Sunday, September 26, 2010

Music To Grow By

I’m a musical person. Ok, I don’t play any instruments... but I sing. Ok, well I used to sing... anyway, it doesn’t matter. What I mean is, music is part of my soul. It affects me (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) in ways that nothing else on earth can. You know how some scents can trigger deep, subconscious memories? Flowers, baking, cologne, anything like that can suddenly bring back a rush of memories that have huddled in the back of your mind for years. That’s what music does for me. I can hear a song I haven’t heard in ages, and all of a sudden I’m transported to this place somewhere back in time. I can remember where I was, how I was feeling, who I was with, even what I was wearing.

Recently I’ve been mentally compiling a list of songs and music that have grown up with me. I wouldn’t say that these songs have really changed my life, but they’re songs that play around certain moments that stand out in my memory. Here are a few of them, in no particular order (and remember, I’m not asking for anyone’s opinion on my musical tastes- these are songs that have affected me. You can make your own list.) :

I Surrender by Darrell Evans: (I put this one first because I figured everyone would be expecting a Beatles song) When I was in youth group, we had a meeting in an old theater. I remember towards the end of the worship set the worship leader started playing this song. I was standing in the aisle, the lights were dim and tinted blue and purple, and there was a huge industrial fan circulating air in my direction. I cannot describe the feeling of absolute and utter peace that washed over me during that song. It was like I was in this completely safe, untouchable bubble, just me and God. I still can’t listen to that song without taking a deep, contented breath, trying to inhale that sweet, peaceful moment from when I was 14.

And I Love Her by The Beatles: Anyone who knows me knows I’m a few steps beyond a hardcore Beatles fan. If I had lived in the 60’s, I probably would have been throwing my underwear up on stage and then fainting. Embarrassing, but true. My dad is a Beatles fan, so I’ve grown up listening to them, but my first real memory of falling in love with one of their songs is this one. I was probably about 6 or 7, laying on a mattress on the floor in my brothers’ room (I can’t remember why). It was night time and the blinds were all the way up and the moon was full. This song came on the radio. I remember I was haunted by the minor keys, the mysterious lilt to the song, the Spanish guitar style solo... everything about this song started me down the path to Beatlemania.

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor: This song makes me think of my mama. She was always listening to James Taylor while I was growing up. To me, he is the musical equivalent of comfort food. When I’ve had a rough day, feeling melancholy, nostalgic, whatever, James Taylor is the first thing that gets played on my iPod.

Brand New Colony by The Postal Service (although I like the live acoustic version the best): This is one of my more recent song acquisitions, thanks to my wonderful brothers. I think Ben Gibbard is an amazing writer in general, but for some reason this song ministers to me. Every girl wants to be romanced, to be taken away from everyday drudgery, and know that someone actually loves her enough to do it. There is something so protective, loving, whimsical in the lyrics. There are many times I’ve been listening to them and without realizing it I have tears on my face. I feel like God has spoken to me through this song.

All I Ask of You by Andrew Lloyd Webber: I love musicals. Love, love, love them. I want to be in a musical, where it isn’t insane if you spontaneously burst into song. I want to wear a frilly dress and dance with a man in suspenders and spats whose shirt matches mine. That said, Phantom of the Opera isn’t exactly that type of musical (and it’s VERY loosely based on the book, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog...), but it is beautiful, haunting, and slightly creepy. All I Ask Of You is such an incredible song, and another one that God has spoken to me through. It’s a song about questions being answered, fears being set aside, and ultimate commitment. There’s a strain of protectiveness throughout that has opened my eyes all over again to the way God feels about me.

Hush by Waterdeep: This song was my life exactly. It spoke every thought I was thinking, every emotion I was feeling, and cried every tear I cried. If you have not listened to it, go. Listen. You’ll know what I mean.

