Ancient History

Follow Me?


Being butterflies—The truth about our 2009

2009 was a caterpillar year.

It just occurred to me my blog isn’t really a diary because there is so much I have never written about certain aspects of 2009—trials, worries, and overwhelming pressures that tear me to my core on some days.

I maintain a happy outward front to most people because that is what I must do. It’s my duty to put one foot in front of the other and grin as though my feet don’t have a dozen blisters dotting my calloused pink skin. So I post pretty pictures and tell inane stories when deep inside, I ache for better times. I know I am far from alone. 2009 has left many people worse off than they were a year ago.

All of this is through no fault of our own. The circumstances that brought us to our knees so many times this year were because of a decision my husband’s employer made back in February that rippled through every corner of our lives. Our marriage has been affected, our relationships with our children, the condition of our house, and small things like the fact I desperately want a haircut but have to put it off for next month, or maybe the next.

We haven’t been idle or let all this wash over us without fighting back. My husband has done everything a sensible, responsible, loving husband and father would do in this situation and that is to work harder than ever. There were times this past summer and fall when the kids would literally go for days without seeing him. He’d leave for work before they were awake and return home after they were in bed. This left me to parent 7 young children virtually alone and it took its toll—on me and on them.

I let discipline slide. Not completely and not crazy out of control—Nobody has taken the van out for a joyride yet, but bedtimes got later and later because dinner was later and later because lunch was later and later because I was too tired to get to the breakfast dishes.

For months, we’ve been told to look forward to January 1st because we’d be restored to where we were before. Not rich, but we could afford to splurge a little here and there. We clutched this date to our chests and talked about what we’d do when the burden was lifted. It was going to be grand in that Meet Me in St. Louis old-fashioned sense. Our heels would kick up and we’d twirl and laugh. End credits. Applause.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. No word of rescue, no relief in sight.

I don’t need a telescope to see it coming because it has been perched on the end of my nose for so long. Endure.

So I will endure. We all will.

2009 brought joys and triumphs and blessings, too.

Archie was born.

We drove to California (and back) in July. It was a wonderful trip with many happy memories. I am proud of the way it all worked out, with sandwich lunches at rest stops and inexpensive hotels. The whole trip was blessed.

The kids are doing well. They are busy, getting good grades, and have been honored in various ways. Tommy and Aidan were in the school district’s art fair, Sam was recently in the school’s geography bee. Ryley started a blog and I love to read his thoughts. Joel is thriving in kindergarten. Beatrix has really blossomed into a lovely little girl. There is nothing babyish about her any more. Archie is pure delight.

We’ve always had enough food, clothing, housing, fuel for our cars.

We sacrificed our satellite service, our newspaper, eating out, going to movies (unless we have a gift card), shopping for new clothes.

I’ve embraced $1 rentals, consignment shopping, reading news online, packing school lunches every day, free days at cultural offerings, coupons, and paid focus groups. I’ve give my opinion on stuff and then a nice person hands an envelope stuffed with cash to me. When that new laundry detergent smells great and whitens your whites? You are welcome.

We’ve won stuff in contests we entered. That’s fun. Blogging has given me opportunities to go places and get some cool stuff. I can think of the roller derby, Cirque du Soleil, moms nights out, and a Wii Fit Plus party where I was given…a Wii Fit Plus!

The year ahead will probably feature a lot more of the same. It’s deflating and exhilarating because I know that in the midst of my worries and annoyances, we are truly blessed beyond belief. Crazy blessed. Compared to the rest of the world, our wealth is in-sane.

Yours is, too.

We spent the last day of 2009 at The Wildlife Experience, which is devoted to educating and entertaining families about animals and their habitats. It’s a really nice place. We’ve been there several times through Mile High Mamas opportunities. This time, we were on our own (and admission was taken care of by cultural passes through our library—free!).

The newest exhibit is all about butterflies. It tries to help kids envision what it’s like to be a butterfly. What to eat? Where to live? The process of changing from gruesome caterpillar into lovely, airy, winged being.

Look at my lovely husband. His back aches, his brain aches, his heart aches. He is a good man:


I watched the kids line up and clomp in shoes tied together, meant to simulate how a caterpillar must undulate along to get from leaf to leaf.


They wore wings and climbed on a web. At the end, they held on to great orange wings and travelled on zip lines. They flew.



It takes time to get to that point. It takes peril and lots and lots of plain green leaves to chew through.

