Adventures in DungeonMastering

dndnite

So, I run a small Dungeons and Dragons game at our home each week. Talk about your homegrown game– four of the players are my own kids, with my daughter’s paramour filling the final seat. We’ve been playing now for two months or so and it’s definitely an adventure, although maybe not in the way the game designers intended.

We’ve been playing through the initial adventure that comes with the new Starter Set for 5th Edition D&D.  Since all of us were pen and paper newbies, we’ve had lots of flubs along the way. Mostly this was related to the ruleset– no one can keep skill rolls straight in their head, so every time someone has to roll for a stealth check or a spell saving throw, it’s a quick argument about the rule and a check in the Player’s Guide.

The bigger flubs, of course, have been around the very basic essentials of roleplaying. To wit, I couldn’t get them to actually play their characters for any extended amount of time. So I created a polymorphed copper dragon who was poking his nose into their business. With a few prods here and there (and a few extremely annoying acts by Merc the dragon), they gradually started to get into the RP more and more.

After all, it’s pretty startling to be fighting orcs and hear applause out of the darkened woods nearby. Anybody might call out “Who’s there?”

Our biggest problems have stemmed from the reality that 5 year olds are not exactly ready for extended battles and long discussions of “what to do next”– five year olds want action and treasure and glory, preferably every two or three moves. So we’ve had a lot of “bored kindergartener rampaging around the table” incidents. And our 7 year old player didn’t start out with much tolerance of things not going his way. Something as simple as rolling a miss would send him into hysterical weeping.

Gradually, though, those problems are being resolved. The 5 year old decided he’d rather go play computer games, only dropping in once in a while during a combat and taking a swing at something. (This means we have, essentially, a NPC druid following the party around, shapechanged, until he decides he wants to play for a bit.) The 7 year old has learned that a miss is not the end of the world and saves his crying for the inevitable time that the teenagers ignore his wishes. Nothing like a little hysteria to distract the dungeonmaster while they are trying to play an NPC.

This week, one of our younger players decided to light a candle on the sideboard that’s just behind our play-space. Naturally, he burned the crap out of his thumb and index finger. Then, freaking out and shocked by the pain, he started vomiting all over the hallway that abuts the dining room. Vomiting CHILI, I might add. So, yeah, that was lovely.

But there have been several great moments where everyone burst into laughter, a few epic battles with good choices and lucky rolls, and lots of trudging through mud, figurative and roleplayed.

The biggest problems (besides 5 year olds on a tear) have been battles over snacks. Just an FYI for anyone pondering such a game night– don’t get anything TOO good, because then the players will spend all their energy fighting over, say, the Jelly Belly jellybeans or the Skittles in bowls. Chocolate is just bad for your miniatures, and pies and cakes take too much space with their plates and forks and whatnot. Chips are standard but also hard on your dice and minis. Look for easy cleanup and moderate enjoyability. Really– breaking up a fistfight over jellybeans is no fun.

We’re going to have to take a two week break, due to holidays and general busy-ness, but I’m hoping we maintain the momentum afterwards. It’s fun to spend time with your kids while engaged in imaginative play. So often that ends once they get to be teens– it’s no longer “Watch me, Mom, I’m a cowboy/ninja/superhero.” They shuffle off to their bedrooms and hide from boring old Mom and Dad. This gives me a space where we can play together again. And that’s worth the investment.

(It wouldn’t be nearly as expensive if the little kids didn’t insist we needed maps and miniatures in order to play. Older kids just need their imaginations, but the littles want to SEE their character take on that orc horde.)

 

 

 

Unpacking my head

pregnancy-infant-loss-awareness-day

I spent an ill-advised few hours this evening listening to Lana Del Rey. Ill-advised not because of any special flaws in her music, but because the dark themes of her songs stirred up the muck at the bottom of my particular dark well of history.

My past is a series of mistakes, lucky accidents, and horrifyingly bad timing. I went trolling through the muck, looking back through my oldest email accounts, and stirred up things from 2004 onwards, things that maybe were better left undisturbed. Because they still have the power to disturb ME. Because the me that existed then was so terrifyingly lost that I can still feel that sense of dislocation, that suffocating grief.

