Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I think I broke your arm

I did it again. Open mouth, insert foot. I was talking big for my britches, acting like I know more than I do, and embarrassed myself. I do it so often that I have a large pocket in the back of each cheek from shoving my hooves in my mouth so often. I'm like a hamster, only instead of whole carrots, I use feet.I apologized, but that rotten "I'm such an idiot" feeling didn't leave. An hour later I sought out the victim of my moronic mouth and apologized again. She said no worries, but I still have them. I haven't been able to shake the feeling. I want to say sorry again, but I won't. I have to just work it out in my head now. Becky taught me that.

When I was in college, I had a friend named Becky. She was tiny, about 4'10", and had a tiny voice like a child, but in all other ways she looked like a grown up. She was bubbly and laughed a lot, and I really loved being around her. One day as she walked by me, Becky bumped me with her ball point pen. It left a little mark on my arm and she was very concerned. "Are you OK? Did I hurt you?" I laughed and assured her that I was fine, that she couldn't hurt me with a club, but a few minutes later she asked again. Again I reassured. Then about half an hour later, she asked AGAIN! "OK, Becky, What's up?" I asked.

"Well, I guess I really should explain..." she began. When Becky was 12, she developed strange horizontal stretch marks on her shins. Her mother took her to several doctors, who all brushed her off. But the last doctor, the kind they make movies about, knew what he was looking at right away. "Your daughter has a rare benign brain tumor on her pituitary gland." He told them. It was a one in 100,000 kind of deal. Test confirmed it, and a surgery was scheduled right away. The tumor was removed through a tiny cut under her top lip and into her sinuses. She recovered and all seemed well. Then on a follow up visit, the unimaginable. Becky had another one. Not a recurrence of the same one, but an entirely new tumor. Now Becky was a 1 in a million, and she became a case for the medical books. Doctors were forced to remove Becky's pituitary and adrenal glands, along with the tumor.

Everyday, Becky carried a large Tupperware in her backpack. In it were dozens of pill bottles. Because she no longer had the glands in her body to regulate her hormones, she had to take medicines to either imitate those hormones, or stimulate their production. Things we take for granted, like insulin, progesterone, thyroid, and many more I don't even know about, were provided in pill form. She carried her medicine with her everywhere, because if a bus broke down or a storm stranded her away from her medication, she would die.

Becky explained that when ever doctors had to tweak one hormone level, it would send a few of the others out of whack. And each time that happened, she had some unusual side effects. "I know it sounds stupid," she said, "but because I bumped your arm, I truly believe in my heart that I broke it. My logical mind says it's impossible, but right now, I believe I broke your arm."

She went on to explain that this was one of her more mild imbalances. She has had germ phobias and hand washing obsessions. The worst was the phase when she believed she was killing people. If she drove past someone standing on the street corner, she would think she had accidentally struck and killed them. She would circle the block looking for their dead body. "That was a hard one." she smiled.

I had known Becky for months and had never known of the struggle inside of her. I knew she was tiny and had a ridiculously high voice (she was never blessed to finish puberty), but I had no idea about her daily mental struggle to function when all her radar was giving her misinformation.

Becky's story has gotten me through some difficult times. I struggle with inappropriate and inexplicable guilt. I rehearse conversations in my head after the fact, sure that I have offended the other person. I fret over hurting other people's feelings, not meeting expectations, and not being in tune enough to the hearts of others. I loose sleep, get physically ill, and can't shake the thoughts. I know it's getting bad when I find myself calling folks days later to apologize. When I hear the confused voice on the other end of the line saying, "Really, I didn't even think about it. I wasn't offended. You're worrying over nothing." I feel embarrassed. I have gotten used to it, but like Becky, I still wander around looking for the damage I believe I have caused.

I am really glad that I know about Becky, though, because more than giving me patience with my quirk, it has helped me to understand the quirks of others. My son Ethan will say and do some very irrational things with total commitment to their logic. No explanation will change his mind. If he believes it, then it's true. Becky taught me about my son 7 years before he even existed. Really, we all have odd little stuff. Becky's life explained to me a little about almost anyone I could ever meet.

I think the thing that I appreciate most is knowing that, in this case, I am not totally crazy (or maybe I am, but it's mostly just a chemistry quirk in my head, not necessarily a ginormous character flaw). Oh, I have those, too. Character flaws. Ask my husband. Heck, ask anyone who has been a victim of my hamster cheeks. But Becky showed me how to work on the things about myself that are hard to change, and to be kinder to myself when I fight the same battle over and over again. And again. And.... again. It's not an excuse. It's not a crutch. It is a very wonderful tool.

Thanks, Becky, where ever you are.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My life as a house plant

OK, I'm confused ("yes, we know." says the peanut gallery). No, I don't mean generally. Today I mean specifically, confused about something.

