Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Kosmas is getting older. His forgetfulness has increased in the last few weeks. Helen worries about him. She feels alone and frightened. They have been married for over 56 years. In this English speaking world which is far from the Greek village in which they grew up, Kosmas has always been the translator. Helen tells me, "I come here when I was 28 years old. I no learn English. Kosmas, he talk for me." I assure her that she is more fluent than she knows.

Kosmas and Helen are our neighbors, but more than that, they are our family. They have adopted us and claimed us as their own. They bless our children with traditional Greek ritual. They call themselves our Greek parents and grandparents. They keep us stocked in Greek pastry and Easter bread. They love us unconditionally. When Kosmas had a stroke several years ago, Helen called in the wee of the morning, speaking Greek frantically and R. was the one who called 911 for them. When R. and I were married, Helen called early in the morning saying, "R., today is your happy, happy. I bring you gifts." The gifts were the largest pan of baklava in the tri-state area for our wedding reception, and a crockpot to feed 20+.

Today I took Helen and Kosmas to the cardiologist where Kosmas was having an EKG done after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. In the car during the fifteen minute car ride he asked three our four times, "Where we going? What we doing?" And Helen patiently spoke to him in Greek, reminding him of his doctor appointment. Each time he thanked her for telling him and then asked me what I thought the weather would do tomorrow. I repeated to him the weather report and he thanked me. It was 90 degrees today, and Kosmas wore a sweater. He thinks it's winter, and worries that I'm taking the baby out in the cold. He was relieved today that the baby was staying home with R.

When the nurse called Kosmas to come into the examination room I asked Helen if she wanted me to go too. She said, "Oh yes, Christy [her name for me], you understand what they say, you explain it to me." I sat in the corner and watched as the electrodes were attached to a smiling Kosmas. He charmed the nurse. He was such a cooperative patient, willing to do whatever they asked of him. He thanked the nurse for her help. He thanked her "very much."

When the examination was finally over, Kosmas sat on the edge of the table, feet dangling. "You can get dressed now, Mr. K" the nurse said. Kosmas smiled obligingly at her, thanked her once again and then looked at Helen. She quietly picked up his undershirt and held the neck open for him as he slipped his head through, and then she draped his white dress shirt over his shoulders while he shrugged his arms into it, and starting from the bottom of the shirt, she tenderly buttoned each button until she got to the neck, when she gently patted his cheek. "Thank you, Helen" said Kosmas, his customary phrase.

I almost had to turn away when I saw the intimacy shared in this simple act. I felt as if I were privy to a private encounter. I was ushered into the holy communion of true love. My eyes filled with tears, which I quickly brushed away. We got in the car to go home and Helen said to me, "Christy, Kosmas, you know, Kosmas is my baby. You have your baby. I have my baby. He needs me."

Helen doesn't need to learn better English. She is fluent in the universal language of love. And this is more than enough. And it is an intimacy which I am only beginning to learn.

Month 2

Dear Grayson,

You have been on this planet now for two months. I wonder how different the world seems to you than it did just four weeks ago. I am amazed at how much you have grown and changed. Already some of your clothes don't fit, which has sent your mother into a fit of nostalgia. I fold those too small sleepers and box them up and feel as if my heart is breaking. I suppose this is what all of parenting is--a saying goodbye, while marveling at who their little one is becoming.

Your biggest accomplishment in my eyes has been your endearing smile. God help me I absolutely melt when you give me that half-grin and look at me sideways with those sometimes crossed eyes (focusing is still a skill you haven't seemed to master). When you look at me that way, I could almost forgive you telling me you'd like to become a Republican someday. Or that you'd like to become a televangelist. Almost.

Don't try it, though, okay? Don't test me.

You had your first shots last week, and as is often reported, they were miserable for all of us. Your daddy held you, while Mommy choked back tears and the nurse was mercifully quick. Two shots on each thigh, with two Elmo band-aids to mark the spot. We tried to comfort you, but it was only when your big sister picked you up and carried you out of the pediatrician's office that you calmed. You've already learned that the little people must band together (the socialist in me is thrilled that you've figured out this political lesson so early). I am humbled by the fierce bond the two of you have formed already and as an only child am forever grateful that R. and his former wife have offered you the gift of two older sisters.

It is hard for me to fathom going back to work in a few weeks. I know your father will take exquisite care of you. I am grateful that one of your parents will be home to nurture you. I also know that I will be a better mommy to you if I continue the work I love and feel called to do. But, I know how much I miss you in even a short trip to the grocery store. Eight hours is a long time.

We're still trying to teach you what it means to sleep through the whole night. At this point I would bribe you with almost anything to get you to close your eyes at 11:00 p.m. and remain asleep until around 8:00 a.m. I'd even settle for a 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. slot. What kind of deal can we strike? You want a pony? Your tongue pierced at age 16? A summer abroad in Croatia at the age of 22? Some play-doh to smear into the carpet? I'm willing to wheel and deal here.

