Monthly Archives: January 2013

Faking Fortitude-Confessions of One Lacking

Faking Fortitude-Confessions of One Lacking

Reflecting on the last 18 months still causes the smoldering ulcer in the pit of my belly to spark and burn. It is that familiar gut-fire that keeps me moving forward, looking forward, and thinking forward. The internal belly blister is proof that ingesting one’s troubles and making meal after meal of worry and frustration will, in fact, eat a whole in the lining of your alimentary canal. Belly Fire, as I affectionately refer to my nocturnal internal sizzle, is something to which I have become accustomed and has become fast friends with my insomnia. I appreciate the ability to carry my ball of flammable burdens sight unseen, which is why seeing them displayed on the wall of my niece’s school was much like dreaming I was in public without my pants.

Walking into the gym to pick up my niece from her small Catholic school, she informs me that there is a picture of me hanging in the hall and pulls me in the direction of the classrooms. Along the way, she tells me that, Lilly, her older sister had written about me and the paper was hanging on the wall in the hallway outside of her classroom. Sure enough, there was Lilly’s completed assignment with my name in bold type and a picture of me with a giant arrow pointing to my head. Strangely enough, it was entitled “FORTITUDE”. The following is the text from Lilly’s interpretation of my recent struggles:

My aunt, Karri Thurman had courage when she had to lose her house. Her husband lost his job. They were given a house by her husband’s aunt and uncle, but it was torn up and outdated. She had to work her job at the nursing home and finish her home before she had to move. The house was small and they barely fit. Her three kids (13, 16, and 21) had to help. Then her son had anxiety attacks and was constantly at the hospital. She never lost courage and hope when I would have.

Lilly's Assignment

Lilly’s Assignment

Wow. There is nothing like hanging your dirty laundry on the wall of the Catholic Church, especially when it is the heart-felt version of a ten-year-old. Adding insult to injury, not only am I the aunt with a plethora of problems, I also am the aunt who is of the mysterious ‘public protestant school’ variety as opposed to their familiar Catholic private school experience. While I stood reading this snapshot of my life, I couldn’t help to think about what facts the casual reader would probably deduct from this information:

  • I didn’t pay my bills and lost my house to foreclosure
  • My husband couldn’t keep a job
  • We were given a one-room dilapidated shanty in which to live
  • We forced our kids to hours of hard labor
  • My son has been hospitalized numerous times with exacerbations of mental illness
  • My life is so horrendous that the fact that I can still face each day is a feat worthy of admiration

What can I say? Lilly’s version of this last year and a half is accurate, for the most part. There are, however, some details that would have probably helped the reader clarify the events more accurately. I might not have looked quite so much the ‘poor public protestant pariah’ had she included some of the following information:

My husband has been gainfully employed his entire adult life, but was laid off from his job in June 2011. Losing well over 50% of our income, our lives did change abruptly and drastically. We juggled and struggled in an attempt to stay in our large newer five-bedroom house. Nearly a year passed and we had exhausted our resources, retirement funds, etc. and we made the decision to lease out our house and to move into something smaller. Blessed beyond belief, Kevin’s Aunt and Uncle graciously offered up his Grandpa’s house on the farm for our family. It had stood empty since Grandpa’s passing the previous year. While Grandpa’s house is a great deal smaller than what we had been accustomed, it was more than sufficient for our needs. A brick ranch home, with two bathrooms, three bedrooms and a basement, we made it work just fine.

With just a few weeks until our renters moved into our house, we embarked on a round the clock do-it-yourself project at Grandpa’s farm. It required all hands on deck as we redid floors and cabinets, knocked down and rebuilt walls, and painted (lots of painting). The kids did help and so did friends and family. Blood, sweat, tears, and the little money we had all went into transforming this empty house into our home. Unlike Lilly’s version, no young children were harmed or exploited during the rehab project.

The Three Poor Kids that Barely Fit

The Three Poor Kids that Barely Fit

That brings us to the part of Lilly’s story, which I consider to be the biggest challenge to my fortitude and that is my son’s struggle with anxiety. Since he was a toddler, anxiety has been Evan’s tormentor. It has stifled nearly every aspect of his life. Its presence and severity have waxed and waned over his lifetime on a course no one can predict or prevent. Shortly after our move to the farm, anxiety reared its ugly head and did so with a vengeance and he brought his buddy, ‘depression’. The loss of a job, a house, and a way of life pales pitifully to watching my only son being engulfed by a darkness I cannot see; held captive by shackles to which I have no keys. Nothing fuels my belly fire like the uncertainty of whether my child will be able to pull out of this nosedive before he crashes full-force into the very world in which he cannot find comfort.

As parents, Kevin and I reached out for any resources we could find to help us to help our boy. As we consulted doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, we scrambled to help Evan find his way to the surface in the anxiety and sadness which were drowning him. We searched his sad eyes for any sign of the sparkle that reflects his spirit, longing desperately for the dark hand that gripped his soul to relinquish its grasp. It has been a long and frustrating road and Evan has come so very far from where he was. I feel like I spend a great deal of my time holding my breath, fearing if I breathe easy he will start to slip back away from me. He isn’t a star athlete or a Rhodes Scholar, but he can make me laugh like no other. In recent days we have shared more laughter than tears and if he has given me anything at all, it is a place to anchor my hope.

