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Foray into Poetry

Posted on 2006.04.03 at 13:15
I tend to think that poems should stand or fall on their own, without intervention or explanation from the author, but let me say this: this is a recently written poem which is connected to a series of poems I have written about this woman's (the "I" in the poem) search for faith and meaning.

Poetry is simply not my most familiar language anymore, so I post this with some trepidation. Any interest in seeing previous poems in the series?



So she invited me to church

being a girl so sweet
a nectarine’s juice or sugar tea
her life framed in sterling
silver a husband
swollen baby belly
so I can’t even say why
she talks to me at break
why I don’t make
her leave the smoker’s slab
of concrete out back
maybe I don’t see in her eyes
so much of a lie
but what if she know I lack
and the nights when I die
in my sleep a tangle
of vines only to pry my eyes
open when dawn streaks
but if she knows why
does she stay
like the sky spreading the horizon

On why I love my husband

Posted on 2006.03.24 at 20:15
I know that I (occasionally!) use this as a forum for complaint. Especially about Tim’s job (which, incidentally, I still HATE), but I realized that I don’t often say enough exactly why I love Tim so much.

He is my opposite in many ways: forgiving where I hold grudges, generous where I tend toward tightwadedness, a big picture guy where I try to hold all the little details in my hand. But we have the same twisted gallows humor, especially about being parents. No one can make me laugh at a kid’s tantrum like Tim can. (i.e. Abby, in all her melodramatic eight year old angst, shouts, “I’m going to my room forever!” and Tim mutters under his breath to me, “And that would be a bad thing WHY?”) No one else but Tim can help me take myself less seriously. He forgives my foibles, encourages my gifts and often pre-figures my needs. Plus, he knows that when I get hungry, he damn well better not mess with me until he gets me food.

We have a history that dates back to high school. I remember kisses in the cooling autumn dusk at Alum Creek Park in Westerville. We attended proms and homecomings, posing for stilted pictures under balloon archways. For one Valentine’s Day, he gave me a teddy bear that I have kept to this day. He knows the people of my past, high school buddies who remain friends to both of us. When I was in graduate school, he patiently attended poetry readings and made nice with all my classmates and professors. He GETS all the inside jokes from the various seasons of my life.

I am lucky. Blessed.

But here’s a small story as to exactly why I love him:

Several months back he went out to pick up pizza on a Friday night. I had in the van’s CD player, “All Right Here” by Sara Groves, a wondrous Christian artist with a folksy sound and a gorgeous voice (think Sarah Maclachlan meets the Indigo girls with a Christian twist). One song tells the story of a young woman who is in therapy for her depression, which worries her mother. The girl spends “all night in the back yard/staring up at the stars and the sky.” As a listener, you sense how lost she feels, how she is seeking something and not finding it in therapy (“They want a chart and graph of my despondency,/ so they can chart a path for a self-recovery.”). As she describes her confusion, the music builds and builds until the girl reaches a crucial point; Groves’ soft lilting voice breaks in:
Maybe this was made for me,
Lying on my back in the middle a field,
Maybe that’s a selfish thought,
But maybe there’s a loving God.

That night was the first time Tim had heard the song. When he got home he stopped me in my bustle to get plates and napkins for the pizza. I don’t know that I had ever seen that exact look on his face. He said, “When I got to that part in the song, I found myself starting to cry. Yes it’s a selfish thought, that God has made this world just for you. But you know what? He did.”

I loved Tim so much in that moment. As someone who has battled depression for 20 years, the song had spoken to me on a lot of levels. But for the song to speak to Tim – it meant that he understood something more about God and about his wife than I had known.

And that’s why I love my husband.

Gas Leaks

Posted on 2006.03.15 at 23:18
Okay, okay this is a true story, I swear to you.

In a week where my life – at least in any of the minor diddly ways – seems to be veering toward stepping in steaming piles of dog sh__ , I believe I have found the capper. The chocolate syrup atop the creamy latte (yeah, the dog feces right before the coffee really doesn’t make me feel any better either). But please realize that tonight at 10:22 as I wait for Columbia Gas I find myself at the apex of the “thiscouldonlyhappentoyou” syndrome.

