One Beautiful Thing

March is my birthday month, and I have something special I want to ask for from all of you who read (frequently or infrequently) my blog. Yes, I am asking you for a birthday present!

What I want is simple: I want you, in the month of March, to buy yourself One Beautiful Thing.

I firmly believe in William Morris’s maxim: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Now, I never quite get there, but I try. I realized recently that I am missing some of the beautiful things that I used to have.

I used to have African violets in the house, but they perished during one move or another and I never replaced them. They’re beautiful little flowers and I love them, and I am going to buy myself a pot of them and put it on my kitchen window shelf. It’s NOT an expensive proposition, maybe $5? But I will have something beautiful that I love sitting on my shelf and I can look at them and feel happier.

So, please, for the sake of sentimental soon-to-be 41 year old women, use this March as an opportunity to bring a little beauty into your life. Maybe it’s a picture for the wall, maybe a pot of flowers, silk or real, perhaps a throw for the couch that’s in a gorgeous shade of your favorite color. Whatever it is, splurge on it and make your life a little happier this spring.

February, isn’t that the one that comes in like a lion?

So, yeah, it’s been a cold blustery and rough week here. Not just life itself, although that’s been crazy, but the actual weather as well.

Okay, let’s be honest, I live in Texas. Everyone who lives north of the Mason-Dixon line is now laughing bitterly and hysterically as they research new snowblower prices. But, hey, for an Arizona bordertown girl, this is cold– it’s going to be 31 tonight and I’ve got a brand-new batch of baby chickens in my frigid garage under a heat lamp. So I’m padding out to check on them in my slippers and freezing my beak off, so to speak.

Of course, it’s supposed to be 71 on Saturday and 80 by Sunday. So, yes, I’m far luckier than anyone in Siberia.

Unfortunately, February also came in with a wave of illness that’s been keeping all my little boys under the weather. I knew something was coming down the pike last week, when my 5 year old, the Tank, suddenly had his behavior go all to hell. That’s one of the first signs, typically, that he’s going to have a flare of his fever disorder. Since he’s been in remission for the past 10 months, it’s now one of those anxiety-provoking signs– is it another flare or is it just a cold? You can’t tell until the symptoms start.

This time, it was just a virus of some sort. It’s been a lingering nasty one, though– all of the 3 little boys have been feverish off and on for a week, runny noses and mild coughs, red cheeks, and the usual malaise and muscle-joint aches that any fever gives you. The Ninja’s fever has actually been the highest, running 102-103 for a couple days. The Tank has been napping during the day, which he hasn’t done in years. It takes a rotten virus to take him down, and I’ll be glad when it’s finally over with. Cross your fingers that the teenagers and my husband don’t get it, too. My older daughter and I are already sick.

Homeschooling has been cancelled for the past couple days, because who wants to face math fact families when you’ve got a headache and a fever?

Heck, I don’t want to face it at all and I’ve been only mildly ill.

Anyway, I’ve been reading through some of those self-help books that have such a glitteringly bad reputation. I was feeling pretty good about my progress with some of the issues I’ve been dealing with . . . and then I ran up against a vein of resentment in myself that was shockingly bitter and fresh and un-dealt-with. So I’ve been chewing that over for the past two weeks, trying to figure out a way to dig all these rotten feelings and hurts out so that I can flush those mental wounds and move on.

If that isn’t mixing your metaphors, well, I don’t know what is.

But, the point is that I was actually feeling like I was making progress in forgiving myself for some things and forgiving some other people for some things, and then a simple stupid Facebook post just humbled me in an instant. How the heart and mind can hold on to such grievances for decades is beyond me– doesn’t there come a point when you just get over this stuff without working at it? I don’t guess there is. All of these hurts and resentments have to be dealt with, one by one, and I’m not enjoying it much. Mostly because I have to deal with the fact that, even when I was a child and it was adults who were hurting me, I was still guilty of a lot of bad juju myself. I formed the resentments and held on to them. And I carried them into adulthood and used them to hurt people myself.

So, yeah, I can probably give myself a pass for the stuff I did as a kid, but the stuff I did as an adult is all on me. Goodness knows that I dodged around all the help various people tried to give me over the years.

I’m trying to get a handle on living with joy. I’ve found out that “joy” and “resentment” can’t co-exist. So I’ve got to get rid of all that rotten miserable pain that’s still claiming a portion of my heart and mind.

