Excerpts of Erynn

a blog about… nothing in particular and everything at once

The spider incident October 29, 2016

Filed under: diary,Marriage — Erynn Sprouse @ 5:47 pm

Spiders and I… we’re not really friends. There’s a meme with a house up in flames and the caption, “There was a spider, I panicked. But I think it’s gone now.” I don’t know… sounds like a pretty reasonable response to me.

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The other day I was driving our 12 passenger van when I spotted a rather large jumping spider just to the left of the windshield.

In other words, it was only about 12″ from my head.

I’d like to tell you that I calmly pulled over the van and smashed the thing, but that wouldn’t really be blog-worthy, now would it? And I wouldn’t get to tell you the best part. But more on that in a minute.

It took some deep breaths to do it smoothly, but I got the van pulled onto the shoulder of the road, slammed it into park, and clambered over to the passenger side.

Isaiah is my spider guy. He finds them fascinating and really enjoys learning about them. We have a long-standing agreement, though: he kills them when I ask. I don’t think he minds, anyway. He’s done it enough times that he knows the drill pretty well. Don’t take a shot unless you know it’s going to land. A disappeared spider is worse than a spider in plain view (you know spiders like to ambush, right?).

Isaiah came forward, shoe in hand, ready to do his duty, but the spider was sly, and stayed in the nooks, crannies and crevices where Isaiah couldn’t get it. Meanwhile, my panic was rising. I called Jeremy, but he didn’t answer the first time… or the second… or the fifth. When I finally got to talk to him, I explained the situation, and told him he needed to come immediately.

While we waited, the boys and I watched that spider constantly. The only time I took my eyes off of it was when I was checking to make sure the State Trooper across the highway was still occupied. I was sure he’d seen us and would come over as soon as he was finished with the semi he’d pulled over, and that was a conversation I didn’t want to have. There’s just no good way to explain that you’re pulled off the road and standing on the running board of your van because you’re scared of a spider smaller than a nickel. I’m all for backing the blue, but I’d rather not be their source of entertainment.

When Jeremy arrived, he asked where the spider was and in less than a minute, the creeper was on the asphalt. Jeremy hugged & kissed me and said, “Now let’s get out of here before the police man comes over here” (read my mind!).

So he rescued me. But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was at 3:08.

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“It was my privilege.”

There could be no better response. He didn’t laugh at me, chide me, or even smirk. He counted it his honor to save me from fright and embarrassment. I’ve thought a lot about that statement. His privilege. How so? Well, he’s the only one I’d have called without hesitation. He sees a side of me, knows depths of me that no one else knows. And not only does he love me anyway, but he considers it a privilege.

And that’s simply… well… I just don’t have the words.

 

 

What to do on a blue day October 27, 2016

Filed under: Depression,diary — Erynn Sprouse @ 10:31 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve written here before about my issues with depression… though, to call it “depression” somehow feels grandiose, like an overstatement. I suppose the label doesn’t particularly matter. Whatever it is, it’s gotten better (so much better!) and less frequent, too. Still… there are days like today. On days like today, I feel… fragile. Scared. Anxious. Small. Incapable. Wilted. I second (and third) guess everything I do. Everything feels much bigger than it really is. A cloak of sadness, melancholy, blue hangs on my shoulders, wraps itself around me, mutes all the colors, casts a fog over my mind, and makes everything difficult…

But it’s just a blue day. It’s nothing like these days used to be before I got my tattoo. It would be hard to express just what an amazingly effective and positive tool my tattoo has been. Even on blue days, I don’t have thoughts of ending my “sentence.” I’m not scared of myself or what I might do. I’m MUCH more in control. And I know the blue will pass (I can say that it’s just a blue day).

Another huge difference between then and now and is that I’ve learned what to do. It isn’t exactly that I’ve learned how to help  dig myself out, but I have learned some things that help me cope, get along, not sink… and I drew this to help remind myself of the tools I can use. I hope it’ll be of use to someone else, too.

 

The first thing I do when I start to feel that cloak settling down on me is to eat. Something. Anything. Usually, if I think about it, I realize that I haven’t eaten in some time. The next thing I do is either sing or put on some music. Then I text my best friend. From there, it’s survival mode. If I were sick with the flu, getting better would be the focus of my attention. It’s kind of like that with a blue day. I’ve learned to give myself permission to shift focus from getting stuff done to meeting basic needs (mine and the kids’). Sometimes the blue cloak comes out of nowhere, but usually I find that it comes when I’ve been neglecting self-care. If I use my tools constantly and consistently, I can pretty much keep the blues away.

