Feb 252010
 
Monkees…Ask and you shall receive. A guest post from Our Krystal….


Following Jake

I know that many Monkees are parents. A lot of you have beautiful young children and a few of us have teenagers and young adults. Being a mom has been the best lesson I’ve ever had in “I can do hard things.” It’s not all episodes of Barney around here, folks, now is it? I want to share the story of just one of my five masterpieces. I could share the story of Kendall who is just plain perfect, but instead I want to share the one about Jake. Nobody really believes all that perfection crap anyway.

My first son, Jacob Aaron Courtney, was the most beautiful baby ever born. He had a golden beautiful glow around him and he was perfect. That is how I felt about him for a long, long time. Jake was good and kind and smart and funny. He stayed that way until around his twelfth birthday. By twelve, he was still all of those things but he was also learning that when I said “you may not turn your hair blue” that came with the post script “until I leave this house to go to work, then knock yourself out.”

By age thirteen, Jake was suspended from school for three days for um…inciting riot (starting a food fight). He was also suspended for cursing. The principal said that the teacher said Jake told another student to “shut the hell up.” Jake said that was not, in fact, the truth. He’d actually told the entire class to shut the hell up. They were keeping him from hearing the teacher. He burned a table with a light bulb in shop class, got picked up by the cops for skateboarding in an apartment complex. Etc.

I was a single mom at this point in his life and up to this point I have to admit that I secretly laughed inside when he did things like this because I was such a goody-two-shoes that I never ever got sent to the principal’s office in school. I liked the rebel in my son. I still punished him for his crimes, but probably half-heartedly.

By high school, I was re-thinking my admiration. Jake became such a liar and a sneak that I had to quickly reel him in. In ninth grade he met his girlfriend, Megan. He loved that girl so much that he’d do anything to be with her. He also had found the nicest group of criminal minded friends to hang around with. They weren’t bad, they just dressed that way (riiiight). Well, as fast as he was learning ways to get around my rules, I was finding new ways to thwart his evil plans. I sat him down with a written list of rules. I explained that I really wanted nothing more in life than to be good to him and treat him nicely, but there were things he had to do if he wanted to continue to live in my house. The rules were simple. Get good grades, don’t lie, no porn, no sex, no drugs, no alcohol. That list might as well have said “please tear me up and ignore me.” The next step was to invade every area of his life. I had his locker searched at school (and the lockers of every one of his friends), my husband and I recorded his phone calls, logged his internet conversations, tracked his browser history and checked up on him when he went somewhere with friends by actually following him. I drug tested him regularly and randomly (he always passed, amazingly enough). This might seem extreme. It was extreme. But, you see, I had to. I love that boy. I love him with all of my heart and what he was doing could potentially get him killed. For example, if his girlfriend got pregnant…I’d kill him. This tracking and stalking did not come easy for us. Jake was sucking so much energy from our family. I was determined to not allow him to destroy us and he was determined to self-destruct.

By the summer before his senior year in high school, Jake was barely in the position to graduate the next year. He was still with the girlfriend and the chips on our shoulders were craters. I caught him lying once again and I reminded him that he could live by my rules or get out.

He said “ok, I’m going to live with dad.” I died. How could the baby I raised choose to live with his dad rather than live by my reasonable rules?

So I said “pack your stuff.”And off he went to his dad’s house. The second he left I cried and cried. And then our family became quieter and happier and we missed him but we were able to breathe.

He was there for almost 3 months before asking to come back home. I allowed it, but with the understanding that this is not a revolving door…this is his last trip back home. I reminded him that the rules hadn’t changed and he said that was ok. He missed our big noisy family and he wanted to be at home. It was a wonderful homecoming, for about two months. Things were back to normal quickly though. Only this time my husband and I were not ready to return to a life of following Jake. Instead, what we did was the complete opposite.

Jake’s new non-rules were these : You’re free. You come and go as you please but the house doors are locked at 10pm. You’re an adult. You pay for whatever you want. You want the internet? Buy yourself a computer and you can pay us to use our internet. You want money? Get a job. You need to go somewhere? Here’s the name and number of a local cab company. You may watch our TV as long as you don’t mind watching what we’re watching. Your drug tests will be regular and random, just as before. We still love you, but we don’t believe a word you say and now you have no reason to lie…try speaking the truth or not speaking at all.