And I don’t want to live there anymore.

Still, it’s easier to see some things now in a clearer light. It’s easier to see that the terrible timing of events was to blame for a lot of things. You see, one of the things that shattered into smoking ashes back then was my blogging “career.” I was on the cusp of breaking into “real” money-making writing. I was actually getting some notice for an article I’d written, I had lots of page counts, an editor had said encouraging things about more articles, it was all going really well.

That same week, I had a miscarriage nine weeks into a much-sought-after pregnancy. And then I went, quite simply, out of my mind.

I spent six months like that, inhabiting a world of postpartum psychosis so intense that I slept less than 2 hours a night for weeks on end. My blogging simply fell apart. My life fell apart.

Terrible timing. And a terrible loss. By the time I picked myself up off the floor and found my sanity again, I launched myself immediately into another pregnancy and simultaneously into nursing school. And I lost more things there– people, relationships, family, friends, obsessions, joys. Then another pregnancy, followed by another bout of postpartum psychosis within six weeks. That one was a bad one, and I almost lost my life.

It took me three years to crawl out of that mess. Time all told? I was lost for nine years.

Which is why it’s so hard to look back at that mess and try to make sense of it. But I’ve been drawn back there this week, just sucked into this mess of emotions and regrets and grief and guilt. Reading emails, piecing together memories, trying to drag some sense of meaning from it all . . . it’s painful work. But I have a feeling that it’s work I need to do, a mess I still need to unpack so I can finally throw it all away.

It’s not stuff I can share, for the most part. Too many people would be hurt, too many people need to be sheltered from the skeletons that would come crawling out of that particular closet. It’s hard to post on a reliable basis, however, when I’m obsessively facing those painful memories down and trying to beat them into some kind of intelligible shape.

Hell, I’m not sure what I’m even saying. Or what any of it means. I am trying to make my peace with the past, and sometimes it feels like it will swallow me back down into those awful places again. Someone once mocked me, saying that I knew nothing about “real life” because I’d married young and led what she considered a sheltered life. I wish I’d been able to tell her that you don’t have to live on the streets and do meth to face demons of temptation and ruin. They’re waiting for any of us, all the time, just a breath away.

I won’t let them win.

 

 

Meeting where you are

So, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about the Catholic Church and our position on a number of subjects since the opening of the Church’s latest Synod. Many of the topics were subjects dear to progressive hearts, like homosexuality and birth control, but one of the big topics was how we minister to divorced and remarried people. Or, at least, how we minister to remarried people who have done so without getting an annulment first.

The basic “vibe” that’s coming from Rome is that we need to do a better job of meeting people where they are, of ministering to them while they’re in the woods and helping them find the path out of those woods. And some people are offended by that, as if the Church is demanding too much by trying to lead her lambs back to the straight and narrow path. Why not just accept that things are different now, that the Church is asking too much, and just let the members of the flock wander wherever they want?

I am convinced that most of the progressives really do mean well when they say this. They think it’s unfair and judgemental for us to say that people living in homosexual relationships or in remarriages sans annulments are off the path. They want mercy and none of that harshness they’re perceiving. What they seem to miss, though, is that most of us Catholics of the more orthodox stripe aren’t speaking from spotless lily-white perfection when we say this. You see, we’re all sinners TOO, and we’re out in the darn woods half the time ourselves.

The Church *is* us, fallen and broken and patched-together as we are. We need that ministering just as much as any homosexual couple or contracepting couple or whatever. The Church has to meet US where we are and try to usher us back to the path, too. Luckily for us, there are systems in place for some of it– the rite of Reconciliation, for one. But parishes are big and communities aren’t close-knit and people fall through the cracks a lot. I’m in a considerable crack myself, right now. Not because I want to be, trust me, but mostly because I’ve been sick and missing the Sacraments and our parish doesn’t really have an outreach that’s grabbing me and pulling me back in.

The bad part about all this is that we Catholics are supposed to be a light in the darkness, to live our lives as examples of love and grace in action. If we mess that up, it could actually make things worse by driving people AWAY from God. No pressure, guys. We’re just responsible for not scandalizing people with our actions, lest they turn their backs on salvation. No biggie, right?!?!