If you read this and have questions about any of this, I’d be happy to help in any way I can; just leave a comment with your question or if you’d rather talk privately, just say so, and I’ll contact you by the email address you register with.

In HIS service,
Erynn

 

 

Christmas Season Begins! December 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 2:24 am

Around here, we have a few favorite traditions, and here are some pictures about them!
  Wall of Thankfulness— throughout the Christmas season, the kids get to draw about things they’re thankful for on a giant piece of paper tacked to the wall. It’s a great way to focus on blessings… and an easy thing to send them to do when they’re making me crazy… err… I mean when they need an activity.

  
Charlie the Christmas Chimp— He’s a (distant) cousin to the Elf on the Shelf, and quite closely related to the Christmas Mouse. Charlie announces fun activities, hands out good deed assignments, praises the kids for good behavior, brings treats… whatever we want him to do. Last year he married Charlene and the boys got to plan their wedding reception (the crazy chimps eloped). Today was Charlie’s debut for this Christmas season and the first assignment was as it has been the last few years: make him a house. This year, Charlie specifically requested the house be decorated (he’s married now, you know. No bachelor pads here!) and the boys came thru. They made plenty of art, complete with Spirograph frames. There’s a Christmas tree, a pet in its own cozy tube, and even bracelets and a necklace on a “stand” for Charlene. They didn’t forget to decorate the chimps’ ceiling either, where they’ve taped a portrait of the happy couple. 

  
Annual Ornament— each year, each kid picks a new ornament. We try to encourage them to pick an ornament that means something, but often it’s simply one they like. It gets labeled with the kids name or initials (depending on space) and the year. Each year, they get to hang their own ornaments on the tree. The rest of the tree gets filled with candy canes– a tradition we carried over from my family. When we’re done decorating the tree, we have cups of eggnog by the tree and this year we added a toast with “clinking” of glasses. 

  
  

Snowball fight— okay… we live in Texas. So obviously, this isn’t a literal snow ball fight. But “snowball fight” sounds much better than “balled up grocery bag fight,” even though the second is more accurate. This happens on Christmas Day and I’m looking forward to it. We run around and throw the “snowballs” at anyone and everyone and it’s just a ton of fun. This is actually a tradition we took up after an ill-advised attempt to establish a traditional silly string fight (silly string stains white walls. Who knew?).

These are some of my favorite traditions. There are more (so many more!) because… I don’t know. Traditions are very important to me. I like the way “we always… (did this or that)” bonds a family and makes the holiday special. Schedules and routines give me hives, but their cousin tradition is a welcome glue and memory maker.

I’d love to hear about your favorite Christmas traditions!

 

Bad Day (Or… I Got a Tattoo, pt 2) September 8, 2015

Filed under: Depression,Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 11:08 pm

I Got a Tattoo, pt 1

I knew this day would come. I knew that one day IB would be stronger than I could handle with three little words. When I was relying on a bracelet, these are the days when IB declared victory by practically ripping the leather from my wrist. If it had been anything weaker than leather, IB would have shredded it, sending the message that there would never be a day when he was not reigning.

And today was one of those days.

Love was not prevailing. I could find no love for myself, only fallings and flaws. Could find no patience for my husband, only failings and flaws. There is a victory here, though, because even with IB so very loud today, I did not yell. I did not have a single outburst. I found love to give to my children. I saw them smile, cherished their laughter, participated in their sillies and even made time to read to my little redheaded ray of sunshine.

But inside me, inside my head, it was dark today. Even now there is so little hope. And really, that’s why I’m writing. There is a little hope. And I want to capture it, want to fan it.

I knew this day would come and so I took measures to prepare against it.