Six years ago we moved to Sacramento. We, well, actually I, believed we would be here in our starter home for about 3 years before returning to what had become our spawning grounds, Santa Rosa. Anyone who knows us has been repeatedly annoyed by our droning on and on about the virtues of the place. "It's beautiful!", we say- rolling hills covered in oaks and vineyards, misty groves of redwoods and pastures dappled with black and white cows. Eden. "Oh, the weather! " we say - balmy, not-too-warm summers with cool sweater wearing evenings, an outrageous blue sky, cotton ball clouds and hair tousling breezes. "And the feel of the place!", we say - Artist colonies, theater, galleries, cultural events, music, farmers markets, a half hour from the ocean and the redwoods, an hour from San Fransisco. All the things we love to do right in our front yard.

Lastly, "and we have such good friends there.", we say.

Oops. Something has happened in six years. Try as I might to have avoided it, I look down at the earth beneath my feet and realize I have set down roots here. I have friends. Wonderful friends, here. Wonderful friends both places.

We stole away to Santa Rosa this past weekend, and because for the first time in ages we didn't have to be back for Sunday responsibilities, we stayed and went to church at our old meeting house. I worried as we walked in that we might not be remembered, or casual handshakes of recognition would let us know we had been out-of-sight-out-of-mind. But to the contrary, we were surrounded by sweet faces, beaming smiles and enormous hugs. We almost created a disruption as a crowd gathered to welcome us.

"Are you back!?" the questioners demanded. "We have missed you!" My heart both swelled and ached. I love these people. This is the place we started our marriage. This is the place where 3 of our children were born, where our friends cared for us through new babies, the death of my mother and many other trials and joys.

They hadn't forgotten us, but instead literally enfolded us in their arms in the chapel aisle. Within moments we had both lunch and dinner invites, and several offers to stay the night. It felt like we were home.

Later I sat in the sister's meeting, and a seat away sat Becky. She was shuffling through papers and didn't realize I had sat down beside her. Becky and I had just begun our friendship when I left. We had so much in common, but our paths had not crossed often enough for us to realize what good friends we could be until just before I had moved. I reached over the empty seat between us and touched her hand. She looked up, and a wave of expressions, one after the other, crossed her face in rapid succession; confusion, recognition, surprise... and then she pummeled me with a bone-crushing hug. She embraced me, wrapped her arms around me nearly twice and kissed my hair. She wept and and held on, and whispered, "I have missed you so much." Later, my family and I laughed and talked through lunch and dinner with the Funk's and the Hall's families. We fell in love with our dear friends all over again. It was like no time had passed at all.

It flooded back again, I love these people.

But there was a familiarity in that feeling. It was like being with one of your siblings and realizing that it is making you miss the others. I became aware, suddenly, of roots that I have also anchored in other soil.

I have been blessed in my life with lovely friends. When we came here to Sacramento I made an effort not to get too emotionally attached to anyone for fear of pain when we eventually left. But, wow, am I ever attached. And I get more attached by the day.

In the past few months a new friendship peeked around the corner. Ellen and I have been in the same general vicinity for nearly two years, but just realized that we are woven from the same cloth only a few months ago. There is a safety and comfort I feel with her that takes years to cultivate in your run-o-tha'-mill friendship. Then there is Christina, who has made me laugh for several solid days with her emails. I never knew all that was sitting across (not acrosst, she hates that) from me in the chapel all this time. Before them was Stephanie. I have known her since we moved in, but only had the blessing of her hysterically funny phone calls and monster hugs in the last year or so.

I could make this the academy awards; "I'd like to thank Nicole, Heidi, Rebekah, Joanna, the Bakers..." Wow. Have I ever got roots. Too many to name, too special to leave any out.

Sometimes I wish I knew what the future held. Since life has taken a completely different track than I ever planned, I would want to know how many of my other well-laid plans I would be better off deleting from my mental Life's-to-do list. But then if I knew, maybe I would try too hard to avoid any deviations from the plan. Deviations like making lifelong friends. I would keep my self in a pot and never let my feet touch the earth.

But potted plants never grow as much as they could when planted in deep, fertile soil.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let's not go to the hospital and say we did

Last night I was working on a lesson I will be teaching tomorrow for a church thing. Family relations. I am an expert in what not to do, so I guess it qualifies me to teach. As I sat at the computer working away, Guy put shoes on nearly a dozen feet and headed off to baseball practice with the kiddos. As he kissed me good bye and shuffled little ones out the door, I jokingly called out, "No broken bones, please!"

Approximately one half of one hour later, Guy surprised me by walking in the door, far too early to be back from practice.

"Guess what?" he said dryly.

Ellie trailed in behind him holding her arm, face beat red and tear streaked, horrible noises coming from her chatter box.