I’m afraid that I’ve probably done that in the past, that I could be doing it right now. Because if I’m this messed-up WITH Jesus, well, it doesn’t speak well for the effects of faith, right? I mean, wouldn’t being a Christian make me HAPPY?

Trust me, I am way happier than I have ever been. I’m just also in a sucking morass of postpartum depression. One of the misunderstood things about a belief in God is the weird corollary that we must not believe in evolution or science. Uhh, well, we’re not all fundies, you know. I believe in God because it answers the big questions, but I’m currently fighting depression for simple scientific reasons that have everything to do with my biochemistry and nothing to do with how much I love Jesus.

But the problem is that people are meeting me where *I* am, and I’m not in a good place.

I worry that it creates the wrong impression. I hope that it just makes it obvious that faith is not some one-way ticket to La-La Land where everyone’s got an idiotic grin plastered on their face and no one asks any questions. I worship a man-god who was tortured to death, a man-god who was so terrified and horrified at the prospect that he wept blood the night before it all went down. He didn’t get any easy outs from the frailty of human flesh, so why should I expect special treatment?

I just hope and pray I can do a better job of being a loving and faithful person. I have a really low pain tolerance and a high overall pain level lately, so I haven’t been doing a great job of it. No dental abscess, thank goodness, but still fighting off the nerve pain in my face. And my back is, as always, hanging around  7-8 on the pain scale.

We’ve all got our crosses to bear. We’re all off the path at times. I seem to spend most of my time running away from my own salvation, whether out of pride or fear or weakness. Because it can really HURT to do the right things sometimes. Because it’s not fun and games and a little paper cup of grape juice on a platter. It’s struggle and frustration and a shared cup of blood we’re drinking from.

So forgive me if sometimes I’m in a lousy place and I’m not showing you the love and respect you deserve. And I’ll try to return the favor. And in the long run, maybe we’ll all get back on the path of righteousness and not keep wandering off into those woods that promise freedom . . . but just lead to wolves.

Savage Misery

So I had two root canals done a couple weeks ago. Not the worst I’d ever had done, by any means, as I’d had some done in late pregnancy before and THAT was no fun, but still they weren’t exactly enjoyable. They seemed like they were healing up okay . . ..

Until this weekend, that is. Twinges started Saturday night, and today has been just unbearable. Obviously he missed something or some germ got lodged in there somehow, as I have a swelling in my jaw and unrelenting pain. Wheee, tooth abscess!

Yeah, so I’m eating various pain medications pretty much by the handful and icing it down (never put a hot compress on a tooth abscess. Don’t want to loosen something up and send it floating around your skull.) And trying to hang in until Monday so that I can get this freaking dentist to fix whatever it is he messed up.

So if I don’t post something tomorrow, it’s probably because I’m sitting in a dentist chair and/or swallowing a bunch of Advil and Tylenol and whatever else I can find in the medicine cabinet. Right now, I think I am headed back to bed to try to rest as much as possible. Hubs is going to bring home something soft for me to eat (pasta, I think) along with yet more baby formula for Hawkins the bottomless pit. And some Aleve . .. that stuff is the best I’ve found for tooth pain, at least among the over-the-counter meds.

I was hoping we’d have a good weekend, too. Hubs and I took the Ninja and the Tank (7 and 5) to the high school football game Friday night. That was . . . pretty much a disaster. The Tank has Sensory Integration issues, so loud noises are too much for him to handle. And the clone-like middle-aged soccer mom (expletive deleted)s seem to think ringing cowbells is indicative of “school spirit.” One of them was ringing one right behind his head. So that didn’t go well at all.

He made it to halftime, so I did get to watch the Viking’s band perform, which was really cool. They march military-style, so it’s very precise and smooth and impressive. Then I took the Tank out of the bleachers so he could run around and he immediately tripped on the gravel and took the bark off of his right knee.

So I’m making a compression bandage out of a longsleeved t-shirt and cleaning it with the wet washcloths I brought to wipe sticky hands and he’s ouch-ing and yiping and hopping around. That got us to the end of the third quarter, when hubs decided I looked like I was being painfully martyred and took us all home. That made him unhappy and the Tank furious, because apparently he loved “the basketball game” and wanted to see it. Oh well.