Let’s Go Fly A Kite from Mary Poppins: This isn’t a deep, insightful song. It isn’t even one of the better ones in the movie in my opinion, but there’s a story behind it. The winter I was 18 was a terrible, horrendous, bleedingly painful one for me. My heart was broken in several ways by several people in a very short amount of time. I was beaten down, demoralized, apathetic, and very, very broken. There was a point where I hadn’t eaten in over a week, and it had been far longer since I had laughed or even smiled. I remember one night some of my brothers and my sister and I were all piled into Amber’s little blue Geo (named Smurf) for some reason (Christmas shopping?). All of a sudden, we started belting this song out. I can’t really remember why- just your average Rothwell craziness, probably. One minute I was staring out the window, crying, and the next minute I found myself singing, smiling, and laughing. It was the hysterical type of laughter that hurts your heart, but it was healing to me. I’m not sure if my family remembers that moment. Probably not. It was only significant to me. But even if you don’t remember, thanks, guys. You helped bring me out of a pit, just by singing a stupid song.

Peace Be Still by Day of Grace: I know this might seem like a shameless plug for my husband's band, but it's really not. Jeremy can, and will, tell you that I am his most severe critic. I have a hard time listening to his music objectively, because I hear it from inception to completion. I always liked this song, but it didn't really change me until the first time I heard him sing it after the death of his best friend. He started writing the song in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as a sort of empathetic message to those who had lost so much. After Tommy died, it came home to him. The bewildering grief, the anger, the feeling of senseless loss, the questions, all became real to him. I watched him play it live with tears streaming down his face, telling himself, "Peace, be still." It touched me, and it changed me to see him so changed.

The entire album of The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most by Dashboard Confessional: I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who totally emo’ed out over this album, locking themselves in their bedrooms with a pack of tissues and a picture of an ex. Oh wait... I am? Moving on....

I realize this blog is unmercifully long. Sorry to those of you who got inadvertently sucked in. There are so, so many more songs. Too many, so I’ll just list a few more without explanation. If you’re curious, check them out, and see if you can figure out why I like them ;) :

The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan
Under Bridges by Brave St. Saturn
In My Life by The Beatles
North Country Blues by Bob Dylan
And by Waterdeep
I Want to Be More Like Jesus by Keith Green
Don’t Cry by Kirk Franklin
Rocketman by Elton John
The King Beetle on A Coconut Estate by mewithoutYou
Desolation Row by Bob Dylan
Dancing Queen by ABBA
Messes of Men by mewithoutYou
Tomorrow by Mat Kearney
All Apologies by Nirvana

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bye Bye, Baby

This week marks a milestone in our family. My last little baby has moved out of our bedroom. I know you’re probably wondering why she was in there to begin with, but if you have to wonder that, you’ve never seen my house. Our house is almost a hundred years old, and it. is. tiny. With only about 900 sq. ft. allotted to 5 people, things become a tight squeeze. However, this week we finally shifted things around, and somehow managed to wedge Atleigh into the kids’ room.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Jeremy and I have been married a little over 7 years. Out of those 7 years, we’ve only had our “own” room for about 2. We’ve always lived in tiny spaces, then somehow (I’m not quite sure how it happened...) our family just kept getting bigger, so we had to keep making room. At one point, when we were renovating said tiny house, we moved in with his parents. For 10 months, we shared a bedroom with both of our kids. Those were a rough 10 months.

I miss having my baby in the room with me. I mean, sleep wise, it doesn’t really make a difference- it’s not like she kept us up at night and this is a welcome reprieve. I can’t decide why it makes me sad. I guess it’s just the finality of it. Knowing that my last little baby has taken the last little “baby” step, and is now officially a toddler. Not that moving her out of our room made it official- more like it brought it to my attention. I’m going to miss having a baby. God knows I don’t want any more kids (You do know that, don’t You God??), but there’s something so heart wrenching about knowing I won’t have anymore kids. I notice every little thing more: the baby talk, the giggling, the fat toes, the way she wraps her chubby arms around my neck, the way her lips form a kiss. I feel like there’s so much more I should have noticed, and I’ve forgotten it all. I feel like so much of my baby memories have disappeared into oblivion- like the mommy brain induced fog that erases the discomfort of pregnancy, the pain of childbirth, the memories of sleepless nights and hormonal crying jags, has somehow erased so many of the sweet, “unmemorable” everyday happenings that make up a baby’s first year or two.

I’ve sat here for another 5 minutes, trying to think of a neat little “wrap up” sentence. I haven’t come up with anything. I’m just sad.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Leaving a Mark

Growing up, we were always told not to color on the walls. That didn’t stop some of us (*AHEM* BEN) from marking up our parents’ bedroom wall with bright red lipstick. A lot of paints won’t cover up lipstick, it being oil based and all.

