I am finally free…

I find myself in a curious situation of late. The situation will likely not make sense to those who don’t really know our story. The story, as it were, is long and drawn out so I will offer you the 25 cent version.

Basically, we moved to Minnesota for a job in a friend’s church. Hubs was trained as a pastor but was hired as an administrator at this church. Shortly upon arriving here we realized we were in way over our heads. The church was much more conservative than we had realized and their opinions on gender roles, marriage, etc. were far to the right of where we would ever have placed ourselves, but our friend had gone through a bit of trouble to get us to Minnesota and give Hubs this opportunity, so we felt a little stuck.

Over time and through many unpleasant experiences with the people in the church and the leadership, I realized I couldn’t fake it anymore. I was not, nor will I ever be, a woman who would fit their mold. I am forthright, strong-willed, goal-driven. I don’t submit easily and our marriage is quite egalitarian. These points were all points of contention and it became a constant battle of me trying to make myself look the way they wanted me to look and behave the way women “should” behave. In the end, we decided we needed to leave. I remember a conversation I had with a Deacon at the very end where I gave him a piece of my mind. He said, “You have no right to speak to me so boldly,” and I said, “Well, actually, we are both humans and I most certainly do.” He was speechless.

Upon leaving, we didn’t want to cause any trouble for our friend, so we left quietly. However, I always felt in some way controlled by them. I think, looking back, there was definite psychological damage done, all in the name of Jesus. Ironic. After we left, I blocked everyone I could think of who attended the church from all my social media. Whenever we would see one of them when we were out and about, we’d say, “Alert, alert!,” and go off in another direction. It’s like we were living scared.

However, we recently found out that our friend is no longer the pastor there and suddenly my world has opened up. For whatever reason, I now feel completely free of that place. I think, despite my feelings about the church, I felt some sort of loyalty to our friend. With him no longer working there, I feel free of those people and the power they once had over my life. I have realized, I hate that place. I hate what it does to lives. I hate the teachings and the way it made me view God and people outside of Christianity. And realizing all this, the healing can begin. I don’t need to have hate but pity, as I have realized their theology leaves those who can’t measure up feeling stranded and hopeless. Thank goodness, we are never really stranded or hopeless.

I have unblocked all those people from my social media. I am not afraid of them anymore. I am not afraid to see them out and about. I feel like I can stand up straight knowing I make mistakes and so do they. Their judgment, which will always be there, doesn’t matter to me anymore. It suddenly feels like a distant, unpleasant memory. The only artifact of the whole thing is that we live here in Minnesota, where we moved to for a job in a place that essentially no longer exists as we knew it. I am free, and while I have always been free, now I actually feel it.

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Honey, I’m so glad you’re well…AKA: Perseverance

us
Well, he did it. The Hubs. He got out. He worked at a coffee shop for fifteen years and now he is OUT! At first he worked there so that we could have health benefits while I stayed home with the babies. Then it was to help pay for seminary. Then it was because people who work for churches don’t get paid much, generally. Then there was the whole Minnesota chapter…too long and gory a story to get into. Then he became a Manager and the schedule and demands of the job were difficult on him and on the whole family unit. And now that chapter is OVER!!

About two years ago he started dabbling with the idea of getting out. However, looking for a job is like a full-time job and so the search was slow and difficult. Finally, at the end of August he was offered a position in the Customer Care department of a large company here in the Twin Cities!

Hubs is like a new man. He is so happy and content again. Our lives have suddenly normalized. It’s extraordinarily pleasant and almost unbelievable.  He says that each day he feels so giddy he wants to pinch himself, and I have to agree. I am not sure I could be happier for him and I tell him everyday how proud I am of him for sticking with his search and persevering in it.

Our kids are ecstatic, too. They feel like they have gotten their dad back from the Big Coffee Monster 🙂 We have explained to them that we are lucky to have the resources to be able to have choices and to make changes. I want them to know that if they have dreams, they should chase them. But, I also want them to understand the complexity of the issue, which doesn’t often get talked about. In order to go after something, you must have resources; not just money, but family support and community resources; opportunities to network. This is a reality we have learned not to take for granted. Everyone can dream, but dreams become more attainable with resources.

