Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas, Or Whatever

I'm going to tell you a story. No, you read that wrong. I know it's Christmastime, so it's an understandable mistake. Take out any image you had of a storybook and an armchair by a yule log. This is more of a Liam-Neeson-as-Santa type story, so read it in that headspace: I'm going to tell you a story. It's the story of Christmas 2016 for The Wahl family.

First of all, we've been fighting a bed bug infestation for a while now. For you to appreciate the instant horror I felt two weeks ago when we saw yet another bed bug lurking on a pillow: our little home has undergone two professional bed bug treatments, averaging $1500 each, over the last two years, and both have failed. Every time we see one of their nasty faces we have to make a choice about every item we own: treat or toss? 
And this time 'round, we were merciless. We culled our possessions by half, easily. Half our store of kid's clothing sizes yet to come. Half our current clothing and spare bedding. Half our stuffed animals, half our toys. ALL MY BOOKS, Y'ALL. ( #NeverNotCrying ) Basically, we cut down until each room in our home could be treated (and by treated I mean emptying the contents into the dryer and then spraying liberally around furniture and baseboards with alcohol before promptly evacuating) in about half an hour. This gets us in a place where we can treat the whole house in a weekend. I figure we'll just do this once a month until the end of time. They'll observe me in the insane asylum, perfectly normal for three weeks and then tearing everything in sight to pieces on the fourth with a manic tick and a murderous gleam in my eye. So, two weeks out from Christmas, we have thrown away half our belongings. But it's okay. We're all together and we're all alive.
A week from Christmas, I see a bug. Treatment mode goes live. I do all our laundry again. The 'fold' pile covers the dining room table and reaches to the chandelier, but we somehow manage to get it all processed. The trouble is, we can't treat the Christmas tree. So, much to the dismay of four little faces (especially my Jack Attack, who has just had his Christmas-themed birthday party and who generally thinks Christmas is just for him), we open presents early and we toss out the tree. But it's okay. We have a Christmas Eve planned at Great Granny's. It'll still be festive. We're alive and we're together.
Do you love anything as much as he loves Christmas?  I don't love anything a 'demon possession' amount....

Tuesday before Christmas, the baby gets a fever. In my mamaheart I felt the ominous foreboding of an impending stomach storm. And indeed, early Tuesday morning, we are awoken by our lovely Penelope, standing in our doorway with hot red cheeks and a sour expression. An expression which, once she was all snuggled in our bed next to her Daddy, turns into lots and lots of vomit. An impressive amount of vomit. Like, more than should have fit in her body. It was not science. Rug, pillows, comforter, pajamas. Into the washer. But it's okay. We've got a little time. Surely she'll be better by Christmas Eve. Of course I knew better. Any mother of four who watches her children share cups and fists and tickles and burps who thinks only one will get sick is deluding herself. And I was. I was deluding myself so hard. They next day, another child fell victim to the bug. I cleaned more pillows and blankets and pouty faces. My favorite *psychotic laugh* is when the puke trails down their little chests and pours into their diapers. Penny got pale and was throwing up the tiniest sips of water, so I took her to the ER for fluids. Her chest x ray looked good, her tests came back fine, and her little body was somewhat cooled, so they sent us home. I thanked baby Jesus repeatedly that she did not vomit in the van. #blessed David joins in on the puke party on Thursday, and John and I are starting to slide each other dreadful side-eyes. We're not going to make it to Great Granny's Christmas Eve thing. Christmas is literally cancelled. But it's okay. We're all alive and we're all together.
Zippy kept waking up and checking on her.  #squee