"Oh, you're kidding me." (My ultra intelligent response to calamity). "What did she...?"

"...jungle gym." Guy stated. Of course.

Well, last week we had spirited Adam to the ER rather hurriedly. I decided while we were there that I had been hasty. Not that I wouldn't have taken him, just that I would have waited a few more minutes for him to calm down so that I could see what we were really dealing with. So I sat Ellie down with a bag of frozen corn and some arnica (our miracle bruise cream, ask me about it anytime, I should be the company spokesperson...) and my mother's ancient, tattered copy of Little House in the Big Woods.

Two chapters later, it was clear that no bones were broken, and that an ace bandage and some love would be just what the mama ordered. What a blessing. Really, I have spent way too much time in doctors offices lately.

And way too much time at my pitty party. The company (me) is getting old. So I feel like making a list of my blessings right now. Here I go:

Ellie's smile. I'm so glad it's not broken (it = arm, not it = smile, but I'm glad her smile is not broken, either!).

The kids at 3:15. So far, 5 days in a row, all smiles after school.

Guy with a cotton ball taped to his arm. He is taking on all the testing we now need to do after so many miscarriages without a complaint. When he came home with that cotton ball taped to his arm after his blood test, I felt like he had brought me flowers.

Unlimited access to our neighbor's pool. No explanation needed.

My kind friends. How could I survive being in my head all day with out a phone break with one of them? Or several?

Ice cream: Legal narcotic. Not against the Word of Wisdom.

Ellen's hands. She and I bartered for an art/massage trade. It's massage, it's therapy, it's friendship. It's bliss. If there were chocolate involved I would find no need to pursue a glorified afterlife.

Scriptures that fall open to a whole chapter that was written thousands of years ago, just for me. (Job 5). Thanks, Job.

Hand me downs. When we had all these kids we knew we would have to provide for them. I am so blessed to receive hand me downs for them to start school, and that they don't care at all that the clothes aren't new.

Prayer, even when I'm not getting answers.

Tessa's adoration of me. I have never had a child be so in love with her mama. She gets high on rubbing her face on my skin. Seriously, it's like she is stoned, she loves it so much. "Mama, you so wahm!" she croons. She heals me.

Silly hats at dinner to celebrate a new school year, complete with sparkling cider and pinkies held aloft, "dahling!". Life needs to be fun again.

My helpful husband. He knows he can't take away my trials, so when things are hard he steps it up a notch to help me deal. I truly feel sorry for women who chose men that act like an extra child and choose not to help with the house and the kids.

Past trials making current ones a little easier to bear and to understand. Just another egg. And one less trip to the hospital.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Indian Summer

Today was the first day back to school.

I HATE the end of summer. It makes me sad. It is like taking down the Christmas tree, the final episode of your favorite show, or packing up too-small baby clothes. I'd had such great plans for the summer. I was going to take the kids swimming at the river, make art with them, bake cookies, teach them Spanish, and in general, be that mom. But I just never got my act together, and suddenly, the summer was over.

I drove the kids to school, and their butterflies were contagious. I began to feel nervous for them. All three were headed off to a new school, and while I was pretty sure it would go well, ya' never know. I thought the same thing about scouts until Ethan came home that first night and exclaimed, "I'm never going back and you can't make me!"

When we got to the school, I parked and walked the kids in. A few moments after hitting the front of the school, Ethan, my big in spirit, small in stature 7th grader bid me a "too-cool-to-kiss-my-mom-goodbye" farewell and headed off. I wanted to be the embarrassing mom that hugged and fussed but there wasn't time, I had to get two other kids to their classes. I smiled and watched my big kid disappear into the crowd. Wow, am I really this old?
Next was Ellie. She is in first grade now, and there was a cubbie to locate and classroom "suggested donation" supplies to deliver. She got settled, kissed me distractedly and headed for the group circle-time that was getting underway without looking back. My brave Ellie. She has always been that way.

One more to go. With Tessa tagging behind us, we climbed the stairs to Adam's to class. I helped him unload all of his new school supplies into his cubbie, walked out in the hall for him to hang up his backpack on a hook, and then kissed him goodbye. Adam is my quiet worrier. Last night as we snuggled before bed I asked how he was feeling about school. "Excited." his voice trembled. "Are you a little nervous?" "Yes." he said a little faster than I would have expected.

He was worried about not making friends. He has had a faithful friendship with a boy named Diego since kindergarten. Adam is a loyal friend. He doesn't need a ton of so-so friends, just one really good friend. Adam also doesn't like a lot of attention. He worked hard this weekend to get off of his crutches so that he wouldn't have to go to school with them. He really wanted to know that everything was going to be okay. I had tried to reassure him, but life warned me that I couldn't promise him anything.