Tonight I stood beside my bed, mid-diaper change, and wept. Sobbed. My little daughter stared up at me, unsure of what to do and, as even babies will do, wondered how to fix this. It was all there on her little puzzled face. She smiled tentatively, her eyes searching my face… and my face smiled, but my eyes did not. I could find nothing positive about me or my training of my children or my service as a child of God or my role as a wife. And for a moment I wanted to give up on this whole only love idea. And I started to say to myself… or rather, IB started to tell me… “‘Only love today’ Hah! Not today. No love today. That dumb tattoo doesn’t work. Nothing works and you’ll never win.” And that’s when I heard the lie. The tattoo does work. Because I CAN’T give up on trying, on striving for love for me and love for those around me. It’s still there, IB. My pledge is still there. I promised more than just that I wouldn’t end it all; I promised I would try and try and try, that I would strive and I would fight. Yes, today was hard. Yes, today all I see is the wrong and the failings and the flaws and it all seems cracked. Yes, today it seemed that I live in a perpetual state of cards thrown up in defeat.

BUT I DON’T.

I gave that up.

I gave up giving up. I quit being a quitter. I released myself from all of that. I don’t do it any more. I keep on. I trudge on. I promised I would and I sealed it with ink on my body where I see it every day, nearly every moment.

But today I had a bad day.

IB wants to tell me that I don’t get to have a bad day. It wasn’t a found-out-a-dear-one-died day. And it wasn’t a hurricane-destroyed-my-life day. And it wasn’t a fleeing-violent-war day. It wasn’t even a got-a-bee-sting day. IB wants to say that today wasn’t a bad day, that I’m just a baby. He wants me to believe that since nothing bad happened that it wasn’t a bad day and I don’t get to claim it. Because if it wasn’t just a bad day, then this is my life. The failings and the flaws and all the cracks… if this wasn’t just a bad day, then these are my life.

But he lies.

It was a bad day.
But he’s right, also. Or partly right: the failings and the flaws and the cracks are part of my life.

But that’s completely okay. Perfection is not required. Keeping on, trudging on… those things are required, and those things I can do. I promised to do. And you know what? It isn’t a bad day now. IB went quiet when I called him on his lies.

The tattoo was a good idea.

 

What You Don’t See August 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 7:00 pm

Homeschool moment

I posted this picture on Instagram & Facebook today captioned “#HomeschoolMoment Geography for big boys, Evelyn admiring her cute self, blocks for Ean & Joey.” A friend commented and said I was the bomb [dot] com. Oh me, oh my! That’s very kind… but NOT me!

Whenever homeschooling comes up, one of the most common responses I hear is that the mom I’m talking to couldn’t possibly homeschool her kids because she’s not ____ enough. She says she’s not smart enough, not organized enough, not patient enough, not… enough. And no matter what I say about how you don’t really have to be ____ to homeschool, they never believe me. Now, I really enjoy posting “homeschool moment” pictures, but it occurs to me, maybe these pictures aren’t helping this “not enough” notion. I want them to be a glimpse into our life for friends and family, a show-n-tell of how fun homeschooling is and a record for me of our blessed and privileged days. What I do NOT want is for it to be a magazine perfect image or unrealistic standard-setter for others to beat themselves up with.

So here’s what you don’t see in that picture…

Those are yesterday’s clothes. And not because they woke up and put them back on. They slept in them, then got up and went about the day. All of the kids. Except Joey, that is… yesterday he was wearing underwear (pants too). In fact, I took the picture off of social media because I realized that in the original picture you *do* see some of what you shouldn’t see.

couch piled high with clothes waiting to be folded is on the other side of the room from those intense looking block builders.

That was our third attempt to get the geography lesson done. We’d been interrupted several times already.

Ketchup on the playmat (I wiped it off). About 45 minutes earlier, Ean had squirted ketchup at Joey. No reason. He just thought it would be fun. When I called him in to ask him about it, he was smirking. Ohhhh that pushes my buttons! I *almost* lost it. Instead, I took a deep breath and whispered “Get out of my sight.” Definitely could’ve chosen better words, but I didn’t yell at him. A few minutes later he came back and I got the story out of him, then sent him back to his room to think up three ways of having fun with his brothers that didn’t involve ketchup (or any other condiments) and wouldn’t land him in trouble.

But back to Evelyn… That playmat playing only lasted about 15 minutes. Most of the time, school happens when she’s asleep. Otherwise, she’s hanging out on my hip or in my Boba. Those 15 minutes? Rare and golden.