It hurts. Just looking at it straight-on is painful.

But then I have to ask myself if I want to keep on hoarding the wounds and holding on to my misery for another three decades, or if I can just lay that burden down and move on to a better life. And I want that better life so badly, people. I really do. I want the joy, I want the love, I want the peace.

So that’s my February so far. I hope it goes out like a lamb . . . or, really, like the Ninja, who just had his First Reconciliation . . . washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Yeah, that would be good.

Small changes

So, I didn’t make a huge series of New Year resolutions, mostly because I just didn’t have the energy to think about them and write them down. But I have, over the past few weeks and months, made some small changes that are starting to add up.

Our dryer has been circling the Appliance Death Abyss for a while– try doing laundry for 9 people for a while and you will know why most intimately. Recently, my husband had to disassemble it to put in new parts. And while putting in new parts, it became apparent that it needed MORE new parts and that these were backordered. So my dryer was sitting in pieces in the laundry room and I needed to wash some clothes.

“Wash all the clothes and I’ll take them to the laundromat and dry them,” my husband suggested. That was bravery on his part– I don’t even know where the closest laundromat is but it’s guaranteed to be in a crappy spot. So I had the big kids haul all the dirty laundry downstairs and I sat down and sorted it all into piles. Once I’d done so, I was staring at about nine loads of laundry, not counting all the sheets and blankets that really also needed to be washed. Even I know that drying nine loads of clothes is not only going to be a huge pain in the butt, but also hugely expensive.

It was a nice sunny day, so I had an inspiration– why not string up a makeshift clothesline from the porch to the cathouse? (Yes, cathouse, our cats live in a little outdoor shed since our asthmatic kid is allergic to cats.) My husband is nothing if not versatile, so he went and got supplies at some local store and put up a clothesline. And since he’s also a hard working sonofagun, he also washed all the laundry, hung it to dry, and then folded it and put it away. It took him a while. I think I ate bonbons while he did it.

So now we have a clothesline. I’m hoping it makes a difference in our electric bill. Once the dryer parts come in, we can also do laundry on rainy days, but for now it’s a do-able solution. I also bought a bottle of Snuggle fabric softener, because towels. It only took one bath with a cardboard towel for me to remember the virtues of that frighteningly earnest teddybear and his blue liquid.

Tonight, I decided to clean out our master bedroom closet as part of my ongoing drive to baby-proof the house. The Major-General (as I am calling him) decides at times that his OWN toys are boring and terrible and not attractive (except most of the time, when they’re totally the shiznit.) Then he goes off on a quest to find what I like to call “choke-ables.” My closet was filled with all kinds of contraband that he’d have dearly loved to chew on– things that could have landed him in the hospital, like sewing supplies and lots and lots of dice and yarn and candy wrappers left over from Christmas.

It took me a couple hours, but I managed to get everything up and out of baby’s reach. I even got our cd collection back on shelves– they’ve all been in boxes for the past few years. The closet is looking pretty nice, if I do say so myself. Nothing’s piled in the corners, all the too-small baby clothes have been packed away, and the kids even found the lid to the Dungeons and Dragons box.

They’re not big things, but they’ll help anyway. Now I don’t have to worry that the baby’s going to kill himself with something he found in my closet and maybe we can get some relief from our sky-high electric bills. With summer rapidly approaching (okay, maybe not for you northerly types, but down here we’re going to hit 72 this week. Summer is a’comin in soon enough) we’re going to need all the help we can get with the bills.

Anyway, enough good work for the day and week and whatnot. Time to go play some Diablo and kill legions of demons. :-) And rest on my very small laurels for the month.

Sleep is for the weak (and other lies your brain tells you at 3am)

So, I’m what you could probably call a terminal night owl. Because, much like smoking crack and drinking cough syrup, not sleeping enough is now apparently a lethal “life style choice.”

Except I’m not sure it’s much of a choice. I can remember many many nights of childhood, laying awake and listening to Johnny Carson on the television and wishing I could just be UP UP UP. And I can remember many many mornings where I had to be dragged bodily from my blankets and forced to make the long slow trudge to school. I even have a photo around here somewhere of my sullen morning look when woken early on a camping trip. I look like a hostile 7 year old zombie.