And why does one call Columbia Gas at 9:45 at night, you ask.

Tucked the boys in bed, got Abby settled with her book and went downstairs to start a load of laundry, which is when I smelled a whiff of natural gas from my furnace. As I stood there and debated what to do, it occurred to me once again that I hate being a single mother during the week. Forgive me for sounding a bit sexist, but in my mind, some of the main reasons one chooses to be married come down to matters of reptiles, rodents, rapists, excessively large arachnids – and moments of emergency after hours. Tim, in California right now, really does not score high husband points for this. It’s just so much easier to say,
“Hey, I smell gas. Do you smell gas?”

“Crap I don’t know. Do you smell gas?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe. You?”

But to have the internal debate is another matter altogether. I can’t blow off that I smelled it, but I don’t have anyone to reassure me that he doesn’t smell it. I cannot, in good conscience, curl up under my cozy white down comforter and go to sleep while I fear that natural gas is building up to dangerous levels, ultimately turning us into “the red mist” I’ve heard that blown up people become.

So I called the emergency gas odor line.

And here’s the very very best part of my day: of course, the phone could never be answered by a human being, but instead an overly formerly pleasant AUTOMATED female voice welcomes me to Columbia Gas. The voice doesn’t stop there. She tells me how I can automate my billing by going to www.ColumbiaGas.com.

“Um,” I think to myself, “I think I might just have a gas leak. Could you maybe tell me about your website another time?” The spiel goes on for at least 30 seconds.

It gets better. When she gets finished lauding Columbia Gas’s easy bill-paying system (like it’s that damn hard to pay the gas bill?), she then offers us the options.

“For billing questions, press 1,” she says.

WHAT? Who is calling about a bill at nearly 10:00 at night? Crap, I should have just called the fire department.

“If you have an odor of gas, press 2.”

2…my house smells gassy and the Einsteinian phone tree people at Columbia Gas were willing to listen to my concern AFTER they heard about my billing issues.

Is this not a metaphor for bureaucracy across the world?

Now once they actually transferred me to a person, she seemed exceedingly concerned that I might have a leak – she cautioned me to use no appliances, to keep my phone off the hook, to leave all windows down – anything to prevent a “spark.” Nooooow ya tell me! I thought that they wanted me to go online just a minute ago. Heavens!

In the middle of writing this, the very gentlemanly Columbia Gas arrived and checked our basement. No gas leak. I probably just smelled the furnace turning on. He says that women have especially sensitive senses of smell, which tells me that he’s been on more than one late night call for a woman.

He gave me the “ALL CLEAR” and I am going to bed. If you get a chance, drop a line to Columbia Gas and mention your concern that perhaps, just perhaps, their priorities come across a wee bit…skewed…on their emergency line.

Headaches and Splitting Hairs

Posted on 2006.03.13 at 09:48
For those of you who know me (and care!), I ask for prayer that this stupid migraine headache I've had for weeks (but it really BLOSSOMED in the last 4-5 days) would be gone. This morning I am cautiously optimistic that perhaps, maybe, after two doctor visits, one urgent care visit and a trip to the blinkin' ER, I may be on the road to, if not recovery, at least a higher level of functioning....

Anyway, somewhere in the quiet dark room in which I tried to stay secluded this weekend (mothers of 3 can laugh at that previous phrase if need be), I came to a realization: I may not be a complete failure as a mother. No, no wait, I'm not just whining and seeking compliments -- though I accept them :D -- I simply realized that there are the "more important" parts of mothering and the "less important" parts. The more important parts include but are not limited to: being available to my kids when they need to talk, reading nightly stories, teaching them Biblical truths as the situations present themselves, cuddling away the fears in the night, feeding them, clothing them, knowing each of their individual foibles and strengths, establishing boundaries that help them feel safe, instilling in them the ability and competence to think for themselves, showing them how to treat others as God would have them do...and so on.

