Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Grateful...




Because it's not just anyone who can pull off the pop-bead-plastic tiara and Beatles onesie.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blogworthy

Knowing that an ice storm was headed our direction and that we will soon have treacherous travel conditions, I had a flashback to Miss Opal, our Good News after-school program teacher. Miss Opal was a wizened blue-haired wonder who smelled of a combination of Ben-Gay and Jean Nate. Miss Opal, who could command the felt board Eve to eat the apple with an especially sinister snarl. Miss Opal, who always reminded us to be good samaritans.

I heard Miss Opal's voice in my head as I dialed our elderly Greek neighbors, Helen and Kosmas to see if they needed anything from the grocery.

Helen always says hello suspiciously. Telemarketers seem to prey on the elderly, and add to that the elderly who speak English as a second language, and she's learned to be cautious. When I tell her it's me there is a barrage of joy, "Oh, Christy, Christy [her name for me], why you not at work? Baby sick? You still sick? You don't sound so good. Christy, I'm glad you called me." It's hard to get a word in edgewise. I explained that we had a storm coming. "Oh, no, Christy. It's gonna be a bad storm, huh? It's gonna be ice, huh? This weather. What you gonna do, huh?"

"What you gonna do?" is the philosophy by which Helen and Kosmas live. Their own form of spiritual wisdom. Their own response that, yes, at times, shit happens. Their own acceptance of all that comes in. Their own Tao. What you gonna do, huh?

I explained to Helen, carefully and slowly, that we were going to the grocery to stock up on things. I explained that we were worried about them and wondered if they needed us to pick them up anything. I explained that we didn't know how long the storm would last, but just in case, it might help to have everything we needed for a few days.

Helen listened carefully and said, "Oh, Christy, you're right. I mean, what you gonna do, right? And you, you gonna do something to help. So, yes, I need something from the grocery before the storm comes blowing. You wanna write this down?" I sat, poised with pen in hand to get Helen's list.

"I need one unsalted hairspray. In the can that spray."

I waited.

Helen was quiet. "You get it, Christy? One unsalted hairspray."

"Okay, Helen. One unscented can of hairspray. Anything else?"

"No. That's good."

We each have our own needs in emergencies. Me? I went to the library yesterday and got a big pile of memoirs to read. And I want to make sure R. picks up some peanut M&M's on the grocery run.

Helen, she's got her hairspray. What you gonna do, really?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Memo

To: Sinuses
From: Contemplative Chaplain
Date: December 16, 2008
RE: Your recent failure
***

It has come to my attention that you have been failing miserably in your job as you maintain superior nasal clarity, the highest standards of health and the promise of wellness.

While your productivity remains high (it seems that was 3/4 of a box of Kleenex used today, sinuses, well done!), your performance falters. And the product has been a bit, well, green.

It is frustrating as your supervisor (or is it servant?), to have you fail in job performance during this crucial holiday period. Perhaps you are unaware that when you are unhealthy, your performance effects not only my sense of smell, but also my sense of taste. This is an unsatisfactory experience as today I could not taste the egg nog or chocolate almond cupcakes with little tiny green and red sprinkles atop them at the annual holiday party. As this is a seasonal event, which only happens once a year, you can imagine the horror.

I appreciate your attempts at helping me to lose weight. Thus far, I have dropped two pounds thanks to your extreme taste deprivation. However, time is of the essence here, as I don't want to miss the once-a-year chance of eating melting moments cookies which were my grandmother's recipe.

I anticipate more effective sinus maintenance in the future or else drastic measures will need to be taken. Jalapenos maybe. Or the dreaded neti pot. I trust you will respond to the antibiotic that I introduced you to a few days ago, and allow yourself to learn from her superior work habits.

Consider this a warning. Step it up, sinuses. 'Cause there's no "I" in "Team."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

And Also...


We got a new camera.

You have been warned.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Now With 34% More Protein

I read on a blog recently that no one likes to hear blog writers apologize and make excuses for not posting. And how they'd rather not hear the lament of writer's block, or busy schedules. Instead, they'd just rather the writer write when the could and stop wasting their readers precious time with long-winded explanations.

I also read on my favorite brand of granola bars that they have updated themselves and now have more protein.

The long and the short of it is. I'm back to trying to post more routinely. And with more protein.

I'm letting myself off the hook and not planning on writing monthly letters to the boy. It was feeling burdensome, as if I had to remember every single detail and I found deadlines looming over me. And so, I'll write some here and there, and you'll undoubtedly have your fill of Grayson stories to keep you begging me to just pipe down about the boy. I also figured that each entry didn't have to be a well prepared entry, pondered at length. Instead, I could, perhaps, just try to write more often and include the trivial. I'm sure, for instance, that you all would like to know what color toenail polish I'm planning on painting my nails, and then we could swap techniques for cleaning mini-blinds. Or not. I suppose I don't want the blog to dissolve into trifling nonsense. We'll see what comes...

So, there's that. Business and updates out of the way.

Recently Grayson and I have been hit with the one-two wallop of head cold which has rallied the bad bacterial forces and become sinus and ear infections. That's sinus and ear infections for both of us. I'm not sure who is the bigger wuss here. I sleep more. He whines more. Or maybe it's the other way around. We're both taking antibiotics and wiping snot all over one another. It's been one of the more exhausting health adventures we've had for awhile at Casa P-M and I'm amazed at R., with his immune system of steel, and trusty Zicam for remaining all-powerful in the face of these wee monsters (the germs, not me and Grayson...or maybe us too).

The tornado watches I alluded to, the cryptic mysterious post of which few seemed to notice (Have I lost all my readers? I suppose it would serve me right for being a lazy slacker...whoops, no apologies, I need to heed the lessons of Love Story here), has come to pass and our small not-for-profit community-based Hospice had to lay off ten workers. All of them good folk who now face a difficult job market and dismal holiday without income. I am thankful to be spared, and yet remember that "there but for the grace of God..." These figurative tornadoes have whipped through Fort Wayne, but I seem to have escaped with only wind-blown hair, some changes in job responsibilities (which have allowed me to become the chaplain of our in-patient 14-bed-unit, an assignment which I wasn't relishing but have found absolutely delightful--or as delightful as being surrounded by death can be) and a few more stories to tell.

You'll hear them soon...






Monday, November 10, 2008

Tornado position

When I was in the first grade a tornado came dangerously close to our elementary school. I remember our teacher yelling in his "mad dad" voice about the need to stay covered, to hide our faces, to protect our heads. I remember the way the doors rattled, propped up with wooden doorstops which were valiantly trying to do their job. I remember the dust and scattered paper, the discarded practice spelling lists and milk carton straws skittering down the orange carpeted hallway. I crouched in that hallway, my hands pressed to the back of my neck, my nose buried in the smell of the fabric softener embedded deep into the fibers of my clothes as I crouched, knees to nose. And I was too stunned to even cry; too overwhelmed to even react. The community tornado siren was wailing, the wind was blowing, and I was a scared six-year-old.

Ever since then, I have been plagued by tornado dreams. Before college graduation, when I had no idea what my future held, I would wake my roommate up with eerie moans because the tornado was coming, and I couldn't make my way to a place of safety. In seminary, when I was completing a student pastorate with a supervisor who questioned my motivations and "gifts for ministry" I would often dream of that tornado on Saturday nights before driving to Indianapolis on Sunday mornings. And in one of my most telling dreams, right before leaving the congregation I had pastored with my whole being, and facing a ministry commission who questioned my commitments, I dreamt that a tornado was coming and R. and I were sheltering the Misses T. and B., seeking safe haven in the church as the sky grew darker. And the church leaders locked its doors and said we'd have to go elsewhere.

Tornado dreams have nested in my psyche; and whenever I am at my most fragile, Morpheus summons that familiar symbol to sprout in my dreams; to remind me that there are things which need to be tended to, upheavals which are on the horizon.

My work is hard now. In addition to the constant companion of burn-out which I have come well acquainted with in the past year, our small not-for-profit hospice is, like many not-for-profits in this economy, struggling some. In our own black Friday last week five people had positions eliminated ("right-sizing" they called it...apparently "down-sizing" is a little too much of a bummer). Thankfully, my job was spared, but tasks were "reassigned" and change is imminent. Our office is somber. There are whispered exchanges. There are tears. There are some recriminations.