Seems like the weekend was just doomed from the start. If it wasn’t the Tank screaming about one thing, it was him screaming about another. And me getting sick. And everyone just struggling to survive.

Man, this hurts . . . as in hurts so badly I can’t even kiss the baby because the right side of my lips is painful to touch. So, yeah, this is not fun. Antibiotics and some kind of fix are definitely in the works. And maybe smacking the dentist with something. Although I think they may be suspicious if one walks into the dental office carrying a Louisville Slugger. I really doubt I could pass it off as “Yeah, heading to baseball practice after this.”

Ah well. Indy just set off the house alarm again by going out back. She’ll wake the baby doing that . . . and there goes my chance of napping. He’s cutting his first tooth, so he hasn’t been too happy himself. Tylenol did the trick for him, though, and cheered him back up. Boy, they grow up fast.

Signing off and heading back to bed.

Touches of Grey

I’m going to go out on a limb here and admit something terrible.

I actually like several Grateful Dead songs.

(emoji of hanging my head in shame)

Anyway, now that that’s all open and above-board, I’ll admit that I found their later-years song “Touch of Grey” to be excessively depressing when I was younger. I mean, “every silver lining has a touch of grey”? This is supposed to be comforting? I didn’t see the relevance.

Of course, I was young and silly and didn’t yet understand that even great things bring with them a whole new set of worries and troubles and trials. The trick, insofar as there is one, is to take the good with the bad and roll with it.

Of course, I say this as we roll into Halloween. Last year’s Halloween set an all-time low for the holiday for us. I was just 8 weeks into my unexpected pregnancy with the new baby (Let’s call him Hawkins for short) and I’d gotten over the shock and terror I felt at first. My heart had begun giving me troubling hours of arrhythmias and I was horribly nauseated. And on Halloween I started haemorrhaging.

So, instead of playing spooky music out of my window and enjoying the gummi-worm laced punch and the platters of treats we’d concocted, I was weeping and feeling very much like someone had snapped my heart in two and ripped my hope from my chest. It wasn’t like it was a small amount of blood we’re talking about– it was terrifying. It took me two weeks to finally go in to my ob/gyn and get a sonogram. Which showed . . . yep. Hawkins had hung in there somehow, through what doctors like to call a “threatened abortion.”

But on Halloween all I knew was pain and blood and terror and loss. It took a long time for Hawkins to finally make his way into the outside world and by that time we’d all fallen in love with the little heartbreaker. He has us all firmly wrapped around his chubby little fingers now. Even his jealous big brothers can’t resist coming in to smooch his fuzzy little head sometimes and they insist loyally that he deserves lots of new clothes and toys.

Having a new baby is a multi-faceted thing. It can seem a tragedy, turn into a glorious ecstasy, and yet still have some pretty crappy parts that you feel almost embarrassed to admit to. After all, you brought a brand-new human being into the world! That’s awesome! It seems churlish to say that you never get enough sleep, or to whine that you’re broke, or to kvetch about your c-section scar.

As someone who is extremely pro-life, I never want people to get the impression that babies are anything to be feared, much less discarded or destroyed. It leaves you in an awkward situation, though, as you feel like you can’t say anything about parenthood that isn’t cherry blossoms and rosebuds and balloons and cotton-candy without being accused of being a hypocrite. “See, you ADMIT that motherhood can be hellish! Why would you want to FORCE a woman to have a child?”

I don’t even force my kids to eat their green beans, people. I’m just living out my own life here on a complex and multi-faceted plane of existence. Nothing is ever as simple as it’s painted. You can be living the ultimate in fantastic lives and still have gloomy bits and moments of despair and temptation. I want MY kids to understand, at least, that an unexpected pregnancy is NOT the end of the world.

Yeah, you may go broke and you may never get any sleep and you may slog through postpartum depression, but at the end of the day there is still a shiny brand-new person in the world. It’s not EBOLA for goodness’s sake. It’s a baby. Ebola doesn’t give you slobbery kisses and think that everything you do is the most amusing joke ever devised by humanity. Peekaboo — shit, that stuff is better than anything Richard Pryor ever did.

