Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Teen (and Other) Angst

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. 
If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better. -Anne Lamott

I'm thinking that the person getting ready to push a 9+ pound baby out of her nethers should, hands down, be the craziest-acting one in the house. Having said that, I'm about to give birth to my fourth 9+ pound baby, and, in my experience and opinion, the other people in the house always act far crazier. This hardly seems fair to the one in so much physical discomfort that she's counting down the hours for an epidural.

The 12.75 year-old, in particular, seems to have lost his ever-loving mind. Picture me as I am, just now, wearing Cat in the Hat pajama pants and sitting in Jim's scungy, blue chair, pondering. I had a high-school band instructor, once, whose habit it was to--with his forefinger--cover the very centers of his chin and lips whilst touching the underside of his nose and saying: "Hmmm," and--if I had facial hair--I could be him, Robert Cobb, in this moment.


What to write, say, do...and not...about my "talented and gifted" student whose grades don't reflect as much, suddenly? His voice is changing; he breaks and loses things with alarming frequency; he thinks he can rock Ringo Starr hair and, deep into fall, plaid shorts.

I'm at a complete loss, and with the others in the house, too, and who am I to try and raise up another someone? But I guess it's too late to worry about that, now, and I really need to go vacuum some log walls; they're very dusty except in those spots where the little ones have been climbing them.

Friday's the big day; wish us luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

After the Fall

I gasp, sometimes, from the hard kicks of the baby within and find, especially in the middle of the night: my hips don't want to bear our weight to the bathroom. I crank a little dial and stab dutifully into my inner thigh but often feel lightheaded or weak, nonetheless, for reasons barely (or un) detectable in my blood.

I study a spiderweb dangling from a door frame and consider: if a creature of industry exists in this house, she ignores webs, dust, fingerprints, spots. Or does she simply busy herself in some other corner, making something from nothing?

My neighbor hisses that I should get over myself because she, too, has suffered, and some things (and people) aren't meant to be, and some are, and everything works out in the end; there's no good reason not to pick up the phone.

She's right; I don't know of a mother (or any woman, for that matter) who hasn't suffered. We're each of us left holding an apple with bites taken out of it, and don't so many men--even if they don't want to admit it--gloat, disregard, disrespect, undermine?

We women should forge bonds of love, and that's where both my neighbor and I are wrong.

Admittedly, I tire of trying to make something pleasant of that which threatens to rot: foxes and lamps from brightly colored leaves, pies from apples, lanterns from pumpkins, intimacy from brokenness.

Trust me on this: what a strange time to bring new life into the world; everything around me is so very busy dying.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Then I Became a Mother

On Saturday, my friend Robin Kramer began celebrating the release of her book Then I Became a Mother. Having just finished reading it, I celebrate along with her.

Kramer, the mother of three young children, writes honestly about the challenges of early parenthood and offers nine key strategies for navigating and enjoying what is--for every new mother--a confusing, overwhelming time. Kramer doesn't address the detailed, physical aspects of mothering in a how-to manner; rather, she turns her attention to the emotional upheaval that accompanies all little people of families.

If you're at all familiar with Kramer's blog Pink Dryer Lint, you'll treasure this opportunity to travel beyond delightful snippets and into pages written in her same voice: that of a writing instructor, woman of faith, and devoted mother. Experienced mothers will smile and nod while reading, finding much with which to relate, while new mothers will receive Kramer's heartfelt words as those of a wise friend speaking into the chaos.

Robin Kramer shared with me that her prayer is to "encourage and uplift moms," and--because I recognize her book as a means of meeting her objective--I recommend, with pleasure, Then I Became a Mother. It's available for purchase here, through Amazon. Please consider buying a copy not only for yourself but also for someone (else) just beginning the journey of motherhood.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I've hardly been able to bring myself to blog: just seems like every little thing wears me out, and I've had some big things on my plate.

Like, you know, growing a baby who weighs, already, more than seven pounds; looking for the right renter for my bitty house; trying to keep the spark in my man's eye; parenting three kids whom I think may very well be conspiring against me; preparing and teaching Sunday school lessons; purging the log cabin of all unnecessities; and celebrating the season according to my (ridiculously high) standards.

Today, the kids and I met my aunt in Staunton to pick up a wooden dresser for Baby Chip. It's the coolest thing; it has a changing table on top and tons of drawer space. Plus, it's been used by four kids over 20+ years, which is exactly how I like my stuff.

So I'm moving slow, but I'm still moving. On Friday, the doctor said Baby Chip has turned and "headed for the light." I've never gone into labor that hasn't been induced, but Jim says a halloween baby would be very fitting (since I might be the halloween-lovingest Christian ever). My doctor will induce labor on November 6th at the very latest.

Looking forward to getting this pumpkin out from under my shirt: that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: Lessons Learned

Sydney Logan and I go way back (way, way back), although I've never called her by that name. Lessons Learned is her debut novel, and I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. Honestly, I found it thrilling to read a novel written by someone I know and love: to soak in the written thoughts of someone I trust.