There is a little nook between my colleague's desk and mine. We store boxes there, keep trash cans for medical shredding there, stow extra CD players there. All day today I found myself wanting to crawl into this hideaway, to huddle in tornado drill fashion, protecting my head and waiting for the wind to pass. My thirty-six-year-old self reverting back to her six-year-old safety mechanism.

It's windy right now friends, and the sky has sort of a greenish tint. I'm vigilant. And I'm edgy. And my burned-out, desperate soul doesn't know right now where to seek shelter.

Or, perhaps more importantly as a chaplain, how to offer that shelter to the ones I am called by God to serve. And this frightens me the most.


Friday, November 07, 2008

A New Look

Whaddya think? Yes? No?

Change sort of freaks me out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Belated Halloween Post

(EXHIBIT A)

(EXHIBIT B)
Grammy made Grayson an amazing costume. We think he kind of likes her for that (see Exhibit A).

Our little organ-grinder's monkey. Still a little unclear on the whole "trick or treat" concept (do I ring the doorbell and run away? Do I make the people beg for more? Do I prefer that they look at my tail rather than my face? See Exhibit B). Ultimately, it's just easier to pause and take a break to play the songs that make the whole world sing.

And yes, in time, he will curse his mother for picking out that costume that sort of accentuated and verified the fact that his head circumference is upwards of the 95th percentile.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Uncle Vayden




I've posted about my brother-in-law before. He is a mensch. A hospice medical director. A jazz enthusiast. A progressive liberal. A kind and gentle man. And he knows his scotch. These simple qualifiers alone make him "good people" in my book.

I love my brother-in-law (almost as much as I love my sister-in-law, feminist extraordinaire who inspires me with her intelligence, and keen insight and savvy. And, let me freely admit that I also believe that behind every good and sensitive man there is an equally good and sensitive woman).

But I'm not sure I love Vayden as much as Grayson does.

I'm constantly amazed at Grayson's memory. We were in Texas in August to see R.'s family and it was only minutes before Grayson had figured out who everyone was, and what they offered. Mamaw Amy had amazing steps which he could climb down. Aunt Lois would clap when he did something impressive (like climb down those steps) and marvel at how sweet he was. And Uncle Vayden, well, Uncle Vayden could talk like Donald Duck.

The day we left Texas in August, Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden stood on their porch in the early morning and signed the word "more" as taught to them by their crawling nephew. They wanted more time with us; almost as much as we wanted more time with them. We, the occupants of the jam-packed Mercury Sable pulled out of their driveway, and lamented that we only got to see our Texas kin once a year. And were sad that our time away, once again, felt so ephemeral.

The misses T. and B. know and love their aunt and uncle. They understand that they are loved by family far away. They know the faces and names and characteristics of their Texas kin. But, the prince of the home, Grayson, only got to know them for the second time in this past summer's visit, and it is hard to know whether he can comprehend the importance of family, as much as we'd like him to.

However, as we've lately learned, apparently this summer's visit made an impression.

Multiple times a day now Grayson makes a trip to the refrigerator. He's not searching for juice, or for yogurt, but for the magnets which are plastered on the outside of the bottom of the ecru-tinted Amana within easy toddler reach. The boy sorts through the magnets carefully rejecting the Mickey Mouse, the Winnie the Pooh, the Obama/Biden, the Monet reproduction of water lilies. Instead, he carefully pulls off the magnetic photo of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden and cradles it near his chest. He carries it throughout the house, showing it to those who ask (or those who don't, yesterday he tried to show it to the cat, who had no interest), and occasionally leaving it behind when some other passion beckons. I've come upon the photo in random places that Grayson haunts--by the backdoor as he gazes at his swingset, next to the bathtub where he had to leave it behind so it wouldn't get wet, next to his highchair when he was told he couldn't "play" and eat at the same time.

And if you ask him, "Who is in that picture?" He has no answer.

But if you ask him, "What does Uncle Vayden say?" He begins to quack and speak his own brand of Donald Duck jibberish. He remembers Uncle Vayden's play-talk.

I think that perhaps, Grayson believes Uncle Vayden is the authentic Donald Duck; a mystical force which surrounds him with sound but which he doesn't understand. Uncle Vayden's voice has simply become the mouthpiece for some sense of goodness in the world in a toddler's mind, and he cradles his picture as if it were a medieval icon.

Grayson will know the love of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden as he grows; as he understands time and distance and extended family. But for now, he carries his magnetic photo of Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden near his heart and labels it with the voice of a cartoon character and recognizes that family come in all shapes and sounds and that they love him wherever they reside.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Goodbye Deferred, For Now

I hate goodbyes. I hate them with a passion. I avoid goodbyes at all costs, being the first one to duck out of a reunion without the customary adieus, avoiding that final glance by ducking out the back door with a friendly, "I'll see you before I leave..." Goodbyes are not easy for me.

Saturday was spent helping pack up my grandparents' home on Chapman Lake. Those who know me, or follow this blog, are aware that my grandfather died in July and for many reasons the decision was made to sell the lake cottage, reasons which I understand and appreciate, but understanding and appreciating don't soothe the ache in this granddaughter's heart just yet.

Saturday was spent sorting through and dividing the accumulated treasures and detritus of a lifetime. We sorted fine china and silver and then wondered what to do with Grandma's bridge of false teeth (seemed strange to throw it away, seemed strange to keep it). We divvied up family Bibles, and saved small pieces of paper with words written in Grandpa or Grandma's shaky handwriting. We claimed the things which were meaningful to each of us (a T shirt which smelled like Grandpa, the Fisher Price phone from the late 1960s which I hauled around the cottage when I could first walk) and reluctantly threw away old receipts, and old keychains, and old muffin mixes.

I wept all the way to the lake that day. The property "changes hands" in a few weeks and this will likely be my last time in the house, but in true Miller fashion, I focused on the task at hand. I worked, for by working one can avoid a heap of pain.

I was the only grandchild at the lake that day. Most of my cousins live too far away to come for the day, several of them have already done their part cleaning up the garage or assisting in Grandpa's care. I labored alongside my aunts and uncles and stood apart in my respect for their grief, a generation once removed who yields to its elders.

The day wore on, my uncles occupied themselves in the garage and shed; took the boat out of the water and removed the engine. My aunts and step-mother and I sorted clothes, dishes, household goods. I knew the time was coming when I would need to leave; I had to attend the ballet that evening where Miss T. was dancing. I worked until the moment that I had to go. And when it was time to leave I disciplined myself to truly say goodbye, at least to the people. I looked around and realized both my uncles had already gone. In true Miller fashion. Without a goodbye.

I understood.

I could not say goodbye to the lake. I did not cry on the way home. I focused my eyes on the road and fixed my thoughts on the evening to come and mentally rearranged certain places in my home that I wanted to incorporate memorabilia from Chapman Lake which was carefully placed in boxes in the back seat.

I have not said my goodbyes yet. I believe they will come quietly when the last of my grandparents ashes are scattered at the swimming hole, or late in the night as I cradle a mussel shell rescued from the beach and use it as a centering tool, as a polestar of sorts.

Goodbye will come. But I have to digest it in small pieces. And I have to believe my grandparents, the two who built each of their original homes bit by bit, adding only what they could afford at the time so that they were often living in a perpetual state of incompleteness, would have recognized this bit-by-bit grief, this grief which still lives in a home with no doorknobs even after twenty years.

This is all I know to do now. And I trust that they would have understood.




Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Months 17/18




My Sweet Boo,

Again, Mama has gotten behind in her postings. Summer fell gently into fall and I was preoccupied with our family, and with my patients, and with the swirl of activity around us.

Today you were sick with a runny nose and lots of congestion. You had a temperature and were just generally ill at ease. I took the day off to care for you. Not only have your walking skills led you from room to room with ease and able to grab small objects off high shelves, I realized today how very good you are at understanding what I ask. For a long time I assumed you were merely mimicking me when you said, "Dep" or "Nooooo" to my questions, aping what you heard or saw me do, but today it was clear to me how much you grasp the English language, even though you can't speak it yet. You pointed out the bus in the pictures in your book. You hugged your doll "Red" and offered him cuddles and kisses when I suggested it. You brought me a ball when requested. You wandered over to your highchair when I hinted that I was making you some noodle soup to help with that cold of yours.

I love this new discovery in you. And...I'm learning that not unlike your Mama you have your own independent and distinct views on things.

