Yesterday, I overhead one of my kids lying and manipulating someone just to get what they wanted. I had one of my kids talk rudely to me in front of their friends at school. I had another tell me all the reasons why they can't do the right thing in a situation where they know the right thing to do.
And I talked (yelled) at one of my kids in a way that still has me reeling from it even this morning.
Seriously, who is that woman and why does she yell like that?
They're not to blame for my yelling though.
That's on me.
They don't cause me to yell - that 'yeller' is already inside of me, just waiting for an opportunity to come out. And that makes it a 'me' problem, not a 'them' problem.
I can't count the number of times I've prayed that God would change my heart so I never yelled again.
I can't count the number of times I've locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the fan (so I couldn't hear my kids) in order to prevent myself from yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've gone to my husband, asking him to handle a situation so I didn't start yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've sought council from wise women about what they do to prevent themselves from yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've laid in bed at night crying because of my yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've been thankful for the morning, feeling like it was a new beginning that hadn't yet been soiled by my yelling.
Sometimes, weeks go by and I don't yell.
Other times, I feel like I'm walking in a mine field, and any misstep is going to cause me to explode.
I don't really blow on account of mistakes because I make plenty of mistakes myself. And I don't typically blow on account of kids acting like kids because I can handle kids.
I blow it when there are lies though. I blow when there is disrespect. And I blow when it's the exact same problem day after day after day without any visible attempt to change or to do the right thing.
I don't write this proudly.
I do write it in fear of judgment though.
I've been around people who no longer have kids in the house and forget just how hard it is. In fact, I'm one of those people. I was just talking to Ross (my oldest, who is 23) the other day and said, "You never did the things these kids are doing!" to which he replied, "Oh mom, you romanticize everything! I did all of those things you've mentioned. You just forget."
And I've been around people who are patient and soft-spoken by nature, so yelling isn't something they've ever had to battle. I've never been patient or soft-spoken though, and I come from a long line of yellers (yellers I love), which makes it a hard, ongoing battle for me.
It's just so dang easy to judge a struggle you've never struggled with.
I'm quick to apologize though.
I'm also quick to point out my flaws and the fact that I hope my kids will remember my good attributes enough to adopt them in their own lives, and my bad attributes enough to steer clear of them.
And I'm quick to forgive.
If you ask any of my kids to list their favorite things about me, 'quick to forgive' will always make the list.
Do something wrong, but then come to me, apologize with sincerity and hug me, and it's as if nothing ever happened in my book.
I was talking to Josh on the phone yesterday about a struggle I was having with one of the kids, and he said, "Maybe that's why our kids keep doing what they're doing - because they know you'll always forgive them and act as if nothing even happened. Maybe you need to not forgive them so quickly in this situation so they can see what it's like in the real world where there isn't so much forgiveness."
He called back a few hours later to recant on that advice though and said, "It our job to love and forgive them the way Jesus does, not the way the world does."
And I believe that's the truth.
I also believe that the more I focus on myself and how I'm feeling (how frustrated I am with their grades, how much they've hurt my feelings, how little they seem to notice the non-stop hours I put in as a mom, how sad I am about their choices, how mad I am about the perpetual mess, how exhausted I am from keeping it all going, etc.) the more I yell.
Anytime I take my focus off of myself though, I start to feel the yoke of my yelling begin to lighten.
One of the problems is that by our very nature, we think constantly of ourselves. (Seriously, try NOT to think about yourself for a day and you'll agree.)
And society only fuels that problem with non-stop talk of SELF-worth, SELF-love, SELF-truth, SELF-knowledge, SELF-esteem, SELF-ies, etc.
I think all that talk of 'self' just leads us to be SELF-absorbed, SELF-centered, and SELF-ish.
All the research says that the problem most of us suffer from is low SELF-esteem, but whether we have high SELF-esteem or low SELF-esteem, they both stem from the exact same problem of thinking about ourSELF too much.
At least that's the problem in my house...everyone (including me) tends to think about themSELF more than they think about anyone else.
The other problem though is that that only way to quit thinking of ourSELF is to set our sights on something better than ourSELF (Jesus, love, grace, joy, giving-back, forgiveness, the generational impact of our families, the community impact of our generosity, etc.).
When I look at it in that light, it seems so clear that mySELF sucks.
MySELF sucks the life, the joy, and the meaning right out of me. It sucks my emotions dry. It sucks my energy dry. It sucks my potential dry. And it sucks all of my relationships dry as well.
So I have to quit allowing mySELF to suck those things dry, and have to start refilling them with something better...
Day Two of our Spring Break trip was a bit of a bust because someone forgot the battery charger for their camera, which meant they had to shoot sparingly until they could find a camera shop that carried the appropriate camera charger. (Thank goodness this person's spouse is wonderful, and didn't voice a single complaint.)
