Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Finding Out

I was upset, going in; I'd just had a hard conversation, but let's get real: I've been pretty upset, lately, in general. The doctor with the doppler didn't know me or my history, and--not for lack of trying--she couldn't capture my baby's heartbeat. "I think I heard it a couple times, just for a split second," she said, "and I think I heard a kick. Your uterus is the perfect size for how far along you're supposed to be. But I'm not satisfied. I'm going to send you to Ultrasound for a quick peek."

I wasn't prepared for an ultrasound. "Will I come back to you, after?" I asked.

"I don't think you'll need to," she said. "Why? Do you have questions for me?" She sat down.

"Well," I said, "it's just: I'm angry and frustrated all the time. A lot's happened, and a lot's going to happen, but I don't feel like those things add up in a way that explains my misery."

She asked about my home life, and I assured her: it's fine. (It really is.) I told her about the miscarriage and all the scary things I can't blog, and--when I finished--she asked: "Why don't you think those things add up in a way that explains your misery?"

I wanted to say: because of my faith, but I was crying too hard.

"Listen," she said, "they make safe medications, these days, but I won't be the one to prescribe them to you. Fact is: those things add up. They more than add up," and she patted my knee and sent me away.

And step after step down the hall, I thought to myself: she doesn't think I'm crazy, but this ultrasound is about to prove I'm crazy because I saw a son before Clementine was born, and he looked just like Jim did, as a toddler, only with Cade's (my old) hair. But two beautiful girls later, he still isn't here. I dreamed his name, and I heard the Lord say very clearly: Thank me for your baby. Thank me for your son, and I thanked and thanked, but then I bled out a baby, and how does that make sense? Isn't that (like so many other things) cruelty? And this is about to be more of the same because something's wrong, and I can't do it, anymore; I won't. I. will. not. I don't care that my word for 2012 is supposed to be "trust"; I don't trust, anymore, that the son I saw was real; and I don't trust that the things I heard came from anywhere other than my own, crazy head. I know I'm about to die inside. There isn't much of anything left, and this is going to empty me out and kill me for good. Why am I even here? Why have I been pushing so hard when I can barely handle the kids I have? Whether the doctor knows it, or not, I'm crazy. And I should know.

"How are you, today?" the ultrasound technician asked. (She never has seemed that bright, to me.)

"I'm good," I said, sniffling.

"Is the doctor coming down?" she asked.

"Probably," I said, "if you can't find a heartbeat."

But minutes later, she was saying: "Here's the heartbeat. It looks good, and here's your baby's face. Your little person's very active. Would you like to know the gender?"

"Well, yeah." I said, "but can you tell? I'm only 16 weeks."

"I can," she answered. "It's a little boy."

"Are you sure?" I asked, squinting at the screen.

"I am," she said. "Look," and she moved the cursor over tiny (but pronounced) boy parts.

And (inside), the old, familiar voice insisted: Trust me!, so I went to Good Will and bought a tiny jean jacket.

"I found out, today, that I'm having a boy," I said to the white-haired gentleman behind the counter, and I started to cry all over again.

"Will this be your first baby?" he asked.

"My fourth," I told him [though, really, this baby will be my fifth], "and my last. My nerves can't handle any more."

He looked deep into my wild, wet eyes, studying and misunderstanding all the pain, there. "It will be wonderful, someday," he said gently, "when they're all grown and they come home for Christmas. Until then, hang in there."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

That's Elmo's World!

Jim had been waffling for days and finally told me to just go ahead and take the girls. Then I started waffling because Clementine has a squirrel bladder; Charleigh's squirrelly, in general; and Mama's tired in the way the people of East Tennessee say it best: tarred. Just go ahead and feather me; I'm ramfeezled and forswunk.

But I really, really wanted to take the girls, so I did it: I ordered three tickets. And no sooner did that e-mail confirmation hit my inbox than the phone rang. It was Jim, and surprise! he'd ordered four tickets. What a nightmare, getting all that straightened out, but I wouldn't change it. I mean, my Jim's the most bullheaded of any man I've ever known, but he really, really loves us.

Take a hulk of an ex football player, and (after he's spent a ton of money and driven an hour to the venue) plunk him down in an uncomfortable seat, smack-dab in the middle of Sesame Street Live. Call his being there big love; I do.

Clementine (3 yrs, 3 mos old) loved each of the ninety minutes of the show.