This past week I've learned from you that...

  • You'd rather NOT eat noodles from the spoon, but would prefer them placed on your tray to be picked up with your fingers.
  • You'd rather NOT be fed applesauce, but would like to eat it on your own with a spoon, which you have not quite mastered, ergo plastering applesauce all down the front of your onesie.
  • You'd rather NOT get your pajamas on after bed, preferring the au natural approach to evening feedings and nighttime romps.
  • You'd rather NOT have help walking at certain times of the day, but WOULD rather have help at other times.
  • You'd rather NOT dance to Indigo Girls or Tracy Chapman or Jerry Garcia, but be-bop yourself crazy to the YouTube video of SonSeed singing "Jesus is My Friend."
  • You'd rather NOT have the dog anywhere near you, saying "NOOOO" in a definitive tone but would love to bathe in her waterbowl, and have even been known to lick her food bowl for extra "let-me-really-gross-Mama-out" emphasis.
  • You'd rather open and close every cabinet in the house for as many hours as you are awake, but would rather NOT open the doors on the quasi-expensive puzzle we got you with various doors and locks.
In short, you're becoming a toddler.

Last night as we put you to bed you smiled at me from your daddy's arms and said, "Nigh, nigh, Mama." Today as I gave you a block you wanted you said in your own faltering English, "Dank you, Mama." Do you know how you make me melt? I'm quite confident that at nearly eighteen-months you have no idea. I simply melt into the carpet at my feet for you to crawl all over me. And I rejoice in the fact that you are ours.

I adore you, my love.
More than words can say.
Mama

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bloggage

And these are the random thoughts of the Contemplative Chaplain on this rainy night.

  • I'm overdue for a note to Gray on his 17 month birthday. Yep. Gotcha. And I forgot to make childcare plans for Saturday when R. and I are at a workshop at R.'s church and forgot to transfer money from the savings to checking account today and forgot that I'd purchased those 24-month Carter's sleepers last January in anticipation of this fall. Gotcha. Working on it.
  • It is a humbling thing when someone you love tells you that when you're arguing you are "formidable." That's something which would have filled me with pride at the age of 17, and shames me at the age of 36. I need to work on that temper of mine.
  • Grayson is going to be a monkey for Halloween, and not just any old monkey but one of the organ grinder monkeys which wore vests and little hats with tassles. Grammy's making his costume. I should save that for his 17 month post, but had such a delightful day with my madre and the boy that I couldn't keep the secret hidden for long.
  • Burnout in my job comes not from the work with patients, but from the seemingly trivial details which keep being forced upon the staff (gee, thanks, Medicare for continuing to freeze funding and making us not-for-profits panic).
  • I have deliberately not posted about Senator McCain's vice-presidential nomination because of how nasty and unproductive it would be. And, every time I talk about Governor Sarah Palin I get heartburn. Really. Perhaps McCain's election would be good for the antacid industry?
  • And as much as I loathe what Sarah Palin stands for, I loathe more the yahoos who talk about her status as VPILF.
  • I now have a new computer. Its ways are foreign to me. Vista Schmista. I'm a stranger in a strange land. Strange, and yet very fast.
These are this evening's random musings.

Over and out...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

History

Grayson, my sweet,

You won't remember this night. The night you danced in your brown and white jungle print glow-in-the-dark jammies to Melissa Etheridge on YouTube singing "Give Peace a Chance," (Mommy missed C-Span's early evening coverage of the Democratic convention last night while she was driving home from work and had to catch up this evening).

In many ways, it is like so many other nights in your life. You had your bath. You ate some green beans and applesauce. You whined about the teeth which are poking their way through your bottom gum (for which we gave you ibuprofen), or the intestinal distress from eating too much cantelope (for which we gave you baby simethicone). You will have your bottle later. You will fall asleep clutching your cloth diaper. You will listen to one of your many lullaby CDs, which you will turn on by yourself because all hell breaks loose if you don't.

And, yet, the world is turning all around us and tonight will be a night, I suspect, that we will one day tell you about. Tonight Barack Obama will accept the Democratic presidential election on the night so many years ago when Martin Luther King gave an historic speech at the March on Washington. Tonight an African-American man will be nominated as president of the United States, a man with hope and vision and courage. Tonight our nation makes its own brilliant history, and while you don't know it, while you won't remember it, while the most important part of your universe consists of sisters who hang on your every syllable, two fat cats and a long skinny dog, this nation will be celebrating a milestone.

I hope that you live in a world where this simply doesn't matter, in a world where, as MLK said, "people aren't judged by the color of their skin," or where it simply is not noticed. I hope that you are racially color-blind as you grow and that the sweet toddler across the street with an African-American daddy and a white mommy is not seen as anyone different than you. I hope that one day people will be horrified that a world existed in which certain people had to sit in the back seats of buses, and certain people drank out of different water fountains. I hope that you will experience life as a minority at times, so you know that there is absolutely nothing which separates us from one another and it is hard to be seen as "the other." Mostly, I hope we are creating a new world for your generation.

Your mommy truly believes that a symbol of this new world rising happens tonight in Denver, Colorado.

I love you, and I want the world for you...and for your comrades as you grow to become the next hope for America.

Mama

Friday, August 22, 2008

Months 15/16




Dearest Boy-Boy,

Time has gotten away with your Mama. It's been a busy summer. There was your great-grandpa's death, and subsequent memorial service/family reunion time. There was the trip to visit Mamaw Amy and Aunt Lois and Uncle Vayden in Texas and subsequent long-ass car ride home. And then there were the in-between days in which you continued to morph from babyhood to boyhood right in front of our eyes.

Last night you took your first steps. Your very first solo steps. You walked, with hesitancy at first and then with triumph between Grandpa and me as we sat on the floor of the parlor. You started with two steps, and moved to three, and then four, and then five, and by the time Daddy and Brynn got home from Brynn's ballet lesson, you were confident enough to venture six and seven steps on your own, grinning and laughing all the while.

I delight in this new skill. And confess that I wept a few tears in the bathtub last night after putting you to bed. It's hard for me to say goodbye to my baby. And yet, I can't wait to see who you become. I suppose this is the eternal paradox of parenting. If we do our job right, you separate from us.

No offense, Gray, but sometimes cats are easier to parent.

And speaking of cats...(notice that nice transition? I was an English major, after all...) you have become the master of all things gentle in the cat world. You are a pro at petting gently, and walking gently toward Cooper and Moses, and gently and softly saying "Caaaa" as you head in their direction. I'm hoping that you'll become one of those little old men who wear their pants pulled up beyond their navels and collect cats in their old age always naming them after Old Testament prophets.

You delight me. Even as I say goodbye to my baby, I delight in the new chapter of Grayson the boy.

I love you more than the stars.
Mama

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Space Filler

This blog has not been forsaken. The blogger has just been mind-numbingly busy. And antsy. And grieving. And sort of strange overall.

But will be back here within a few days.

And didn't get attacked by wild armadillos in a whole 'nother country.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blowin' this Popstand


...I originally thought I'd title this one, "Blowin' this Jo*int" (notice what I've learned about "coding" search words...I'm getting pretty computer savvy) but couldn't imagine all the intriguing ways that would be misconstrued in a search engine as people were trying to learn how to smoke marij*uana (see that added asterick thing again, pretty impressive, huh?). Hell, people still find my blog because of the creative way I spelled Ernest Ainsley (it's Angeley, friends, sorry for the screw up...).

Anyway...

We're getting out of Dodge, friends. Flying the coop. Running for the border. Vamoosing. Folding up shop.

The posse is headed down to Tex-ASS for a big 'ole family lovefest (as opposed to a love feast where we'd all wash one another's feet and grow Brethren beards). It's the annual Texas trip...the interminably long car trip whereby we remark on the different states on license plates which pass us on the road, and rate public restrooms with a ten point scale, and I assume my best Snooty-Titian-Colored-Haired-Sleuth voice for dramatic reading (that would be the annual Nancy Drew book we finish on the way there and back), followed by our arrival and welcome by the kindest, most generous kin-folk west of the Mississippi.

Look for possible remote postings...or not. Depends on how much time I spend chasing a toddler, or swimming in the pool, or having good scotch offered to me in liberal amounts, or delighting in the laughter of my step-daughters, or gazing at my beloved.

I desperately need this time. I'm worn out.