He was FURIOUS with this new set of non-rules. But we weren’t. We stopped following, listening and prying. He stopped sneaking out, lying to us, hiding things. He started working, bought a car, paid his way in life, got fabulous grades in his senior year and he graduated. Jake’s now in college and he works and he’s good and kind and funny and handsome oh and he is still with that same girlfriend, Megan, whom we have all grown to love now that she’s not hidden away from us. He also became the son I knew he would be, that first day when he was born.

Raising Jake was the hardest thing I’ve done in life so far. The rewards for raising him the way we did have been so wide-spread. His younger siblings watched and learned through him and if they forget, Jake quickly reminds them that while it might not seem fair, they should just man-up and behave because the alternate route is no way to go.

I really believe that raising our kids is something we have to do our own way. I hope my younger kids decide to teach me gentler lessons in life. Whatever they bring, I’m ready!


Jake and Megan






Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Feb 242010
 

Repentance is a fancy word used often in Christian circles. I don’t use fancy religious words, because I don’t think they explain themselves well. Also, fancy language tends make in people feel in-er and out people feel out-er, and I don’t think that’s how words are best used. I think words are best used to describe specific feelings and ideas and hearts as clearly as possible, to make the speaker and the listener, or the writer and the reader, feel less alone and more hopeful.

I used to be annoyed and threatened by the word repentance, until I figured out what it really meant for me. Repentance is the magical moment when a sliver of light finds its way into a place of darkness in my heart, and I’m able to see clearly how my jerkiness is keeping me from peace and joy in a specific area of my life.

Maya Angelou recently shined a light into the dark part of my heart where I keep my relationship with my mother in law.

In her latest book, Letter to my Daughter, Angelou writes about a dinner party she attended during her first trip to Senegal at the home of a very rich and sophisticated friend. As Angelou explored the decadent home and observed the elegant guests, she noted that they were all carefully stepping around the beautiful, expensive rug in the middle of the floor to avoid dirtying it. She became appalled that her hostess would be so elitist and shallow as to value her things above her guests’ comfort and convenience. Angelou decided to act. She stepped onto the rug and walked back and forth several times. The guests, who were “bunched up on the sidelines, smiled at her weakly.” Angelou smiled back, proud that through her boldness they might also be “encouraged to admit that rugs were to be walked on.”

She then joined the guests on the sidelines, her head held high. She had done what was right.

A few minutes later, the servants came out and quietly removed the rug from the floor, replacing it with an equally expensive one. They then proceeded to place the plates, glasses, wine and bowls of rice and chicken carefully upon the new rug. Angelou’s hostess clapped her hands and announced joyfully that they were serving Senegal’s most beloved meal “for our Sister from America, Maya Angelou.” She then asked all the guests to sit. Angelou’s face burned.

She had dragged her dirty shoes all over her gracious hostess’ tablecloth.

Angelou concluded her story with this:

“In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions or lessons. The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.”

When Craig and I first got married, I experienced his family as an unfamiliar culture. They operated so differently than mine. Communication was different, celebrations were different, meal times were different, expressions of love were different. I found this to be unacceptable. To me, different meant wrong. I became, as I always do, personally offended and perpetually suspicious. In a million subtle and not-so subtle ways, I tried to change my in-laws. I suggested new traditions, I offered advice, I found fault with their personalities and marriage and their relationships with their children and grandchildren. I insisted that Craig and I pull away from them, based on the unforgivable sin that they were different than my family.

I dragged my dirty shoes all over my mother-in-law’s tablecloth. The one she’d spent decades carefully weaving.

My mother-in-law handled all of this gracefully, in retrospect. Tragically, retrospectively is the only way I can ever see things clearly. I imagine my refusal to accept her family hurt her deeply, but she gave Craig and me time and space to work it out on our own. She never pushed us. She never meddled. She bowed out, for a long while. It must have been a hard decision, one I pray I never have to make with my own son. I pray that my future daughter-in-law will be wiser and kinder than I from the start. She probably won’t be, though. She’ll probably be just like me. She’ll want to create her own weaving pattern, which might mean that she’ll need to turn her back on mine for a while.