It was 1:47 PM and we hadn’t had lunch yet. Now, for us, that’s pretty typical. I like to say we run on a European schedule (even though we’ve never been there). It used to flip me out (how will my children ever function in the REAL world where everyone ALWAYS eats lunch at noon?! Oh… wait…) but then I met a friend of a friend whose non-schedule ran a lot like my non-schedule and her nearly grown kids were pretty awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, though… We’re calling this day a victory for sure. I wanted to quit. Almost closed up the books and sent the kids outside. But the lightbulb went on: PRAY! So we prayed. We prayed that I would be patient, that the kids would be patient, that they would understand that their momma is only human and they would learn the good things from my example and somehow miss the bad. We prayed and then we pressed on and we got about half a day’s worth of work done. I guess I’m kind of glad that this picture looks like I’m the bomb dot com kinda mom… because I know what really happened. And I can look at everyone else’s bomb dot com mom pics and remember that maybe what I don’t see is just like what I do see here. :o)

 

Tasty-ish August 11, 2015

Filed under: Kids say the funniest things — Erynn Sprouse @ 8:56 pm

Conversation with Jaden & Jeremy​ just before dinner…
Jaden: could you get me new shoes tomorrow?
Me: Why?
Jaden: because the soles are coming off and tomorrow is Bible class.
Jeremy: I have some instructions for how to make duct tape shoes.
Jaden: really? Cool!
Me: <giving THE look>
Jaden: It’s like eating. You can go out to eat and it’s tastier but more expensive, or you can cook at home and it’s cheaper and… <grimacing> … tasty-ish

And here’s what we had that’s “tasty-ish.” Actually, Jeremy & I quite like it. The kids? Well… they need to learn that you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need. ;o) Who knows. Maybe they’ll grow to like it. Isaac said, “Mom, I find this more enjoyable than usual. Thanks.”

 

I got a tattoo August 10, 2015

Filed under: Depression,diary — Erynn Sprouse @ 1:01 pm

Recently I told a friend, “You’re going to think I’m joking, but I’m not. I got a tattoo.” Despite my warning, she thought I was joking. Maybe you’re waiting for the punch line too… but there isn’t one. I got a tattoo.

I’ve shared my reasons with my nearest and dearest and decided I wanted to write an explanation that I could point people to as needed. Really, I don’t owe an explanation to anyone, but sharing the reasons I got my tattoo is part of the reason I got it (that makes sense, right?).

So here goes.

There aren’t many facts about me or my life that are secret– I’m not a very private person– but perhaps the depths of some of the facts are. It’s not secret that depression has been an issue for me, but I’ve painted a far rosier picture than reality, even for my sweet hubby and, really, even for myself. Like Impressionism vs. Realism. The depth of it, the reality of it starts with “attempted” and ends with… well… it didn’t. Could’ve ended. Almost ended. But didn’t.


Let’s have an aside for a moment.

First, please excuse my vagueries. It makes a difficult subject, a difficult confession a little easier. I feel exposed enough. Forgive me hiding behind turns of phrase.

Second, if you know me and you’re reading this and feeling like you should’ve known, like I should’ve told you… you might be right. Maybe I should’ve. But that’s the nature of the thing, isn’t it? It lives in the dark, flourishes in the dark and withers in the light. Like any other thing with a mind of its own, it has a sense of self-preservation. And so I didn’t tell you because it wouldn’t let me. And in those moments when it didn’t have a grip on me, I suppose I was embarrassed & ashamed. For that matter, I am embarrassed and ashamed now… but I’m learning not to be. I’m determined not to be.


I have never felt like my depression was the haywire-brain-chemistry kind and medication isn’t my thing anyway. My depression has always been due to ugly self-talk from a vicious inner-bully (IB) who, like a skilled gardener, thrives off of as well as feeds my poor self-care habits. But I have been unable to stop the barrage… until recently. A while ago, I came across the phrase “only love today” on a blog called Hands Free Mama. At first, in my literalist, perfectionist mind, I balked at the phrase as an impossibility, but earlier this year, I guess I was desperate. It seemed like depressive episodes were coming more often and hitting harder. One incident really worried me. Whenever other people (besides my husband and kids) are around, I’ve never found it hard to shut down IB, be genuinely happy and enjoy my friends and family (it’s one of the things that tells me mine isn’t a clinical depression). But this was different.

cool dudes with Evelyn\
Thoughtful friends had gifted us with a photography session and the photographer wanted to come to the house. To my very messy house. She was going to be looking for a place to photograph the kids… inside my very messy house. I cannot explain the level of panic that set in. It is no exaggeration to say that I was non-functional. I could.not.stop.crying. Bawling. Crying so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. That had never happened before. When it came down to the wire, I could always at least fake a smile. But not this time. In a moment of strength, I texted a friend who had also dealt with depression and explained my situation. She offered to come over, and in a moment of superhuman strength, I hushed IB long enough to accept her kind offer. The day worked out, the pictures are lovely (and were taken outside!), but I was scared. It was as though my depression had entered another stage. Like cancer gone from stage three to stage four.