So we got the truck loaded up.
And got back on the road.
Not before taking a group shot in front of the 'Welcome to Maupin' sign though. (That's a hard-boiled egg in Josh's mouth, and a bad framing job that excluded (most of) me from the shot.
My little cousin, Roshelle told us about some falls just outside of Maupin that were a sight worth seeing.
There was also a sight not worth seeing at the falls. (Cole woke up with the biggest attitude ever.)
He decided he wanted to make his own path down to the falls, despite the signs along the path that warned otherwise.
And his attitude only worsened when his dad insisted he stay on the path with us.
Thankfully, Josh and I were still in good spirits, despite the ever-increasing teenage angst, and the ever-decreasing battery power.
Josh spotted a really cool, old building by the water, so we made our way down there.
I could have shot in that building for hours (if I had more than 1/4 of a camera battery left.)
I'm not sure where that smile came from, but I assure you, it didn't last.
And then we got back on the road again in search of a battery charger.
But then I spotted a pretty field and asked the kids if they'd be willing to stop for a few shots.
Two out of three were willing.
And as the saying goes, two out of three ain't bad.
But then my husband reminded me of the fact that we really didn't have a moment (or a battery) to spare and that we needed to start picking up the pace.
So we settled in the car for a looooong drive.
Which took us through some pretty stinky areas.
And we only stopped when it was an absolute necessity.
And then for a short while, the clouds seemed to darken, but Coley's attitude seemed to lighten.
And we stopped for lunch.
Josh and I have the loveliest unspoken rule...I plan and shop for all travel-related meals and he prepares them.
And then we were on the road, yet again.
While Josh drove, I spent time on the phone and on Google Maps trying to find a camera shop who carried the battery I needed. The closest shop turned out to be in Boise (which took us 6 hours off of our intended path), and they closed at 5:00.
About an hour before we got to the camera shop, we saw a sign indicating a time change (we lost an hour of time), which meant we were going to arrive about five minutes after the store closed. We called the store to tell them about our dilemma, but they didn't care. Thankfully, we found another camera shop at the mall who stayed open later.
Since we were already at the mall, the kids pleaded with us to have dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. And while I love(!) The Cheesecake Factory, it doesn't really meet our criteria for the kind of joint we eat at on Spring Break. Then again, big cities and malls don't meet our Spring Break criteria either, but that's where we found ourselves.
So we had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.
And then we rented a hotel with a pool (also per the pleading of our children) where Josh spent the evening swimming with the kids while me and my camera battery recharged in the room by ourselves.
And alas, I've got some Spring Break photos for you...
If I remember correctly, we were packed up and ready to hit the road by 10:00 a.m.
The kids had no clue where we were headed.
And aside from knowing the state we were going to (Idaho), I didn't know exactly where we were headed either.
Idaho is a long drive, so that meant lots of time in the truck.
And lots of pit-stops.
Everyone was so excited about the trip though.
And everyone was getting along.
And everyone was in such a good mood.
Josh and I even shared funny stories (that didn't feel so funny at the time) about trips past, when we had argued, and how stupid those arguments seemed now since we couldn't even recall what they were about.
Our kids are all at ages and are observant enough now to notice pretty quickly when Josh and I aren't getting along though, so even if we're just being quiet with each other, one of them will say something like, "What's up with you and dad? Maybe one of you just needs to do the right thing and apologize like you always tell us to do?" (It was so much easier to have an argument with my husband back when my kids were clueless.) But because they didn't even know we were arguing, they love hearing stories about seemingly 'perfect' trips when we weren't getting along.
I even had a smug moment while telling those old stories when I thought to myself, "I think Josh and I are finally past all that - I think we're much better friends now, and are much better at giving each other grace." (I think Yans got poked in the eye, hence the tears.)
Day Three of our trip would prove me wrong though.
We live in Western Oregon (just a couple of hours from the beach), which means we had to drive through Eastern Oregon on our way to Idaho.
That made Bend the perfect place to stop for lunch.
Especially since we know a restaurant there with great hand-cut fries.
I'm a fry snob. (I snub previously frozen potatoes.)
Ironically, Josh and I were in an argument the last time we ate at this restaurant.
Not this time though.
This was one of those days when I couldn't get enough of my husband.
There are lots of those days.
Sometimes he's a jerk though.
Other times, I'm in one of those moods where he can't win no matter what he does.
He mocks me and my Jekyll & Hyde perspective of him every now and then by saying (in a voice that sounds nothing like mine), "You're the best husband in the whole, wide world! You're the biggest jerk ever, I don't even know why I married you!" (Annie found that tree laying behind the newspaper stands.)
We've had our fair share of struggles, but mainly, I like him (a lot).