However, there was one room in our house where we were allowed to mark on the walls. The utility closet/laundry room, affectionately tagged the “dryer room”, because the dryer was the only appliance that would fit in there (I called my laundry room the dryer room a few weeks ago, and got a strange look from a friend). We used pencils, pens, markers, whatever. We didn’t write anything important- it was more the principle of it. We wrote on the wall simply because we could. We wrote things like “I love John”, or “Schoolwork sucks”, or “Adam is a dork!” We also used the doorjamb to measure ourselves- needless to say, the whole thing was covered with lines and writing in all different colors. Turns out, 6 kids take up just as much room on a measuring wall as they do in an actual house. I’m sure all that writing is still there, in that dryer room, waiting to be read again.

My point is, we all want to leave a mark. We want to be remembered. But there are so many different kinds of marks we can make. I’ve got a lot of marks on me, left from family, friends, strangers, people I trusted- and people who let me down. Scars.

A few years ago at Ashton’s birthday party, I was using a brand new Pampered Chef apple slicer to cut some apples for the kids. I looked away for a split second- and sliced the whole outside corner of the pad of my thumb off. I didn’t think I’d ever get it to stop bleeding. Everything I put on there to make it stop, stuck to blood, skin, and tissues (gross, I know), so when I tried to pull the paper towel, bandage, band-aid, whatever, it would rip it right back open. I thought I would pass out. That cut is healed now- but there’s a huge scar left from it. It has no feeling left in it. I rub it with my index finger all the time. My finger can feel the scar, but the scar can’t feel my finger. There’s a numb kind of tingling there, but it’s mostly just an ugly memorial to the time I almost sliced my thumb off.

That’s kind of what these scars are like. They bled like hell for a while, but the bleeding stopped. Now there’s a callous there, a numb tingling: a knowledge, a memory that I was hurt badly once, and survived. But the scars will always be there. I can hide them, ignore them, but I still know they’re there.

There are other marks people have left on me, though. Good ones. I think of those ones as fingerprints- more of a molding, a gentle guiding, helping me to get to be the person I am today. The thing about fingerprints- they’re distinctive. I can look at myself, look at the fingerprints left on my character, and I can pinpoint who they came from. Men and women, family and friends, sometimes even strangers, who have changed my life for the better, changed my perspective, changed my image of myself.

I pray to God that I’ve left more fingerprints on people than I have scars. I know I’ve done my share of scarring. I regret it. I know I can never completely avoid leaving scars, no matter how hard I try, because I’m human. And people will have to forgive me, just as I’ve had to forgive them. But I do hope that I can make it a point to be a fingerprint kind of person.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I wear contacts. I remember the day I got them. I was 17, and it was right before a Christmas play I was in. My character didn’t exactly conform to the whole glasses image. I remember the first time I ever wore them, trying them on there in the optometrist’s office. I was overwhelmed by my ability to see out of the corners of my eyes. It’s impossible to do that with glasses. Or at least, it is when your eyesight is as bad as mine.

I got glasses when I was 4. When my mom took me in for the kindergarten vision check up, the eye doctor told me to read the first letter on the chart. I squinted and responded, “What chart?” He told my mom he had never seen such an acute astigmatism in a child so young. Gee, thanks. What do I get, a nerd trophy?

*Also, side story: When I had the eye exam, they made me take a depth perception test, usually something they do for young children. They tried to make me touch this plaque with a 3D fly in it. I remember screaming, thrashing, trying to get out of the seat, doing anything to avoid touching that fly. Who makes a 5 year old touch a 3D fly??! It’s downright cruelty. For the next 21 years, every time the fly experience came up, people looked at me like I was crazy. No one had ever heard of such a thing. I began to think maybe I had imagined it. But last year, at one of Atleigh’s (numerous) opthalmology appointments, the nurse opened a drawer and I SAW IT! THE FLY! I had a total freak out moment. I practically screeched, “Oh my God!!! It exists!!! The fly exists!!!” Needless to say, she thought I was crazy. But, obviously, I’m NOT. Because the fly EXISTS. End of side story.*

My first pair of glasses were hideous. The late 80’s were not kind to eyewear fashions. They were this enormous plastic affair, like what Dustin Hoffman wore in Tootsie. They faded from pink at the top to blue at the bottom. They took up my whole face, from eyebrow to lower cheek. I hated them, even as a young child. To make matters worse, my eyesight was so bad that when I first got the glasses, I had vertigo. I remember everything stretching like a fisheye lens, lifting my leg three feet in the air to step over a curb, and stumbling in a parking lot because it looked like hills.