And, yeah, there are touches of grey in my silver lining. I’ve got a big numb scar across my belly and an extra twelve pounds that won’t go away. No biggie. The only problem is if the touches of grey start to obscure the silver.

A mom on a forum I belong to recently posted about a new unexpected pregnancy. She was in shock, and I understand. I’ve been there. I took everything she said with a hefty grain of salt. I joined in a chorus of other moms offering sympathy, advice, support, and possibilities. What was clear to me, though, from her original post, was that she really wasn’t looking to fix the situation. Everything in her sky had turned to grey and she was living in a cloud of misery.

Those are the situations where you need to find help– practical, hands-on, dish-washing and diaper-changing help. And probably a little help from our friends Prozac and Zoloft and company. Because, by that point, someone is not seeing their kids as silver linings at all. They’re sunk in the negative emotions and huddling under their justifications. They’ll actually make up reasons to stay miserable. It’s not a happy place.

I’ve been there, too. It’s awful beyond words, and I will do anything I can to help people out of that slough of despond. Mostly, though, the burden falls on close friends and family. It’s our job, I think, to educate them about what to watch out for and what to do when they see it. Husbands and boyfriends are often overwhelmed by their own worries and cares. They need to know that they should encourage her to go get help, even if it means a battle.

Don’t be discouraged by the grey. Those silver linings are so worth it, even if it feels like you’ll be swallowed first by the stormclouds.

Gotta go. My especially drooly and chubby and fuzzy-headed master is calling. And it’s a joy to serve him, truly it is. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Yeah, you got it, turn and face the strange.

In other words, it’s time for me to shake up my background and images and such again. Sadly, the only header image that I have ready-to-hand is from the fall of ’12, so it’s not only missing the baby, it’s totally unreflective of how everyone looks nowadays. Me, for instance . . . I’m no longer rockin’ the red butch haircut. Actually my hair’s really long and dyed stark black. So, yeah, it’s outdated. I’ll fix it soon.

More changes coming around– I’m actually going to force myself to post regularly again. Consider it practice for actually getting some paying writing done soon. And trying to drag myself out of this slump. Maybe some good old-fashioned savage commentary will snap me out of it.

Cause this gloom isn’t helping anyone. And I’m going to totally quote Taylor Swift here, no matter what it does to my metal and goth credibility– I’m just gonna shake it off.

So what’s the plural of ‘vortex’?

Vortexes? Vortexi? Swirling abysses of imploding death?

What I mean, basically, is that I feel like I’m surrounded by sucking quicksands of doom, any one of which could grab me and drag me down if I just happen to stare too long into its depths.

Maybe just a wee touch of postpartum depression going on here.

I can’t seem to get my feet under me lately. I know there are things I need to be doing, but I’m barely keeping the basics covered. The baby gets taken scrupulous care of, of course, as he’s Priority Number One (in his own eyes, especially. If he detects flagging enthusiasm, he just yells louder.) The kids get fed, clothed, and educated.

It’s just the little details that are missing– when I’m feeling this low, I consider frozen pizza a quite adequate dinner option, even when my husband is home. That is not the level I usually cook at, I must insist. It’s just this week’s level.

So, really, not a lot to talk about in terms of excitement. I have been struggling through Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” but I gave up about a third of the way through. There was essentially one good passage in that entire third of the novel, which doesn’t exactly make one scream “It’s a CLASSIC, oh-emm-gee, everyone must read this!!” I will try to finish it another time, sometime where I can suffer through “I obscenity in the milk of your fathers” without wanting to beat Hemingway upside his obscenity head.

I’m 21 books behind on my reading challenge. This is the point where I start considering adding in all the children’s books we read for homeschool. Actually, starting a Goodreads account for our homeschooling might not be a bad idea, if only to keep us from ever ever checking out certain books again. The one this week about the little fox who thought autumn was the death of his best friend, the tree . . . shudder. That one needs to never cross our doorstep again. I can handle lots of cutesy stuff, but a fox tying leaves onto a tree with grass . . . no. Just no.