Cheers to you, Hubs! To us! To new chapters and to more dreams! And beer! Cheers to beers 🙂 I heart you.

chris

Friends move, then Winter.

friends
Friends back Home

Well, what was a mountaintop experience of graduating has quickly eroded into the summer doldrums. Unenhanced by the excitement and vigor of grad school, my Minnesota life has become clear, yet again. It’s a life mostly characterized by friends moving far away, generally in late August for whatever reason, followed by the quick and relentless pursuit of my least favorite season, Winter. And as the calendar made its tick to August this week, I felt reality close in on me. It’s coming.

Moving to Minnesota is a difficult lot. You’ve heard it said elsewhere, but I will reiterate here, it is nearly impossible to break into circles here. I won’t beat a dead horse by telling you that people here have had their friends for life, that they will meet you anywhere except in their homes, that they might say, “Let’s get together,” but they mostly don’t mean it, etc etc. Suffice it to say that all of those things you may have heard are painfully and regrettably true for many people who have moved here from elsewhere. So, my biggest success in making friends who will actually hang out and get involved with my life and my children has been with transplants. However, transplants move and so here we go again…

Transplants don’t leave Minnesota quietly, either. They generally leave in a blaze of glory, shouting their relief as they go. That they are FINALLY getting out. That it SUCKS to live here. That they are going back to where FRIENDS can be made and the WEATHER doesn’t threaten your life.

Their parting sentiments only reinforce my already well-weathered struggles with living here and exacerbate the late summer blues. This year feels different, though. It’s getting to a point. There are a few reasons I stay: My kids are happy and I have a job. These are things that are really great and I am not making light of them. But those things aside, it is becoming difficult to look at our future in Minnesota and imagine an entire life lived without the security and comfort of a big crew of friends and family and friends-as-family in and amongst my daily life.

Mostly I feel scared. I am sure this is driven in part by my obvious depression of late, but I am scared of living without a network of people to lean on during the hard times and to enjoy during the good times. When we return to NJ for visits I am always struck by the depth of my relationships there and by the genuine quality of people’s affection for us. They love us, they love our kids, they want us in their homes, they want to know us, and the feeling is mutual.

I have not found much of that here, and that’s with much effort. It’s not that I haven’t found it at all, but mostly I have found it with the people who keep moving on. And with the ones who stay, it seems to take so much work because it’s not second nature here to really live life with and invest in people other than family or life-long friends. You can’t make people include you. You can’t make them believe your kids are important or that theirs are important enough to you that sure, you’d go to that hockey game just like a blood relative might. You certainly can’t convince them to call you when they need something because they don’t want to owe you anything. Believe me, I have tried. It was never this hard back home. People back home make you their family without asking, whether you are blood-related or not. That’s just not the way here.

Minnesota is not a bad place. It’s a great place if you are from here. But what I have realized of late, is that I am not from here 🙂 . I will never be from here. It doesn’t matter if I become a Twins fan, go to the State Fair, eat cheese curds and walleye, go to the cabin, graduate from the U or entertain myself in Minneapolis. I will never be FROM here and without that rite of birth, I will never be one of them. As my one friend put it, there is some sort of code to living here and getting “in” and those from the outside just aren’t provided with said code.

The Minnesotans might talk to me, enjoy my company, think I am an interesting and forthright person, but when it comes to holidays or family parties, we are not of the tribe.

Minnesota, you nearly have me beat. My resolve is weakening. And maybe that’s the point. Texas has a saying you see all over billboards there, “You’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.” That is not the case here in MN. It’s more like, “Outsiders, how long before you go home?” Maybe, in the end, the goal is our surrender.

I have often felt as though returning home to NJ would be like coming full circle, and that was in some way admitting defeat. Well, that may be true, but maybe defeat is ok if you are returning to the open arms of the people who know you and want to know you more. I’m not sure, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to not consider giving up. Maybe one day I’d like to wake up and just feel settled like I used to in NJ, where a 1200 mile move wasn’t always something on the horizon  to consider.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Class of 2014…

 

Nicole graduation

Well, it’s done. We did it. It was a fast and furious four semesters. And now we’re done. Moving on, headed back to regular life. In some ways it feels like one grandiose hiccup in the journey. Just a blip in the entirety of our lives.  But in other ways it was life altering. For me, it was a highlight of my existence.