As I said, I got my first pair of contacts when I was 17 (that’s 12 YEARS of wearing glasses), and I’ve never looked back if I could help it (ha, vision joke- because I could have looked back, since contacts provide peripheral vision). There have been horrible days, weeks, or months in the last 10 years where I’ve been forced to wear my glasses when money is too tight for me to buy new contacts. My extreme nearsightedness and astigmatism (even my astigmatism is abnormal, for an astigmatism) mean that contacts for me run a couple hundred dollars. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

When I have to wear my glasses, my whole outlook on life changes. I feel dowdy, plain, grumpy, claustrophobic, and self conscious. My self esteem, which is already low, plummets further. My hair gets on my nerves, my face feels greasy, my nose looks pointy-er. I can’t see to put on my make up, I can’t see shampoo bottles- the whole process is squint, grab, repeat. I can’t blow-dry my hair because my glasses get knocked off my face. To top all that off, the glasses I have are 5 years old, the prescription is expired, and I can’t drive at night with them because I can’t read road signs.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a ton of people who look great in glasses. I just don’t think I’m one of them. I see all these pretty girls in glasses, and I think, “Why can’t I look that cute? Why am I such a nerd?” They look intellectual, whereas I just look like that scrawny 5 year old. A Four-Eyes.

Tomorrow I have to wear my glasses. My bi-weekly contacts that I’ve been wearing for the past *cough* two months, have rubbed a sore on the inside of my eyelid. I’d suffer through it if it didn’t feel like I scraped a fork across my eyeball every time I blink. I’d rather not go blind the rest of the way at the age of 27, so I’m trying to let it heal for a day or two before I put in my new pair of contacts.

You may ask, what is the point to all this blogging? The answer is, there isn’t a point. I’m just warning the general public that I will be nerdy and grumpy tomorrow. Don’t sneak up on me from behind, because I won’t have peripheral vision, don’t expect my makeup to look good, and don't call me Four-Eyes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whine Entitlement

I think all wives and mothers should be entitled to emotional pain and suffering compensation. I really do. It is so stressful. And what makes it worse, is most of the time it’s nothing you can really pinpoint, or explain. Just a general weariness. It’s not like, when Jeremy asks me “What’s wrong with you?”, that I can immediately produce a bullet list of reasons. Maybe I should start keeping one- with men, logic is the key to validation.

So here’s how my week has been:

Monday, I woke up with a throbbing headache, the kind that hurts when you move your eyeballs. Thankfully, Jeremy was home from work and could help some with the kids, but for some reason, my kids can’t grasp the whole “I have two parents” idea. They want a drink, they come to me. They need their butts wiped, they call me. They want food, toys, new clothes, vindication, they come to me. I try to tell them over and over, “Go see Daddy! That’s why you have TWO. PARENTS.” I wonder if he’s behind my back doing the ol’ violent arm wave (“Noooo! Don’t do it!”), because they will. not. listen to me. I’ve heard people say that they became a mother because they wanted to be needed. I wonder if they realized beforehand how very “needed” mothers are. Dogs are needy. Clingy boyfriends are needy. Kids? They’re straight leeches. If they could, they would crawl back into your uterus.

So anyway, Monday was a bust.

Tuesday, I was rushing the kids out to take Ashton to school, opened the car doors, and realized I was short two car seats. They had been left in Jeremy’s Jeep. It was too late for me to wait for him to bring them back, so I had to buckle them into the seats and pray to God I didn’t get in an accident or get pulled over (please, please don’t report me to the police. I’m a stickler for the car seat issue, trust me.). My kids were nervous too, they’ve heard me plenty of times ranting at ignorant people who stuff seven 2 year olds into the back of a Honda Civic. All the way to the school (a 9 minute drive), Chloe’s in the back seat chanting “If the police catch you you’re gonna go to jail!”, with Ashton chiming in with, “If we get in an accident the seatbelt’s gonna cut my neck off!”