Christmas Eve was a beautiful day. The children had rallied to a status of playing almost normally, with occasional trips to the toilet for pukes. 70% actually made it to the porcelain destination. Many naps were had. We went outside so our pale and lifeless bodies could feel the sun. Then John and I, after getting them all tucked into bed, decided to watch a movie. Something to cheer. John hadn't seen 'Love Actually' so we netflixed it up. Y'all it was so much fun. A lovely date in the war zone of bodily fluids that is our home under siege of illness. I felt calm the next morning, if sleep deprived. Maybe I won't need to be committed after all. John and I declared a 'No Grump Pact', and I decided to give my hard-working husband the very best Christmas gift: a nap. I figured he and Charlie could get in a good one while I tried to get some of the neglected cleaning done, and then when he got up I could get some rest. Alas, it was not meant to be. When he woke up, the virus woke up with him. All my bright shiny new inner peace vanished in a puff of smoke. You see, I've done the math. It'll take him all of Monday (which he has off of work) and maybe part of Tuesday to get well. Which puts me...all alone in the week when I'll get it, with the post-sick, can't-wait-to-do-all-the-things children. *throws pity party* But it's okay. We're all still alive. We're all still together. Deep breath.
Christmas dinner! I can at least make something resembling a comforting meal. We got chicken fingers and potatoes, and I've been plotting to make buttery delicious mashed potatoes. As fate would have it, we were newly out of milk. WHO WAS DRINKING IT WHILE SICK??? mmmmmmkkkkkkkk *deeper breath* We're all alive. We're in this together. It's okay. I make sweet potato fries instead, which is a favorite. It's warm. It's comforting. It's on the table. We sit. Penny runs to the bathroom. I don't think I'll ever forget the long, almost pornographically wistful side-eye I gave my untouched plate as I followed her to the toilet. Goodbye, warm food. *whispers* I'll miss you. She makes it. Victory! She wipes herself...and drops the toilet paper on her leg. If you don't know, this incites a panic that PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTUALLY ON FIRE DO NOT EXHIBIT, and causes immediate hearing loss to all adjacent players, whether friend or foe. *even deeper breaths* I move her to the living room, where more wipes are. I kneel down to clean her bottom. My knees are immediately soaked in liquid. David has been sicknapping and hasn't walked the dog, which becomes apparent with the look of intense guilt Zippy is giving me. I get her clean. I change pants. I return in time for Charlie to need "MOE FOO! MOE FOO!" I cut him up more chicken and refill his fries. I sit down. My food doesn't even has residual heat. I might as well have taken it out of the refrigerator. But it's okay. We have food. We're all together. We're alive.

Bedtime comes. Charlie requires extra snuggles, but they're all in bed. They're all asleep. I sit down at my desk and listen, in case the vomit fountains activate. I just sit there, staring into the darkness. I've got nothing left. For the love of all things good and holy, if they'll just stay asleep, I'll be okay. Half an hour passes. I think it's safe. I tell John goodnight and retreat to the sofa, because I could have reheated my dinner off his aura of fever heat. My restless mind starts to let go. My eyes close. It'll be alright. We made it through the day alive and together.

THUD. I'm up! Which one is it? It's the last survivor: Jack. But he's not throwing up. That's too mainstream. The thud was the sound of his nighttime pull-up (still occasionally wets at night) hitting the floor in his doorway. There is poop, a steady trail of poop, from the pool on his mattress, across his room, into the hall, and all the way to the bathroom. WHAT WOULD POSSES HIM TO TAKE IT OFF THERE? I assure him I'm not mad. I get him into the shower. I proceed to the clean-up deed, which must be achieved in silence because, thanks to the bed bugs eating the boys' bunk bed, Charlie sleeps on his little mattress two feet from him. Now, I thought I fed him sweet potato fries and a little chicken. But apparently not. I can only assume he has consumed large quantities of superglue steeped in polyjuice potion, because this stuff is STUCK to the floor and smells like a rodent died inside Jack and liquefied in his stomach acid. Aiming very, very carefully around the general splatter, I get on my knees to scrub. Progress is being made when I KID YOU NOT, the dog strolls up behind me and pees on the floor. And pees and pees and pees. It's running toward the rug. I jump up to throw a towel on it, and I step right into a wayward pool of poop. Barefoot, man. Just cold foot skin right on slippery gray butt product. I mop, with hot water, mercifully strong-smelling soap and my own tears. I hear the shower turn off and wrap my boy in a towel, both out of love and desperation for him to warm before he shivers up any vomit. But there's an...aroma. THE BOY DID NOT USE SOAP. It's fine. He's newly seven. It's two in the morning. Understandable? I send him back and throw that towel in the washer with the sewer blanket load. The sofa is readied, the boy is dried and re-diapered. I even managed a little tiny cup of water and a forehead kiss.
Because it's okay.  We're all here.  We're all together.  We're okay.
Not my kids, but apt.
And now I'm sitting here in the dark, listening. Listening for the sounds of upchuck and listening to my own stomach gurgle ominously. And y'all, I USED THE LAST OF THE COFFEE YESTERDAY.
#BurnInHellChristmas2016 #JumpInTheDumpsterWithTheRestOfTheYear  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wrangling my Right Brain into Something Resembling Submission