So, lest you feel bereft...I attached the latest pictures of the wee ones (one of whom is taller than me, now). Grayson is celebrating his upcoming getaway with chocolate...as the picture may demonstrate.

Don't leave the light on for us...




Monday, July 21, 2008

Gratuitous Child Photos


...Because, damn, I'm a sucker for the hat. And when he asks in years to come why no one clued his parents in to the socially backward nerdiness of aforementioned blue hat, please remind him that his father picked it out. But it was his mother who grabbed it from the lake after Grayson threw it overboard.

The hat, the nerdy hat, yeah...it was a joint parental effort in eternal geekiness.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Benedictus

In your leaving
we say peace.
With the last light of you dying
we say peace.
And where there is no peace
we say peace
in the hope it will rest in our bones.

In your going
we say joy.
With the last breath of you leaving
we say joy.
And where there is no joy
we say joy
in the hope it will dwell in our flesh.

In your departing
we say love.
With the earth taking you in
we say love.
And where there is no love
we say love
in the hope it will come to our souls.

--Jan Richardson, In Wisdom's Path

Tribe

One of the hardest things about grief has to be the monumental leap you make from the bosom of your family as you return to the "real world" of work, daily routine, stopped up drains, and unweeded gardens. As our family moved through the rituals of grief, the memorial service for the family at my uncle's home, the public visitation at the funeral home, the family dinner afterward, there was a sense that we were all moving together, on some sort of boat asea in our emotions. Wholly apart from the shoreline of the real world. Our tribe was questing on their own adventure, a journey very different from the civilized world.

And so, returning home after this sort of mountain-top experience (damn if I'm not just mixing metaphors all over the place), was a bit lonely. Where were the other two babies crawling or toddling around on the floor with Grayson for the past few days? Where did I see blue eyes similar to my own sparkling at me without looking in a mirror? Who else understood the gentleness and simplicity of my grandfather? Who else could understand his prejudices and faults as products of his upbringing, and recognize the man who he became in spite of, or even because of them? Who else laughed at memories of cherry-pit spitting contests and believed in a family which was taught to be "poor but respectable?" Who else learned that "pulling Grandpa's finger" was a recipe for disaster of the most odiferous kind?

There are things I do not share with this tribe. There are ways in which they do not know me. I would imagine that my political beliefs might be deemed suspect, and that my ideas about religion might be deemed heresy by some of my Miller kin. My cousins could probably not tell you my favorite books, nor could they know exactly how to comfort me in the midst of chaos, but somehow the fierce ties of family offer sacred haven to me which continue to undergird my fragile sense of reality as I grieve.

And I know, I know in my bones, that this sense of family will take root in Grayson and his sisters and will, as trite as it sounds, nurture the soil of their being. And this is the legacy which my grandparents offer, far greater than mutual funds or property. An inheritance of shelter, and safety and home.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

May flights of angels serenade you with an off-key rendering of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" as they sing you right smack dab into the arms of the woman whose been waiting to welcome you for over two years now.


Herman Anthony Miller
February 8, 1920-July 12, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Grandpa


As I type this my grandfather lies in a hospital bed in Northern Indiana holding on to life by only the most thin thread. His heart keeps beating, his blood keeps flowing, his eyes shift and seem to rest on something beyond us.

I am a hospice chaplain. But I am a granddaughter first. And while death is no longer unfamiliar, I am still startled by its piercing impartiality when it comes to those we love.

The solace I find today is that if there is another world, if our souls do carry on, then his weary spirit is preparing for one phenomenal reunion with my Grandmother, whose death he never got over. I hope she's hovering in the other side of this thin thread, beckoning him with those blue eyes. And I hope the bluegill are plentiful there, 'cause undoubtedly Herman will be carrying a rod and reel as he crosses over to meet another fisherman.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I Mean, Really, Can There Ever Be Too Many Mothers in Your Life?!?

...Or "Sharks Ready to Gobble Up the Cuteness of the Boy Gray and his Floppy Tie-Dyed Beach Hat." Or "Fashion Mavens Searching out the Newest Look in Straw Hats as Modeled by Jim the Father."

You choose.

Or, let's play a game, shall we?

Pick what YOU think this caption should be.

Go on, internet. It'll be fun. Maybe I'll even give door prizes...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Month Fifteen




Dear Grayson,

We will, perhaps, remember this month as the month you learned to point. Pointing is in fashion here at Chez P-M, sort of the "new black" if you will. You point at everything. Lights. Cats. Windows. Air fresheners plugged into outlets. Dog. Bit of toilet paper on the floor. Residual lint left from vacuum cleaner. Dead spider. Dust mite. Who knows, really? You point and we name whatever seems to be in line with your pointer finger.

You still don't speak coherent words much of them time, but you do converse a great deal. You yammer and jabber and we all agree with you and second whatever motion you've put on the table. However, for as much as I'm not sure you're taking in, there are many more details that are connecting in your tiny brain. Today we were out for a walk in a different neighborhood where we normally wander. We turned an unfamiliar corner and you stared quacking like a duck. I corrected you, as there was no water and no pond or lake nearby, saying, "Graysie, I don't see a duck. We'll see ducks another day." You proceeded with your quacking, and lo an behold, there was one of those cheesy yard-art white ducks sitting on a porch dressed in country-western apparel. You are either the most perceptive child, or the most keen to white-trash yard-art. I'm not sure which would make me prouder.

Saturday we spent the day with your Grandpa and Great-Grandpa in the front yard of our cottage on Chapman Lake. Your Grandpa and I weren't sure it was a warm enough day for a dip in the water, but the sun shone and the gentle waves beckoned and we dipped your toes only to find that you'd prefer a full-body immersion. Grandpa and I took turns reinstilling your proper Miller Baptism in the water while your Great-Grandpa sat in his wheelchair mere feet away offering you his blessing saying to me, "He'll do just fine, Chris."

You have been given a legacy, my boy. You have great-grandparents who wanted you to grow to love the lake, to learn to catch blue gills which you might eat pan-fried in butter, and to capture tiny painted turtles to keep as pets for a few hours and then release into the channel. Your great-grandparents left this cottage, for as long as we can keep it in the family, so that you might know what it means to both rest and work, both labor and play. And your great-grandmother would have been so very proud of you, which your great-grandfather reminded me of again on Saturday. You are blessed, my sweet boy. I hope lake water runs through your blood for the rest of your life.

I just put you down to sleep, clinging to your cloth diaper. As many times as I try to thrust a sweet stuffed bear, or a soft downy lamb into your sleep-hungry arms, you continue to push the object d' amour away, content with the simple pleasure of a cloth diaper stained with milk spit-up and smelling of laundry detergent, the baby equivalent of Honda rather than Cadillac I suppose.

I'm so awed that I get to spend my life being your mama.

And, I love you.

Mama


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Month Fourteen (and a half)

My boy, boy...

Mama's been delayed in her posting. Delayed with crazy work productivity schedules and the planning of management encouraged "mandatory" retreats. Delayed because Mama is quite near exhausted and grumpy as hell. Delayed because when Mama gets home mostly she wants to crawl around on all fours chasing you in a wild game of "I'm Gonna Get You" or curl up watching your daddy give you your evening bottle in a place where she can watch the faces of both her two boys.

You're not walking much yet, although I've come to believe that it's not the strength or muscle coordination as much as it is that you're a cautious guy, afraid that a fall will mean failure. You're so very careful, sometimes standing propped against the couch or your daddy's leather chair waiting for someone to help you sit down again, whining if we don't pay attention and rescue you. Lately you've started making a triangle of your tiny body with your feet on the floor and your hands a foot or so in front of them, your own interpretive dance statement, certainly, representing the tepee and in honor of the Native Americans whose land we Hoosiers invaded. You're like that, the underdog. Or perhaps you're just practicing "Downward Dog" in yoga.

You laugh crazily at the cats, your bunny book, the rooster at the farm near your baby-sitter's home, baths, and when tickle monsters come to town. You eat most everything and when introduced to coconut cream pie signed the word "More" throughout the whole experience, just in case I wasn't spooning the creamy goodness into your mouth fast enough.

You continue to enjoy yourself by busting into the recycled diaper wipes container and pulling out a plethora of baby food lids, which you then scatter haphazardly throughout the living room only to be stepped on by unsuspecting parents in the middle of the night, or to be shoved down the back of your onesie and discovered while your parents are cleaning up a poppy diaper only to find the imprint of a Gerber's chicken noodle dinner lid on your bum. You don't need much to keep you happy.