I stood at the door as Adam went back inside and watched him from the hall. He wandered a bit. There were kids in who had known each other from previous years standing in little clusters, visiting and giggling. There was a group of children in a circle on the floor reading books, and there was a pile of books on the floor inside the circle. The teachers voice rose above the chatter, directing everyone to select a book and quietly join the reading group.
Adam stood on the fringe of the circle, friendless, and clearly reluctant to step into the center of the circle to chose a book. I wanted to dash in and protect him from his fear, to grab a book for him so that he wouldn't have to be the focus of undue attention, even for a moment. I watched him pace the outside of the circle and then finally plunge his fists into his pockets and drift toward a wall.

I had to turn away. I took Tessa's hand and headed for the car. I told myself that he would be okay, it would just take time and some bravery on his part, but those are things you can't give to someone else, or save them from.

At the end of the day I held my breath as I located each child outside their classes, waiting for that look on their face that would tell me all was well. "How was your first day?" I asked them each in turn, but they were a little too overwhelmed for more than one word responses.

We drove home rather quietly, and eventually, one by one, the kids recalled tid-bits of their day, names of new, future-best friends, funny things their teachers did that proved they were not kid-eating-aliens, and new rules and routines. "My new job is watering plants!" Ellie said, "only not with a hose." "We have bearded dragons right in our classroom, and they are named Lilo and Stitch!" Adam bragged. "We did this maze on the floor, and when we would take the wrong step our teacher would tell us we exploded. It was funny." Ethan said admiringly. Not to be outdone, Tessa chimed in, "It my tourn! I talk 'bout my school!"

As of this very moment, I love my kids new school. That may change when the honeymoon is over, but for now, at the end of one whole day, the school has returned three cheerful children to their grateful mother. Ethan likes his teachers. Ellie likes all of the cool activities. Adam made a friend.

(Oh, and nobody had homework. I'll say it again: I love this school.)

But I was still bummed about the summer being over. I wanted desperately to make up for the lost time of the fadded summer, but as I drove over the river and saw the rafts drifting along, I knew there would not be time after school each day for those kinds of trips and activities. I resented that I would now be bulldozed by assignments, early bedtimes, and unavoidable routines.

Guilt driven, when we got home I made cinnamon toast and promised to take the kids swimming next door after jobs were done. They hurried, and soon I was sitting in a lounge chair, book in hand, the low setting sun a little blinding, watching the kids play with a marshmallow gun turned snorkel. Tessa popped out of the pool every 4 minutes to have me kiss her sore elbow. Ellie called to me over and over to watch her swim, and the boys cannon-balled each other into oblivion.

As the sun dipped beyond the fence top, the pool grew quiet and I looked up a bit concerned. What I saw in that instant made it a magical moment. Adam floated quietly on his belly on a raft, his hands under his chin, contentment on his face. Ethan was half out of the pool, his belly up on the warm cement, watching a bee inches from his nose walking on the deck. Ellie sat on the step bobbing her knees in and out of the water and watching the ripples she made. Tessa sat wrapped in a towel at my feet, rubbing her cheek adoringly on my knee, her damp little hands wrapped around my ankle. I was transported back in time to my favorite part of being a little kid in summer, when you just sat back and watched bugs, felt the sun on your skin, and listened.

I think this was Indian Summer. It was the sweet, warm memory from my childhood that I had been chasing. But you can't chase something like this, you have to just let it happen. I'm not good at letting things happen. I like to have a plan. I am learning the hard lessons... about the things in life that you can't plan, and about being quiet enough to see the unexpected blessings, too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

12 Weeks

Today has been marked on my calender since the day I learned I was pregnant. It is the day I would have been 12 weeks pregnant. My first miscarriage happened on the first day of week 12. I viewed this day as a hurdle, and a sigh-of-relief kind of day.

Today Ruth called to ask me for help. She is having a miscarriage. I told her what to do, what to expect. I sat on a case of water bottles in the Dollar Tree while my kids played in the Halloween decorations, and listened to her cry. I listened to how she shouldn't be here, how confusing it all was, how devastated she is. I listened as she told me how unsafe she felt, like nothing would ever be safe again, that she is not immune to other losses that may come. I listened as she panicked and tried to hold on to her faith, and as she told me how much she had wanted this baby.

All I could say was, "I know."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pie might make it better

Last night I had strange dreams. There were freaky insects interrupting my prayers, there were evil cats mocking me and sleeping in my flower beds. And there was another dream...

I was walking with a woman, and though I don't know who she was, I know she was my friend. In my arms I held an immensely heavy bag that was full of food, but the bag was tearing and the food was falling to the ground. No matter what I did, I could not hold all of the food.