I've always been teased for how right-brained I am.  My report cards could be split into two columns: A's in the arts and F's in math and science.  I still have nightmares about algebra 1 (which I failed three times, I think), and I still have eternal gratitude for the chemistry teacher who I'm pretty sure fudged that roll for me so I could graduate.  On my worst creative-minded days I can't properly write a list.  I have to draw the bag of carrots instead of writing 'carrots', just so I can focus all the way through grocery shopping.   It's that bad.  And while this is charmingly endearing in theory, it's a super pain in the butt in a lot of practical ways.  For example:

Today, I found a note that I wrote myself about five years ago.  It was a "eureka!" note regarding a plot snafu I'd been having trouble with in book one.  Half the notebook page, which I found folded into a triangle in between the pages of 'The prisoner of Azkaban', had drawings of unicorns on it.  I didn't find it in time, because my notes for book one are written in seven thousand different notebooks and on a dozen napkins and bookmarks and coloring book pages.  Inspiration is a delightfully unpredictable mistress.

So, as I was saying, I didn't find that note and write accordingly.  And it pertained to the single biggest plot problem I had.  I spent THREE YEARS feeling like I was forgetting something.  There was some piece of the puzzle that I KNEW I had solved but just couldn't remember.  In my defense, I have four children and, I strongly suspect, undiagnosed ADHD.  Eventually I did figure out the solution, but I sure did waste a lot of time letting my right brain run amok with my precious writing time.

Friends, book two will be different.  I give you, the Right Brained Writer's Binder:

It's a half inch binder full of sheet protectors and a zipper pouch for pens and pencils.  Thought of something while washing dishes and wrote it down on the paper towel roll?  Slide it in a sleeve!  Realized an amazing plot twist while changing the baby's diaper and forced your eight-year-old into the scribe trade?  Tear it off his nature journal page and stick it with the rest!  This is the best thing ever.

You're welcome.

Roll for initiative,
Jamie Wahl

You can buy the product of my right brain's many hours of toil on amazon!  ;)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Setting Fires on Ann Street

Sometimes, when I take my four adorable children shopping, they function as a chubby little happiness ministry. There's a whole bunch of people that smile when they side-eye us, and even more that stop to say hello or flirt with the baby. The grandparents are drawn to our cart like moths to a flame. Especially the lonely ones, whose babies are either grown or too far away too snuggle. I've come to recognize the look of the lonely grand, and I try to make time for a conversation if I can.

One such time, a very elderly white man sidled over, and we paused our hunt for good bananas so he could talk. His clothes were a bit raggedy and rumpled, and there was a drip of watery snot trembling at the end of his nose as he spoke. I got the feeling that he, more than most, had no one to talk to at all. Within three minutes I knew where all his children lived and what they did for a living, how long he had been a widower, and in which division of the armed forces he had proudly served. The children were mostly cute and only a little impatient, so I stood there as long as I could before the wild look in my five-year-old's eyes told me we were running out of time. As I was attempting to wrap things up, however, another lonely grand gave me the signal. She was not as old as he, and dressed very well. Makeup in place and a big, bright smile. She was also black. And as she walked over and remarked upon the delightful nature of my "juicy baby", the old man's face changed. Gone was the smile and the good-natured chuckling. He glared at that woman like she'd just slapped him in the face. After the exchange of pleasantries, she thanked me for letting her squish the baby's fat, fat, thigh (he's ticklish and he loves it) and went on her way. As soon as she was out of earshot, I was given a sound lecture. I live in Montgomery, Alabama, but I'm not from here-- I'm from Minnesota, so it is still quite shocking to me when I run into real live racism. I'm glad it's shocking. I hope it always is. This man thought it was indecent for me to let a black woman touch my baby. He scolded me for the example I was setting for my children. He detailed how "they" had ruined his neighborhood, how "they" had ruined the school system, and how "they" were everywhere now, and you couldn't even be safe in your own grocery store. It was all terrible. But the part that got me was his parting sentiment: "They think we owe them. You don't owe them anything!"

By this time, my oldest has noticed something is off, and he's staring at the guy like he has six eyeballs. I wish I had the courage to verbally fight him. I wish I hadn't been too stunned to say anything. I'm not sure where I would've even started. But, as I stood there mouthing like a fish, a pretty little black girl walked by. She was about four, and not at all shy. My five-year-old, who has a pronounced preference for the darker females and has since he was a baby (he once tried to grab the derriere of the mercifully good-natured black woman in front of us in the checkout line when he was two), was in full "flirt mode" within ten seconds. The little girl's mother caught up to her, and we laughed as they held hands next to the potatoes. I told her the "baby wants booty" story, and we had a good laugh. When they left, I simply turned to the white man, who looked like he might faint, and just said: "You have a nice day!" and ran away, abandoning the produce section completely. I do owe black people something. It's the exact same thing I owe white people or any other color of people. As a Christian, who views every single person on the planet as a child of God, and therefore an automatic brother or sister, and therefore a person to whom it is my duty and my joy to care for, I owe them love. And patience. And empathy. And mercy. And grace. And respect. And the benefit of the doubt. And a million other things that I try to show to everyone as best I can. (Though I often fail.)
The whole world could implode any minute, or at least that's how it feels. So now, MORE THAN EVER, we must love one another. You have a right to your opinion, even if you think black people (or Mexican people, or Korean people) ruined your neighborhood or your school or your state. Even if you think black people are somehow less worthy of what makes humanity great: our ability to love. Just be careful: as you classify one race as worthless, you may just be rendering yourself less human in the process. How much is your humanity worth? How much is theirs? If your immediate, heartfelt answer isn't "the same", you ARE part of the problem.

Be careful the fire you set.

Roll for initiative,
Jamie Wahl

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Parenting On The Bread Aisle

I have four children.  I have four wonderful children.  I have four wonderful children under the age of seven.  And I brought these four children to WalMart the other day, to do our grocery shopping for the week.  The working theory for this adventure goes something like this: the two oldest boys keep one hand on either side of the cart, the three-year-old girl sits still in the back of the cart, and the baby coos and giggles from the seat by momma.  We discuss what kind of snacks they want as we take a leisurely stroll down the chip aisle.  We laugh at the hilarious faces the children make at each other as I select a carton of perfect eggs.  Sunlight streams in through the windows.  A unicorn prances by. 

I said “theory”.

What really happens is my oldest walks calmly next to me, one hand on the cart as he was supposed to.  My youngest cries and tries his best to put his hands down my shirt from his buckled perched (because nipples).  My girl wants to hold the eggs.  And my second born son constantly lets go of the cart to TOUCH ALL THE THINGS, tickle all the passing babies, pick up anything shiny (usually glass), ask why people are fat or black or smell funny at the top of his voice, and run through the wide aisles as if he were Julie Andrews running across those musical hills on acid.  I reign him in repeatedly.  I warn him of the dire consequences that await him at home.  I inform him that he will not be receiving his portion of the snack.  I constantly watch him and apologize to annoyed shoppers when he airplane-arms them in the crotch. 

Imagine this guy comin' atcha.
An elderly gentleman passes us, smiles at the cart, points at my wild Jack and nudges me with his elbow: “Consistency is the key.”

*I AM SO CONSISTENT I COULD CURSE, SIR, BUT THANK YOU FOR YOUR TWO CENTS* “Yes, I’m trying” I said with a thumbs-up.  “Please excuse my circus.”

That line is good for neutralizing most rubberneckers.  It conveys that I’m at least aware of what’s occurring and that I’m trying to be courteous.  I use it a lot. 

So I push through it.  Twenty-nine items out of thirty.  Close enough.  Time to blow this popsicle stand! 

But then, of course, three of them need to pee.

Did you know that the grocery store is one of the number one places to host a kidnapping?  I did.  But I’ve got a cart full of cold food items on top of my purse and a baby who has, of course, fallen asleep with his face in my hand on the way to the bathroom.  So I park myself as close to the bathroom door as I can without blocking traffic, and I send them in.  I see the twinkle in Jack’s eye as he bounds across the threshold, so I pull him aside and ask him where he’s keeping his self-control today.  In his “BUTT!”, apparently.  I remind him to use it.  He looks me in the eye and says “yes ma’am”.  I cross my fingers so hard one of my knuckles pops. 

And I listen as the baby drools into my hand.  I hear…normal bathroom sounds.  The toilets flush, the sinks turn on, the paper towels rustle…and only two come out.  I smile nervously at a woman who side-steps my children on her way in to the bathroom. 


No answer.

Then the woman’s face reappears.  “Ma’am,” she says, her lip curled, “Your child is crawling under all the stalls and locking them from the inside.  You need to get him, because people need to use the bathroom.”

So, red-faced and muttering a symphony of apologies so loud I think I actually threw my voice, I woke up the baby, unearthed my purse from the cart, and brought everyone with me to collect my 6-year-old son.

At my command, he slithers under each metal wall and unlocks the doors. 

He walked out the last one laughing.

And I lost it.  I told that kid what was up.  The morning’s frustrations, and the frustrations from the day before, and the week before, and the month before, rolled over me like a thundercloud and I rained down on him hard.  There in the urine-soaked Walmart bathroom, with the baby scream-crying his interrupted nap and the three-year old trying to pull the eggs out of the cart while my attention was on Jack, I lost my momchill.  He got it all.

And then, to my horror, the door to the handicapped stall opened.  Out sauntered a lady in her fifties, with wispy salt-and-pepper hair, a slouchy knit bag over shoulder and a simpering smile that could put Professor Umbridge to shame.  She washed her hands, smiling at my kids sympathetically in the mirror.  She toweled them dry and waved to the baby as if he wasn’t screaming his head off.  I calmed my breathing as best I could and, like I do in serious/dark/all situations, made a joke.

“Please excuse my circus.”

“Honey….”  She smiled and put her damp, wrinkled hand on mine.  “Children are a blessing.  I never had children.  We tried for years, but I never could,” she said.  “Enjoy them, mama.”
And she was gone.

I didn’t say a word to anyone from there to the checkout to the car.  By the time we rolled into our driveway the only one not screaming was the oldest, who bolted out of the van faster than an acme rocket launching Wile E. Coyote across the Grand Canyon. 

I know that children are a blessing.  I wouldn’t have had four if I didn’t believe that.  But, like every good/great/wonderful thing I know of, children are also extremely difficult.  You don’t write a book without gut-wrenching, exhausting struggle.  You don’t rise up in a company without back-breaking labor. You don’t build a strong marriage without tough talks. 

I refuse to ignore the fact that parenting is hard.

I know that children are a blessing.  I wouldn’t stay consistent with discipline or count to three in my head forty-five thousand times a day to hold in my first reaction to a screaming fit if I didn’t know that.  I know you can't see it at Walmart, but besides being disobedient and unruly and stubborn as can be, my Jack is also the sweetest, most joyful thing on the planet, and I'm lucky to be his mother, no matter what the walmart looky-loos say.  And he's worth all the trial.  I won't ever think he's not worth it.  

I will never doubt that it’ll be worth it, but I refuse to delude myself into thinking tomorrow will be easy.  

I know children are a blessing.  I do not take our intense fertility lightly.  I thank God daily for our children here and our two angel babies in heaven.  I don’t know why God gives some people children and doesn’t give them to others.  I KNOW I’M BLESSED.  But that knowledge doesn’t make it any less hard in the day-to-day.

I refuse to feel guilty for hating the sucky parts of parenting.  If you’re laughing gaily when your baby’s amoxicillin poops are splattered up to your elbow, you’re certifiable.  If you’re wiping tears of hilarity from your eye when your kid disobeys you for the tenth time in an hour, you need medicine. 
This phase is hard, y’all.  There’s no debating it.  And no amount of simpering, carefree perspective-dropping is going to make it less hard.  “Oh!  They’re a blessing?!?  Well, that changes everything!  I suddenly feel the weight of a thousand concrete blocks lifting from my shoulders!  I’ve been blessed!”  No.

I refuse to feel guilty for knowing I’m in a fight.   

Will this phase be over quickly?  Yes.  But that doesn’t mean this phase isn’t hard as can be.  And it doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy every single second of every single day to be a good parent.
Jack may never learn to reign in his impulses on the bread aisle, but I learned something from Carefree McJudgyPants and every other side-eye-giver and shade-thrower at the supermarket.  I’m done apologizing.  I'm done feeling guilty.  I’m done feeling bad that I’m not elated every time I sit down to write out another shopping list, or send my son to time out for the thirtieth time in a morning.  And I’m especially done apologizing for my circus.  It’s MY circus, not yours.  So you people can take your judgmental glances and shove them.  From now on, I parent for my family only.  Because I knew I’d done everything I could!  I knew that ADHD had just won this one.  I let myself get embarrassed- and it wasn’t about him or his behavior- it was about me.  My worth as a mother was on the line and he was gonna take the heat for it!  Never again.  

I’m a good mom.  I’m a good mom to my four children.  I’m a good mom to my four children because I’m trying my hardest.  And I intend to keep doing just that. 

And I’ll be blessed.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What I Don't Know

I think about Adolf Hitler a lot lately. I think about how he came to power. I know that the history books aren't always accurate and their delivery from teacher to student isn't always comprehensive, but the thing that my history teachers talked about again and again was that he was a great public speaker. An entertaining speaker. He captivated the audience. He played to their hopes-but mostly to their fears. He stirred them up. He got them to act. Many of you think you know where I'm going with this, this being the year that we might be about to elect another such enigmatic speaker to the oval office, but I'll let the fact that your brain went there without me having to say the name stand for itself. I wonder if there were people who saw the coming madness. Were there common, everyday folks who would have posted their opposition to social media if they'd had the chance and the freedom? Were there grandmothers who shook their heads at the men who stood outside the ghettos with guns? Did children tug on their mother's skirts and ask 'why'? Did the divide between 'them' and 'us' tear families apart? Did the wedge between 'have' and 'have not' get hammered in by hate or fear? Did the path the people took to avoid their fate seal it?  
I don't know what's going to happen to this country. I don't know who's going to win this election- I don't even know who 'should' win. I can't decide if I'm more afraid of the current options for President or the system that brought them before us. I don't know if this election is the hammer-fell of the beginning of the end or if it fell a long time ago, behind closed doors and away from cameras, wielded by wealthy people we surely only elected to power with our money. I don't know if the system is breaking the people or the people have long since broken the system.

I don't know what's going to happen.

I know I can cast a vote. But it just doesn't seem like that's going to make much of a difference, does it? I'm just a Mom and a Christian and a woman living in Alabama, trying to make sense of this madness- one of a large and mostly ignored group of people who see what's coming and have no clue how to stop it. I'm writing this from my sofa, sitting next to my sleeping one-year-old. His fat cheeks are flushed pink and his little puckered lips are twitching into a smile as he dreams. He doesn't know what's going to happen either. What questions will come to his mind as he grows up under the next President of the United States? As he experiences life walking down the streets of the America we, the adults, are crafting for him today? Will he see peace as a child? War as a young man? Will the things that divide us continue to shine and glimmer in the spotlight of the media? Will he grow up with a black boy afraid to walk down the street with his friends? A Mexican boy shunned by the rest of the class? A Muslim boy with a number tattooed to his arm?
Yes, I know that I can vote. But more importantly, I know that I can reject the things that divide us. I can feel the fear of this massive unknown future and choose to craft my decisions from love instead of hate, and common sense instead of fear. I can teach my son to treat strangers with respect instead of condemnation and offer help instead of judgment. Before Hitler there was another speaker who captivated the world. His ideas brought people together who'd been separate before.  He loved on the people who'd been least loved on, he motivated the people to move and he calmed storms. His words have been carried through generations- used to fuel peace and misused to start horrible crusades. If you look at all the red text in your Bible, you'll find a man who spoke passionately for love and violently against pride and pomp. Vocally for the underdog and loudly against the oppressors of the time. I don't know that I see that attitude in any of our current candidates. I don't know if I should stop looking for it in the President and start looking for it in myself. I know that I'm going to stop living in fear of what's coming next. I know that I'm going to pray for God's will to be done in my life before I pray for it in my country. I know that I can look to the words of truth to guide my steps much more clearly than to guide my vote. I know I can help the people God puts in my path. I know I can look on the poor and the rejected and the damaged people of this world with the same love Jesus showed them. I know I can ignore the naysayers and stick to the truth that has never steered me wrong before. I know that God loves us. I know that. I know that nothing short of reflecting that love, in our lives more than in our votes, is going to heal America. Truthfully, if we'd been showing it all this time there may not be such a mess to wonder about.