It may be that I have and am doing some of the above things.

But you know what? The feedback we receive as parents always centers on those less important parts. I could make a list.

Things that as a mother, I suck at:

1. Turning Brownie cookie money in on time
2. Remembering what the heck time to pick up my twins from school
3. Reading the important memo from the school until 2 minutes before my daughter's carpool arrives
4. Cleaning the van's floor of cheese crackers and pretzels
5. Folding every basket of laundry the minute it stops tumbling dry
6. Putting the phone on the charger overnight
7. Signing and packing the permission slip for the field trip
8. Having the mental wherewithal to sign the kids up for lessons at the Rec center
9. Keeping track of the piles and piles of artwork (or for that matter, getting rid of the piles)
10. Getting everyone to soccer practice on time and at the right park

And these are only the top 10 off the top of my (albeit achy) head. But every one of them has some kind of built-in feedback. Don't turn the Brownie money in? The Brownie leader calls you and uses her extra patient voice to explain why YOUR daughter's lack of money is holding up the whole troop. Don't fold the basket of laundry quick enough? Morning comes and everyone's digging and throwing around pieces to find a missing sock. Don't get to soccer practice on time? Every parent in his/her canvas-carry-a-chair thingie looks over his/her shoulder as you trudge toward the field with angry boys in tow.

And you know what the drumbeat of all that is? Failure, failure, failure.

Truly, I am not a person who is used to failing at life. I succeeded at school and in pretty much every employment situation in my past (the one notable exception being when I was a cashier at Central Hardware -- a story for another day, but apparently my mind wanders a bit too much to work with money). I received good feedback. Good job reviews. Good student evaluations when I taught. But this whole Mommy deal? It's different, I tell you.

So this is what I realized: I don't think we parents get feedback on all the important stuff for a long long time. Like maybe when Abby is a mother and she calls me to ask how I did something. Or Rob becomes president (okay, maybe of his company?) and leads by good example. Or Dan's future wife thanks me for raising such a sweet guy. Probably feedback comes in all sorts of ways I haven't even imagined yet. I know that I'm not a failure at the Big Stuff of Parenting -- at least not most of the time. I think that God's blessed me with some pretty great kids and I'm daily trying to do right by them. Maybe the best feedback will ultimately be, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Gotta go. The Brownie cookie money is WAY late...

Blondes have more fun

Posted on 2006.03.06 at 11:05
I can still them there so clearly: lying together on a couple of beanbag chairs that had been shoved under the rec room stairs, their lips almost constantly locked, their hands linked together, her blonde head and his darker one in contrast.

And I, of course, had six arms and at least four elbows. And probably the wrong non-designer jeans on too. My hair and braces? Forget about it!

Ah, the joys of the 8th grade party.

Looking back, I can’t imagine how I got invited to a party with the exalted popular crowd. I think I had a miniscule “in” through a neighbor friend who managed to straddle the fine line between being with the popular kids and being with me. Not that I was the WORST geek or anything, but I knew my place: overly-tall, awkward smart girl. While I wasn’t despised, I wasn’t exactly sought after. Certainly not by the many boys that I “loved” from afar.

In that 8th grade moment I had never been kissed by a boy (and wouldn’t be for at least a year or so later when I went on a categorically disastrous date with a boy who would later turn out to be gay – yes, only in my life would this happen). Surreptitiously watching the beanbag action the whole night, I wondered what it felt like to be her. To have the perfectly styled blonde hair, the always-right clothes, the confidence…

It was one of the many times that I employed a “tortoise and the hare” mentality. She might be “all that” right now, but I was so much smarter, somehow so much better in so many deep ways that no one could possibly understand in 8th grade. I wanted to believe that somewhere out there in the future of our lives, there was recompense for all I suffered as a pre-teen. I wanted to believe that the “slow and steady” (socially speaking) of us would prevail, that the blonde girls who kissed the 10th graders (!) under the stairs would somehow fall victim to their own folly at a later point.

And maybe some of that happens to a degree. Yes, I did lose some of the arms and at least one of the extra elbows as I grew into myself. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin, and even at some point, became somewhat attractive to the opposite sex. I had some dates, some really awful ones true, but dates nonetheless. I found someone to love and marry. I have figured out, at least in part, some of the major purposes for my life.

But you know the blond girl under the stairs? She ended up being our class Homecoming Queen. And she went on to get married, have kids and be a nurse. A nurse! My world was much more comfortable when I could label her a brainless blonde who would go nowhere in life. But it’s never that simple. She wasn’t dumb. She didn’t ruin her future by kissing that boy (wow, did I really want to see her ruined? That begs some pretty awful questions about my own mental state in 8th grade). And probably, she felt insecure and unattractive at times…okay, no, I really don’t think she ever did…but the point is that maybe we spend our lives shedding the labels people place on us like a snake shedding so many skins. Maybe no one ever looked at her in high school and thought, “Yeah, she’ll make a great nurse,” so she went out and proved them wrong. Maybe we spend much of our lives being so self-involved, so comparative to the successes and failures of others, that we forget the basic fact that no one ever has it easy. At least not for long and not in every area.

What made her kiss that boy all evening long so many years ago? Was he pressuring her to have sex? She was only 14, for goodness sakes. And for that matter, where in the hell were the parents of the girl who threw the party? (Make a mental note for future reference, Beth.) Were the blonde girl’s parents as all-out full-force supportive as mine were? Did she feel close enough to be real with any of the kids in that oh-so-popular crowd or was she too busy having to maintain her particular façade?

Those are questions that can’t be answered by me. But if I learn something from the past (and really, isn’t that sort of the point of life experience), perhaps I can stop myself from having a superiority complex when someone is making choices that I wouldn’t or couldn’t make. Perhaps I can stop comparing myself to others and actually wish people well in their future endeavors. Perhaps I won’t sell someone short based solely on appearances. And I’ll work on losing that extra elbow.


Surrender

Posted on 2006.03.04 at 20:46
I sit here in the foxhole that feels like my life and I hold the white flag in my hands. I think of putting it up in the air tentatively, but I’m half afraid that I’ll get my hand shot off. I confess that I never quite understand the reasons that I go to war with God. I cannot articulate what false belief or fear leads me astray from the abundant life He plans for me. I know that my humanness recoils against hardship, duty, conflict, sadness, exhaustion and most of all, my need to trust that God remains sovereign. I know that I want to be the driver controlling the circumstances in my life, especially when said circumstances cause me pain. I know that I often wish for mere happiness when God desires complete transformation. I know that I was created for specific purposes, but alone I will never realize them. I also know enough about God to say that with regard to certain excruciating chapters of our lives -- it is retrospect that offers us more than the effort to figure out all the particulars in the moment. I know that He has come through for me again and again. I know that today, right now, deep in this particular dirty cold trench, I have His promises.

His new mercies arrive every morning that I open my eyes, even when I try to take up my AK 47 as opposed to His cross. I must annoy the hell out of Him a lot of the time. But the mercies come just the same.

So I can either spend the rest of this long night here alone, waiting to see if the enemy (and really, I know who that is and who it isn’t) shoots my fool head off. Or I surrender.

You watching, God?

Up goes my white flag.

Hedgehog anyone?

Posted on 2006.03.04 at 20:46
Maybe what I am about to describe will make me sound certifiable.

But, you see, a parent has certain...perhaps obligations is not the right word. Perhaps we have certain desires for our children. This all-encompassing love thing, this unconditional love that we try to display to them can take on some kind of quirky shapes.

The story in short: For Abby's 8th birthday, I paid for her, myself, her best friend and her best friend's mom (also my good friend) to see Balletmet's "Alice in Wonderland." What a wonderful, lush, crazy, creatively-staged show! We had a memorable awesome time. As a small souvenir of the event, we bought the girls stuffed hedgehog finger puppets (the show had dancing hedgehogs -- I mean, of course "Alice in Wonderland" had dancing hedgehogs!). Abby and her friend played with these hedgehogs that night and the next day (Abby's birthday party); inexplicably, both hedgehogs were christened, "Hedgy" and Abby and her friend could tell them apart easily, despite the fact that to all adults, the hedgehogs appeared like identical twins. Abby took part of our new dishwasher box and made a hedgehog home, complete with hedgehog habitrail and pillows and bed.

You have to know this pertinent fact to understand the rest of the story: Hedgy is about 3 inches in diameter and dark brown. If you look at him wrong, he appears to be a dust bunny or an exceptionally large acorn.

And any mother knows the rest of the story. Hedgy has disappeared into the nether regions of lost children's socks and favorite pens.

"When did you last have Hedgy?" I implore Abby over and over. Well, it may have been in the car before church and she's sure that she had him when Daddy took her and her brothers to McDonalds on Friday, but no, she didn't bring him in to church or McDonalds. And she thinks that she played with him Friday night, but she's not sure, and for that matter, maybe she didn't have him in the car Saturday before church, though she thinks that she might have grabbed him up to go in the car. Had I not had a drug-impenetrable sinus headache on Saturday I would have taken better inventory of what Abby was attempting to stash in the mini-van. We've had innumerable talks about not bringing so much stuff (I swear to you, she sometimes packs a bag to go 2 miles) because of the imminent risk of losing something...but I slipped on Saturday, and no matter Tim's fabulous qualities, mental inventories of stuffed animals is not included.

The net result? I (and my much appreciated friend, Tracy) drove around the church parking lot at 11:00 Saturday night in hopes that if Hedgy had been inadvertently kicked out of the van, he might still be there. We drove other places that such tragedy could have befallen, but all to no avail. As well, our house has been turned upside-down and inside-out as we have conducted Hedgy searches.

Still no Hedgy.

Parents are different, of course. Tim said to me Saturday night after our initial tearful searches ended in failure, "This will teach her to take better care of her things." Yes, I suppose it will. But you know what? God cares about the littlest stupidest things in our lives. He gives us so much mercy regarding issues when we, as adults, should have known better. Metaphorically speaking, how many times have I lost/misused/ignored/trampled on the feelings of/forgotten/etc. the Hedgys in my life? And how many times has God rescued me and restored me? Yes, He will sometimes let me live with the consequences of my bad choices, but not nearly as many times as I deserve Him to do just that. And if he cares about the fall of a sparrow...maybe he cares about the loss of a stuffed hedgehog.

Plus, I'm a sucker for stuffed animals. Though I've not shared this with Abby, I have worried over Hedgy this week. Is he out in the cold? The rain? Buried uncomfortably in the springs of a mattress or the cushion of a couch? Okay, okay, maybe I've seen "Toy Story" one too many times.

Also, Abby's been really sick this week -- barfy, fevery and sad sad sad about missing Hedgy.

So what's a mother to do? Well, aside from the continual physical searches throughout the house for Hedgy, I have begun a concerted internet search for hedgehog finger puppets. Let me just say that, wow will the internet surprise you with what's available (just try typing "stuffed hedgehog finger puppet" into Google...) but nothing was exactly like Hedgy. I, who have always always been straight with my children even regarding the most awful aspects of life (my mom's cancer, Dan's diabetes scare), have completely considered replacing Hedgy and telling her that he has been miraculously "found." Scary scary stuff.

I have also called Balletmet to see if they had any leftover Hedgys after the end of the "Alice" run. No. But...and here's where you can call me certifiable...they CAN call the supplier and get me a set of 4 if I buy all 4 and pay for shipping...call me a big fat sucker for my daughter's brown eyes. And besides, with 4 hedgehogs, maybe I can prevent such disasters in the future.

Come and join the pity party

Posted on 2006.02.24 at 18:37
As a wanna-be-writer, I always try to post entries that have some coherence, maybe even some niceness or beauty of language. I want to take relevant topics from my life and hopefully, give them greater relevance for others. I believe in the power of personal narrative, that the stories we tell one another connect us and make us better for that connection.

But lately, I feel like I can barely scrape together a couple of rough-hewn sentences. Forget burnished wood -- I feel like my mind is a lumber yard full of scraps. A lot of jagged pieces. Splinters to be found everywhere. But no way to build any kind of sensible structure.

For one, I have an almost constant sinus headache. It is rarely a headache that actually prevents me from functioning in my life (as if that were an option anyhow?), but a dull, pounding throb around my temples and eyes. In my lighter moments, I imagine that I have a nasal polyp (anyone still reading?) that has actually overtaken my brain area, reducing my functioning brain to the size of a marble. When doctors discover this, they will marvel at how fabulously I utilize my marble. "My God, that woman should be a constant blithering idiot with the size of her usable brain," one doctor will say to another. "As it is, cognitively speaking, she's only an utter idiot about 75% of the time." Maybe then, doctors will perform my brain surgery (to remove my polyp -- really how many times can you read that word and not gag?) and stretch my brain back into its usual shape, and since it will be such an amazing case, I will be featured on one of those awful surgery shows on the Discovery Health Channel. I hope they give me a makeover and get me some good clothes.

Secondly, in an effort to control those things I can control, I am proceeding forward, actually quite successfully, with Weight Watchers. For those of you on the sidelines keeping the stats for my trading card, I've lost a total of 17.6 pounds so far. But, wow, do I feel hungry sometimes. I sometimes look at my children and attempt to calculate the Weight Watchers Points value of each of them (I'm pretty sure Dan would be my best option -- long and lean but not too big on the portion size). I know. I know. This is not a diet, but a "lifestyle change," and everything takes getting used to, blah, blah, blah...but how come I can't just WISH real hard for the weight to come off?

Speaking of my children, I realize that I have been carrying toward them a low-level anger that tends to spike here and there (like on Thursday evenings when my husband has been gone all week or if one of them gets fitful or sassy, or when I'm hungry -- see above -- or when my head hurts -- ditto). I don't want to be a grumpy mom. Growing up in my neighborhood, all of us children always feared this one mother I will call for this moment Mrs. Crabbyheimer. She yelled at kids not her own for leaving Barbies out of the toybox in her basement. She always used what my kids call "mean voice" to complain to kids in the neighborhood about bikes in her way and special requests regarding jelly sandwiches. As an adult I realize that she was probably a deeply unhappy woman. But, oh did we kids despise and fear Mrs. Crabbyheimer. And at times, lately, I feel like I'm channeling her energy (despite the fact that I'm a Christian and, thankfully, know nothing about channeling).

In the past week, I've been naggy, impatient and at times, even belittling toward my kids. I wanted to write an essay about mother-anger, but then I read Anne Lamott's "Heat," which is about the rage that mothers sometimes feel for our children. And frankly, damn it, she said everything I wanted to say even better than I could say it. (See her book "Plan B" for this essay if you want to quit reading here now. Too bad I don't have a direct link, huh?) A couple of things I do want to add about mother-anger: every one of us feels it sometimes and trying to pretend that we're perfect traps us in a useless attempt to maintain a lovely suburban facade just as the Pharisees in Jesus' time trapped themselves in their religiosity. All of us white-washed tombs. And when you really get talking to other mothers you discover that perfectly reasonable, seemingly sane women sometimes lose it with their kids. A good friend of mine, one of the best advocates for her children I've ever known, actually threw a bowl of eggs out the mini-van window when her daughter stubbornly refused to eat the aforementioned breakfast-on-the-run. I picture that plastic bowl hitting the road, scrambled eggs scattering across the windshield, and I tell you, I feel a little better. Reading Lamott's essay helped too. It's just such a paradox. I have offered up my best, least selfish acts of love for my children (like staying up all night with Abby while she threw up every twenty minutes, stroking her back, wiping her mouth with a washcloth -- a story any parent can relate to -- or trying to teach my kids how to call on Jesus in times of fear, or trying to help them resolve conflicts so that they can grow up to be good and loving friends); but I have also failed them so miserably with cruel words or silly temper tantrums. Last night, I wanted to watch the women's figure skating event in the Olympics and my children were being, well, children -- noisy and bothersome and a tad self-involved. I actually shouted, "For God's sake, Mommy wants to watch a night of TV once every four years! How freakin' hard is it to be just a little bit quiet so she can do that? Can't you all just shut up and go away for a while?"

Silence as they all looked at their insane mother. Then Rob, quite reasonably, pointed out, "But aren't you going to TIVO it? You CAN watch it later Mom."

Yes, I apologized. Even if I had a real point in the beginning (it's not a bad thing for them to learn that I might want to watch something once in a while), I really didn't stick the landing.

And while I'm still here complaining (to myself, no doubt after the whole polyp paragraph), I have been so fatigued lately. Whether my hypothyroidism is acting up or I'm nursing a chronic sinus infection or I'm just a big loser with a ton of character flaws, the net result is: complete and total exhaustion above and beyond the norm. As I said to my doctor after my surgery in September, "I just want to get back to my NORMAL level of exhaustion and fatigue." Am I asking too much?

And yes, Tim still travels right now.

And, and, and, and...I could go on. But God has seemed to be saying something to me about surrender. Something about surrendering everything, I'm pretty sure. Perhaps I can't build anything of substance with the scrap wood of my life, but maybe, just maybe, somewhere behind an opaque veil, God is building something bigger and better than I can imagine. I can only hope.

Dan

Posted on 2006.02.10 at 12:42
This week, for a short day that seemed to last at least two weeks, doctors thought my son had juvenile diabetes. He had been sick with a virus, feverish with an upset stomach, for a couple of days. He hadn't eaten much for 24 hours and then as he began to feel better, ate a lot in a short four hour window. I took him to the pediatrician because he had been exposed to strep and because he's so inclined to ear infections (which, of course, he had one). She wanted to check his urine, found sugar in it and then did a finger-prick in the office which revealed his blood sugar to be over 200 -- way too high.

Three intravenous pokes (Dan's word, not mine) and a twelve hour fast later -- plus a bumbling lab who nearly failed to test the blood correctly, much less get results back expediently -- and no, my son does not have diabetes. No one is quite sure why, but his pancreas apparently had difficulty dumping off the sugars in his system due to his viral illness.

One almost-gratifying moment in the whole maelstrom of fear: the first lab tech who was to take Dan's blood insisted to me, in a most pedantic and condescending manner, that another finger prick would give the necessary results when the pediatrician had clearly written the order for the blood to be taken intravenously. From the tech's tone, it seemed obvious that my insistence that we check with the pediatrician's office before we poked my son again, well, it annoyed him a bit. Why waste the time, he seemed to say, when clearly I had little idea of the intricacies involved here.

I didn't grab him by the collar. I swear. However, I did escort him out of the room where my son sat weeping in fear of the impending poke. "Look," I began. Now my husband will tell you that if I start a sentence with that particular word, the best option is probably to duck under a strong piece of furniture.

"Look," I said. "As I understand it from the pediatrician and endocrinologist at Children's, my son has about a 50/50 chance of being diagnosed with diabetes. We are going to stick him once and we are going to stick him right. Don't you agree?"

Strangely, his shift suddenly ended and a new tech replaced him a moment or two later. And so we did stick Dan once and right (intravenously, by the way).

A mother's love, her fierce protective instinct, resides under the polite surface of nods and smiles. Since we had to wait until the next day for a fasting blood sugar result, I let Dan sleep in my bed that night. I don't know how long I lay watching him sleep, his breathing even, his mouth a little bit open, his arm curled around his stuffed dog. Perhaps we should always love our children just like that: tenderly, almost fearfully, aware that at any moment everything could change. That night I covered his small body with my own, holding him in the crook of my left arm with his head on my shoulder long after that entire side of my body went numb.