Charleigh (1 yr, 9 mos old) loved the Elmo's World part of the show, which is to say: she was riveted for approximately fifteen minutes. She spent the rest of the time trying desperately to escape. Not even cotton candy proved to be a good distraction.

Still, I'd totally do it all over again. I'm a crazy nutbar like that.

Friday, May 25, 2012

When the Sun Shines through the Rain

Christy kept the girls today so Jim and I could take care of some business, also so I could take a nap. All of that was well and good, and--after we picked up the girls--Jim suggested a bit of furniture shopping.

We've been shopping for a new sofa and chair (or sectional) for awhile, and I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever make a purchase. The problem comes down to my liking to sort of sink into a sofa, and Jim's disliking the same. I just can't seem to trade my sinky, cat-scratched sofa (which I bought before we married) for a nice, new firm sofa. Also, I like the cotton, quilt-looking fabric of my sofa more than any other sofa fabric. Have you seen that sofa fabric that looks like elephant? I don't get that at all.

But anyway. 

Before we went furniture shopping, we parked at Chick-fil-A to eat some you-know-what. Jim's was grilled and wrapped in lettuce leaves, and we were having a conversation about crutches (as in, what we grab when we're unhappy). It was overcast off to the (I think?) east, and I said something like: "We need healthy crutches because--if we're not in the middle of a storm right now--we know a storm is coming. Jesus promised we'll have trouble in this world,

"but we should take heart, because He's overcome the world." And, at just that moment, I lifted my eyes from my chicken wrap, and would you believe it? Our minivan was in the direct line of the most amazing rainbow! Without shame, I'll tell you: I took that rainbow right into my heart as a sign from God. We are His people. He's got us.

Oh, and I have to tell you something else. Much later, Clementine announced (for the zillionth time in one evening) that she had to pee. She wasn't wearing her shoes, so I picked her up and carried her. She was all long, brown legs and big, curly hair, and I could only about half see where I was going with her wrapped me around like a hairy octopus.

The second I stepped into Burger King, I tripped hard over a gigantic, black rubber mat that someone had rolled up and left just inside the door. Lawsuit waiting to happen, lmtellya, and thank God I regained my balance and didn't fall on that hard floor with Clementine in my arms and Baby C in my belly.

So, immediately, I yelled: "Excuse me! This is very dangerous! I nearly fell and broke out every one of my teeth!"

And the young man behind the counter, on the other side of the restaurant, called: "I'm so sorry. I'll move it right away."

A few minutes later, when we went through the drive-through to get the girls some ice cream, the same young man was at the register. When I saw him up close and from the side, I thought: I know him. "Did you graduate this year?" I asked.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said.

"Did I teach you in Cumberland?"

He held up six beautiful, long brown fingers. "In sixth grade? Ms. West?" he asked.

"That's me!" I said (even though I'm not a West, anymore).

"I thought so when you walked in the door," he smiled.

"I would imagine you knew me," I said, "just as soon as you heard me yelling at you from across the room." And we all cracked up laughing.

Six years down the pike, and the little punk's still trying to kill me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Praise of Women

"Remember when we went to Chuck E. Cheese's, Mama? You smiled a lot that day," Clementine remarks.

I think: we went to Chuck E. Cheese's for Clementine's birthday, in February. Have I not smiled since February? And then I think: really, I can't believe I smiled enough, in February, that she remembers; I'd only stopped miscarrying a month earlier.

When I--an extreme extrovert--can't bear to be around others, when I don't want to talk to anyone on the phone, when I rage at people I can't avoid (i.e., my husband and children), I know I'm unwell. I consider all that's happened and will happen, soon, but--even when I peer deliberately through a veil of grace--I know: something's not adding up. I can't justify the misery I feel.

I'm tired of requesting prayer, of feeling needy. I'm tired of praying when I don't trust God like I did before the miscarriage. I'm tired of teaching Sunday school, and I'd feel like a fraud for doing it (seeing as how I seem to have misplaced every fruit of the Spirit), but I know we're going directly to Scripture, and I know I need it. I'm tired of feeling unable to write the book I've been called to write. I'm tired of blogging in (and through, and out of) anger. I'm tired of being tired.