As a young mother and wife, establishing a pattern that suited me was difficult. Learning to weave my own tablecloth required all of my attention. I needed time and space to establish my own rhythm and style, and perhaps my rejection of the old patterns was necessary to the discovery of my own.

True repentance is messy and it takes time, but that sliver of light is worth waiting for. And when it’s real, it sticks. Thank you, Ms. Angelou, for leading me to repentance.


I’m sorry, Nana.


You know I’m not big on advice, mainly because most days I learn what an idiot I was yesterday. This is hopeful, because it means I’m generally moving in the right direction. But it also makes it risky to put anything definitive in writing today. Even so, I feel safe offering this.

Mothers-in-law, enjoy watching your daughter in law learn to weave. When she makes a mistake, when she drops a stitch, allow her to notice it on her own. Tell her often how beautiful her weaving is. Be kinder than necessary. Bring her some tea. Be simple. Be sophisticated.

And daughters-in-law, notice the beauty of the rug that your mother-in-law spent a lifetime weaving. Remember that mostly, her pattern is firmly established, no need to suggest improvements. Be kinder than necessary, being mindful that the piece of art it took her a lifetime to weave, her masterpiece, she gave to you, to keep you warm at night. One day you’ll give your masterpiece away, too. Be simple. Be sophisticated.


“In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions or lessons. The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.”










Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Feb 232010
 


Top Three Most Embarrassing Melton Pediatric Visits


When Chase was six months old, I took him to a pediatric optometrist because he looked completely cross eyed in every picture we took of him. After the exam, the doctor left the exam room* and when he returned he said:

“Ma’am. I have identified the issue that’s causing Chase to appear cross eyed.”

I took a deep breath and held it. The doctor continued:

“Chase…. is…. Asian.”

Long pause.

He’s Asian? I said. That’s your diagnosis?

“Yes, ma’am.” He pointed to Chase in his car seat. “That’s just what Asian babies look like.”

Well. Fine, I said. Shall I bring him back in three weeks if these Asian symptoms continue or worsen?

“No, you shouldn’t.”

Kay. Goodbye, then.

Not a lot of room for humor in optometry, apparently.


When Chase was three, I took him to the pediatrician to get his ears checked. He was really struggling to hear Craig and me and didn’t even respond to the simplest, loudest directions. After the doctor examined him, she left the exam room*. When she came back she said:

“Mrs. Melton, his hearing is perfect. Chase is hearing you. He’s just not listening to you.”

Nother long pause.

Examine.

Him.

Again.

I said.


When Chase was three months old, he developed a very strange orange rash on his face. It started small, just around his mouth, but started spreading further, past his nose and chin. After a week of watching it grow and deepen in color, we started worrying about jaundice and took him to the pediatrician. The doctor examined Chase’s teeny face and left the room.* When she finally returned, she said:

“Mrs. Melton, I couldn’t help but notice that your skin is tinted the same orange-ish color as your son’s face.”

Nother. Long. Pause.

Say what? I said, eventually.

The doctor looked uncomfortable, but continued:

“Are you, by chance, using a self tanning lotion?”

Ummm….yeah.

“And you’re using it…all over?”

Well….yes.

“And you’re still breast feeding, right?“


Double Pause.


Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

We don’t go to the doctor anymore unless we are currently on fire.


*I noticed a pattern while writing this essay. Doctors always leave the room for several minutes before they’ll speak to me. I talked to several friends about this phenomenon, and they all said that their doctors never leave the room before offering a diagnosis.

I am now convinced that the doctors leave so I can’t see them burst out laughing. They close the door on us and then they run into an empty exam room and pull out their cells and call their doctor buddies and spouses and say “you’re not gonna believe this one” and then they quickly update their Facebook Statuses with “So this crazy lady just came into the office and….”

Then they return to our room when they’ve decided they are capable of looking at me with a straight face.

Whatever, honestly.


Swing by here and here for the Melton Emergency Room Greatest Hits. So far.

Love, G






Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest