Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Clean Up As You Go

I was whacked out on muscle relaxers and in the throes of PMS so I decided to make a gob cake. Nothing takes away muscle pain and Aunt Flo unhappiness than yummy chocolate.

Of course, as my back was out I had to use the mixer with my left hand causing chocolate batter to splatter all over the kitchen. It was fun to lick it off.

As I was baking, I instinctively put things away as I finished using them. My mother's voice echoed in my head, "Clean as you go. It makes it easier when you're finished."

Clean as you go. Isn't that what we should do in life? Clean up our own messes and maybe, just maybe, be privileged enough to help others clean up theirs.

Clean as you go. Taking personal responsibility for the messes, even the non-yummy ones, and wipe them up with an apology, making amends.

Clean as you go. Putting away what we use to get through so it's out of the way of everyone else.

It makes it easier when you finish: a relationship, a job, an experience.

I cleaned up the flour, sugar, coffee and other key ingredients for the absolutely scrumptious gob cake (thanks DB for the recipe). It was easier in the end.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Warning: May Cause Drowsiness

It's early Easter afternoon. We arrive at NaNa's with a flurry of food, kids and sweet treats. The sun is shining. The world is filled with the promise of a new day, a resurrected day.

Me? I had a very bad spring cold.

"Warning: May Cause Drowsiness" the cold medicine package read. I didn't bother to check, as I was so miserable and snotty and hurting and needing some kind of relief. It's hard to be friendly and 'family'ish' when you feel like your head is going to pop off.

If a medicine is going to make one hyper or sleepy I am that one. I should have known. I should have braced myself.

Awhile later, after sampling some western Pennsylvania holiday goodness, I was ready for a beverage. It should have been juice. It should have been milk. It should have been anything other than what I really drank. It was a margarita. Normally, margarita mixes are weak and more fruity than 'festive'. Normally. However, this is a mother-in-law margarita mix with a little extra 'something'. That something was extra tequila. Lots of extra tequila. Because of the cold, I couldn't really taste the drink, or anything else for that matter. Soon I was not only unable to taste anything, I was unable to feel anything.

My first clue should have been when I was really, really, really interested in the Masters golf tournament. I was into it, baby. I even had pithy comments (or so I thought) about the players and the shots. I was on a roll! (I don't like golf and have never watched it for longer than five minutes.) But today, golf was better than gold!

My second clue should have been the effort it took to walk the three steps from the couch to the recliner. It was so far. It took so long. It was e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g.

The final clue, that my family Easter celebration was about to go very wrong, was saying aloud, very loud, how much I needed to take a little rest. For three hours. Mouth agape. Snoring. Sweating. And according to my husband, smiling.

I awoke. Decongested and refreshed to rejoin the party as if nothing happened. Because to my drug and alcohol marinated brain, nothing did happen. In fact, I thought I had only slept a minute or two. I couldn't understand the odd looks or the whispered comments. I just chalked it up to 'family weirdness'. It was a holiday after all, and it ain't a holiday until someone gets angry or gossips.

On the way home, it hit me. In the darkness of the car, a memory flashed. Here's how the conversation went.
"Honey, can I ask you something?"
"Did I really get drunk and drugged and pass out in the livingroom?"
"Dear God! Please tell me I didn't snore. Just tell me I didn't snore!"
"Okay, you didn't snore. (snicker)"
"I snored."
"You snored."
So now I am 'that' relative. You know, the one with a story about 'that' time. There is no recovery. There is no making it better. It is what it is.
Nothing celebrates the resurrection of our Lord better than a drunken stupor.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Strawberry Pieces

"Mom, wook! I put the strawberry back togever again!"

Out of all the pieces of cereal in his bag, from the entire box, he was able to find the two halves of the same dehydrated strawberry. It was a minor, very minor miracle.

It got me thinking. Isn't that what children do for adults? They put the pieces back together.

As babies, we come into the world whole, unspoiled and unmarred by life. Sometimes we get pieces taken out of us early, some not until the turmoil of adolescence. All of us have pieces taken out. Some have entire chunks of themselves heaved away by circumstance, pain and dysfunction. Others have scrapes from tough words or missed opportunities.

As adults we believe another will complete us. We marry. We have children. Then we become the caretakers of their wholeness.

This morning I realized, my children have been the stewards of MY wholeness. They have forced me to look into the mirror and really see what is reflected. They have been the reason I faced the ugly, brokeness in my heart, spirit and mind. It was in their eyes I began to see myself again as a woman created and called and equipped to care for these little miracles.