But then, in one day, the walls come tumbling down. It's like Jericho, but the people marching around my heart are women. Not one of them suggests I might be crazy. Talk to your doctor, they say. We'll pray for you, they say, and two of them do: right then and there. We're here to help, they say: whatever you need. Can we watch the girls? Help you clean, help you organize? And one of them says, essentially: I am in the middle of this, and I don't have all the answers, but these particular things are helping me. And she passes me her sword and shield. She arms me.

They make me proud to be a woman: how--without judgment--they fight battles from ordinary places like living rooms and parking lots. I remember the power in service not because I've served, but because I've been served. And the only beauty of brokenness, I think, lies there: in realizing we can't do life alone and shouldn't try. We're each of us weak, but together we're strong. And God in us is strongest of all.

Charleigh and Me, Last Week. Photo by Rachel Huff.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How to Win an Argument (or a Soul)

Once upon a time (or four years ago, or four pregnancies ago), I taught a whole lot of argument and rhetoric. I enjoyed it for several reasons, one of which was that, every quarter, I had the opportunity to turn a bunch of student tickedoffedness (at having to take another English class) into something other.

I promised my students: no matter where life was taking them, they would be better off for learning to make a decent argument. And it's true, isn't it?: a person's opponents may include only his or her mother-in-law and insurance company, but--at certain points--everyone has to either argue, or accept a whole bunch of cockamamie craziness.

Unfortunately, though, we very often decide something's worth fighting for only to blow it. We find ourselves in a tizzy and forget: winning an argument hinges upon fairness and respect.

  • If we expect others to give us time but offer nothing of real value, in return, we lose.
  • If we presume to know everything about others and their situations, we lose.
  • If we--in any way--come across as thinking we're "better than," we lose.
  • If we reveal how narrow-minded we are, we lose.
  • If we go in with no understanding of the other side, we lose.
  • If we convey a negative attitude, we lose.
  • If we fail to establish common ground, we lose.
  • If we neglect to explain why we're arguing (why it matters), we lose.

I lose arguments more often than I'd like to admit, mostly because I forget: if I'm arguing well, it shouldn't look as though I'm arguing, at all. 

I go back in time and remember this particular street preacher, in Dallas: how he stood on the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton and beat on his Bible, howling for LGBT souls. I was straight as an arrow, but I kept a clear berth. I didn't like the way he sold the Jesus I had tucked way down deep in my heart.

When I get my feathers real good and ruffled, I try to remind myself: I never saw anyone talk to the street preacher; far as I could tell, he lost his argument over and over. I know I don't want to argue like him, but What Would Jesus Do seems too hard to obtain, so I aim for Mister Rogers. Over and over, I fall short, but I'm working in that direction. I am.

Please view this video of Mister Rogers defending PBS to the United States Senate:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Notion of Heaven

What I want to tell you (and it really doesn't matter
if you believe me or not) is: I had a welcome visitor.
She didn't say a word; words were never her thing.
Warm looks were her thing: warm breath and body.
She was even smoother, come back from the dead.
She ran, and I rode her; I didn't fear for my unborn.
I was sure of her feet and even moreso of her heart,
and I'd forgotten what it was to have so much faith.
I pity anyone who insists that animals haven't souls,
as he's obviously never known love like my girl's.
And--when he and I get to heaven--he'll be walking,
while I ride the streets of gold atop a chestnut mare.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Annapolis Adventure

I had two roommates (for two years, each) at Maryville College. They couldn't be more different, but true story: one is Erin Beth, and one is Erin Elizabeth, and--get this!--their birthdays are exactly a week apart. It's been right at twenty years since I met them, and they remain close to my heart.

Erin Elizabeth--whom I tend to call Erin Quigley--sent a message, last week, that her dad had passed away suddenly. I was determined to get to Annapolis for the memorial service, and Jim Dear (God love his heart) got on board right away. He couldn't take off work, he said, but he could work from home and keep the girls.

I called my ex-husband; told him what had happened; and asked what he thought of my pulling Cade out of school as traveling companion, also of rearranging the weekend schedule. My ex-husband--having known and loved Erin for almost as long as Jim--supported all my schemes.

For his part, Cade was excited to surprise Erin and spend time with his dear ol' mom. I love how sweetly easygoing he is.

Please read between all my lines, here; I'm so blessed.

So, Cade and I jumped in the minivan and headed to Annapolis. We talked, laughed, and ate Peanut Buster Parfaits for lunch. It was like old times: only better, because I knew Jim and the girls were waiting for us at home. Cade and I got to Annapolis with plenty of time to spare, so we visited with Erin for a few minutes and checked out Sandy Point State Park.