Who is to say we aren’t already flying?

I feel lighter already.

26 comments to Being butterflies—The truth about our 2009

  • Gretchen, as always, you tell it so well. More of us can relate than most probably imagine. We had similar things happen in my husband’s line of work, and we’ve be doing everything we can, too, to make enough just for the necessities. I’m thankful for awesome resale shops nearby for my growing kiddos, and for gift certificates we’ve been given for “luxuries” as we go along.

    It’s hard, and I do hope there is a big relief in the very near future.

    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..Happy New Year’s Eve: The "Better Full Than Empty" Edition =-.

  • Any time you need prayer, you know where to find me. 🙂
    Love ya,
    .-= Dorci´s last blog ..Flavor of the Month – Chocolate Almond Biscotti with Nutella Glaze =-.


    Wow, it was like reading about my life and the feeling of kinship from sharing a moment with someone who has been living through hardships and joys of the last year. I’m a mom of 6 between 3 and 19. 3 of ours has autism. My husband lost a job, took a manual, underpaid position. The majority of providing, taking care of the house, figuring out bills and what we can sacrifice or what we can buy has primarily fallen on my shoulders. However, as I sit here tonight, the joys of being the mom of some really great kids and being married to the love of my life is far worth the costs and hardships.

    Find me on facebook: melchormama

  • Although 2009 wasn’t the ideal situation, you and your family survived it and seemed to have thrived. I hope 2010 is a whole lot better.
    .-= Viki´s last blog ..WooHoo =-.

  • Dropping my other job has meant cutting back on most luxuries for us, too, but since Husband and I have always been “cheap dates,” it doesn’t really feel like much of a sacrifice for us. As you said, we are still so, so wealthy compared to most of the world. Using library passes, getting restaurant gift cards for Christmas, and taking advantage of those offers I get from blogging are our main means of entertainment as well. And Anja is surely not deprived!

    Thanks for being transparent about your year. I find it hard to blog about our trials, too, and my life probably comes across as more rosy than it is. A good reminder to keep each other in prayer as we read!
    .-= Minnesotamom´s last blog ..Current Obsessions: A Meme =-.

  • Gretchen, so true, so bittersweet, and so beautiful. Thank you for your honesty. We’re all struggling through these times – not in the same ways, perhaps, but we are all struggling – and we will get through it one way or another. We have to cling to what we can – our faith, our families – and let go of things that we once thought we couldn’t live without, but that we now see are really just little extras. When we do this, things come into perspective and we come out better than before. I believe that.

    Hang in there, and don’t hesitate to ask for prayer. I’d be honored to pray for you.

  • Rachel

    You are NOT alone! My husband lost his job in March, and we made the decision to live off of just my income (a teacher’s salary at that) so he could finish school. He should have graduated May 2010…and then his university decided to change the course rotation. So we’ll have to wait longer, which means my income needs to last longer. We’ve lacked for nothing, but it’s certainly been an adjustment.

  • Oh my! What a tough year. I admire so much, though, how you’ve put on a brave face here… not that I would’ve minded your sharing, but I understand why you didn’t. More, though, I admire your perspective. It humbles me. God bless you and yours this year… especially that husband of yours… well, and you for when he is gone so much.

  • Oh man, Gretchen. You are indeed right. There are so many things I choose not to share because it would either take too much effort or too much emotion. I had no idea your year had been so tough. I’m sorry.

    I seriously hope God does something amazing in and for your family this year.

    Peace to you.

  • This is a great post, Gretchen! I’m not sure what else to say, but wanted to know that it touched me. (I knew I should have bookmarked that handy list of comment-suggestions you posted last year…) 😉
    .-= The Casual Perfectionist´s last blog ..Happy New Year! =-.

  • Just when we think we are all alone, we go and read a post that we completely relate to and understand. I think when the comments roll in you will see that you are so not alone in the world and almost everyone totally knows what you are saying!!! I am hoping my blog isn’t a diary of the nitty and the gritty, the grubby and the murkey parts of our lives – there is so much of that, I am hoping that our blog celebrates the good times and when we handle things well!!! You take care and lots of love!!!

  • Thank-you for sharing Gretchen. We had a similar experience this year. I’ve never spoke of it because my husband would die if anyone knew. He especially didn’t want his parents to know since they would have worried themselves sick. It wasn’t always easy putting on a happy face and having them to dinner twice a week.