As an aside, the current “trend” of foxes, owls, deer, and other forest animals on decor and clothes THRILLS ME. I have been a fox addict for decades. It’s like fashion is finally paying attention to the things I love– forest creatures and men with furry faces. Hmm. Maybe I watched one too many episodes of “Grizzly Adams” as a kid. Forest creatures, man with furry face . ..  yeah. Suspicious.

Anyway. My daughter recently bought me fox-shaped salt and pepper shakers. I may let her live another year, as a result. We’re still in the bargaining phase.

I am trying to make it day by day. My last physical therapy appointment strained/pulled something in my c-section scar, so I took off for a few days. I’ve been doing better during the days, less pain. It just catches up with me around 8-9pm, suddenly swarming up out of one of those vortexes and placing a burning straightjacket around my back. Getting going in the mornings just doesn’t happen unless I have half an hour to let the Motrin start working and the muscle relaxer kick in. Not that those two suffice, but they start the process. The baby usually sleeps pretty well between 3am-7am so I have enough downtime for my muscles to stiffen up and hobble me.

The weather is beautiful. I’ve been stuck inside too much to really utilize it. Going to try to improve on that this week.

Because I DO know that exercise helps. And being in nature helps. And spending time with my kids and having fun helps. Those really do beat the darkness back somewhat. I can’t really use anti-depressants (a quirk in my chemistry makes them work in a very bad manner) so I rely on the simpler therapies– time, patience, slow progress, things that help. Music I love, upbeat stuff. Taking time to wear nice clothes. Trying to sleep on a regular cycle. The usual.

Wish I could just take a happy pill and watch those swirling pits of doom disappear. It’s just not that easy. But I am working on it, rest assured. And if I fall into one of them, I’ll be enlisting all the aid I can muster. But I’m still managing to stay out of them, tiptoeing around the edges. Some days that’s as good as one can manage.

Glub, glub

So, as you may be able to tell from my posting frequency, the sea of life has swallowed me alive. I’ve paddled my way to the surface briefly to let my adoring public (aka my Dad) know that I’m still alive.

So, where were we? Oh, yeah, life being sucky. Well, not entirely horrible, but overwhelming. It hasn’t exactly slowed down. I’ve been shuttling kids to doctor visits, struggling through our weekly routine, and (in an exciting twist) going to physical therapy sessions. Physical therapy is mostly frightening because I am SO weak that any little exercise just wipes me out. Also, I’m convinced that I picked up a stomach bug in the saltwater pool on Thursday. Friday’s stomach woes pretty much ruined the entire day. But, hey, our football team won and it was a game in town so my husband and son didn’t have to be gone half the night driving to and from some little hayseed town.

It’s kind of sweet, in an odd way, how seriously football is taken here. I had to take some fast food to my son before the band’s bus left, so I hurried over to Micky D’s and then drove over to the school. The road signs all had blue and white streamers tied to them for about a half mile, plus inspirational signs tacked here and there. Friday night in Texas in the fall . . ..  it could be sort of endearing, if people weren’t absolutely psychotic about it. My son’s band director is a woman possessed. If they don’t win State this year, she may very well lose her mind.

So, yes, life’s still got the upper hand on me. I am sleeping more at night, though. Struggling to make it through my reading backlog, since I only have a limited amount of time where I have enough peace and quiet to concentrate on a book. I’ve been reading fluff instead of my backlog, mostly. It’s just a lot easier to read fluffy books than, say, Hemingway. I keep working on it, though.

I’ve got lots of topics I’d like to blather on about, but mostly right now I just want to find a clean cup (if such a thing exists in this house) and get a drink before curling up with the suddenly-way-too-mobile baby. My 5 year old is completely regressed and awful since the baby was born, and it’s kicking my butt trying to deal with him. My 7 year old is highly motivated to do his reading, though, now that I got a packet from “Book It” that gives them free Pizza Hut personal pizzas every month if they meet their reading goals. Suddenly he’s VERY interested in finding the easy reader books on the shelves. The autistic wonder has been a nightmare lately at school and at home, refusing to do pretty much anything. Even game nights have been sort of mini-hells.

I keep treading water, literally in therapy and figuratively everywhere else. Anybody got a lifeboat for sale?