Your spiritual life develops at a rapid fire pace as you press again and again and again and again the buttons of the Precious Moments hymn audio book which somehow surfaced in our home, perhaps a remnant from some crazy fundamentalist relative who wanted to bring you to Jesus after your heathen parents have failed you. Either that or George Bush had Homeland Security send it anonymously to the homes of democratic voters in an effort to raise God-fearing children.
Occasionally the book gets "hidden" under a chair or in the bottom of your toy-basket, but the heavenly angels seem to find it again and allow you to entertain us with your index finger as the Precious Moments figurine type people with scary, big, haunted eyes serenade us once again.

You and Daddy have been luxuriating in father-son bonding this summer while Daddy watches you throughout the days when he's home for the summer. So far you've spent your manly summer fishing for blue gill and trout in the pond near our house in your father's bass boat, taken an infant kick-boxing father-son course, purchased matching camouflaged onesie/speedo sets and learned to spit. It's been quite a summer.

In reality, your adoration for your "Dada" only grows. You cling to him like ivy on a tree and say his name with almost poetic reverence, which seems only appropriate as Father's Day approaches.

Know how much you're loved, my sweet. Loved beyond your mama's poor feeble words. Loved beyond reason.

Mama

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Yelp Heard Round the World

This morning, a leisurely Saturday morning I woke early. I lay quietly next to my sleeping husband, a cat curled around my feet. I listened to the cooing of morning doves. I reveled in the quiet of the house. I reached my arms up over my head for a nice slow stretch and, YOW!

Shooting pain down my right arm. Shooting pain down my back. Shooting pain through my shoulder. Shooting pain in my neck.

Mother f*@#$ er (or "Mother Trucker" as I'm learning to say as I realize soon the truth of the little pitchers saying). Pinched nerve. Gosh Darn Mother Truck it to Bell.

Poor R. has had an absentee wife today thanks to the outpatient clinic's beloved Dr. Skinny-Man's magic muscle relaxants.

Bloggage coming when I can sit comfortably at the computer for a little while.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

True Confessions

In my work as a Hospice chaplain I hear many confessions. Often they are what one might expect. They are the typical things; the things any of us might lament. They are often the yearnings to have spent more time with loved ones, the desire to have listened better, to have appreciated more, to have settled for less. Rarely, seldomly, one hears the true deathbed confession--the truth which has been denied, the wrongs which must be righted, the words, bubbling forth in a torrent which cannot be silenced, or words whispered in hushed tones, always watching to make sure I don't sink to my knees with the weight being entrusted to me in the spoken truth.

In my work I am constantly reminded of death. The urgency to live is vital. Death whispers to me constantly. It is a reality I live with. For the most part I believe I live well in spite of, or because of the reality of death at every turn, for when death is often in your view, when the last breaths of the dying are the bread and butter of your vocation, you can't help but become enraptured with the idea of life.

My work is sometimes lonely. I hear things which I cannot repeat. I see things I do not know how to explain. I drive long lonely miles with NPR as my sole companion (heart ya, Terry Gross, really...let's do lunch soon...). And then Thursday comes. And I remember that, just as the motivational speakers might yell, "There's No 'I' in 'Team'" (although as my husband points out, there is a "me").

On Thursday, on every Thursday, I join the other two chaplains in my agency for lunch. It is our weekly communion of double cheeseburgers and Asian chicken salads. The body of Christ shared over fast food meals. Our talk varies from inappropriate, quirky Hospice humor to soul-searching questions about the nature of God.

G. and M., my partners in crime and my comrades on the front-lines, have both heard me into being and allowed me to rage at that which is wrong. We are a motley assortment, three different denominations, three different life histories. We have been thrown together in our shared callings to minister to the dying, and we have not shirked our responsibilities, even in the face of encroaching "efficiency and productivity standards," and corporate micromanaging. I believe that in many ways, they are what keep me from throwing my hands up and running from this death-facing ministry. They are what remind me that what I do is sacred and holy.

And so it was today that we gathered for lunch. Our Thursday lunch. We shared the office gossip. We told of our cherished patients. We made a few jokes about catheter bags and enemas (Hospice humor at its finest...).

And then, as I watched my colleague M. sort through the french fries on his tray, ostensibly searching for the most perfect one to dip in ketchup, I asked, "Do you have a french fry issue?" And he smiled and said, "I can't help it. I'm anal-retentive. I save the small ones for last. I like them best." And G. smiled and said with a twinkle in his eye, "I'm a little compulsive too. I count the cars on trains when I'm stopped at a railroad crossing." And I said conspiratorially, "It's okay, I put a dot next to the word in the dictionary after I look it up."

We smiled in conspiratorial glee as we marveled at our eccentricities. We shared of our most obsessive-compulsive habits. We marveled at the lengths we would each go to to find order in our world. And in that naming, we realized our deep desire to hold control of our own universes for a brief moment. And we laughed again at the unpredictabilites of the grips of death. And we knew we were not alone.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Top Ten Indicators That One is Merely Taking Feminist Theology as a Gen-Ed Credit

10. Asks that professor refer to him by his "Pimp Name."
9. Uses Powerpoint Presentation with picture of Asian woman on cover of Playboy magazine to demonstrate Asian feminist theology and then becomes indignant when professor asks, "And how does this reflect the ideas of Asian theologians?"
8. Claims in the class roundtable introduction that he is taking the course because, "I like girls."
7. Uses final paper as a chance to give winning Mary Kay cosmetics pitch because "women have
power when they look pretty." And recommends professor use more moisturizer now that she is of "a certain age."
6. Pulls Victoria's Secret bra out of important end of semester "Bra Burning Finale."
5. Refuses to take part in top secret ritual involving breast milk.
4. Believes professor is not God/ess incarnate.
3. Refuses to say password "Menstrual Blood" at door to A210 each week.
2. Begins each journal entry with, "I hated this reading, and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of
Heaven and Earth and this class is heresy, however, I will do my assignment and so..."
before writing critical summary of readings.

And the number one indicator that one is merely taking Feminist Theology for a Gen-Ed Credit:
1. Prefers that the final exam be a touch football game in which half the students are Christians
and half pagans.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Slumpage

So, I haven't been writing lately. And while most of it has been related to end of semester planning and grading, and little boy tending, and early season flower gardening, part of it has also been just a genuine continued sense of writer's block, and Hospice chaplain burn-out, and general mild-level slumpiness. No discernable reason. No discernable or immediate remedy.

The writing will return, I trust. Bear with me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Month Thirteen

Dear Grayson,

If you could proclaim anything from the rooftops right now, other than the ever-popular and good-for-all occasions exclamation "Quack!" you would announce that this has been the month of solid foods. Your oral fixation knows no ends now that you've discovered that, lo, you have teeth (seven or eight of them to be exact), and that, lo, these teeth can chew foods which taste much more exciting than Gerber's 2nd foods peas or Gerber's macaroni and cheese (which your mommy thinks resembles in both texture and smell soggy rawhide bone after the dog has chewed on it or dropped it in the waterbowl). Yesterday at Grammy's birthday brunch buffet, you finished off your own piece of bacon crumbled into tiny bits, and several spoonfuls of scrambled egg, and an English muffin, and some bites of cinnamon roll, and some hash brown potatoes. It was a feast. And you carefully mouthed every last bite and banged your hands on the table for more (or rammed your fists together in the sign language equivalent of "Dammit, woman, get me something else to eat.") Tonight you apparently finished off the local Italian restaurant's signature spaghetti and bread. I have yet to see you turn away food.

However, this oral fixation, this newfound fascination with different textures has also extended itself to gnawing on your mother's arms as you balance carefully when she sits on the floor. I now have tiny teeth mark bruises on my upper arms and neck. I'm reluctant to wear short-sleeved dresses to work, lest anyone think your father is grabbing me viciously around the arms and leaving fingermarks. Of course, that bite on my clavicle came dangerously close to turning a deep maroon and before long the neighbors are going to start whispering that your father is marking me with love bites (Note to your high school self from your mother: Grayson, hickies are not cool. And if you ever start wearing turtlenecks unexpectedly in your teen years I will figure it out, and the excuse that you just burned yourself with a curling iron will be refuted in a New York minute. Not that I would know anything about that paltry excuse.) I've been working on giving you the "mean face," when you bite and saying, "No! Ouch! That hurts Mommy!" Your face usually crumples and then I feel like a terrible parent and have to refrain from rushing in immediately and offering you my forearm to gnaw on to make up for it, "I'm sorry, baby, here...there's a nice raw spot right there below Mommy's elbow, show Mommy what strong white teeth you have..."