Nursing school was complete hell in this regard. I often had to be at clinicals at “oh-too-freaking-early” in the morning, and some insane professors would tell you to simply show up an hour EARLIER to do your paperwork if you couldn’t manage to get it done the day before. Really? Earlier? I am barely breathing at 5am, much less able to function around other people. If I work nights, I can fake it long enough to do shift change at 6:45 if I must, but then driving home is hazardous. The sun comes up and my natural instinct is to burrow under the covers.

So I basically sleep-walked through the first three hours of any clinical shift and began to approximate a human being somewhere around 9am. Oh I was competent– I’m never anything but, due to huge performance anxiety– but compassionate and friendly and all that social jazz? Forget it.

But 10pm to 3am? That’s the sweet spot. That’s when books get read and laundry gets done and quiet hours get whiled away with documentary films and long baths and plans for couponing. I started living like this basically as soon as I was on my own, which is to say at the tender age of 16. I set my own hours . . . yeah, and totally bombed my first two morning classes my senior year of high school. I think they may have been a math class and something about politics. I can’t really remember.

It didn’t particularly matter, as I dropped out a month or two before graduation anyway. But at the time, it was a harsh little reality check that the world at large does not seem to appreciate the internal clock of the night owl.

I’ve had to think about this again because my older daughter has been working a different shift at her job, so I’ve been getting up at 6 to get my younger daughter ready for school. I get her on the bus and wish desperately for more time to sleep, but by then the baby is awake and ready for morning playtime and breakfast. And by the time I get him ready for his morning nap, the older boys are up and want breakfast and attention. My older daughter has been doing these tasks for me for the past couple of years while I steal two or three hours of sleep, but when she’s at work, I’m on my own. So I end up getting no sleep at all, which makes me extremely unhappy and also fairly unwell.

Because, you see, I can’t seem to sleep at night. I can go to sleep at 9 or 10, perhaps, but I’ll wake at midnight, relentlessly awake. If I do manage to get to sleep, I’m awake and alert the next time the baby wakes up wanting a bottle. And, no matter how much sleep I get, I feel incredibly drowsy as soon as the sun comes up.

Maybe I’m a daywalker vampire.

Anyway, they tell us now that people who stay up all night tend to die earlier. So, according to their best guesses and Puritanical rubrics, I should start zonking out at 9pm and getting up with the birds at break of day. Except I *did* that for two years while in nursing school and it was absolute hell. I never did adjust to it. As soon as I could, I switched to night shift and went right on from there to my post-work life of midnight Netflix sprees and living on too few hours of sleep.

Telling me to quit staying up late is something akin to telling a lifelong smoker that they have to quit smoking. My life has been formed around this habit. My children have spent their childhood hours of sleep hearing the rumble of the dryer and Mom’s feet padding into their room to deposit a fresh stack of clothes on their dresser. The baby can hear me start the bathtub in his sleep. He wakes, of course, and howls, because he intends to have every moment of Momma’s attention focused on HIM. He has his priorities, and laundry is not one of them.

So I have played countless hours of online video games with people from the opposite side of the globe, read more books than is generally possible since I don’t have children interrupting my concentration every five minutes, and attuned myself to the pleasures of the darkness. It rains more often at night, and I love to listen to it. Birds don’t stop singing at night, it’s just a different shift of birds (mockingbirds, those buggers, never shut up day or night.) There’s less air pollution, there’s stars to gaze upon, and there’s a precious coolness in the air that’s way too fleeting in the Southern and Western states I’ve mostly lived in.

I’ve always struggled with mornings, including one terrible year where we ended up having to go to truancy court when my younger daughter missed the bus a dozen or two too many times. If you think I have a sleep problem, you should see her– she has, from toddlerhood, slept only about three hours a night. It made my life pretty hellish for a while, because 3 hours of sleep is not nearly enough for a tired pregnant mom, and we’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds of dollars searching for a medication to make her sleep. Right now, she’s taking a huge dose of melatonin and a couple Benadryl each night. That gets about five hours from her. Better than three, anyway.

The funny thing is that, since I am no morning person, mornings on vacations are exotic wonderlands. There is, hands-down, no more thrilling thing to me than early morning chilly air with the fresh scent of diesel exhaust on the wind. Because, for me, that’s always a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Yeah, that’s about the only time I can get up in the morning and make it somewhere and not be a miserable wench about it.

But, let’s be honest . . .  we usually visit in the off-season and that early morning rope-drop at the Magic Kingdom?