After lunch, we made a quick stop at the grocery store so I could get stuff for dinner (and I surprised the kiddos with some orange Tic Tacs, which were my favorite when I was a kid.)
And then we were back on the road again.
With weather that was literally putting a damper on our Spring Break trip.
Somehow, we've lucked out with perfect weather every year until this (rainy) year.
Like past years though, Josh made a Scavenger Hunt list for the trip.
And amongst the things that could earn a person points, was spotting a 49' Ford.
It's my dream car.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be a 51' Ford.
But dang, it was pretty.
I've got my fingers crossed that we find a blue one someday.
The fellow who owned it opened up his garage to show us his other cars.
That one there was the car he took his wife out in for their first date, 33 years ago. (He had sold it, but then found it years later and fixed it up.)
And then we got back on the road (yet) again.
With a car full of sleepy kids.
All except of this kid...
She eventually gave in to though...
They woke up for a few minutes when they heard there were wild horses.
It was dark by the time we arrived at our first destination, Maupin, Oregon.
Just in time to start dinner.
Josh had reserved a couple of cute, little fishing cabins for us.
With two cabins, it created the perfect opportunity for the kids to lock each other out until we finally got tired of it and told them to knock it off.
And then Courtney journaled.
While Cole tossed his hat at a target (Annie's head).
And landed it.
And then we hung out while our bean dip warmed on the grill.
And Yans drew on her face.
And scrubbed it off.
Then Cole read.
And Courtney journaled (some more.)
And then we had bean dip (but I was too busy eating it to take photos).
And then we set up Guesstures.
Boys against girls.
That looks like baseball.
And it looks like Courtney and I guessed it right.
Begging? Pleading? Praying?
Waving hello? Waving goodbye? Subject movement due to a slow shutter speed?
Us girls were ahead until Courtney Lee decided she'd rather journal some more instead (and then the rotten boys started to dominate).
And then there was some wrestling.
Which didn't end well.
And then there was some (really) funny, but not blog appropriate use of some fish head bookends.
And then it was time for Day One of our Spring Break to come to an end.
Spent Sunday afternoon out at my Uncle Donnie and my mom's house (my uncle bought this property from my mom/his sister quite a few years back, but eventually, my mom moved back out there too) celebrating birthdays for Courtney Lee, my grandpa, and my Aunt, Alicia...
My mom and my uncle worked on the place all week getting it ready (my mom even had Donnie build that wine counter in between the trees there in the background), and everything was perfect.
The weather was perfect too.
They also set out lots of old photos and albums for everyone to look through which was particularly fun.
Fresh-brewed ice-tea with lemons and fresh mint too - my favorite.
And a wave. (For some reason, Donnie & Brad started a wave.)
And of course, the blessing that comes from how well my dad, my mom, and my step-mom all get along.
There was (of course) a bit of football.
And some horseshoes too.
And lots of comments about how long Coley's hair is.
And then it was time to celebrate some birthdays.
Lemon meringue pie for my grandpa (my grandma passed away 20 years ago now, but her lemon meringue pie recipe is better than any other lemon meringue recipe you've ever tasted), coconut cake for Courtney Lee, and brownies for my Aunt, Alicia.
Charming (as usual) Brad.
And then the boys played some golf while us girls relaxed.
Happy Birthday Courtney Lee, Grandpa, and Alicia - I sure love you guys.
As many of you know, I'm taking 16-18 months off from teaching The Photographers' Workshop in order to design and teach a year-long workshop with a group of past students. (That workshop is currently sold out, but if you'd like more information or would like to get on the waiting list, email me at email@example.com)
Since making that decision, I've received quite few emails asking if auditing a past workshop of mine was optional in order to gain access to all of the lessons, assignments, evaluations, questions & answers, etc. from The Photographers' Workshop.
That wasn't something I had thought of doing, but since so many of you have asked, I'm making it happen.
So I'll be offering a $100 discount off of the regular auditing price, so these auditing seats will be $145 instead of the regular, $245 cost.
Upon registering, you'll be given full access to a past workshop I taught. This means you can read all of the lessons from the workshop (450+ pages), all of the assignments, all of the evaluations I wrote for the students in this workshop, and all of the questions and my responses posted while this course was running.
* Note that I will not be available to answer photography related questions for anyone auditing a past workshop at this discounted price. This discounted auditing option allows you to access a past workshop which is no longer in session, meaning you can work at your own pace through the lessons, assignments, Q&A Board, evaluations, etc., from a class that already took place.
Also, if you are a past student of mine who has taken any other photography workshops that you would recommend, please post that information in the comments section for anyone who is interested.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section as well and I'll respond to them there.
I'm going to take the rest of the week off from blogging, but will be back with a vengeance (all of our Spring Break photos) on Monday!