Waves crashing

So basically life has been one big beach for me over the past two weeks. I’m standing in the surf and there’s these monster waves just slamming the shore. I stumble, slip, fall, choke on some seawater, and struggle to my feet only to get slapped with the next wave. So, yeah, I haven’t been updating anything. But it’s not a long-term situation, one hopes. Maybe I’ll wise up and drag my sorry soggy self out of the water and onto some higher ground.

In retrospect, you know, it doesn’t seem too daunting. I had an MRI. My brain’s just as scarified as usual, which isn’t bad. Just a little here and there. So I don’t have MS. Which is great. But still having an MRI, when you have claustrophobia in any respect, really sucks. Especially the ones where you have to have your head locked into a plastic cage the whole time. Not fun. And the Valium I took to get me through it pretty much socked that day away. My upper spine looks better. So my doctor is like, hey, maybe you should take less pain medication. Sure, doc, as soon as my back feels as good as that MRI looked. Apparently he forgot those squishy lower vertebrae, the scan didn’t go that far.

Oh, yeah, and I had two teeth root-canaled. That was after a day and two nights of agony. The pain afterwards might have been worse than the original bad teeth were giving me, but Aleve eventually helped in a very sizable dose. My face is mostly okay now, as long as I don’t get ice anywhere near the temp crowns. Technically I don’t think that’s supposed to still hurt, but we’ll see what the dentist says when it comes time to get the permanent crowns cemented on. Horribly expensive, even after the dentist comped me for one tooth. But, hey, not in agony. I’ll take it.

The baby had his 4 month shots, which led to several days of him being a 24/7 attachment to Momma. No major reactions, just the usual sore thighs and grumpiness. You’d probably be grumpy, too, but he’d be a hell of a lot grumpier if he was, say, dying of diphtheria. So the trade off is worth it.

Grumpy kids, minor household disasters, our weekly Dungeons and Dragons game, the soul-sucking morass which is Friday nights in small-town Texas in the fall (especially if your kid is either in the band or the cheerleading squad or the team, in which case you have NO LIFE until November at the earliest.) Then add the new requirements for church, which since we have one kid getting ready for his Confirmation in the spring and another kid getting ready for his First Communion, means that we have two days a week that are entirely dedicated to religious pursuits. Don’t forget the fact that my teenager is social and has this inexplicable volunteerism streak which usually means his Saturdays are spent doing weird things for various reasons that are still opaque to me.

Oh and my daughter transferred to a new position at a new store, so there’s a new schedule to live through and new route to drive and somehow even more inconvenient hours to keep.

Slap! Slap! Slap!

That was the waves getting me again, in case you wondered.

Because, of course, tonight was game night and I was the Evil Dungeonmaster of Doom again. And tomorrow is Friday with the attendant “Friday Night Lights” playing out in our local community and not only that but I have to drag all three little ones to the doctor for the annual checkup of one of them. That’s sure to be Hell on a Biscuit but my childcare is out of town. And this weekend is some kind of weird volunteerism thing and a sleepover? and my daughter working all weekend. And Sunday, ohhh Sunday. It’s the Lord’s Day and that’s no joke. Love you, Jesus, but why must they schedule the whole evening on two nights a week? I’m drowning here.

Homeschooling is, actually, going well. The Charlotte Mason method is adaptable and easy to do especially in the early years. We get the basics done every day and most days we get the extras done, too. Spanish hasn’t been started yet but we’re solid on science and English and math, so we’ll let it slide. There’s apparently some confusion on geography so we need to increase our map study time. And some of the concepts need reinforcing, if the Holy Spirit isn’t being painted as either a dove or a flame but a dove in flames. But we’ll get there, eventually. Reading skills are progressing. Our little bean plants are climbing up the kitchen window. They soaked several towels while experimenting with water. It’s all good.

I just need to focus. Stand up. Drag myself onto the sand long enough to catch my breath. And decide what’s important to get done every day and just do THAT.

Being down-and-out with dental issues for three days put a real damper on things. And somehow I never caught up this week. Missed a doctor’s appointment. Forgot I didn’t have childcare tomorrow when I rescheduled. We’ve been eating lots and lots of takeout. I’ve pretty much forgotten all the couponing I wanted to get done this week and why. And the week’s nearly over and another one coming.

SLAM.

Or not.