I don't know that I think anywhere more beautiful than the Chesapeake Bay. My parents, brother, and I spent a lot of time there when we lived in Pennsylvania. I'm a still-water girl to this day; I appreciate rivers and oceans but prefer bays and lakes.

I was moved by the memorial service, especially the flag presentation and playing of "Taps" at the end. I really liked Erin's dad and could tell, always, that he really liked me and felt glad for my friendship with Erin.

After the reception, I made a split-second decision that Cade and I should go to Cantler's for Maryland Blue Crabs. I hadn't eaten any for at least six years, and they're my very favorite food. It was really just the perfect opportunity: Cade's one of few people in my life who loves to eat crabs as much as I, and we were near the bay on a gorgeous afternoon, two days before Mother's Day. We sat outside and picked crabs for 1.5 hours: something we couldn't have done with the girls.

I felt, for just a little while, like my old self. It was a gift.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For My Mom on Mother's Day

Dear Mom,

Inwardly, I roll my eyes every time I hear: "Make me a Mary in a Martha world." I know they say it because of that one time Mary chose the better thing and camped out at Jesus's feet. I would've done the same (as you well know), but as much out of laziness as righteousness. The difference between you and Martha is only this: you wouldn't have complained.

I think of all the times I left you to do the work, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all the times I referred to you as anal-retentive, and I'm sorry, too, for all the times I gave you attitude because you asked me to pick something up or put it away. I'm even sorry for all the times I rolled my eyes at you, but I have to say: at this point, I think there might be something wrong with my eyes? because--no matter how hard I try--I can't seem to get them to stay down where they belong.

I'm a champion eye roller, as it turns out.

Truth is: I'm sorry I don't have more Martha (Sherry) in me. Even after all the waiting tables and tending bar, I suck at multitasking. Also, I choose to expend my energy adventuring. Not cleaning. I prefer a ringless tub but can't seem to make myself scrub the ring out. I fear it grieves you; still, I can't seem to make myself scrub the ring out.

It's a mystery to me: how you did what you did and do what you do. Only it's not, because I know (for almost 60 years) you haven't stopped. You're the Energizer Bunny, and I'm tired (and awed) just watching.

But this is the other thing I wanted to tell you, Mom, about your being Martha. Even if your brother had died, you would've gone out to greet Jesus. Like Martha, you would've followed up your: "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died," with: "But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee."

I wouldn't have. I would've been despondent like Mary. I wouldn't have displayed the hope of Martha; I would've cracked and crashed. I would've caused Jesus to groan in His spirit. I've done it so many times.

I just wanted to tell you: I think you're fantastic just the way you are. I'm so proud to be your daughter (even though I'm a big, hot hoopty mess), and I'm so glad to be your sister in Christ, too. I love you. 


(Click here to read my Mother's Day post from last year.) 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Homosexuality: Sharing My Heart

That neighborhood has gone downhill,
I say, and he says, I know; my son told me
there are kids in there who claim to be
and I think, What? Wait a minute; that's
what I meant: oh, the scary homosexuals.
But I don't say anything because
I don't know what to say, or maybe I do
but know words won't make a difference,
having never made a difference for me.

God has a sense of humor, I think, because
nothing made a difference for me until
I lived 1.5 years in Dallas's "gayborhood."

Please understand: I grew up in the sticks.
For over 20 years, I didn't know
(or think I knew) a single LGBT person.
I'd never seen a male prostitute, before;
a person with facial hair and breasts; or
men in fancy dresses, heels, and make-up.
Understatement: it all seemed odd, at first.

And then, one day, it didn't. Because
people are just people: all of us looking
for acceptance, love, laughter, meaning.
All of us broken up, messed up, twisted.
I wish I could give everyone a glimpse of
the peace I've found (in Christ alone).
I wish I could go back to Oak Lawn and,
this time, live out my faith. But I can't.
I can only send my love from afar, also

my thanks to the transvestites who shared
blue lipstick with me in the bathroom;
to the gay boys who didn't know me but
helped me call home when I was too drunk
to press the buttons; and to all of you who
shared your stories and break, to this day,
my heart. I don't know what to do with
what you told me. I mean, I'm still a Baptist.
But I want you to know: I don't think
you're scary, or any more sinful than I
(not so comforting, I know, considering
all my old "woman at the well" behavior).