You are standing like a pro, balancing carefully and learning the laws of gravity. You remain a cautious baby, afraid of falling, afraid of landing anywhere with a thud. I love that about you. You're not a daredevil. This provides comfort to parents who wear their seatbelts even when driving to the mailbox and who always drink a full glass of water with their vitamins. That's the nerdy family you were born into..."Safety First!" we proclaim, as we adjust our pocket protectors and pack our Star Trek lunchboxes.

I continue to stare at you in slack-jawed wonder as I remember the baby you were just a short year ago. I sense I'll do this for the rest of your life; watch you with wonder and awe.

I love you, sweet boy.
Mama


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Truth Comes Out

I suspect you've known it for awhile.

I've been giving those charismatic speeches. I touch your arm just so, in that way that doesn't assume too much but which lets you know that I care about you. I look deep into your eyes in ways which insinuate that I, only I, can truly understand you. I started wearing a certain kind of Nike shoes and then told you all to wear them, along with the black sweatsuits. I referred to that spaceship that would soon be visiting. And then I offered you that kool-aid.

The truth, my friends, my followers, my disciples, has come out.

I am a cult leader.

Or at least this is what one of my male students has accused me of being. Or rather, he believes that he is "gettin [sic] somewhat of a sexest [sic] cult vibe from this class." And since I teach this college class, this college class in feminist theology, I assume I must be the cult leader.

I shouldn't take his critique too seriously I suppose, because I am really gettin somewhat of a vibe that he's sort of uncertain of what feminist theology entails. And, he also sleeps through a bulk of my lectures.

But, there is still that niggling voice within me. A voice that says, "Maybe you're not a good teacher. Maybe you're not being fair. Maybe you're too strident. Maybe you're too aggressive. Maybe you're offensive."

And this student ends up, then, representing the very patriarchy I speak against. The patriarchy which insists that when women speak their truth, their theological truth, that they are deemed "cultish," that when women work at empowering themselves they are called "sexist." How well I have swallowed the lessons of the patriarchy, even as I teach my students to question it. How quickly I allow one young privileged white male to batter me back into place with his (misspelled) words.

And how do I raise a son, a white privileged son, to not take his position for granted? How do I teach him to listen to women, to listen to his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, to listen to those of different colors, and to those of different classes?

I don't want my anger at misogyny to ever be laid at his feet. And I don't want him to be raised, ever, as the enemy. And I don't want my cause to ever be his responsibility.

The truth comes out. And the truth is this: we still live in a world where sexism exists. And our world will be a better place, and our children will be healthier children, if we name it and attempt to deconstruct it. And there is no better time than now.

Now, come here and drink this kool-aid.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh, and the first birthday...


...delectable.

Boy and cake.

Blogworthy

Recently R. and I went away on a "Parent's Getaway." It's a commitment we made early in our marriage. Every so often (we weren't anal-retentive enough to specify how often [at least one of us wasn't]) we try to go away sans children and reconnect as the marital therapists might say.

Given the fact that we have very little extraneous cash reserves, and incredibly modest incomes we opted for a getaway to the state park approximately 45 miles north of us for, uh, one night rather than a week long getaway in Cabo.

It was delightful in all the nerdy ways that both R. and I are delightful. We, gasp, went shopping at an outlet mall and found pajamas for Grayson for next winter at a mere $1.99 a pair. Wowee! And then, we ate at, gasp again, a predictable family restaurant where we ordered our favorite predictable meals and drinks. And we, get ready...napped. And we, brace yourselves, drank tea and coffee at regular intervals. And we, mourned the loss of good cable television in the state park (probably more than we mourned the fact that the fog and rain and 40 degree temperatures kept us indoors).

But we stayed up late (at least later than parents of a one-year-old often do) and talked...and talked...and talked. We caught up on over a year's worth of talking. We talked about current events, and parenting, and step-parenting, and summer vacation plans, and where we should spend our tax refund check, and we finished most of the unfinished conversations of the past year which were lost due to sleep deprivation and the accompanying amnesia of it.

And occasionally we would talk about something and I would say, "Remind me to blog about that later...I had forgotten that story...and it would be nice for the blog." And I said this maybe three or four times.

And damn if I shouldn't have had a little notebook with an attached pencil like an old dance-card from the 1950s to write down these insights. Because now, well now, the moment is lost and both R. and I find ourselves flummoxed when we try to recall those stories.

But maybe, just maybe, there are stories which are not meant to be documented. Just as there are experiences with your beloved which are just meant to be lived.

Even in state parks less than an hour from your home.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beefcake: The Personal Ad for Eligible Babies


Me: Your common young bachelor, looking for a fine person (between the ages of eight and fourteen-months old) to make me complete.
Likes: Walks on the beach (in my stroller), sunsets, a fine dinner (of strained carrots and Gerber's Hawaiian delight), the quiet moments in front of the fire (watching Baby Einstein DVDs in our matching baby swings), the simple pleasures (imitating one another as we practice our spit bubbles), expressing myself freely (cringing loudly as my face turns beet red when I have to poop) the joy of a nice, sturdy cardboard box, and the heady seduction of a soothing Peter, Paul and Mommy CD.
Dislikes: Loud noises (the vacuum cleaner, dogs barking, hair dryers, mixers and/or blenders), being alone for too long, "tummy time," feeding myself cheerios (rather than having them gently placed on my tongue by an elder), someone who doesn't understand my moods and needs, the constant frustration of the cat walking away from me just when I want to give him a nice, long squeeze.
Needs: A partner who can overlook my slight Oedipal complex...developmental books say I'll surpass this soon.

If you could be the person for me, if you've been looking for that special twelve-month old, I'm ready and waiting.


My name is Grayson. And I approved this ad.

And in about eleven years, I'll probably pierce my nose to get even with my mother for blogging about it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Month 12




Dear Grayson,

Your mama is having a hard time fathoming this one year old stuff. Your becoming a big boy before my eyes and I can no longer find clothes in pastel colors (albeit only pastel greens and blues even then) for you. You're entering "Boy World" whereby we dress you in solid prints and dark hues. I whimper occasionally when doing shopping for you. I sneer at the clothing manufacturers which insist little boys like monster trucks and footballs. I would like to dress you in little ducks and puppies and bunnies for a few more months now. Do you have to adhere to our cultural obsession with masculinity so soon?

You have been such a busy boy lately. You've perfected your duck quack to an art-form. In fact, I'm a little worried that after being helped along by Grandma and Grandpa's stuffed Easter duck gift which when pressed quacks loudly at your own twelve-month-old command, your own personal quacking might initiate a duck migration the likes of which have been unimagined in a small nameless neighborhood outside Fort Wayne. You quack. You quack loudly. And often spontaneously. And I laugh. And then you quack all the more animatedly. What this means for your future has yet to be determined. A future as the Chick-Filet spokesperson? God, help us. Your father and I have considered entering you in local duck call contests to raise a little money for your college tuition. I think you've got a good shot in the tri-state area.

Your life continues to revolve around family...your grandparents, your sisters, your parents. But, what hasn't been mentioned in this blog is your relationship with your Greek grandparents, your Yaya and Papou. Our neighbors, Helen and Kosmas, have welcomed you since learning of your conception and consider to adore you beyond words. Sweet Kosmas is declining into the abyss of Alzheimer's, but when you arrive to visit, he quickly perks up and chatters happily to you (mostly in Greek, and mostly insisting that you are a girl...but these are small details, yes?). Helen smothers you with kisses, and sends us home laden with Greek pastry which she made by hand. You have no idea now how blessed you are to be bathed in their affections, but in time you'll know. You'll run across the street (after carefully looking both ways) and come home, your pockets full of Helen's cookies, and tell us how much you love your Yaya and Papou.