So Tuesday didn’t start off well.

This morning, I was doing pretty well. Except I just remembered, as I type this, that I forgot to give my poor kid breakfast. $&%@. Anyway, we got out of the house in a timely manner, all car seats accounted for, all kids mostly cognizant, and drove to school. There’s a random guy who rides an old banana seat bicycle up and down Briarfield, going with the traffic, about 5 miles an hour, on the street. Not the sidewalk. He didn’t ruin my day or anything, it just bugs me. It’s stupid and dangerous. I wonder if he’s not quite all there.
We pull up to the school, and I see all these boys with collared shirts and ties on. Crap. It’s school picture day. Collared shirts and ties are required for boys on school picture day. Brushed hair is a plus. Neither of which my son had. His teacher JUST reminded me, less than 24 hours ago. How did I forget that quickly?? So I had to rush back home, scrounge out his undershirt, white button down shirt, and red striped tie, rush back out the door, to the school (thankfully crazy bike guy was gone) and drop it off at the office. Wearing sweatpants, with unwashed hair in ratty pigtails, and my old glasses. Thank God I had at least put on a bra this morning. Also I just remembered that I forgot to clip Ashton’s fingernails.

None of these things individually seem like that big of deal. I guess really, on rereading them, they seem pretty insignificant. Like I said, I can’t provide a PowerPoint presentation on why I’m so stressed and over it this week. There’s no exact reason. It’s just one thing after another, after another, after another. Most people will tell you that it’s not the major problems that they can’t handle. It’s the stupid, little, everyday things that drive you crazy, keep you awake at night, and make you dread getting out of bed in the morning. That’s a lot of what motherhood is. If one of my kids (God forbid) broke a bone or something, I could handle that. It would be terrible, but that’s a crisis that I can manage. However, if my kid pees on his/herself in the middle of Target, I will lose it. Not only because it would suck, but also because I more than likely won’t have a change of clothes, which will make me spend money I don’t have to buy a change of clothes, which will make me feel like a terrible spendthrift on top of already being a terrible mother for not having a change of clothes for my kid, or better yet, for not listening when they said that they really had to go potty. You see what I mean? It’s all a downward spiral.

So today I felt entitled to a little whine. Since apparently I’m actually not entitled to emotional pain and suffering compensation.

P.S. The above image was on a postcard my sister gave me once. I thought it apropos.

Also, I just had to add this. While I was typing this blog, Atleigh spilled her entire drink in the living room, then attempted to clean it up with a whole roll of toilet paper. I suppose she gets points for trying to clean up her own mess. But the negative points from my having to clean up her attempt at cleaning up might counterbalance the whole thing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

To Sir, With Love

For those of you who don’t know, my dad has been in the Ukraine for the past two weeks. He’s on his way back now. I don’t think I realized how much I talk to him and take his presence for granted until now, when I haven’t been able to call him whenever I want. I never thought that I did call him that much, really. Turns out I do.

My relationship with my dad has been... strange. I felt neglected as a child, smothered as a teenager, and slightly resentful as a young adult. Now, as a full fledged adult, I’ve learned to appreciate my dad more. Of course. It always works that way.

It’s been the little things, and some big things, these past few weeks that have made me realize how much I really depend on my dad. Things like, “Hey Dad, have you seen this movie yet? I think it’d be in your ‘Men of Honor’ category” (Rothwells know what I mean), or “How far are you in the book you’re reading?”. Wanting to call to talk to him about The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Keith Green. And then there’s the bigger things... Ashton starting school back, Isaac and Phil being stranded at the airport, Adam sick as a dog, and several family crises hitting all at once.

My dad has teased me before about being “the glue” in the family, or a “force of nature” (not quite sure if that’s a compliment or not), but I don’t think that’s quite accurate. While he’s been gone, I’ve felt like our family’s cover is gone with him. Like we were stranded in an unexpected storm without our umbrella. Even when he’s not actively providing shelter, there’s always the option there. Even when we get mad at him for trying to protect us from the storm, there’s a certain sense of comfort there, knowing that if it ever got too rough for us, we could open our umbrella.

So there’s a few things I’d like to say to him when he finally gets home:

Welcome home, Papa.

I’ve missed you.

I love you.

Thank you.