My friend smiled and took the whole bag out of my arms, but there was a watermelon that began to tumble to the ground. I took back the watermelon, and it was clear that it had been most of the weight of the load I was carrying, but without all of the other food falling and sliding around, I could manage the burden of it. We walked, and I hefted the melon, the heaviest part of my burden, while my friend carried the rest of my load for me. She smiled as she walked beside me.


Last night after soccer practice, Adam climbed up on the jungle gym to play for a few minutes. I alternated between reading a few lines from my book, then looking at the girls and glancing at Adam as they played. The next time I looked up, Adam was on the ground with a twisted look on his face. He stood up and fell back down. He stood again and took a step, and then crumbled to the ground, his leg doubling under him. He began to bawl, and I gathered him up in my arms and carried him to the car.

I had just been on the phone to Guy moments before and I knew he was busy doing his church work, so I wasn't surprised by his "what now?" tone when he answered the phone. "I think Adam broke his leg. I am gonna give him a minute to settle down, but I think we have to take him to the hospital." I sounded so matter of fact that my own voice surprised me. There was no rush, no panic, no anxiety. There was definitely a hint of "of course" and a little undertone of "what next?". I thought of my sister, mother of 10, who is on a first name basis with ER staff. Up to this moment I never understood her calm demeanour when one of her children is badly hurt. Like a chicken laying it's 50th egg, we have been here before. After a year and a half of trials, what's one more? Or, as I have begun saying to myself, "When you slam your foot in the door, it doesn't hurt so much if you drop a can of beans on your toe."

Guy sighed and said simply, "OK. See you in a minute."

We called our friend Ellen and asked her to watch our other kids while we went to the ER. After the faintest pause, she affectionately said, "Bring them on over." I learned a few hours later that she was, at that moment, heading out the door for an all night drive to Utah. A pause, that was it, and she quietly changed her plans for us.

We sat in the ER, and the room was teaming with infected people, all there because they believed they had the swine flu. We marveled at folks who had come to the hospital for fevers and sore throats. It takes blood, or possibly-broken bones, to get us in here. We were triaged, then we were the unwitting participants in a staff training session. The intake took forever. We were led to an exam room and then became victims of a clerical error.

They forgot us.

I read "To Kill a Mocking Bird" to Adam, and Guy began to pace. About an hour later Guy went to inquire as to what was taking so long. Suddenly we were getting care, and lots of lame excuses.

My cell rang. "Laine, I hear you are at the ER." Crazy, who could have known this, for that matter, who the heck was this? "It's Shelly, silly." laughed my friend from church. She offered to go get my kids, take them home and put them to bed. I insisted that we were fine, and that they were with Ellen, not knowing, of course, of Ellen's thwarted travel plans. I then called Ellen to let her know about our delay. She told me about Utah, and said she would find someone to take the kids, but knowing Shelly had volunteered, I had her call Shelly. By the time we were done with our x-ray, Shelly was on her way.

One x-ray, a leg brace, two crutches and three hours later, we were finally home.

This week has been one full of grief and sorrow, but while I have been busy carrying the heaviest part of my load, my kind friends have been here to pick up the pieces of my life that I keep dropping. When we first learned yet another tiny baby was lost, my friend Stephanie and her husband Dave came. They came and held us, and cried with us and gave us blessings and kind words. They brought pie.

I am grateful for comfort food, phone calls, last minute child care, and enormous hugs. I am thankful for friends who don't try to fix it, knowing it can't be fixed, but who have sat to cry with me. I am thankful for friends with pie, because pie might make it better.

Thank you Steph, Dave, Heidi, Shelly, Nicole, Joanna, Rebekah, Ellen, Morri and Shallon.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Unplanned harvest

"His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate,
neither is there any to deliver them.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up,
and taketh it even out of the thorns...
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust,
neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;
Yet man is born unto trouble,
as the sparks fly upward.
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause."
Job 5: 5-11
We lost another baby two days ago.
All of my life, my parents had a garden. A huge, sprawling, organic garden with all of the fixin's. I can still see the rows of tomatoes, carrots and corn stalks. Every year I would name the tallest stalks after my favorite TV characters. I cried when it was time to eat "Nanny" and "The Professor". We ate all summer from the fruits of our labors, and from the veggies, too. I always knew I would have an amazing garden of my own someday.
It turns out that I am a pretty disappointing gardeness. In my attempts to go organic, I share my crop with all creeping things within a five mile radius. I kinda' forget to water... a lot. My compost pile has produced an earthen hive of bumble bees and a tragic little rat's nest (tragic because day old baby rats cannot be kept alive by amateurs with eye droppers when you accidentally destroy their nest with a shovel). It has not, however, ever produced usable compost. Genetics have failed me. I have two left thumbs, neither one green.
Yesterday I went out to the garden to (finally) water, and realized that not only were there a handful of dinky ripe tomatoes, but the grapes were ready as well. I picked until my hands tumbled with bunches of small, sweet grapes and plumpish tomatoes. Then I remembered my little peach tree. I planted it a year ago, just a bare-root stick that I bought at the Grocery Outlet for $6 (a fortune more than my $4 grape vine from two years before). I'd had visions of canning and gifting from my abundant garden to friends and neighbors. I have this same vision every year, but my largest harvest has usually been a few small armfuls of puny, misshapen vegetables - what ever the earwigs and birds have left for me.
In the spring, my little peach tree had been accidentally blasted by an over-zealous young cowboy on a watering rampage, knocking nearly all the tender blossoms to the ground. As the seasons warmed and shifted, a few, tiny, green peach babes made their debut on the slender twig-like branches; sole survivors of the water attack. But, as little growing things sometimes do, a few of the new peaches fell from the branches for no apparent reason, and a few were knocked off in a late wind storm.
For the last two months I had been hopefully watching the only remaining peach cling to it's perch like a lone Christmas ornament tucked close to the trunk. It had grown to a modest but ample gift, waiting for me, waiting for it. I wanted that peach.