But they aren't the only ones...there's Grammy and Papi, who watch you each and every Wednesday rain or shine and offer their abundant grace and love. There's Grandpa and Gramma B. who shower you with affection and fly you high in airplane rides. There's Miss B. who reads you Sandra Boynton books (because they were her favorites) and takes her role as big sister so very seriously (despite being so reluctant when she heard of your arrival). There's Miss T., who even in the thralls of teenaged Facebook Obsession hears and comforts you when you fuss and allows you to contentedly sit in her lap and bang on the computer keyboard as if you were writing your own Facebook Likes and Dislikes. There's your Texas kin and Connie, and Lynn, and Cheri, and Erin, and Lili, and Abby, and Beck, and Mia, and Uncle Bryan and Aunt Kimberly and all your aunties, and your extended family and pretty much the entire staff of the Hospice where Mommy works, and too many more to name and What I'm saying, Boy-Boy (and there's a reason Mommy capitalized this last bit, because I wanted to say it with EMPHASIS, is that you have a village that surrounds you and loves you and marvels at the very being of you.) Don't ever forget that. Even when plagued by acne and voice change and other woes of adolescence.

Happy Birthday, Wonder Boy. The most amazing gift I received in the world was delivered at 4:36 p.m. on March 28, 2007. And I will never be the same.

I love you, love you (and that can be translated in Duck-Speak to "Quack, quack, quack.")

Mama


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bad Hausfrau

After work I stopped at Kroger and bought two Healthy Choice frozen dinners.

R. and I came home from work around the same time and retired to our private sanctuaries (in front of our respective computers) whilst Grayson slept.

Around 7ish Grayson awoke, R. came downstairs, I finished typing.

R. got a frozen dinner out to defrost and said, "Thanks so much for making dinner tonight."

And meant it.

Buying a frozen dinner now constitutes "making dinner."

I am so incompetent as a housewife.

Interview with Insomnia

(This was actually composed somewhere between 2:17 and 3:03 a.m. while I lie awake but was too lazy to walk downstairs. I just have superior memory skills and can tell you now...)

C: (Looking Oprahesque and coming into a crowded room giving high fives and handshakes). Welcome to our show tonight. It's good to have a familiar friend with us. Insomnia, or can I just call you, In? In, I'm glad you're here, it's been a few years...I think the last time you were here was when I was in about her seventh month of pregnancy and couldn't actually get comfortable.
Insomnia (heretofore known as I): Yes, C., I think you're right...those were good times...
C: (Smiling gratefully) Well, we have an important issue to address tonight, an important topic that many people are overlooking in life, the question of why women in their 30s don't sleep.
I: (Nodding approvingly) I'm so glad you brought me here.
C: Tell me, In, how is it that you keep going year after year.
I: Well, C., I did take a hit after you discovered AMBien. There were some tough nights. But, I believed in my strength and will and lived through the pain.
C: Did you write a book about that?
I: I did not...I was afraid that there were too many books that were putting people to sleep at night, and I wasn't a joiner, you know, I didn't want to play the game.
C: (Nodding empathetically) Yes, I do know. I'm a chaplain. I don't play the game either.
I: But, you notice how good I have become at posing additional questions and issues to you to keep you awake at night? How I have added topics like "autism" and "feline pattern baldness" and "c-section scars" and "will my college students like me-itis" to your evening repertoire?
C: Yes, yes I have. Qudos to you, In. You are the master.
I: (Steepling fingers) Thank you. I try.
C: How has daylight savings time effected your work?
I: (Suddenly animated, gets up and jumps on the couch) I LOVE IT, CONTEMPLATIVE CHAPLAIN! I REALLY, REALLY LOVE IT! (Long, thoughtful pause as Insomnia rearranges the pillows on the settee and the audience titters with the recognition of young love) I'm sorry, C., I just get carried away. I cannot thank Mitch Daniels and the Indiana government enough to allow me to do my job. I find that subtracting that additional hour from people's lives is a real God-send in my line of work.
C: And with babies, it's especially helpful.
I: (Smiling slyly) It is. It truly is.
C: Well, I think that's all we have time for tonight. I want to thank our special guest, Insomnia. Tomorrow we'll be working with our other long-lost foe, Anxiety. Until then, get some sleep.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

People Ask About My Sanity...


...and I say, "I can't help it...these are my elders." Now, come here and pull my finger.




Month 11



Dear Grayson,

It's been quite a month. It went incredibly quickly.

The most formative event of the month may have been your ability to stand while holding on to various pieces of furniture. You stand carefully, always gripping the object of stability with both hands. And then cry when you're tired, but don't want to fall down, as you haven't figured out yet how to gently drop or sit. God love you, you're becoming the obsessively neurotic child I always knew you'd become (having been raised by the queen of obsessively neurotic behaviors). It's okay, Grammy and Grandpa report that I was also "cautious" and have turned out not so bad. Except for the excessive desire to document words looked up in dictionaries, which actually gains merit in the "English Major Awards."

We do, though, need to talk about your lack of ambition in certain areas. Mostly when it comes to eating. You excel in loving each and every food we offer. You have given up your squash and sweet pea aversion and seem content to munch on Del Monte turkey and green beans, or Beech prunes. Last night I fed you bits of bacon, followed by pieces of kidney bean, a few fingerful's of wild rice and topped it off with a nice apple-cherry medley courtesy of Gerber. You didn't blink an eye. The foods, you embrace. The ways of eating the foods, you fall a little short. Not a lot short, just a little. I don't want to be an overly critical parent here, but, well, I'm just looking forward to the day that you express interest in being a little more independent here.

I realize that most young men attending Harvard don't have their parents there spooning foods or placing cheerios in their mouths. I know this, intellectually, and yet I worry. Because, as bright as I know you must be, as certain as I am of your future with a Masters in Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School (your father's alma mater and your mother's degree would be nice, wouldn't it?). You have no inclination to do much on your own. For example...you don't crawl (although you roll in some amazing ways and end up jettisoned on pillows and trapped under harmless coffeetables), you don't place food in your own mouth (although food placed on your bottom lip and tongue is greatly appreciated and immediately devoured). Again, we would never want to attach the word "lazy" to your life, but, well, let's be honest...there is one parent whose baby book specifically uses that word (not that I've mentioned that in previous posts or anything).

Your father is convinced that this lack of desire in feeding and propelling oneself is perfect indication of your inherent intelligence. He believes that you have already learned that there are few years to bask in the limelight, to allow others to carry you everywhere you want to go, to have Mommy and Daddy available to spoon food into your mouth or hold a bottle to your lips, and that you are simply taking advantage of those moments, as they will never come again.

And, he may be right. After all, you've already learned how to push yourself in the swing when you want to go faster. You know the times to use the system and the times to get your own needs met. My little pistol, who has already learned that those who can work can figure out loopholes to allow others to work for them. Almost makes me wish we were Republicans so we could celebrate. Instead, we'll continue to teach you the word "Marxism," and dress you in "My Momma's for Obama" onesies.

Time is going so very fast. I think of where we were a year ago...you safely ensconced in my womb. Me growing big and grumpy. The days we spent in the hospital in the end of March 2007 were probably the sweetest of my life so far. I marvel at how far we've come in this year. And can't wait to celebrate the birthday of my big boy next month.

I love you, boy-boy. I love you more than you could imagine.

Mama

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Great Influenza Outbreak of 2008

Sunday night. 9:38 p.m. (R. and C. are lying in bed watching an episode of "The L Word.")
C: (Turning to reposition herself). Ouch.
R: ... (saying nothing because in the middle of television shows you say nothing...not until a commercial break, and when it's a premium channel there aren't breaks).
C: I think I pushed it too hard running today. I'm really sore.
R: ... (says nothing again, but gives brief sympathetic glance, followed by look which says, "I hear you, and I care, but wait until the show is over, okay, my sweet beloved?" before returning to watch television).

Sunday night. 9:59 p.m. (R. and C. still lying in bed, credits just finished rolling.)
R: How are you feeling?
C: Bad.
R: What's going on?
C: I think I caught "it." ("It" being the creeping crud which both girls had been struggling with in previous days. "It" being the nebulous monster which causes high fevers and even higher anxieties).
R: Oh no.
C: I know. Now, get ready cowboy, it's gonna be a long ride. (Okay, I didn't really say this but added it for dramatic effect...it's sort of ominous in a playful way).

