Monthly Archives: December 2013

D-Day

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Just checking in on this last day of 2013 to acknowledge the fact that I will not be meeting my goal of 20 posts before 2014.  In fact, I am just shy of 10 posts…meaning that I did not even get halfway there.  But, I’m feeling okay about it.

I could provide a litany of excuses including the fact that our “12 bugs of Christmas” ended with our youngest at the ER with RSV, two extended trips to St. Louis where I did not have the time or easy computer access to write, and the fact that the holiday season is just plain chaotic sometimes.  But it’s healthier and more novel to simply concede.

I wrote eight posts in a month, which is far more prolific than I’ve ever been.  I learned a little about myself as a writer, as a mother, as a daughter.  My hunch that I am not really a short-winded, off-the-cuff writer was fully confirmed.

My plan for 2014 is to power on and keep writing when I can.  No audacious resolutions here. Perhaps I’ll give myself another explicit goal or perhaps I’ll just not stress about it and write when I’m moved to write.  Either way, it feels good to wear this hat again.

Happy 2014, Everyone!

The 12 Bugs of Christmas

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IMG_4809On the first day of Christmas, the germ lords gave to Lou-
A temperature of one-hundred and two.

On the second day of Christmas, the germ lords brought more tears-
For Louie, it’s a virus with two infected ears.

On the third day of Christmas, the germ lords brought to Lou’s big bro-
A fever and lots and lots of snot to blow.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the germ lords brought to me-
A sinus infection and attack of allergy…

On the fifth day of Christmas, the germ lords brought to Louie:
Vomiting and diapers that were gooey.

On the sixth day of Christmas, you can guess what would ensue-
Everett got the stomach bug too.

On the seventh day of Christmas, we enjoyed two full days of healthy boys-
We were so relieved to breathe in the seasonal joy.

But alas on the eighth day of Christmas, the germ lords started their old tricks:
Everett spikes a temp of 106.

On the ninth day of Christmas, we see the doctor yet again:
Influenza has struck the biggest of my little men.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Everett is coughing like mad
And it’s another ear infection for my little lad.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the germ lords spread the flu:
This time it’s fever, cough, and snot for my little Lou.

And on the twelfth day of Christmas, the germ lords finished their Tsunami-
With a sinus infection/flu combo for Mommy.

A little parody instead of a rant or “woe is me” entry. We’ve been hit hard this month. One of us had literally been under the weather every day since Thanksgiving. We are cooped up, but still trying to smile and enjoy the splendor of the season. I am just hoping for a healthy family as we hit the road on Friday and celebrate Christmas. While we have endured our share of the “germ lords,” I still see how fortunate we are this season. This is small potatoes. But nevertheless, I’m kind of urging spring to come!

Motherhood: An AntiDepressant?

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Sometimes I think there should be some sort of perfunctory merit system for being a mom.  This isn’t meant to be a soapbox post about how little moms are appreciated or a whiny rant fishing for praise.  There are just those parenthood moments (and eternally long phases) where you take a step back and think, “Damn–someone really should give me a medal right now.”  While raising a child is an extraordinarily challenging and rewarding job, there are no bosses to hand out kudos and no annual performance reviews.  I have often thought back to my Girl Scout days and imagined a mommy sash full of badges for surviving the most harrowing moments: projectile vomit on a road trip, two (or more) children simultaneously melting down in a public venue, the very special tantrums of two and three year olds, entire months like this one where at least one of your children is enduring a virus every single day…  I’ve been thinking about these mommy merit badges and then while stumbling around on Google, I discovered that other moms have actually acted on this idea.  This woman has a real shop where she sells iron-on patches “to wear on your diaper bag.”  Wow.  I don’t think I would go that far, but I was intrigued that the extended metaphor had actually come to fruition…and for profit at that!

Whenever I find myself still standing after enduring a particularly chaotic adventure in parenthood, I really do feel strong and powerful.  I don’t mean power in the sense of exerting force or control over small and helpless beings, but power in the ability to handle incredibly stressful situations involving the physical and mental health of both my children and myself.  And to come out of it all with a fuller heart willing to do it all again one hundred times over.

The funny thing is that having children actually caused my anxiety to lessen.  I know many people who say that the opposite is true for them and in reality, this fact really does seem quite paradoxical to me.  Of course I experience the weight of protecting and caring for my sweet little boys, but the generalized anxiety and phobias that hounded me for most of my twenties have really slowed their gait.

I used to fear becoming violently ill in a public setting where there was no escape.

I used to fear becoming incapacitated by a mental illness… depression, schizophrenia, OCD, you name it.  I probably Googled them all at some point.

I used to fear my life shattering due to this onset of mental illness, much like the tragic course of my parents’ lives.

I used to fear hurting my husband and children as I siphoned them through the vortex of despair caused by my ultimate downfall that I felt I was destined to endure.

And then I became a mom and these fears mostly dissolved.  This is not to say that I don’t have anxiety flare-ups here and there, moments where my breath becomes short and quick and I begin to feel that awful out-of-control surge take over my fight-or-flight mechanisms.  Or those moments when my mind races and the down comforter on my bed feels like it weighs 5o pounds as it muzzles my chest.

I haven’t really psychoanalyzed the reasons why giving birth has alleviated my anxious heart.  The only lead I have in explaining this shift is that having children presented me with something bigger, something greater than myself.  And this great, amazing, ultimate responsibility gives me a sense of power.  Again–this is not power that reeks of control or status or even pride, but it is this internalized power that gives me confidence and security and eases my storied, anxious past.  Perhaps it is a determination to protect my own children from some of the stressors that pervaded my own childhood.  Or really, it could be simply that I have stamped my foot down hard on those fears, because there is no room for that weight while holding two small, amazing boys in my heart and in my arms.