And I'm sorry for any and all hatred you
experience from "the church." We're all
just a bunch of sinners; on our best days,
we do a piss-poor job of reflecting the
endless love and beauty of Jesus Christ.
Don't listen to us, ever. Listen only to Him.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Finding Myself in the Wild Orange

The first time it happened, she was dressed to the nines, and we were driving to Maryland to celebrate my grandma's 94th birthday. I turned around to check on her and discovered her holding her sippy cup upside-down and shaking it (hard as ever she could) into an open, not-quite-three-year-old hand.

The hand and the fancy-schmancy dress were covered in strawberry milk.

I'd just started to roar--I do, sometimes, having not yet transformed into a mother of the Michelle Duggar variety!--when a memory came out of nowhere. I was three. I was already wearing my white dress, so we must've been about to walk out the door for my dad's company picnic. My mom was probably stacking food or topping off my baby brother; I can't remember.

What I do remember is thinking I'd look even finer if I shaved my face. (I didn't seriously injure myself but bled all over my white dress.)

So, in February, for the first time--I swear!--in almost three years, I thought, suddenly: maybe there's more of me in that Wild Orange than I'd like to admit! I didn't much like the thought of that at all, so I just took her sippy cup; shot her some serious stink eye; and reverted to denial.

But, the other day, I came across a portrait of myself at three and thought with surprise: Clementine looks like me! I called her over and held up the portrait. "Do you know who this is, MeMe?"

She looked carefully, smiled, and laid her hand across her chest. "Me?" she asked, and I saw the uncertainty in her face because of "her" short hair and the unknown, fat-cheeked baby.

I heard the Lord whisper into my heart: You're in there. I tilted my head and studied her, considered (as if for the first time) the chattering social beast of her, and I knew the Lord was right. I wondered: is it the me in her that offends like fingernails on a chalkboard? And I was flooded with regret for all the times I've roared and spanked (and roared while spanking), and--loving her more than I ever had--I prayed for help in becoming the mom she deserves.

Counting Cars

I dreamed, last night, that I was bleeding out something that looked like creamy tomato soup. In my dream, Jim wrapped his arms around me and said: "Maybe we tried again too soon. This doesn't mean that, later, we can't..."

"No," I interrupted. "I can't do this anymore. I'm done." And it was all so real: in my dream, I was thinking crazy thoughts like I do in real life. I thought, first: I've been feeling unconfident because somehow I knew this was coming.

I promise: all of this makes me sound more distressed than I actually am, which is only slightly, also significantly less than last week.

I'm not sharing because I want to worry anyone, but because I was thinking, today: it's a gift not to know what the future holds. Not knowing should enable me to live in the moment...not in anticipation or dread. I lose time when I choose to place more importance on a day other than today.

When I was a little girl, someone told me that--if I were to count all the cars on a train as it passed by--I would learn the number of years left in my life. Even thirty years ago, the thought creeped me out.

I need to remember who I am, and I'm not a car counter.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thought of the Day

It's much better to have yourself
on the monkey's back
than the other way 'round.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wild Orange Photography, Pt. 2

Clementine has asked me to remind you: Wild Orange Photography is pleased to meet your graduation-photography and cover-shot needs.

Enthusiastic photographer with a unique eye. Payment accepted in the forms of cookies, crayons, and Play Doh. You can view more of her work here.

Incidentally, said photographer has also become an excellent washcloth folder.

Freaking Out

The sad truth is: I have absolutely no confidence in this pregnancy. None, zero, zip, nada. My complete lack of confidence is squelching any and all positive emotions: happiness, joy, peace, etc.

I went for my 8-week ultrasound expecting it to be like that other, 8-week ultrasound. Considering what had happened a few months before, I forgave my wariness. I thought: if everything goes well, I'll be able to celebrate.

And everything did go well, but I still haven't celebrated. I went to my 12-week appointment, this week, expecting the worst. It took me by surprise to hear the baby's heartbeat.

My doctor said my lab work had shown a low platelet count. He didn't want to talk about it, he said, unless a second test revealed the same.

So, of course, I've been freaking out for days. The nurse finally called a little while ago and said my count had risen from 115 to 131, which is still low; evidently, it should be at least 140. She said I should switch to Flintstones Plus Iron and expect to take another blood test.