I know my pieces are put together finally and forever. The work is done. There will always be little adjustments. A little dusting off and a little shoring up here and there. A little tweaking.

This morning, in the rush to work out, shop and get home again before the washer gets repaired, I was reminded that God reached down into the mess and found the pieces. He put them back together.

I was supposed to be working this afternoon. I was rushing to the laptop, because the baby finally was quiet, desperate to get some real work done. My five year old, sleepily wandered to my side, "Mommy would you cuddle with me on da couch?" I did. And slept for an hour. Content. Whole. As whole as a strawberry from inside the cereal box.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Fork in the Road and A Stain in the Carpet

I stand at a fork in the road. In reality, I stand in my dining room staring at the stains in the carpet (curiously they form a 'purple dot road' which my toddler seems to take with every sippy he is given).

Metaphorically, I stand at a fork in the road. I have a business idea. I think I have a market. I am only contracted to work 20 hours a week, leaving the other 20 to build my own business. So, one lane of the road is towards committing to building a business while simultaneously not tearing down my family, sanity and life. The other lane is to go get a 'normal' job. You know the kind with health benefits, a regular schedule and mind numbing routine.

Either way will be fine. Either road will have benefits and deficits. For the first time in my life, I get to choose. There is no super urgency (aside from the dwindled financial resources) for me to choose one over the other. However, I have to choose.

I have been so far out of the 'rat race' that I don't want to go back. Most days I don't even get dressed beyond the stay at home mom uniform of comfies and some type of fleece. I like not knowing where my makeup is most days. I like not buying panty hose.

However, there is a restlessness starting to emerge. As I have recovered and been redeemed from the clutches of depression and PPD (see earlier posts), a new strength and 'go get 'em' has emerged. Can I still be the mother I want to be and be a woman with a business?

Feminism taught us one thing. It was only about one thing. Get out and make your mark on the world. They forgot to teach us how to mother in the midst of making our marks.

I can make no greater mark on this world than to raise the next generation to be the men God created them to be. Men of character, heart and strength (who by the way love their mother!). Men who will be good husbands, friends, and brothers.

However, is part of that mark, a piece of it, just my own? Can I really do this?

I have to decide which direction to take in the fork in the road. But first, gonna get out the stainbuster carpet scrubby thingy, these stains are crazy!

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Grandparent Circus

Once upon a time, there was a mother, a father and various children. There were two sets of Grandparents. All formed a familial community in which to raise and nurture the next generations.

Enter feminism, post-war consumerism, and the sixties. Now we have mothers raising children alone while fathers date/marry/divorce new 'mommies' half their age. Grandparents are no longer married, deciding after 20+ years that it's time to be done. And the familial community is no more.

It is into this reality that we are navigating. Today my father-in-law and one of his "special friends" (the non-commital euphemism I use when describing whoever the grandparent is dating at the time-seeking to ascribe no special status as they may never show up again), took my first born to the circus. In another city, for the entire afternoon. Without us.

We are trying to navigate the uncharted waters of complicated and complex grandparent relationships. We support their right to time, access and relationship with each of our sons. We get it. Yet, it's still tough.

The 'special friend' isn't very friendly to us, preferring to use passive agressive comments in lieu of mature relationship building. We get it. You are the girlfriend du jour.

So, when he called to take our sweetie to his first circus, it was with trepidation. If the special friend doesn't respect mommy and daddy, what comments would be made to our little? Could we trust him to really care for a curious, talkative, energetic little fella?

We let him go, because he needs to know his grandfather. He needs to build memories with him that he will share with his own kids. He needs it. Pap Pap needs our little too. No amount of passive aggressive relationship messiness deniest the genuine love and pride he has for 'his boys'.

My five year old just called. He recounted how he saw 'real' lions, tigers and monkeys. And how this lady shot out of a cannon. And how these guys did the most dangerous thing of all-they hung upswide down by their feeties. And a dog trainer. And an elephant ride (that was stinky). And....and....and...."daddy, I can't tell her everything now. I'll finish when we get home."

My sweetie didn't remember any passive aggressive silliness. He'll remember the silly clowns. He won't remember his mommy checking the clock every minute to see when he would be back. He will remember every minute of the magic of his first circus. His face will be sticky with cotton candy and smiling at the guy who "ran on da rings faster and faster when we clapped faster and faster and then swower and swower when we clapped swower". He didn't have to face the complicated, Grandparent circus. That's our job. Is it too late to turn in our tickets?

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