likely slam doors and say hateful things to one another (especially in middle school, I predict)!  They will compare themselves to the other in academics and sports and appearances.  They will be each others’ source of comfort and frustration, seemingly simultaneously at times.

For as much as they will change and grow and make their own choices, it is my forever prayer that they always play and hug and fight and laugh and cry together.  Because they are sisters.  And, praise God, there’s no changing that.

Ladies, We Just Don’t Know The Whole Story

There is great wisdom in thinking before speaking, for following a thought through before opening one’s mouth.  We’ve all been both transgressors and victims of careless (or at least less than thoughtful) questions or comments.  And I am willing to bet that the vast majority of our awkward and hurtful exchanges could have been avoided if a little more consideration had been paid upfront.

Specifically, I want to address wounds inflicted among women.  And more specifically, when women inquire of other women about their desire, or lack there of, for children.  It’s usually done innocently enough: “So, when are you guys going to start makin’ some babies?!” or “Why no kids yet? You know there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ time!”  Right.  Or how about when we bring up each other’s sex lives when we ask, “So, are you guys trying right now?  You gotta try a lot!”  Keep Trying. Or when we put our foot a little further in our mouth when we do get a reply, but misinterpret it as an invitation to dig a little deeper:  “Well, don’t worry- it’ll happen when it’s suppose.  And you know what they say, stressing about it makes it even harder to conceive!” Thanks for the tip.

Ladies, please hear me.  There are times and places and relationships in which these conversations are more than appropriate.  What I’m referring to is when an intimate family choice is discussed flippantly and casually, as if it were commonplace and open to the public.  I know we don’t mean to offend and certainly don’t set out to hurt each other, but inevitably, without proper care we end up face to face with a woman who is:

In an unhealthy marriage and praying to God she doesn’t get pregnant right now

Struggling with infertility and all the shame and insecurity that comes with it

Trying really hard to be supportive and content and full of faith in light of her husband’s infertility

Recovering from miscarriage #3 and really wants to hit you right now (please do not say anything remotely like, “it just wasn’t the right time” or “it’ll work the next time” or “it’s probably for the best”)

Content and at-home in her decision not to have children, but who still has a hard time communicating that choice without feeling judged or condescended to (“Oh, you’ll change your mind eventually!”)

18 months into “trying” and getting nowhere, who has spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests and ovulation kits, and is praying that this month will be the month that the stupid stick produces a plus sign for once!

Still reeling from postpartum depression & sleep deprivation like no other and if another person jokingly asks when she’s ready for Baby #2 she might just implode on the spot.

The list of potential scenarios could go on and on.  I do not mean to make anyone fearful to ask a question or have a meaningful conversation with someone.  I am simply suggesting that when discussing issues of family planning to consider the nature of your relationship with the woman, choose your words carefully, and be mindful of your context.  Maybe a dinner party or waiting in line for the bathroom is not the best time to discuss the most successful positions for conceiving.  Or maybe what is easy for you to talk about regardless of the time or place, is not as easy for others.  Be discerning.  Express interest, love and concern with as much propriety as you can muster.  And when those times come when we are on the receiving end of a well-intended word that feels more like a blow to the uterus, let’s agree right here and now to find a gracious way to say as much to one another.  Let’s acknowledge that we rarely know the whole story and ignorance is no excuse for recklessness.  Let’s love one another carefully.