I turned to the corner of the yard, and my eyes fell to the ground where my blushing peach lay. I sighed and gathered it up in my grape-cluster-free hand. It hadn't been a long fall, but the spot where it had lain had already been nibbled at by nature's clean-up crew. Sad, my last peach, lost. Some metaphors are imposible to miss.

I carried it all in, tomatoes, grapes, and my peach. Guy saw and commented. "Oh, you picked it. It didn't feel ready yet when I checked it yesterday."
"I found it on the ground." I said simply.
"Wow, that happened fast."

I set my damaged, sparse little harvest on the counter and surveyed the scene. Really, the peach wasn't ready when it fell, still a bit firm to the touch. I wondered if it could still be eaten if I cut out the bad side. I felt like I owed it to the little tree to enjoy the one token it had worked so hard on all spring and summer. I set it aside to wait one more day.

Today I washed the little peach, cutting the nibbled end away, and carefully peeled it. I tasted it... a sweet surprise. It was tender, moist, and perfect. I smiled that my tree had done so well on it's maiden voyage. I saved the last bite for Guy.

"For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great,
and thine offspring as the grass of the earth...
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good."
Job 5:17-19, 25-27
We also buried our baby today.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Walking out of the woods (the same way I came in)

(Incomplete post begun 3 nights ago).

WARNING: Placenta Talk Zone ahead

Placenta talk is what my husband calls it when I start talking about birthy stuff. Obviously, as a doula this happens a lot. But right now I am not in doula mode. I feel like I am plucking petals from a daisy, but instead of he loves me, he loves me not, it's "am I pregnant, am I not?"

I do a roving check of the ol' bod. Nausea, check. Heartburn, check. Tender bits, check. Belly... check, I think. It is getting bigger, but maybe a little to fast. I know too much about pregnancy, and have had too many problems with prior pregnancies. Yesterday Adam asked me how many kids we would have in our family "if" they were all born. Seven.

I am 10 weeks now, right in the middle of the woods.

(Three days later)

In my lifetime, I have lost the following:

4 sets of keys
1 cell phone
contact with several good friends
about 40 pounds of hair
my car (almost every time I go to Walmart)
my temper (1-20 times per week)
my figure
4 babies

I don't know if I want to write about this, but here I am doing it. I don't even know how. I just feel like I have to acknowledge it somehow.

I have officially fallen into a "category". Secondary Recurrent Infertility (My apologies to my one male reader. Sorry, Dave, more placenta talk.).

It happened yesterday. We just had 3 more weeks till we would be out of the woods. I am in a numb place. It is surreal, like opening your eyes underwater and seeing people standing above. Everything is muffled. I only feel what has happened when I see someone looking sad at me. Then the tears come. No off switch. So I am not looking at people.

I had to hurt my sweet kids by telling them we weren't going to have a baby after all. "Why did you tell me that?" Ellie demanded. "Why didn't you only tell the grown ups?" Adam beat the crap out of our mulberry tree with a stick. I have never seen him act like that before.

I am seeing my husband suffer, and so I want to be brave so that he won't feel worse. I am not brave.

My friends are speechless, sad, want to help. I have no words to comfort them.

My aunt told me "...four miscarriages is enough. Maybe you need to just focus on the children you have." Guy wants to punch the next person that says that.

The doctor's office won't return my call. My body feels broken. I can't fix this.

I find that the shower is a pretty good crying place. While there, a thought floated through my head. "It's easy to obey when it's easy. Can you obey when it's hard?"