IMG_4904So I decided to try this “only love today” thing as a way to quiet IB. It worked pretty well, actually. So well that on a self-indulgent whim, I bought a bracelet off the Hands Free Mama site. When it came, I started wearing it nearly constantly. It worked better than I’d have ever thought possible, and soon it was almost a good luck charm or talisman. I would see the bracelet out of the corner of my eye and automatically read it, check my inner monologue and nearly always find that IB was whispering ugliness and spreading gangrene. But the words were right there and I would say the simple phrase to myself… “Stop. Only love today…” And as if a spell had been cast, IB would hush. Most of the time, anyway. The bracelet had one flaw: impermanence. On days when I forgot it after dishwashing or showering, I didn’t have the reminder I needed. And a time or two, IB was too strong and took it off so as to reign supreme. Overall, though, the difference was astounding.

Meanwhile, I came across something else interesting and powerful: “Project Semicolon.” The tagline is “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Honestly, I don’t know much about this movement beyond the tagline, so I wouldn’t say I’m one of them, but what an idea! I think what they’ve done is clever, simple and elegant. They’ve turned a basic punctuation mark into a symbol imbued with hope and victory. A quick google search will turn up tattoo after tattoo people have gotten of semicolons in support of depression/suicide/mental illness awareness. I wanted one too. “But I couldn’t,” I thought to myself. “What would people say?” And that’s when I recognized IB’s philosophy: what other people think of you is most important.

could. And I could fix my bracelet’s flaw as well.

2015-07-21 21.37.35Soon I was doodling designs, researching tattoo shops, first tattoo tips, and asking a few trusted, godly friends if they thought it was a good idea or not. Almost universally, as soon as I explained what I wanted and my reasoning, my friends agreed with me… this could be a really powerful tool. Everyone cautioned against haste and Jeremy asked me to draw my design on my wrist for a while to see if I really did want to make such a permanent mark. He’s a wise man and his request made me all the more attached to the idea. So… three weeks ago, on a Tuesday night, I drove to AJ’s Ink in Stephenville and got inked (which is how we tattooed people say it. I guess. Haha!). It’s much larger than I had planned. The tattoo artist advised me that the way I had it planned, the ink would run together and it wouldn’t be clear. It had to be bigger. Made me nervous and I almost backed out. But I’m so glad I didn’t because it has been the tool I’d hoped it would be, and more.

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… in my handwriting… because it’s MY declaration. My declaration of so much.

The semicolon part of my tattoo is a permanent declaration, a promise, a vow to myself and any who might see it that a voluntary end is off the table. Non-negotiable. It’s a promise to keep fighting and it’s an identifier for anyone who might know what the semicolon stands for that they– that we– are not alone. The “only love today” part is both goal and reminder. It is a goal to be loving toward myself both in my head and in my actions. Love is an active thing, and it reminds me that I must take care of myself. It is a reminder of my goal to let love rule my interactions with others. It is a reminder not to let things penetrate my heart that don’t come from love; the things that people say aren’t always born of love. The way the tattoo is designed, it also reads “only today,” and it reminds me that today is all I need to worry about.

That’s what I’d expected and planned though. What I didn’t expect was the feeling of freedom I had the morning after I got my tattoo. I think that’s when I finally grasped how dark things had really been. I hadn’t realized how very afraid I had been, how scared of myself I had felt… until I wasn’t any more. I was Dr. Jekyll freed of Mr. Hyde.

Of course, depression isn’t solved so easily as getting a tattoo on your wrist. It’s a process. Sometimes a long process. It has been long for me, but I’m so pleased… so VERY pleased… to be where I am and I feel like I’ve taken such a leap forward. I rather doubt others will notice; this has been such a private struggle. But I notice. And it bears repeating… I am so VERY pleased.

And while I am still embarrassed and a bit ashamed… I’m so pleased to share this with you. Joy is best shared.

Update: I got a tattoo (part 2)