I don't know who's going to run this country. But I know who's going to run my life.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Last of the Littles

My husband's family lives in Tuscaloosa so we make the drive there and back quite often (John makes the drive—I don’t “interstate”--thank you love!).  Charlie loves to sleep in the van with the sunlight streaming in on his chubby little cheeks.  But this last trip was taken at night, with the headlights from faster traffic lighting up the inside of the van and the occasional street light dazzling his eyes.  As it turns out, Charlie is terrified of nighttime driving.  

So I spent at least half of the two-hour drive twisted around in my seat so he could hold my hand and hear my lullabies.  As he tried to calm down, he would grab my hand and hold it as close to his chest as he could, one plump hand around my thumb and the other around my pinky.  When he got too tired for that, he let one hand fall into his lap and squeezed my index finger with all the tiny might of his right hand.  Then even this was too hard, and when his grip relaxed he screamed anew until he found my hand and pressed it hard to his chest again.  Three or four cycles into this, my spine is basically on fire.  Normally I might have settled for letting him cry himself to sleep, and maybe I should have, as I walk with a slight limp today, but I just couldn’t let go of his hand—truly, I didn’t want to.  I’ve been sad lately.  I know how blessed we are to have four healthy children.  Amazingly blessed.  And I no longer yearn to be pregnant.  I do feel done.  But as Charlie approaches his first birthday, I approach a whole new phase of my life.  I’ll soon be saying goodbye to diapers and hello to multiplication.  Goodbye to simple rhyming stories and hello to teaching another “big kid” to read.  And goodbye, even, to the almost indescribable feeling of having those two pudgy hands hold onto mine for dear life.  My last infant.  And as I sat there, with Charlie’s scared heartbeat slowing to calm under the steady drumming of my fingers against his round belly, I said goodbye to being a mom of littles.  Soon he’ll walk, and talk, and just keep growing.  And I will love the toddler he grows into, and the child he will become, and the young man I pray he will be.  Everything is beautiful in its time.  I have never heard that as I hear it now.  I cannot keep them.  God has plans for them.  Truly, they were never mine.  And I’m thanking God today for the renewed strength to be a better mother this year than I ever have before.  And I thank God for that hour-long, vertebrae-straining, baby-soothing snuggle.  When they are grown and gone, I can recall this memory, unwrap it like a treasured gift, and feel again, as I have never felt before, what it is to be a mother.   

Dear readers of "Good & Dead",

This is yet another blog post that is not on topic.  I'm sorry for who I am as a person.  Never fear, though, book two is underway!  ;)

Here's the link if you haven't gotten book one yet.  Again, I never actually posted a link on my blog, or even made a post regarding its publication.  #WorstAuthor

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I'm a little ugly.

I believe that everyone is beautiful.  I do.  It's just that some people...aren't particularly beautiful on the outside.  Some people are just ugly.

I'm sorry if that's shocking.

I am one of them, by the way.  I'm not the queen of the ugly folk, but I think, objectively, I'm not a stunner.  My eyes are kind of buggy.  I have thin lips, a weak chin, and I swear my hair isn't a real color.  It's not blonde exactly; nor is it brown.  Sometimes it looks red.  I've got a hook-nose thing goin' on.  And that's just my face!  I've given birth to four humans, y'all.  My middle is basically made of string cheese.  I've also breastfed four humans.  Breast is best, but not for the aesthetics of the chest.

"Breast is best, but not for the aesthetics of the chest." -Jamie Wahl

On a related note, I rarely find time to shave my legs (it's okay, my leg hair is blonde; I just avoid side-light when I'm in shorts).  Also, I'm pretty sure I don't use my calf muscles for anything, because I can gain forty pounds and they are still shapeless sticks of skin and bone, struggling through life under my top-heavy girth.