It isn’t until 9am. :-)

Foodways

So, like most people in America, I’m making a resolution or two for the new year. 2015. Sheesh. Let that one sink in for a moment. I still feel like that dizzy kid dancing wildly to Prince singing about 1999. . . and feeling like that year was SO far away it would never come.

Crazy.

Anyway, one of my big resolutions this year is to be creative and open-minded about food. Sure, I plan to diet and exercise and all that crap, but my biggest resolution about food is to try new ones at least twice a month. I make this plan at least once or twice a year, but I never seem able to keep it going as a regular part of our routine. I’d like to change that.

Trying new foods and incorporating them into our diet has been a big part of our life, though. The “foodway” that I inherited from my family was a not-very-complicated one, with poverty and scarcity making the decisions more than taste or nutrition. “White trash” was a regular part of our meals– if you don’t know what that is, it’s ground beef, browned, and then add in a can of cream of mushroom soup, water, and some noodles or rice. Cook until the starch is done. Or serve it over biscuits, like a sort of gravy. It’s easy, fast, fills you up, and . . . well, sometimes it tastes good. Mostly it’s just bland and filling.

I realized that I hadn’t cooked it in quite a while when my teenaged son ran into problems while trying to cook our dinner on Saturday. He had browned some ground beef but was hating the idea of making it into chili-mac (one of our winter staples.) I was tired and not willing to eat spaghetti again (the Viking son would eat spaghetti or fettuccine every day if he could) so I just made a quick pot of “white trash” with rice. Ehhh. I tried to fancy it up a little with fresh celery, onion, and mushrooms, but it still mostly resembled school paste in texture and flavor. (Speaking of, my goodness, how I miss school paste. I used to eat that, like every other child in my era. Weirdly appealing. A little smear of paste on a scrap of paper was how our teachers doled it out. Supposedly for gluing things but we knew better.)

My mom was a pretty good cook, given her limitations. She tried to cook new things, she loved watching cooking shows, especially the Cajun Chef, Justin Wilson, and she was willing to learn from her friends and relations. But still, we only had a limited repertoire that we ate. My Great Aunt Casey taught her how to cook a few things, things I still cook for my family now. But a typical night was hamburgers fried till they resembled charcoal and Kraft mac’n’cheese, with either frozen mixed veggies or corn on the side. It wasn’t very daring or very flavorful, but it was easy and cheap.

I’ve branched out a bit, trying things that I was afraid my family would hate. We’ve incorporated lots of Mexican dishes, some curries and Asian dishes, and lots of Mediterranean influenced foods. My family is one of those mongrel American families– you know the type, I’m sure. We’re Irish on St. Patrick’s Day but that’s just picking one ancestor out of a list of 16 and running with their ethnicity alone. We don’t have any ethnic foods that have survived all the stresses and travails of our families histories. There’s no traditional cookie we always make, no way of making cabbage edible that we learned from Grandma, no odd ethnic flavors sneaking into the spice rack. My mom didn’t even really own any spices beyond salt, pepper, and some pumpkin pie and apple pie mixes. Okay, maybe garlic salt and chili powder. But that’s about it.

So we’re basically inventing our own foodways in our new family. Since we live in Texas (and have for about 90% of our married life), we have added in lots of typical Texan foods. Fajitas and barbecue brisket are the two biggies, but we make a Tex-Mex version of other things, too, like Mexican rice and quesadillas. I grew up eating a totally different style of Mexican food (I still miss the huge huge tortillas that they use out west) but I don’t really cook that way these days. I miss it, though. The Arizonan style of Mexican cooking is a lot juicier, for one thing. They’re not afraid to leave a puddle of drippings beneath their tacos.

There are several things I want to learn how to cook this year: a real Cubano sandwich, a better Thai soup, Greek meatballs, Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons, more types of soups, maybe even seafood. I want to keep trying to perfect my cooking– I’m a little sloppy at times and very lazy, so I don’t bake nearly as often as I would like and my kitchen is never clean enough to really motivate someone to cook something complicated. If I can keep things cleaner (and buy a mixer, maybe), I might find it easier to cook in general.

Whatever your foodway is, whatever style you inherited, that should be honored, sure. But if your foodway is letting you down, don’t be scared to create your own. Your great grandchildren will one day be cooking up a complicated curry and someone will ask “How do you know how to do this?” And they won’t know that it was from you, they’ll just know that “my family always makes it.”

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.

Because whoever said parenting was easy was a liar.

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