I appreciate that Lilly gleaned ‘fortitude’ out of my colorful character palette. It is a far cry from what I know resembles my authentic self. After all, there is nothing courageous about lying awake night after night allowing my worries and fears to feast on the mucosal lining of my stomach. So, Lilly, the truth is Aunt Karri isn’t a good example of fortitude. I am a closet chicken; A worry swallower. If there is anything I can give you in place of my failed fortitude it would be the lessons these experiences have taught me. Tuck them in your pocket or hang them in the hallway outside your classroom, or hide them away for a time when life gets a little bumpy:

  • A house is just a house. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small, fancy or plain, if it has one bathroom or seventeen. It is the people inside that make it a home.
  • When you grow up, work very hard at whatever job you choose, doing your best is important. Be very careful to not let your work get ahead of your family. Things start to get out of whack when that happens.
  • The genuine people in your life will not care about the house you live in, they will only be concerned about the people inside it.
  • If God blesses you with children, never look at them as anything other than what God created them to be. Never lose sight of the fact that God does not consult you in such matters.
  • Life requires you to be flexible.
  • Don’t let your worries chew on the inside of your belly.
  • It is much easier to keep two bathrooms clean than four. Bigger isn’t always better.
  • Talk to God. He listens…even to us “publics”

    Lilly on Papa's Lap

    Lilly on Papa’s Lap


Growing Up April Fresh and Squeaky Clean

Growing Up April Fresh and Squeaky Clean


My mom is the Chuck Norris of clean. Two completely random and separate interactions with my dear sisters reminded me of the ultra-shiny-hand-washed-hung-dry-neatly-pressed-streak-free bond we share.  In a recent conversation about Santa’s reindeer with my sister, Kim, (this is not even close to being in the top 100 of strange conversations we have had) we discovered that we both grew up feeling sorry for the reindeer Comet.  We were operating under the assumption that all the other reindeer had been given cool names and he was named after an ordinary household cleanser.   Neither could relate a fanciful flying reindeer to a spectacular celestial light streaking through the night sky.  We both, however, could relate to the extraordinary things Mom could do with an ordinary household cleanser. A few days following our reindeer conversation, my younger sister, Emily, posted this Facebook status:



It seemed fitting that I should pay homage to the pint-sized woman who can scrub an entire house from top to bottom, do seven loads of laundry (a load consists of washed dried folded/hung/pressed and put away) and put a streak-free shine on Mr. Clean’s bald head all before his feet hit the floor in the morning.  Lessons we have learned from Mother Judy:  mom

1.       “A little bit of sprayin’ and a whole lot of wipin’”  Mom’s motto she applied to little hands trying to be helpers and then later to big hands just doing a half-assed job on assigned chores.  Pledge furniture polish was the easiest to overuse, but the phrase was also regularly applied to Windex, SoftScrub, shoe polish, Spot Shot, and a variety of multipurpose cleaners.  Approximately 99.9% (see addendum below) of all household cleaning chores carried out by her offspring were subsequently deemed “pretty good” and then totally redone by the Queen of Clean.

2.      Clean with the spirit of a ninja warrior.  All members of our family have been subjected to the svelte ways of Mom in motion.  While enjoying an ice-cold beverage, one must only lose physical/visual contact with the glass for a split second for her to strike.  In the time required to blink, the glass has been dumped, rinsed, and tucked into the dishwasher.  The ninja technique also is applied to bowls of cereal, half-eaten sandwiches, partially read newspapers and unmade beds left unattended for early morning trips to the bathroom.

3.      Mom and a toothbrush are a force to be reckoned with.  Many tough jobs have been tackled by mom and a toothbrush.  Grout, tiles, floors, stoves, etc. have been subjected to her fury against the grime.  However, one cannot fully grasp the mightiness of Mom welding this seemingly harmless tool, except those of us who have stood before her having failed the “oral hygiene inspection”.  The kind, docile creature transforms into a self-appointed Cavity Creep assassin.  Having to endure a tooth-brushing session at the hands of this well-meaning fanatic is comparable to what I imagine it would be like to have your mouth (teeth, gums, and tongue) scrubbed thoroughly with a Brillo-pad.

4.      A dusty car might as well be a rusty car.  My car is an extension of my family’s hectic life and usually contains all of or a combination of the following:  basketballs, socks, sweatshirts, electronics, snacks, lip gloss, bottled water, crumbs, textbooks, book bags, golf clubs, work stuff, and hair and makeup accessories.  My mom’s car contains floor mats and a garage door opener.  Not only is the inside of her car in showroom condition, but should a layer of dust accumulate on the outside of the car, she takes the time to “dust” the body of the vehicle.  Riding in my car makes my mom nervous.