I usually don't have a hard time obeying God's rules. Smoking? Nope. Drinking? Nope. Never had sticky fingers, never cut class. It has been kind of easy for me to walk dead center down the straight and narrow for the big important stuff, and most of the little stuff. But can I obey this? Can I stay faithful? Can I endure to the end?

Would someone please point out the exit? We thought we were almost out of the woods, but I think we got lost in here.

Photo taken by my sweet neighbor, Shallon Elliott, 2008.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dinner as a metaphor

Tonight as I washed up the dishes I had an epiphany. It is absolutlely going to sound corn-ball. Sorry. Avert your gaze. But doing the dishes tonight made me a better person.

The kitchen was trashed, and though I was tempted to leave it till morning, I was actually feeling pretty good for the first time since church and figured I should take advantage of it. As I began sifting through the ruins of my kitchen, I found myself on an archaeological dig, unearthing the layers of preparation of one meal. A meal lovingly created for my family tonight by their papa, my Sweetie.

[I know, I know, I just went on and on about him, but consider this an epilogue, exhibit A, the proof that I ain't lying.]

I truly had enjoyed the meal. I had been craving a nice pork anything (some women crave pickles, I crave farm animals), and upon mentioning it to Guy yesterday he pulled some pork steaks he had squirreled away in the big freezer out to thaw (I must mention, that when I prepare dinner, fore-thought would include me counting the eggs before I start cracking them for scrambled eggs to make sure there will be enough, or checking to see if there is milk before pouring the cereal (yes, I did say dinner). If I have to pre-heat, baby, I'm Julia Child.). So as we sat down to eat, I was very pleased with the lovely meal we enjoyed. But tonight, as I sifted through the dishes and put food away, I realized I had not enjoyed the meal nearly enough. Not the way it had deserved to be enjoyed. At the time, it tasted wonderful, but it took doing the dishes to truly appreciate the meal.

As I worked, I found the food processor with tiny bits of pineapple inside, from the cranberry-pineapple chutney he created out of his imagination, and the pan that it had been reduced in. I found the bar-b-que tongs, reminding me that he had been out doors to take care of the meat, and the bags that he had marinated it in. I washed out the mixing bowl from the rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, the pot the potatoes had boiled in, and the bowl from the steamed broccoli (and swept up traces of the freshly picked rosemary that had been chopped). I wiped away the bread crumbs from the fresh loaf of crusty french bread that had been sliced, warmed and wrapped in cloth, and served in a basket. I rinsed the mixers he had used to make the fresh whipping cream, and the bowl from the brownie batter. As I wrapped and put away the left overs, I felt such gratitude. What a feast we had enjoyed. How did I not realize how hard he had worked while I was eating it?

We had sat around the table clad in china and crystal goblets, cloth napkins and fresh flowers, and giggled and visited. We had seconds and thirds, and the bread basket emptied. The sun went down and the children planned which candle they would each get to blow out. All of this, a not-quite every-Sunday tradition, created by my Sweetie. He decided a long time ago that our children should get to be treated to fancy dinners to gently teach them manners, to show them that they are important to us, and to create loving memories of time spent together.

I love that of all the squabbles had in a day, one is usually over who gets to say the dinner prayer. I love watching Adam eat broccoli by the pound. I love seeing the children's faces warmly lit by candle light, and hearing Guy as he plans out loud how he will tweak the recipe for next time, always working to improve the textures and flavor combinations. I love the winding down time as the meal comes to a close, the kids telling jokes, and Guy and I leaning against each other, all our grown-up-world worries pushed aside for a little while.

I got to wash the dishes tonight. What a joy to have seen the layers of my husbands love for his family. I got to wash the dishes tonight.

Yes, indeedy, you're my Sweetie

I am in love with my husband.

Someone once told me that they didn't see how we ever got together. Others say we are two peas in a pod. I think of their comments the way Georgia O'Keefe saw the remarks of her contemporaries when they said her paintings were very sexual. She said something like "I think what they see says more about them than about my work". Maybe it is the same here. People see someone else's marriage and they try to imagine plugging themselves into the situation they see, but that would be a completely different marriage. No one really gets to see the inner workings of a marriage but the two people involved. I am so blessed to be one of those two people in this particular marriage.

I married my Sweetheart, and at the time, I had no idea how really wonderful he was. Now I am sort of blown away by him.I met my husband in high school. No, it's not what you're thinking. We barely knew each other. He was a shy boy who quietly ate his lunch every day with other kids from our church. We apparently signed each other's year books back then, but didn't realize it til we'd been married a year. "Sorry I didn't get to know you better." "I'm sure you'll have a great future." we wrote. We had no idea.