It depends on if I haul myself out of the surf fast enough.

Maybe.

I’m trying.

Walking that edge

So, I was at the doctor’s office today, which was about as much fun as it ever is. Since I’ve been having double vision, my doc agreed that an MRI of my brain would probably be a good idea, and an MRI of my upper back as well if we can get the insurance company to buy off on the idea. I was carrying the baby and a heavy bag of library books last week and felt something go “sproing” between my shoulderblades. So, yeah, hopefully it’s just a muscle. But just in case ….

And I come home and things are pretty dreadful in general. No one cleans unless I force them to, so the house is dirty and grubby. I haven’t kept up with the laundry so it’s *everywhere* and no one can tell dirty from clean anymore. Indy has been trying to stealthily bring all the schoolbooks back upstairs, one by one, so they’re all sitting at the top of the stairs in a pile. My room smells faintly of dirty baby diapers. I feel this horrible sense of panic start to rise in me. 

I realize that I have reached the point at which my coping skills fail.

There’s no way I can keep up with everything that needs keeping up, at least not with the skillset that I currently possess. The teenager wants me to play Diablo 3 with him as our “special thing” but the only time we can play is after the little kids go to sleep. They’re night owls, just like me, so that’s problematic. The little boys have been playing too many video games over the weekend and their behavior is horrible. They need me to direct them through their schoolwork and teach them and love them, instead of just letting them vegetate playing Xbox games. The baby rarely allows me to put him down for more than five minutes, so I can do few of these things. Indy needs so much and there’s just nothing left in my tank to give her. And my oldest daughter is drifting farther and farther from me every day and it’s breaking my heart.

I feel overwhelmed and lost much of the time. And I know that I can’t fix everything. I know, all too well, that I am powerless to change other people and to even change myself very much. 

I need to let go of the desire to change them.

I need to find the grace and hope and love that I need to change myself.

And I know that there are moments of grace just waiting for me. The Ninja hopped onto my bed this morning while I was giving the baby his bottle and kissed his brother’s fuzzy little head and then kissed me. The Tank came to me the other day and insisted on kissing me  five times, just to make sure that I knew that he loved me. Moments of happiness and peace do appear, here and there. I was quietly reading “The Hobbit” to the Ninja tonight, after he told me that we “didn’t even come close” to finishing it last time. He decided that Gandalf needed to compensate Biblo for his expenses in buying cakes, as *he* was the one who invited the dwarfs over. Trust my Ninja to look at the financial angle.

I don’t deserve the gifts that I’ve been given.

I manage them poorly.

I am so grateful for them, though. I need to let them know this. Even Indy, who mostly seems to live her life in pursuit of the perfect means of making me crazy. Once upon a time, she was my newborn baby and my constant companion. For as long as I live, she’ll be with me, so maybe I should make the best of it.

I could make things so much better around here . . . if I could just find peace. Wholeness. Happiness. Contentment. Love.

They’re right there, just out of reach. 

One of the AA things that I struggled with, during the 150 or so meetings I attended over the years, was the Serenity Prayer. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve fought against this for years. I don’t go to God when I am weak, I try to do everything myself. Fix everything myself. Bash things into shape even when they’re stubbornly never going to change for me. Typical adult-child-of-alcoholic behavior, really. I lack that wisdom aspect, the part where you figure out what part you’re supposed to play in this crazy universe and JUST DO THAT PART.

So I am giving up. Not on life, no, but on trying to force it to be what I want it to be. 

It’s frightening, to be honest. To say “Take my hands and let them be your tools, O Lord.” To relinquish the delusion that I am controlling things with my desperate attempts to make people do what I want them to do. Terrifying to say “I love you for who you are, and I accept that you’re going to make your own mistakes.”

Because the stakes are so high. Because the consequences are enormous. Because I am afraid. So terribly terribly afraid that the people I love will suffer. Will lose. Will hurt. So I . . . hurt them by trying to control them? How does that make sense?

To everyone I know and love, all I can say is this: I love you. I will try to respect you as an individual with your own decisions and choices in life. 

To myself, all I can say is . . . “Let Go and Let God.”

That’s the hardest thing.

 

Because whoever said parenting was easy was a liar.

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