I'm a little ugly.

If you were playing along this far waiting for the actual meaning of the title, I'm afraid I may have disappointed you.  You can judge that book by its cover.

Yes, I look like a female Michael Cera with mange most mornings, but it doesn't matter.

Because I can think.  And I can have empathy for people.  And I can write.  And sing.  And paint.  And take care of my family.  And a million other things that girls these days grow up thinking they can only do if they are pretty enough.  I wasted a lot of time getting discouraged by the weird-looking lady I saw in the mirror.  Somehow, that googly-eyed dork reflected back at me made me feel "not enough" for my dreams, or even my day-to-day life!  What can she do?  She's pretty plain.  Pretty normal.  Pretty "meh".  She's silly even to try.  Nothing extraordinary going on here, folks.  

Except that there is!  I wrote a book!  In eight years, I've had four children and written a whole, cohesive, fairly good book.  And I bet you've got the equivalent of a novel going on in your life.  A seemingly insurmountable struggle that you're stepping over LIKE A BOSS.  My little vampire comedy is not Dickens, but it's a lot of fun, and I wrote it.  And I was ugly the whole time!  

My self-esteem should not be dependent on my beauty.  Nor should yours. 

Our eldest child was a beautiful newborn.  Prefect little round head with wisps of copper hair.  Alert, curious blue eyes.  He was gorgeous.  Our second child was...a baby.  My husband and I got so tickled observing the difference in people's reactions when they came to visit us in the hospital.  With David, they "ooh"ed and "ah"ed and sang his praises.  But with Jack it was a reigned-in look of surprise and then, basically, "You had a baby!"  *jazz hands*  It's okay, people!  We can see he looks like a purple skin potato; we still love him!  Why is it so very easy to see that a child's worth is not based in their appearance, but almost impossible when we are judging ourselves?  

Just from a quick poll of my friends, I'm not the only gal to feel pressured to be as beautiful as possible.  I'm not the only woman to feel "not enough".  But what's so easy to see when I look at them, besides the beauty that they do possess, is that their beauty, whether abundant or restricted to their eyes only, is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT.  The shape of my face has absolutely no effect on my ability to reason.  The dark purple circles under my eyes (which I think are now permanent) don't have a single thing to do with my talents.  

And they have even less to do with my worth.

I've been stressing over the looming publication date.  Not because I don't have confidence in my work; I am proud of my book, and the hours upon hours that went into it.  I've been freaking out because there's a party.  With a signing.  In person.  And I'm basically Jennifer Lawrence without the whole face-like-Helen-of-Troy thing.  The awkwardness isn't as endearing when you only pass for female with copious amounts of mascara.  So, I'm confident in my work and ready for it to face the ravages of the internet, even the reviews section on amazon, but I don't feel "enough" because I don't belong on a runway?  How RIDICULOUSLY ILLOGICAL is that?  Am I a woman of reason, or not?  (Don't answer that, closest friends.)

I am good enough even though I'm a little ugly.  I believe you are as well.  I'm talented even though I'm a little ugly.  I suspect you are, too, even if it's a totally different skill set than the one God gave me.  I can make good art and still be a little ugly.  Did someone apply a yard stick to DaVinci's face to check for ideal symmetricality before heralding his work as brilliant?  Of course not, because he was busy making ALL THE THINGS!  

To clarify, I'm a fan of the "real beauty" campaign.  I routinely give a "thumbs up" to the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards.  I'm all for making sure girls of every size and color and shape and ability or disability feel beautiful (or at the very least don't feel the need to starve themselves).  I just think, as an even uglier adolescent, I would've liked to hear someone refrain from insisting I was beautiful despite my visage of acne, and tell me I was valuable instead.  Somehow, the definition of those two words has merged.  Beautiful is nice.  But valuable?  Worthy?  Capable?  So much more important.  And not at all the same. 

So, fellow ugly friend who may be feeling "not enough", don't let the flaxen-haired, angel-eyed, perky-chested muggles get you down.  You can do great things even while you're a little ugly.

I certainly don't intend to waste any more time bemoaning my resemblance to a slow loris; I've got a sequel to write!

Jack turned out great, btw.