For a person who sees life as one shell-collecting walk, I found a lot of unique and wonderful treasures during the last two years.  For you non-beach babies, I’ll explain. When you live at the ocean, many hours are spent, not sunbathing or riding the waves, but in walking along the beach looking for treasures, maybe a certain color sea glass or full shells instead of broken ones. The walk is all about collecting as you go. I see my life similarly, only people and their stories are my treasures.

While at school I was constantly amazed by the people I encountered. Everyone was so smart and interesting and full of stories to tell and wisdom to share. I’m pretty sure I met a future President of the United States and might have gotten a picture or two with him or her.   I met people who reminded me of the unquenchable hope we have when we are twenty-something and others who had a more nuanced perspective of the world. There were those that came from places whose names I have never heard and those who will return to places I will likely never see. I met friends who made me laugh every-single-time we were together and others whose stories pierced my soul and reminded me of the unsinkable determination of the human spirit and our ability to overcome hardship.

As you leave this place remember, with a little help from your friends you can do just about anything. Love people and pour yourselves into them, but always take care of yourselves, too. The better you care for you, the more you will have to share with others.  Take the world! Make a difference! Share what you know and what you think. Be humble. And if in ten years you think, “Aw crap, there’s something else I’d rather do,” then do it! Ten years ago I didn’t even know the job I will be starting soon existed! It is never too late to change course, never too late to chase another dream.

To all of you, thank you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives; For sharing your stories with me. Thank you for letting me be your candy supplier and for the looked-forward-to conversations at my desk while you snacked. Thank you for showing me that it doesn’t really matter if I am a little (emphasis on a little!) older than you and have a few kids in tow, we are all journeying through together. I will be forever grateful that I entered this program at this grad school at the exact time that I did and got to know all of you. You have left an indelible  mark on my soul. Good luck in all you do, now and always.

Dream Big

are you doing your very bestI am at the threshold of the completion of a life dream. I always knew I wanted to go back to graduate school, but I wasn’t sure which field of study I wanted to pursue. So, instead of going right after college I got married, worked for a while, popped out a few kids. Then about five years ago I secured a job at the University of Minnesota  doing research, the gears started going again about this grad school thing, and, well, the rest is history.

Here I am, four semesters from the start, about to graduate, feeling as though I picked exactly the right Master’s program where I got the exact skills I was seeking, and will soon start a job in the field I love where I get to read articles, run statistical analyses, and write papers all day long (a nightmare for some, I know).

I share this not so that I can say, “Hey! Look at me! Look what I did!,” but so that I might convince you to believe that any dream that is worthwhile to you is worth chasing.

I was a pretty unlikely candidate for graduate school. I was in my mid-30’s, a mom of four, and had been out of undergrad for many years.

But a few years ago I realized I had given up too much of myself to live the life I was living. Somewhere along the way I had lost sight of MY goals and MY dreams and much of my identity. Getting married and having children can do that.  That was an unsustainable reality.

So, I began my journey to collect the pieces of myself and my dreams that I had dropped along the way. Going back to school was a big one.

My family had to sacrifice to get me where I am today. We moved into a smaller house, my children saw me a little less,  my hubby did a lot more housework and worked a second job. It’s been a journey for us all, but I am so thankful to have gone through it together.

I hope that in seeing me pursue my dream my children and the others who might be watching see proof that it’s never too late to go after something; you can always change course. Good enough doesn’t have to be good enough. Settle for less in life only when you want to settle. Dream big and with a little help from your family and friends know that many things are possible.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top- View from My Bridge

my bridge

On a map it’s the Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9 in Minneapolis, but I just call it My Bridge; a favorite place for contemplating life.  I’ve spent a bit of time there watching the Mississippi rush and swirl below me, cried a few tears over this and that, and just stood in the sunshine as the cyclists and pedestrians pass, never knowing they are on My Bridge 🙂 .

The bloggings of an accidental Minnesota girl