Even outside of and beyond my friendship with the author, the novel didn't disappoint; in fact, I appreciated many things about it. I felt like it moved along at a comfortable, consistent pace. I loved Logan's depiction of small-town America. I particularly enjoyed the "rolling" incident, also the snark in Sarah as she contemplated the Sycamore Falls sign and remembered Shellie's accident in high school.

But, above all, I valued the way Logan raised questions like: how should we respond to those who embrace different belief systems than the ones we hold dear? What if--because of these people's close proximity, or for safety and other reasons--turning blind eyes isn't a viable option? How do we best honor God in these situations? Is anything ever really black or white, cut and dry? How do we determine when to fight and when to walk away? Can anyone ever really go home again? And how, and at what point, does someone determine that a particular job or town isn't a good fit for him or her?

I look forward to reading whatever Sydney Logan produces, next. I would encourage her to write more humor, also to allow herself even more freedom in exploring the topics that weigh heavily upon her; I found the romantic aspects of Lessons Learned less gripping than its darker and deeper themes. This author possesses the ability to challenge her readers, and I, for one, am ready for her to make me uncomfortable.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Boy

"That little feller reminds me of me, when I was his age," he says, and I know he's talking--at least in part--about the weight, but he adds: "I remember Mom cutting my hair from under a bowl she'd stuck on my head."

I've thought many times, over the years: I would've loved Jimmy as a little boy; I know I would've.

He was 23 (almost or freshly) when I met him but still very much a boy: no pot to piss in. He borrowed money from one of buddies to buy me two roses. He had a box of sidewalk chalk, a box of Snow White Valentines like what little girls swap with their friends, pumpkin-carving skills. He gave me the up-n-down in class and didn't care a bit to bellow his love for me across the commons.

I played him hard, and finally he took off for Disney World. He didn't come back to me for a dozen years; I'm not even kidding you.

When he came back, at last, he came back a man.

Lately, though (as he loses weight rapidly), I've seen glimpses of the boy again. Overall, I can't say I've been terribly amused: probably because I can't even locate my inner girl at the moment. She might be lost in a pile of dirty laundry, or she might be trapped behind this guy:

Not sure, but I find: I don't really want Jim out of my sight. I leaned across the bar, last night, and told him: "I'm always afraid you won't come back. Or that you won't want to."

I listened from bed, this morning, to his doling out vitamins and juice to the girls (who sound, afar, just like Minnie Mouse). He climbed the stairs, crawled in beside, and said: "They're watching cartoons, but you've only got about ten minutes before they get into some craziness."

I laughed, assured him I was awake before pulling him close and breathing him (fresh from the shower) in. I asked him to stay, but he had a meeting, so I listened to his goodbyes with the girls, also to the squeak and click of the door.

And I wonder if he understands how much of me he takes with him, when he goes, how he is the axis upon which I (big and round as a library globe) spin.

**My thanks to Amber Haines for the prompt. Pleased to share with her and her community.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why I Believe in the Power of Prayer

I started taking insulin injections on Wednesday and felt better immediately. I can do this, I thought: it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.

But when I woke up on Thursday, my throat felt like a sidewalk-scraped knee. Jim had been feeling badly for a couple days and was diagnosed, that same day, with bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. "Go to the doctor," he encouraged, but I didn't see the point: I try to avoid medication (beyond Tylenol and, obviously, insulin) while pregnant.

I fell asleep praying I wouldn't get worse, but--for each of the next three mornings--I woke up feeling worse than I had the day before.

For days, my daughters ate candy corn for breakfast. They curled around my legs and tummy on the couch, and we watched an endless stream of cartoons. I hacked up a lung and cried for my mom, who lives eight hours away and couldn't come to my rescue.

Today is Day 6 of my crud. I can breathe (and smell) through my nose. I can function as the mother of little girls; we resumed "homeschool preschool" yesterday. They just had cereal as a side dish to their candy corn. I played board games with my son, last night; I got him to the bus on time, this morning.

I still sound terrible. I still feel as though I've been kicked about the ribs by an ornery old mule.

But this is what I really wanted to tell you: while I was dying on the sofa, my husband was cleaning and painting my recently- and suddenly-vacated bitty house. With diagnosed bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. I was over there last night, and--considering the smoke, dog-pee-stained carpet, half-painted wall (as in, someone painted around a gigantic piece of furniture?), non-working light fixture, black and clogged (completely washable?) air filter, and broken toilet our former renters left behind--I wanted to cry for the beauty and freshness of it all.

And you wouldn't know, if you didn't know, the miracle in this: the power of prayer in this. Because, traditionally, my man has been the one hit hardest by any and all sickness in our household. I can't even count the times I've watched him crash and burn. But he's down 85 pounds since surgery (135 since the beginning of summer), and he's a new man.

He took us to the Amelia County Fair for his birthday; for hours, we walked around in the dark, and who knows how pitted with holes that cool ground? He bagged up clothes for Good Will and, twice, shopped in his closet; he came downstairs, this morning, proudly modeling a new size. He looks like he did on our wedding day. He's just so well, even when he's sick.

And that, my friends, is the power of prayer. Thank you, Lord.