I don't ever want to be pregnant again. Seriously. Whether this baby makes it here, or whether (s)he doesn't, I'm so done. My nerves are completely shot. Like, I don't want to leave my house; I don't want to deal with the girls; and I don't want to mop the kitchen floor or wash my hair. I don't even really want to talk to anybody.

Maybe this is where faith comes in. Then again, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. There's no guarantee or promise that I'll have a healthy baby. I can be sure: God won't leave me; He has a plan; and He will work all things to my good.

Right now, none of that feels so very much comforting. And, I mean, it is what it is. If you're waiting for me to apologize for sounding like a spoiled brat...yeah...keep waiting...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To Fight a Good Fight

After they'd demonstrated (for ninety minutes) their basic, combination, and self-defense moves; performed Kata routines; and sparred four rounds, their instructor sent them from the gymnasium to shed their equipment.

My boy had fought well but trailed the rest of the pack a bit, his arms wrapped around his midsection, and I said to Jim: "He's hurt." I wondered if Cade were badly bruised, if his rib were broken.

When the students returned, their instructor spoke to their sticktoitiveness. "Look around," he said. "Not everyone who started this chapter, has finished. But you've finished.

"Take off your Senior Brown Belts," he said. "Put them behind you. Don't ever wear them again. They represent the past."

Photo by Anjie Henley

Soon, each student had donned a Black Belt and taken a swig of juice. One by one, they shook their instructor's hand. I noticed: when he could, Cade continued to cross his arms in front of him. Another student wore a bloodied nose. Still others cried; whether from pain, exhaustion, or adrenaline crash, I don't know. To one student (who cried in little gasps for breath), the instructor said: "You've done well. Hold your head up high."

When I asked Cade, later, if he were hurt, he said: "Just my toe." He lifted his foot to reveal: he'd lost an entire layer of skin off the bottom of one of his big toes. And I guess I didn't know he holds his stomach when he hurts; I'd never really seen him hurt, before.

I tried to tell him how proud I was, and of course I teared up. "You're so pregnant," he laughed, not unkindly, and he draped his Senior Brown Belt around my neck.

For days, I've turned this response over in my head, also that of the girl who gasped for breath. I've wondered: what if--fresh from the fight--a person can't see it all?

I don't mean to make a (wo)man into God or (worse) God into a (wo)man. 

But what if we're fighting our way, all the time, to new levels? What if God, watching, whispers: Leave the past behind. You've gotten somewhere. Be who you are right now. Hold your head up high: not in pride, but in an absence of shame. Not everyone who started this chapter has finished. You've done well, and I'm proud of you.

Photo by Anjie Henley

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cade's Black Belt Test

I can always gauge just how amped up I was by how weary I feel, afterwards. Had I taken that Black Belt test, myself, I don't think I'd feel more exhausted: nodding off in church, yesterday, and falling asleep on the couch the minute Jim put the girls to bed, tonight.

And, yet, Saturday was a perfect day. Everything about it exceeded my highest expectations. I could tell we were every one of us being bathed in prayer: so much big love for the boy of my heart.

Family members and friends had traveled from Texas, Tennessee, Maryland, and various parts of Virginia to watch Cade test for his Black Belt. I found myself surrounded by the family into which I'd been born, and--knowing the obstacles they'd faced in the getting there--I received our togetherness as a miracle.

My friend Darlene stayed home with the girls, which was such a blessing; I was able to concentrate fully on what was happening on the gymnasium floor. Darlene is one of those rare babysitters in whom I have such confidence that--for a few hours, anyway--I can completely forget I have tiny, crazy children.

Likewise, my friend Anjie photographed the entire event. I've blogged about Anjie, before, but didn't mention: she's the finest sports photographer Powhatan has to offer. I had no idea when I met her. (You can see more of her work, here.)

A year or two ago, I saw a photo that Anjie had taken of a girl suspended mid-air, jumping a hurdle, and I told her: I'm going to need you, the day of Cade's Black Belt test. I'd been told there would be restrictions regarding photography, but Anjie had everything straightened out within five minutes.

I'd never seen Anjie at work, and it was truly a beautiful thing: so much fluidity of motion and, really, just the perfect ability to do so much while simultaneously blending into walls. I can't tell you the joy and peace I experienced in knowing: she (with her amazing eye and big ol' camera) was capturing it all. She's made 334 photos available to me, but here are some of my very favorites:

This photo makes me cry; I really FEEL that expression.
That would be called: proud mama.