But truthfully I know that love so engulfing could cripple a kid, diabetes or no. Love like that is always there as a mother -- we allow ourselves to feel it when our children are babies and need so very much of our physical energy. We check their breathing. We worry about germs. We don't let other children touch their faces, much less slobber on their toys. But as our kids get older, as they learn to talk and talk back, to become their own stubbornly independent people, the look of our love necessarily changes. I can't run and pick up Dan every time he has a minor scrape (no matter how much I might wish I could) or he will never learn to pick himself up. I can't fight every friendship battle my daughter has at school, though I can try to equip her with the skills to make and keep good friends.

And here I have to be honest -- heavens, my children annoy me sometimes. I never stop loving them, but Dan can be a tad less likable when he screams at me because his Gameboy refuses to do his bidding. And day in and day out of our children being themselves, full of idiosyncrasies and mistakes, can wear on a mother. Sometimes, even, I fear that I forget just how precious each one is to me, how my life without any of them would be, like Mary Oliver says, "a land of parched and broken trees." I forget that I would stand in front of a firing squad to protect one of them. I wear the often heavy burden of motherhood like a cloak and I groan inwardly when one of them needs yet one more damn thing at bedtime. I forget to be grateful.

But maybe this I won't forget: after the relieving phone call from the doctor, Dan jumping around the family room chortling, "Yay, I don't have diabetes!"

"Do I have the bad disease?" Dan had asked me after the third and final poke. The night before, I had told it to him straight, that he was being tested for a condition called diabetes and that it was very important that we knew if he had it because he would need to have special medicine right away. But I had NEVER used the words "bad" or "disease." Yet he must have read into my high level of concern. He must have recognized the mama-love being showered on him.

No, Dan, you don't have the bad disease. Thank you, God.

From Koruna's Believe It or Not

Posted on 2006.01.28 at 15:19
Our dishwasher has been inadequately attempting to wash the top rack of dishes for months now. I have a bad tendency to just "live with it," but when Tim was home last weekend, he put the proverbial foot down (incidentally, we both have "feet to put down" in our marriage -- it's by no means a gender thing) and said, "We're getting a new dishwasher. This one is nine years old, the door won't stay up and it's not washing much of anything for a damn." Okay, I couldn't dispute that.

So Tim took it on as his project. He went to the Best Buy (more about that name later!) website and ordered a fairly simple, middle-of-the-line dishwasher to be delivered Saturday morning between 7-9 a.m. Fine. Tim is a morning person, I thought. He can cope with that and he agreed gladly.

Bless my dear husband for letting me sleep in on many a Saturday morning, this one included. But when I stumbled out into the kitchen around 9:30 (I'm afraid I always stumble whether it's 5:30 or 9:30 and heck, I'm not even hungover) I saw our old dishwasher in its regular place.

"Where's the new dishwasher? Didn't they deliver it?" I asked.

"Oh yeah, it's delivered," he said, pointing to the family room.

There in our already-too-dang-cramped family room sat the dishwasher in the box.

"Um?" I questioned.

"Yeah, well, if you buy an appliance online, Best Buy will deliver it," Tim began sheepishly, "but they won't install it."

How insane is that? Who has an appliance delivered only to install it themselves? Especially if you're as home-repair challenged as Tim and I.

Fundamental difference between men and women: Tim kept the dishwasher and will figure out some way to get it installed. I would have told the delivery guy that the dishwasher was either going back on the truck or into some bodily orifice that shall not be named.

Tim's way is probably the more productive. But mine would get points for style.

Best Buy. How about Loudest Most Obnoxious Most Sensory Overloading Store with Extremely Poor Communication on their Website? Going in that store literally hurts me: my head, my eyes, my ears. Tim and my boys love it, but when Abby and I had to stop there a week or so ago to use a gift card (hey, I'm not STUPID), she commented of her own volition, "Why is it so crazy in here? I feel kinda sick." Thank you, genetics.

So if anyone knows anything about installing a dishwasher....


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