There is something so tender in watching your parents relate to your children. Your father and I are the bridge that connects you to each of your grandparents. I love watching Grandpa Jim taking you on elaborate airplane rides through the living room, watching Grandma Bernie nuzzle your soft neck, watching Grandma Karen cooing to you as she rocks you to sleep, watching Grandpa Dick whisper to you about his plans to take you to Disney World and telling you what attractions you'll share together.

In another month we'll get in a plane with Grandpa Jim and Grandma Bernie and fly to San Angelo, Texas to meet your almost 92-year-old Mamaw Amy and your Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden. I can't wait to watch their faces when they are introduced to 3-month-old you. I can't wait to watch you forge relationships with your daddy's side of the family. We will take your umblical cord stump and bury it on the land where your daddy wandered as a little boy on the fish hatchery, in the same place where your older sisters have their umblical cord stumps buried, in the same place where your daddy will someday in the far distant future have his ashes scattered. This way, you'll always have roots in Texas.

You are my delight and my joy. And I love you beyond words, my sweet Lamb.


Saturday, May 26, 2007


Another boring mommy post...

Grayson got four (count them FOUR) shots on Friday morning. It probably hurt R. and me more than it hurt him. He sniffed his discontent quickly and then wailed, wailed, wailed until his big sister offered comfort (his parents, as you may recall collaborated with the mean nurse in holding him as the shots were administered).

He's had a rough two days. As had sweet Daddy who stayed awake with him all night last night. Mommy gets her turn tonight. I have a new realization. I Love Infant Acetaminophin. I mean, Love (with a capital "L"). I'm wondering if they market Infant Xanax, as we could use some in this house tonight at say, around 11:00 p.m...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Surreal World

I live in a realtively safe neighborhood in the Midwest. There are occasional burglaries. There are occasional domestic disputes. There are occasional fires. But, I feel safe where I live. I feel safe raising children in our area. There is a reputation that echoes in any racially diverse neighborhood that crime rates must be higher, or that safety must be a concern. Every time we've accidentally left our garage door open at night, our kind African American neighbors have called to remind us to close it. Every time we've hungered for a sweet treat, our Greek neighbors have supplied us with baklava. I feel safe calling my neighborhood home.

And yet, yesterday I stumbled into Surreal World.

I was out running (or walkunning as I should call it, that half running/half walking twilight that I have entered post-Grayson whereby my body doesn't know how to complete a good three mile run, and I end up half-staggering, half-limping the last mile). I was out running when I entered a strange world which involved hammers and pepper spray. In the midst of my exercise, while wearing headphones, I entered a battleground of sorts and I cannot shake this from my mind.

I have a habit on especially hard runs (as the last several have been for me) of focusing my attention on the pavement about three feet in front of me, of concentrating my effort on the ground only a few steps ahead, as a way of continuing each step. And with the headphones on, I was merely conscious of the 95.1 FM traffic report and the hot sun giving me even more premature age spots on my nose when I looked up and was about ten feet away from another reality.

There were forty or so youth, each of those I saw being African American. There was yelling. There was confrontation. There were girls wrestling on the yard of a suburban home. There was a boy being chased by a hammer-wielding man-child. There was a young woman crying out, "Help me, help me, I've been maced!" Traffic in the street was at a standstill. I had stumbled into a wonderland of sorts. This was not my home.

And even as I pulled the earphones out of my ears, and stopped to see what was happening, even as I noticed the maced girl being assisted by a neighbor, and another burly man yelling, "Break it up! Break it up!" even as I saw the stopped mini-van driver whipping out a cell-phone in what I can assume was a 911 call, I was aware that I was just an observer. My skin color set me apart. My status as 30+ year-old-woman made me different. While I was worried about these fighting youth, I was not afraid for my own safety.

How does a Christian walk into these places? What could I, a midwestern white woman do to stop the violence? Would the hammers be turned on me if I did more than slink by? Could I be an instrument of peace?

I don't know. I simply don't know.

I hurried home. I wanted to do what I could, which was to call the police. But before my route was finished I saw four or five police cars circling our neighborhood, and so I knew that part had been accomplished.

I am a middle-class white woman whose color protects her. Where am I called when violence erupts? And how do I follow the teachings of a peace-filled Christ? How do I heed the immortal words of St. Francis and sow love where there is hatred?

The answers to these questions both challenge and scare me.

I pray for those holding the hammers. I pray for those who see the violence in their eyes. God help us all.

Cheeky Goodness

I really try to sit down and type something. But this little face cajoles me into cooing and laughing instead. How am I ever going to get any writing done?

It will come.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Reflections and Resolutions

I've been rereading old posts on this here blog. Rereading with a more critical eye. Recognizing that, just as the newest public service announcement on TV suggests, one should be "careful of what you post," lest others...well, lest what? Judge me? Find me? Resonate with me?

It's humbling to reread your blog. You find entries that you'd just as soon erase (geez, why'd I write that comment about my cat's bowel function?), and you find entries that remind you of why you started this blog in the first place (see most any blog about one of my Hospice patients).