We re-met, really met, 8 years later when I returned from a mission. I had been home one week when I saw Guy at a dance. My mom had forced my brother (who got home two days before I did) and I to go to the New Years Eve young adult dance, and we were terrified. We had, after all, been at arms length from all members of the opposite sex for 18 months in my case, two years in his. Now we would be expected to be held in the arms of a stranger, in the dark, for up to 4 minutes at a shot. Freaky. Then I saw him on the dance floor. Guy had changed a lot since high school, and I was drawn to him. Oh, and he was really, really cute.

We danced. No, not that night at the dance, but for the next several months we danced around the attraction we had for each other. We were "just friends". When he finally asked me out, I thought he was joking. I laughed. (Seriously, I laughed, and he thought I was letting him down easy). It took a month for me to get him to ask me out again.

He made me dinner. Not dinner... he made me a feast. He spent two days cooking a meal from Finland, where he had been on his mission. It was amazing. At the end of the night, I stood in the kitchen with him, washing the dishes. (The other day someone asked me when I knew. I think that might have been the moment.) We moved through the kitchen, washing, drying, stacking, joking, standing close enough to touch. It was like we had been doing it for years. I could see my future reflecting back at me from the clean copper bottom pots and 70's Correlle ware plates.

After having dated for a month, Guy still had not kissed me. My mother began asking, "Has he kissed you yet?" My friends, my sister, everyone began asking, "Has he kissed you yet?" My mother seemed almost worried, as though this lack of lip action was a personal slight to her that this young man didn't want to kiss her daughter. I admit, I was beginning to worry a little, too. Maybe this wasn't going where I thought it was.

One night, a night that I frankly didn't feel particularly smootchy, I came out with it. "Why haven't you kissed me yet?" I asked. He looked a little surprised, and then, recovering, settled in to give his answer. "Well, because I want the next person I kiss to be the person I spend the rest of my life with."

Gulp. Wow. Good enough for me.

When, on a warm summer night, as we said goodnight under the old oak tree where my car was parked in front of his folk's house, he leaned in and kissed me, I knew exactly what it meant.

Guy had to leave for work in Japan (now, this is not a joke) as a magician's assistant in a high-tech magic show. He was gone for six weeks. I wrote to him everyday in a journal, and faxed the pages to him every few days. He did the same for me.

When Guy got home I was already in Utah for my last year at BYU. He didn't even unpack, but booked a flight and moved to Utah. A month later, while slow dancing to our song on a carpet of paper hearts, under toilet-paper streamers, he asked if I would make him the happiest man in the world by marrying him. Now, how could resist that?

Guy takes care of me. He doesn't seem to mind how scattered I am or that I forget things a lot. He pretends not to notice when the house looks like Armageddon, and if I apologize about the mess he says "You are taking care of our children, the house isn't a mess, it's lived in." He still cooks dinner, almost every night, a fact I try not to flaunt in front of my friends. It would be like dancing around someone in a wheelchair. I usually do the dishes now, but I consider it more than a fair trade.

I had to learn a long time ago that manipulative female tactics like tears and pouting don't work with Guy, so I had to grow up and learn to communicate. Still working on that one.

He listens. Once, when I had been talking and talking and talking about some problem I was struggling with, I became frustrated that he had no advice or comment. "Why aren't you saying anything?!" I demanded. "I've learned that if you talk long enough, you usually figure it out for yourself." he sincerely replied. At first I was upset, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was giving me what he knew I needed.

And he does that a lot. I have been able to explore areas in my life that I never would have without his support. He loves my creative side and cares about my worries. We are not perfect at all, but there is a gentleness in our friendship that I love so much. I hate conflict, and so does he. When a tiff arises between us, we usually keep to ourselves for a while till we are calm and can take responsibility for our own crap, if ya' know what I mean. Some folks think you gotta bash it all out, review the play-by-play of each other's wrong moves til someone cries uncle (or in my case, just cries). I guess that works for them. I'd rather stuff my ego in my pocket with my stuborn pride and see him smile sooner, I think.

When we were first married, one of us, I can't remember who, gave the other a card. It went something like this: "I stayed up all night composing a poem for you that truly expresses my love, devotion and appreciation for you. OK, are ya' ready? Here goes... "Yes indeedy, you're my Sweetie." Fourteen years later it is our mantra. Maybe it's too simple, but I am happy with him, and he seems pretty happy with me. On our last anniversary we laughed as we opened each other's cards... they were the same. The funniest part was that I had chosen mine 4 months before. Yep, we're two peas in a pod, I think. Plumper peas these days than we used to be, but the pod is very cozy.

Tonight we spent 90 agonizing minutes in a Super-Walmart with our four tired children buying romantic things like wipes and cheese sticks. We held hands all the way home.

As we unloaded the van of weary, hungry kidlets and a dozen white plastic bags, he handed me a couple of "essentials" I had requested that night. "Here ya' go, dear, one large bag of bird seed and one toilet seat." he smiled. "Do I love you or what?"

Yes, indeedy.