Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Clementine Turns Eight

Dear Clementine:

I started this blog because I was losing my grandma to Alzheimer's; the first time she didn't recognize me, in fact, I was pregnant with you. She had always been such a safe person for me. I was in pain; I wanted her back; I wanted access to all her memories, again, and it was too late.

I was filled with an indescribable longing to write myself down for you children against the day that you lose me. So here we are. I would tell you I've changed so much over these six years of blogging, but I suspect it's closer to the truth to say I haven't changed much at all but that, instead, I've come to understand myself so much better.

I've come to understand that a big part of me has been stuck at age eight: your brand-new age. I started to figure this out after experiencing your baptism, which filled me with a dread I hadn't anticipated. It would've been convenient to chalk my emotional state up to "weeping with joy," but I recognized that as a lie. I was frustrated: why did your accepting Christ feel heavy to me in a way that your older brother's profession of faith had not? I turned the question over and over in my mind. It took a long time for me to know, but when I knew, I knew for certain.

I accepted Christ within the same year of my first sexual interactions, also the same year of two great-grandmothers' deaths. I was eight years old. I wasn't baptized until I was about twelve, but your baptism was triggering for me, and thank goodness, as I was granted some time to prepare for your turning eight.

Now, you are. Eight. Sometimes we are eye-to-eye eight. We were selling Girl Scout cookies in front of Walmart the other day, and you ran over to the other table for a piece of pizza. After you returned, I asked you to fetch me a piece. "No," you said. "You didn't get me a piece, so I'm not going to get you one."

Just like that, I was bested. "Fair enough," I muttered, and went after my own piece of pizza. Later, I was, like: what was that? I'd been helping you sell cookies since 9am, and I let you get away with refusing to get me a piece of pizza? You're not unkind as a rule; I watch you with animals and much younger children. But I think you smell the eight-year-old on me as surely as a dog smells fear. We go around and around and always have. You have your daddy's stink eye and, at times, a ferocious bark.

You are creative and strong, so strong. I think you could in time lead an army or a country, but you must continue to grow in body and spirit. You must refine your leadership skills. I'm here to make sure you don't get stuck. I'm learning to parent both of us; forgive me for my failings. I love you, and I love no one more than I love you. I am devoted to you; you have, after all, been one of my greatest teachers.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Last Week

We kicked off last week by hosting a Super Bowl party. It was a fairly last-minute decision, which made it extra brave. The truth is: there reaches a point in your crap storm at which you're very nearly overcome with insecurity. This is especially true when your crap storm is just the latest of multiple crap storms. You start to wonder what people are thinking. Are they thinking you're bringing it upon yourself in some way? That you're being punished? Are they sick and tired of your suffering self? And honestly, even if you're able to answer no-no-no, you feel guilty that your friends (such good people) have sat with you through so much crap. You don't want to ask for help; you don't even want to ask for company.

We were extra brave, asking friends over for the Super Bowl at the last minute, so we felt very glad and relieved (also a little bit guilty) when they came, bearing tons of amazing food to include some apple cake that made my eyes well up when I bit into it.

I started my new teaching job on Tuesday. When I first visited this school just before Christmas, I thought it felt like a perfect fit, and eighteen teaching hours later, it still does. It's the smallest, warmest place. There's a mural on one wall, decorated bulletin boards, a little free library. I write my grades in an actual book. After years of teaching composition, I'm teaching literature to adults for the first time, and my students have been so receptive, so respectful. I can hardly believe it's real.

Friday night, I photographed a ladies' event. A friend had recommended me for the job on facebook, and I messaged the person who'd placed the ad. She asked me about my rates and if I'd be interested in trading photography for gym membership. My first thought was: no. Immediately afterward, though, I thought: Jesus? Because the truth is: I need more exercise, but in this season of Jim's unemployment, any cash payment wouldn't have gone toward a gym membership. The event was held at the gym; I had an amazing time and made some new friends; and we now have a family gym membership for the next five months! Jim and I have our initial consultations on Monday.

Last week was both the third anniversary of my friend Jason Hatfield's death and Grandma B.'s 99th birthday. I miss them both so much, but ask me if I think it's a coincidence that Mr. Edwards came back to me, last week. (I'm reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter to the girls and had completely forgotten about the Ingalls family's reconnecting with Mr. Edwards.) I cried so hard I could hardly read. Ask me if I think it's a coincidence that one of my favorite co-workers from ITT will likely soon be joining me at my new school. Until Thursday, I hadn't seen him for eight years or so. I also heard, last week, from a friend from grad school with whom I'd lost touch. There were other things that happened: tickets to a marriage retreat from an anonymous friend, for example.

He gives and takes away. I really do believe that. And I guess the very best thing about a crap storm is watching the incredible ways in which God provides in the middle of it: whom He sends, and what. I believe He's for me, still; I do.