I've been doing a lot of contemplating about where this blog is going (as I am the contemplative chaplain). And while the last nine months or more have been spent in more reflective writings on pregnancy and parenting, I realize that there is more than that within me. More than that which needs to be said. And so my resolution has become this: while I am on maternity leave it's fine to be Contemplative Mommy, but that is not the only label I want affiliated with my name. And so, this blog will represent all of that...the parenting, the partnering, the chaplaincy, the feminism, the Christen who is and the Christen who will become.

I continue to commit myself to being myself. Which means, not being, in this space, who my agency or my denomination want me to be, but simply being me. Irreverent, confused, hopeful, agitating, empathetic, exhausted and exhausting me.

So there. There it is. Let's begin again, shall we?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ch-ch-ch Changes

I'm taking a break from the birth stories, because...well, it was getting a little boring...I will update, but I realized it was getting a little laborious to type (ha, pregnancy joke...laborious...I have not lost my sense of English major humor, even despite my sleep deprived brain). Which reminds me, that when the doctor told me we'd do a C-section he said, "So, ultimately I'll do the work rather than you?" I love Dr. S. so I didn't remind him that recovery from major abdominal surgery is not a fun endeavor and is indeed work, and besides, at that point I was so, so in love with Dr. S. for allowing a C-section that I had no words to condemn him.

Life changes when you have a baby. People told me this when I was pregnant. I truly believed them. I did. But, I didn't realize HOW MUCH, how very much, life changes. For instance, even if I have the opportunity to sleep (i.e. weekends when R. is not teaching the next day) I always have "mom ears." I worry about every little thing (okay, this isn't all that different than before, but the worries have gotten more particular, instead of global warming and the future onset of leprosy I now worry about the baby getting too cold [and thus catching pneumonia or some other rare Northern Indiana disease named after an obscure physician who discovered it], and the baby not pooping in 24 hours [and thus having a bowel obstruction or chronic non-pooping disease], and the baby smiling at R. and my father before smiling at me or my mother [and thus responding to deep voices rather than higher pitched ones and, logically, having a hearing problem, or a psychological disorder whereby they hate, hate, hate women], and the baby sleeping at night for more than five hours [because, of course, the baby might have some unknown sleep disorder]. Seems my hypochondriacal nature has transposed itself into hypochondriasis of the infant (there's probably another term for that).

But there are those other sentimental changes. There is this being who I adore heart and soul. And he needs me. There is this baby who trusts me and relies on me. And I better not screw it up. There is this person whose future rests, in part, in what we do now as parents. And while I am not a hard-core Baby Einstein pusher or organic baby-food promoter, I better do my best by him. There is this child who carries my heart on his sleeve, for it has moved from my own body. And I better be open to who he becomes, and how I respond. must be said, that temporarily, it is as if all of the rest of life has stopped. And this has begun, this parenting gig. So, bear with me dear readers, for it will be more balanced in time. But for now, I post as Grayson's mommy.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ah Yes, Where Were We...Birth Story Part Deux

Now, children, gather around the fire and don't burn your little fingers or toes as I regale you with the second half of the birth story.

When we last left our heroine she was heading to the doctor's office with her hospital bag packed, remember that? The hospital bag with James Taylor CDs, peanut M&M's, Constant Comment tea bags, and all the other important doo-hickeys and whatnot that one needs when giving birth. But remember, that I don't think I'll be giving birth, mostly just being told to take it easy.

When I arrived at my sweet Dr. S.'s office (really, he is sweet, sweet and I will recommend him to each and every person who asks and he plays no fundy rock music in his office. In fact, I'm planning on giving him a nice bottle of chardonay when I see him next week to thank him for his kindness, and for pulling that baby out of my belly so nicely), my mother was there and we patiently bided our time until Dr. S. was ready to see us. I waddled into the waiting room, the nice nurse said, "I heard you're having some swelling," and then weighed me and said, "You've gained six pounds in four days. Hmmmm..." She had me sit on the table and said, "Let's see your feet..." and when she had my chubby heels in her hands she said, "Hmmm..." She took my blood pressure and said, "'s a little high...lie down on your right side immediately." So I did. And only then did the jungle drums beat in my head and make me a little nervous, and I started sniffling, but couldn't turn my head to my mother for comfort so mumbled toward the wall, "I'm scared." And my sweet mother rubbed my back and said, "It's just fine...relax..." and other comforting motherly things.

And then Dr. S. came in the room, and said, "I hear your swelling?" And he made a few attempts at humor to relax me and then said, "Well, Christen, here's the deal, you're blood pressure is high, and that means that you've got some preeclampsia going here." And I said, "How high?" And, knowing that I am a hypochondriacal nutjob he said simply, "Pretty high. So, here's the plan. We're going to admit you to the hospital." And I didn't know whether to be relieved or scared out of my ever-lovin' mind. "Do you have any other questions?" he asked gently. And I said, "Just I leaving this hospital with a baby in my arms? Or are you just going to hook me up to some machines and tell me to relax?" And he smiled and said, "I think you'll be leaving as two rather than one." And with that, the nice nurse came and walked me over the skywalk to the adjoining hospital and I only sniffled a little bit and then became obsessed with whether or not R. would be able to arrive soon...

And, once again, dear readers, a baby calls...installment Part III soon...