Or maybe I have simply channeled that anxiety to a different place that is leaving more digestible breadcrumbs on my trail.  I still worry, but now it is about whether or not my 2 year old is maintaining his nap routine or about the fact that my 8-month old is still waking up to eat in the middle of the night and that I may never sleep more than 4 hours straight again.  It’s these minute (but real) day-to-day hiccups that may give me pause, but do not deliver a sense of doom like my prior perseverations.  Anxiety is real.  It is a real disease just like high blood pressure and arthritis and just like alcoholism.  I am not naive enough to believe that my pangs of worry and dread and panic are gone forever.  But for now, I am thankful for the remission and the way that my worry has mutated and adapted to this current stage of life.

So when I make it through a night where Ben is away on call and I single handedly juggle two boys with a stomach virus or drive solo across four states with my two young children throwing fit after fit in the backseat, I give myself a moment of self-congratulation and pin that imaginary badge on my backbone.  My former anxious self would have crumbled at the thought of those scenarios, so the fact that I can meet those stressful streaks head-on is a huge victory for me.   I’m sure this is not the case for everyone, but for me–motherhood sure beats Paxil.

Midterm Benchmark Assessment

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Well if you have been following my blog blitz goal, you will see that alas, I am not on track to reaching my benchmark of 20 posts before 2014.  And of course I am stressing about this, because I don’t do failure well; however, I do self-imposed guilt and paralyzing perfectionism really well.

There are mainly two obstacles standing before me and my pen (or keyboard, I guess).  The first is that I struggle (yet again) to prioritize writing.  In the brief nap time and later evening windows that I have to myself, I tackle my to-do list with ferocity.  Dishes, make baby food, finish VHA directory, online Christmas shopping, holiday cards, do laundry, fold laundry, put away laundry, eat something…BLOG.  And I always feel like I must knock that last one to the bottom of the list.  I mean, how do I justify taking time to write about the life when I really must use the time to LIVE the life?

The second barricade stands stalwart in the form of perfectionism.  I set an ambitious goal of 20 posts, even though I knew that when it comes to writing–I am a quality over quantity type.  While I could probably make myself log on and hammer out a few quick thoughts each day, my perfectionist self cringes at this idea.  But what if these posts aren’t thoughtful, cohesive, structured, polished, crafted, deliberate?  Perhaps it’s the composition teacher in me.  I am continuously evaluating my work while (and often times BEFORE) I am writing.  I don’t know how to do word vomit.  As long as I have myself as a singular reader, I have a harsh critic scraping at my blurbs.

But I guess this is part of the challenge–I must either take a risk and try on a new writerly style or settle for meeting my goal halfway or not at all.  I suppose either way I am learning…and writing, so I settle here for now.

Re-seeing Christmas

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Everett is finally at the age where he is really starting to revel in the wonders of the holiday season. So much fun. However, I am realizing that I need to become reacquainted with some of the details of the festive frenzy.  For example, I realized that the only Christmas carol I can sing to my kids all the way through is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  I’ve tried busting out the others and get about halfway through before I have forgotten the words.  Pathetic!  Time to Google Christmas music lyrics!

The other thing I need to do is slow down and observe the magic through my child’s eyes.  This really is a wonderful time of year and Everett is delighted by all the merry minutiae: “Mama, that Santa (figurine) is holding a candy cane.”  (Wide eyes of amazement) or the refrain of “See Kiss-mess Twee” each time we see a tree wrapped up in twinkling lights.

Lastly, this is the year of introducing Santa Claus to my little guy.  I’m wondering how to convey the magic and spirit of this Christmas tradition in ways that go beyond the delivery of presents.  Maybe we will wrap up some toys to donate in order to help Santa make other little boys and girls happy?

One thing I will definitely do this year is try to slow down and absorb the delight.  Why shouldn’t a single red bow on a mailbox totally make your day?  And I will learn my Christmas songs… 🙂

That Fact

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My parents were alcoholics.  I don’t think I have ever shared that fact in writing with a wider audience before, but part of this blog blitz is taking risks and putting forth a voice that is genuine and honest.  My parents were truly amazing people, but they were very sick for most of my life.  I have shared many happy memories the last few days in an effort to honor their healthy selves, but I hold on to many dark moments too that sneak in to chide my rosy remembrances.  Like the course of other terminal diseases, there were remissions, relapses, wounds, scars, hope, and despair.  There was a lot of pain as our small family of three trudged through the years, but there was also an expansive volume of love.

I wrote this poem earlier this year during a particularly somber reflection session.  I scribbled it in a book of poetry edited by Tillie Olsen titled Mother to Daughter, Daughter to Mother.    It is an anthology that explores this complex relationship and it inspired me to unravel some of my own tangled feelings.  It is raw and rough; it was written late at night by the hazy glow of a clip-on book light.  It does not encompass my global perspective or encapsulate cemented feelings.  It is merely one frame of a reeling heart.

Her immense love for me was only matched by the engulfing hate she held for herself.

How much love can you truly give and receive when you are always medicated, always numb?

Like the last zest-filled drop squeezed hard from a dried-up lemon, there was great hope and pressure for me to flavor their lives. 

Always holding on to the myth of rising from rock bottom.  But rock bottom is the end of breath and release of hope that mocks.

My apologies for so drastically shifting tone with this post, but for me this writing goal is about experimentation–so I expect there to be an abundance of shifts, twists, flights, and flops as I search for my story.