5.      If it cannot be cleaned, it must be destroyed.  The large ranch-style home we lived in when my little sister Emily was born had very nice dark brown carpeting.  Although the carpeting had been recently installed by the previous owners of the house and was in tip-top shape, it was a source of loathing for Mom.  While most people would appreciate a floor covering that didn’t readily show dirt, this trait was an unforgivable flaw in her eyes.  No amount of cleaning, scrubbing, or vacuuming would squelch Mom’s distrust of what the brown carpeting was hiding.  Plans to replace the carpet were put-off by my step-dad and Mom’s patience was wearing thin.  As growing babies do, Emily began scooting around on the floor to explore the world around her and that was a game changer.  Emily’s tiny white socks were dingy where she had scooted on the floor. The tiny defiled socks were proof positive that Mom’s suspicions were not unfounded and she took matters into her own hands-literally.  Early on a Saturday morning, I awoke to quite a commotion.  Mom, with a crowbar, box cutter and her tiny little hands was ripping the carpet up, leaving only the purple padding.  While making her feel MUCH better, the stunt ended in a lengthy stalemate with my step-dad.  Several weeks passed in the pristine house with the purple padding on the floor, before my step-dad relented and had new carpeting installed.

Clean facts worthy of sharing:

  • Mom was chastised by her beloved dog’s veterinarian for giving the pooch a bath EVERY SINGLE DAY!  (Please see photo of the dog’s reaction when she retrieves his tub from the laundry room)


    Hopper hiding at bath time.

  • When lice broke out in my sister’s elementary class, she washed the girl’s hair with the medicated shampoo so many times that her scalp started to crack and bleed.  Bedding was burned.
  • The obsession with cleaning often spills out in how Mom communicates.  Actual quote:  “I don’t think he is the shiniest tool in the shed.”
  • While bathing us, Mom used to put our shoestrings in the bathtub with us.  The only things worse than dirty shoestrings were dirty shoes.  She polished white tennis shoes each night.
  • Mom’s doomsday preparation list would include:  bleach, SpotShot, Windex, a dust mop and a broom.

Unfortunately, for Mom, her OCD cleaning gene is recessive…very recessive.  She had three chances to see her affinity for the super clean manifest itself in the lives of her offspring and none of us have it.  We seem to have picked up some of her habits and at times we get a little cranky when the laundry piles up or we fall behind on the household chores. However, I can (and do) go to bed with the throw pillows in disarray and the kitchen floor un-swept.  After cooking a delicious meal, Kim can have a martini before the kitchen is clean and is perfectly content to allow someone else to clean it, while she has a martini.  Emily’s movements can often be tracked from the time she enters the house by the things she leaves along the way…shoes…purse….scarf and I am 100% certain she has never dusted the outside of her car.

I used to stress over thinking Mom was going to be disappointed in me, if she discovered toothpaste not rinsed out of the sinks or that the load of clothes I have in the washer has to be washed again because I forgot to put it in the dryer (yesterday or possibly the day before that).  How could this super woman who can clean, work, teach, workout, and meet the needs of so many people around her feel anything other than shame in having a daughter like me???  It would be just like my pint-sized dynamo of a mother to give me an out; to magnify my perceived domestic shortcomings as strengths which she lacked.  In fact, that is exactly what she did.

It wasn’t long after the birth of my youngest child that I attended a mother-daughter dinner, where my mom was the speaker for the evening.  As a dynamic speaker and teacher in women’s Christian ministry, I was prepared for an uplifting and powerful message from Mom.  I was not expecting to hear her share the following story with the audience:

I am so lucky to have my oldest daughter, Karri, here with me tonight.  I am even luckier to have her as my daughter.  It is hard to believe that she is a mother of three children now and she is an amazing mom.  (I am now thinking, where is she going with this?  I sometimes suck on Sophi’s pacifier when she drops it on the ground and stick it back in her mouth.  There is nothing amazing about that).  In fact, I wish that I could have been more like the mom she is when she was growing up.  She became a mother when she was fairly young.  I remember one particular day when I stopped by her little rental house and I went in the front door and there were toys scattered all over the living room.  I continued through the house and on the kitchen table there were two bowls where she and my granddaughter, Riley, had eaten cereal. (Great, she is up there on that stage telling them what a lousy housekeeper I am).  The laundry room had several piles of clothes needing to be laundered.  Where do you think I found her?  She was in the backyard, sitting in a tiny sandbox building sandcastles with her daughter.  You see, ladies, there will always be things to pick up, laundry that needs washed and dishes to do, but there are only so many moments in which we can build sand castles. I wish I had built more sandcastles. 

Addendum:  After consulting with my sisters, I was informed that my estimate of 99.9% of the chores were redone by Mom is incorrect and the actual amount was 110%.


01/01/2013Spending New Year's Day stripping wallpaper and cleaning in Emily's new home.

Spending New Year’s Day stripping wallpaper and cleaning in Emily’s new home.

Working and rockin' her skinny jeans

Working and rockin’ her skinny jeans