    Hugs to you…we should get together!

  • Thank you for sharing what’s been going on under those beautiful photos and happy tales. I know so many can relate, especially this year, and I do feel it’s a tale of triumph ultimately.

    Wishing you and your family a happy, relaxed, weights-lifting kind of new year.
    .-= Beth – Total Mom Haircut´s last blog ..If Every Day . . . =-.

  • So glad to know that the pretty pictures and the inane (they really aren’t inane) stories haven’t disappeared for you in the midst of your family’s metamorphosis. (Did I just really use metamorphosis as a metaphor? Oh my…)
    .-= Anonymouse´s last blog ..2010: the year of the blog =-.

  • Mom

    You and Lee have come through a amazingly hard time as have many people and this year may be more of the same. You have shown how resilient and resourceful you are by looking back and seeing how you survived and by seeing how blessed you are. God has been there under girding you. He has carried you when you were exhausted and discouraged. It shows that our hope is not in the employer or our government but in the Lord. He does not disappoint. He supplies the strength when we need it. When you hurt, I hurt too and it is on our knees that we receive the strength to keep going.

  • “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. No word of rescue, no relief in sight.

    I don’t need a telescope to see it coming because it has been perched on the end of my nose for so long. Endure.

    So I will endure. We all will.”

    Wow. Thank you for writing this so well. You are a shining example of making the most out of a bad situation. Of thankfulness in the meantime.

    Thank you Gretchen, you encourage me.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Interim =-.

  • edj

    I know. My blog doesn’t really reference the dark stuff either. It’s only about 1/2 of me. But that’s okay, because in rereading through some of last year’s posts, I realized it all sounded more fun than it felt, and I liked that.
    Sorry this year’s been rough on you guys. As someone who has had more than her fair share of what I call “survival parenting,” which is when you’re in survival mode and the finer points of parenting go out the window, I encourage you that I think seasons of that are okay. After all, all parents give their kids emotional baggage–we must too 🙂 Seriously, your kids will be fine.
    That wildlife experience looks amazing! Plus it gave you a beautiful metaphor.
    Here’s to a happy and easier 2010!
    .-= edj´s last blog ..Christmas Reprise =-.

  • Amy

    I am so sorry that your year has been so difficult. Thank you for being brave enough to share your heart with us.

    For what it’s worth, I’ll be praying for you.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..The Boy Drumming =-.

  • Ah, Gretchen, our 2009 was so similar to yours. I love how you tied it together in a neat bow though, and made the ugly beautiful, or at least palatable. Kudos. Praying that 2010 is better than 2009 … for both our families.

  • My heart hurts a little just reading this. Certainly, I’m not one who believes you need to tell all on your blog. This is your corner; you should do what you want.

    That said, seeing this part of your life from the last year is inspiring and sweet. I truly pray God graces your 2010 with more rest and less stress. (Sorry. Didn’t mean to sound like a bumper sticker there.)
    .-= Kelly @ Love Well´s last blog ..Saturday Evening Post =-.

  • Your ability to capture it all is just beautiful, Grechen. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for this.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..The Decade & The Year: in Review =-.

  • Thanks for this, Gretchen. It was so well stated and applies to so many people, I think, our family included. And guess what I (er… my kids) got for Christmas from their grandparents? A new butterfly house (since we used our last one out)! I will think of this post often this year as I scoop caterpillar poop out of that thing–becoming butterflies.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Christmas Perfection =-.

  • First, I have to say that I LOVE this post. Of course, your writing is beautiful and you are so genuine and honest and optimistic and pretty darn resilient.
    Second, I have to say that the last photo is laugh out loud funny. A sense of humor gets you through almost everything doesn’t it?
    .-= Sarah@Clover Lane´s last blog ..On Teenagers…The Whole Stinkin’ Lot of Them =-.

  • More and more every day, I find my gratitude restored. This is so beautiful, such a wonderful reminder, such a beautiful perspective on seeing what we have, instead of what we don’t.
    .-= Sara Joy´s last blog ..Obligatory =-.

  • Gretchen, other than one passing reference in a recent post, I had no idea that all this was going on this past year, and I understand your reluctance to share. I’m glad you ultimately did write about it. Reading it and your mom’s response brought tears to my eyes. We know that God can use all things for good, and my prayer is that in 2010 He will reveal to you the good that will come from this time of hardship.
    .-= Shayne´s last blog ..30K =-.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>