Monday morning. 6:50 a.m. (C. takes the first trip out of bed to slowly, oh-s0-very-slowly walk to the bathroom where she finds a thermometer in the drawer and notes that, oh, it's 102.9. She then tries to sit on the toilet which is so cold she practically faints. She puts on a sweatshirt, and bed jacket, and another pair of socks, and adds a blanket to the bed and crawls back under the covers.) She does not emerge until the following Friday evening. When she has some soup.


The Great Influenza of 2008 reminded me of several things. My life, on the whole is pretty blessed. After five days of being unable to lift my child, to even lift my head, I marvel at what it means to walk up and down the stairs in one's own home. I have a husband who is tender in his own quiet way and who has borne my savage grumpiness. Furthermore, he experienced my "high fever squirrelies" (throughout my life I've been prone to hallucinations and delusions when my temperature tops 103 or so. For example, I'm still horrified at the sight of Peeps marshmallow cream bunnies and chicks after they chased me in a fever-induced state when I was eight). Robert calmly listened to my concerns about Carol Burnett stealing the havarti cheese from one of my Hospice patients by patting my hand as if he understood exactly what I meant.

I had to miss yet another session of the class I'm teaching at the college, which I think makes me the worst professor in the history of the institution. And, I fear Grayson may be forever scarred by the "week when Mommy was attacked by blankets."

But, it's over now. It's blessedly done.

And the not eating for a week, and then not being able to taste for the week afterward, well...it did propel me back into the world of pre-pregnancy weight, which was sort of the only bonus to a lost week.

Spring is just around the corner. And, oh, but we are so ready this year.





Sunday, February 17, 2008

Apparently, I Have Not Received the Memo

...because I thought you could go for a three-and-a-half mile run with no repercussions after not having run for a month at the ripe old age of thirty-six.

I remember the good old days when I could run thirty-six miles uphill both ways in a snow storm.

Shit. This aging thing, it sucks.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Helpful Hints: A Drama in One Act

Her: (After reading the morning paper). You know what? I have a brilliant idea.
Him: (Looking over his reading glasses now that she has interrupted his ritual of Sunday newspaper editorial reading). Yes?
Her: (With a faraway look in her eyes). You know how expensive girdles are?
Him: (Puzzled) Um...no.
Her: Well, they are. They're really, really overpriced. And you know what? You could just take control top panty hose that cost 3.99 and cut the legs out and use them for girdles and it would be a lot cheaper. Especially in summer when you didn't want to wear hose...
Him: ... (Attentive, but puzzled)...
Her: And that would save a lot of money...and you could have a ton of them. You'd just cut the legs off as soon as they got a run in them. Do you know how often they get runs in them? 'Course you'd still want to wear underwear with them, cause the crotches would rip out pretty quickly, but they'd still work...someone could actually make a business out of it...buy a bunch of 'em, cut the legs out, turn a profit real quick... Actually, I think I'm gonna write to Helpful Hints for Heloise.
Him: And be sure to include your full name and hometown on that one.
Her: Of course... I'll just sign it Mrs. R.B.P, Ph.D.

The Birds Have Been Swarming

Winston Churchill referred to that sense of doom and sadness and ennui as the "black dog of depression." It was what haunted him in the dark nights and loomed menacingly at various times in his life.

I know this presence, but Churchill's metaphor falls apart for me, because when I imagine a black dog, I see a frolicking labrador retriever with one of those doggie bandanas around its neck, beckoning me instead to propel myself out of the world of my dark thoughts and make some time to feel a soft dog tongue lapping at my fingertips as I nuzzle his wet nose. And besides, "Black Labrador Retriever of Depression" just doesn't have the same flow.

My sense of looming is more like a large black bird which circles me ominously, the kind that feeds on carrion and waste and invites its friends, melancholy and self-aborption, to join him in the onslaught. There are mornings when I wake up and the trees of my mind are black with their nesting.

It has been a hard winter.

I finally flew the white flag of surrender last week and named the circling looming for what it was. Depression. Burn out. Emotional exhaustion. Speaking the truth of the matter to colleagues, and R., and a therapist.

I have a good life. A richly satisfying life. And I am immensely grateful.

But, the bird still circles. And as often as I shoo him away, as often as I turn my head and pretend I don't see him mocking me, as often as I try to overtalk his cawing, he still sits. And waits.

This weekend has been better. The sun has been shining for two blessed days. I exercised for a good sixty minutes one day. I listened to a prophetic African American preacher at a beautiful memorial service for a client. I closed my eyes and let the music of a gospel choir take me to a different atmosphere as I rocked a sleepy Grayson in my arms. I finally wept.

There are changes that I need to make in my life to take better care of myself, because I don't want to have to leave work I feel called to do because I am too weary. There are changes that I need to make to take better care of my body, because I don't want to have to feel too tired to care for my family. There are changes I need to make to find deliberate Sabbath time, because I don't want to forever be hopelessly uncreative.

But most of all, this: there are changes that I need to make to take better care of my soul, because I don't want to avoid hearing the voice of the Spirit as She soothes me back to serenity.

I'm waiting for Her voice.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Ten Months



Dear Grayson,

I am a few days behind in posting. Mama's been a busy girl. This weekend I had every intention of writing and then realized I was way behind on working on the first lecture for my Feminist and Womanist Theologies class and so spent four hours at the downtown library while you and Dada hung out at home watching football or some such nonsense. I exaggerate? Well, yes, okay, maybe instead you and Dada watched an edition of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS.

Tonight, after so many hours working, working...sending you to church with Dada so I could work while you were gone, I had to cancel the class due to some nasty fog in the area. And with a free night, and lecture prepared for next week (which I was really, really passionate about, actually), Mama finds an opening to write you this little love note while you bounce wildly in your Jumperoo next to me whilst listening to the Big Band and Swing channel on cable.

You are growing like a weed...like those out of control nettles which Mama pulls every eight seconds in her garden. But, unlike the nettles your soft and cuddly and don't make Mama's fingers itch. Last night we went to an Un-Superbowl Party and a friend of a friend who is an MD said, "And he's how old?" I mentioned that you were average for height and weight but that, um, yes, your head was a bit large. It is after all in the 95th percentile, so why not boast? "That's what we go by," he said. "He's a big boy. He's got a big head." Someone overheard the conversation and said, "Probably because he has so much to think about." With that I will concur. Your native American name will not be "Bald-Headed-Boy-with-Big-Head" but will instead be, "He-Who-Thinks-Much."

You're venturing into new worlds as you explore the wild world of culinary delights. You're a fan of the purplish-blue variety of fruits now. Your grandpa is still mourning the fact they don't make Blueberry Buckle dessert to feed to babies and has had to suffice with given you the reduced sugar Apple-Blueberry dessert. Thankfully, for both of you, it's been a hit.

We do need to mention the Cheerios though, Mister. Apparently you didn't get the Memo that all kids love Cheerios, for you, you have no interest. I bought the Honey Nut variety (and then panicked after feeding you one and had to call the pediatrician to make sure I hadn't just lethally dosed you since babies aren't allowed to have honey...[note to all hypochondriacal mothers: Honey Nut Cheerios are Fine]), the Apple Cinnamon Variety, but you care not at all. For the Cheerios you have no love. Actually, for feeding yourself at all there is no love. However, if someone were to feed you off their finger some orange sesame flavored rice that would be superb. It isn't the taste as much for you as it seems to be the mode of transport.

This morning you delighted me beyond words. In the car on the way to our beloved Shannon's house you chirped and squawked and talked. I was interested in this and when I got you out of the car I said, "Grayson, what does the Mama Duck say?" Since we repeat the Mama Duck litany in the bathtub nightly (the counting game where we repeat about the "Five little ducks who went out one day, over the hills and far away..."), I wondered if it might have "stuck."

"What does the Mama Duck say?" I asked you of the wide-eyed stare, once again. You paused, searched your brain and then said quietly, "Quack, quack, quack." I was dumbfounded. To be certain, I waited until we got into Shannon's and asked again, "And what's the Mama Duck say, boy?" "Quack, quack, quack" you said, more tentatively this time. I almost scooped you up and devoured you whole.

I love you, little duck. I love you, I love you, I love you.

And this separation anxiety stuff? Stop your panicky looks. Mama always comes back.

But, Grayson, promise me in days to come when you're out wandering the world that anytime Mama Duck calls to her baby, "Quack, Quack, Quack!" that you'll somehow find your way back. I have a hunch your migration is going to come much sooner than this duck would like.

XOXO,
Mommy