Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What I'm (not) reading

I always forget to tell y'all when I write a new book review. This time I could barely think of a book I read last month that was worth writing about. So I wrote about that.

I really do think that we should read what we like. Why? Because we like them--that ought to be reason enough. Once upon a time I would have said that I think good books can make you a better person, but I'm not sure I believe that now. A really well-written book in any genre is a joy, but I don't think I'm a better person because I've read a lot of books. In fact, I wish I could get a time refund on some.

The best book I have read in a long time: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I don't know why I waited so long to read this. It's just...beautiful, and the most complex, nuanced portrayal of a Christian character I've ever read.

A book I started and decided to abandon: Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley. I've enjoyed a lot of her other novels, but couldn't get into the story of a teenage boy raising a dragon in secret. I'd think I've outgrown the teenage fantasy genre, but if something as good as Harry Potter came out, I'd be all over it.

Thus endeth the book talk.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wonderful Counselor

Not surprisingly, I’m tired of writing about sickness (although not as tired as you are of reading about it, I’m sure.) Justin is better—he went to work today. But Mr. Blue can’t shake the bug yet: he’s still vomiting. It’s down to once a day now, which the nurse said was normal—little ones often do this for a week or more—but that means I can’t take him anywhere he could give this wonderful gift to others. So we’ll be mostly staying home for the next few days, after a week of being housebound. You can imagine my enthusiasm at this news. I’m ready to get back to the gym, to playgroup, to normality, to Target! Our version of normal may not be perfect, but I would like to order some now, please.

Yesterday I was feeling anxious, like panicky butterflies were flapping around in my chest, getting caught in my esophagus. I couldn’t identify a reason—Mr. Blue wasn’t even acting sick, Justin was getting better, so what was wrong with me? Since I’ve been on medication to treat the anxiety, it’s become an unfamiliar feeling, so I get alarmed when it shows back up. Plus I didn’t sleep well the night before, which is what happened before the Episode occurred, and oh God what if I can’t sleep tonight and what if I get that bad again, I can’t DO that again, what if….

You can see the problem. Any anxiety causes me to feel anxious about the anxiety, which increases my anxiety level and so on. It doesn’t take long for it to spiral out of control.

Except that I WAS able to talk myself down from the mental ledge last night by reminding myself that a certain amount of anxiety is normal (true); that of course I was worried about my baby boy (I hadn’t yet talked to the nurse). I also admitted to myself that I was feeling overworked, although it was nobody’s fault because Justin had been so very sick, sicker than I’d been, and in fact had passed out in the shower while I was trying to help him get out and if it doesn’t scare you to see all the color drain from your spouse’s face while his pupils are fixed and dilated, then I don’t know what will. And then there were the endless cups of Gatorade and every time I sat down, somebody handed me a book to read. Everybody needed Mom, even when Mom didn’t have anything to give. And that’s the exactly the place I was in when I got swallowed up by the Black Hole of Anxiety and Depression. Thinking about it, the physical sensation is a lot like claustrophobia—feeling smothered, hyperventilating, yelling “Let me out”—and all of that makes sense since what was being smothered was my sense of self.

Last night, I reminded myself that it was not going to get that bad again. The virus would eventually loose its evil grip on my family. And until that day arrived, I had drugs to help me cope. Drugs my doctor gave me to get through times just like this.

So I took a pill last night to help me calm down enough to sleep, and Mr. Blue didn’t wake up until 6:30. Which was a little earlier than usual, but no sheet-changing was involved, so no complaints.

It’s not all about my medication, though. I do believe I am on the appropriate medicine for my condition. If I hadn’t been on these meds, I wouldn’t have been able to reason with myself at all. I would have just headed straight to Freak-Out City—do not pass go, do not collect $200. But reason is not enough. I read a devotion titled “Wonderful Counselor” this morning, and it reminded me that Jesus is always with me, and that he can give me wisdom; and besides that, He’s the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace as well—everything we need, He’s got. So I put my head down on the desk and I asked Him to breathe some peace into me, help me to remember to breathe and stop choking on invisible butterflies, and to remember that it came to pass, as my dad says, not to stay.

And He did. Wonderful Counselor.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Puking May Endure for a Night...

...but around 1 am I realized I was going to live (until then I wasn't at all sure I wanted to) and, lo, I experienced the joy of the Lord. Although very quietly, and then I thankfully went to sleep.

Up until that time Miss Pink was the only one who got any sleep, because Mr. Blue threw up in his bed 4 times (plus the 3 times he'd thrown up BEFORE bed). Poor baby. The weird thing was, he acted like he felt fine in between eruptions. How do you explain to a toddler demanding food and drink, "No, you can't have anything because you're just going to throw up in 15 minutes?" So part of my joy was that he slept the rest of the night after 1 am.

By that time poor Justin was so awake that he just went in the living room and watched TV for a couple of hours. He is a good daddy, let me tell you. I did what I could manage but he did most of the caring for the little guy and even did a couple of loads of laundry while he was up.

So it's just really awful that most likely his reward is to get the virus from hell. At least his wife will be alive to take care of him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When Something Is Wrong with My Baby

We're into Day 2 of Miss Pink having a stomach virus. She's pretty miserable, the sweet darling. (She must be, since she's asleep in the daytime.) I'd thought she might be done with the worst of it since she ate some chicken noodle soup, and then--no, that wouldn't stay down either. I hope this not-eating thing doesn't last, since I am entirely serious when I say that the child cannot afford to lose any weight. When she gets better I will let her eat her weight in ice cream.

It's amazing how parenting changes you. I mean, before I became a mom, there was no way in hell I'd hold someone's hair and rub their back while they vomited. Much less let them vomit on me, and think, "No big deal, I can take a bath and wash the clothes. Is my baby okay?"

I'm pretty sure I'll still feel this way when she's 30.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Choose Ye

Meme I saw on Mary P. It has one rule: You have to pick one of the two alternatives given for each question. No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes. My choices are shown in bold. Consider yourself tagged if you want to do it!

Resolutions or keep on keepin’ on?
- Since I have to choose, I’ll pick keep on keepin’ on, since my resolutions are nearly the same every year

Ketchup or mustard?
-Mustard has many more uses in cooking.

Firm mattress or soft?
- Bad back.

Tan or pale (however one gets tan)?
-Pale. I can’t tan; I only burn.

Oreo or chocolate chip?
- Definitely.

Goldfish or tiny turtle?
- I think I’d do better with a goldfish, but I’ve never had either one.

Road rage or easy rider?
- I get mad when I drive; I’m glad I don’t commute anywhere.

East coast or west?
- Much better weather on the west coast.

Romantic comedy or action flick?
- I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy

Windy or rainy?
- I like the rain—if I’m indoors reading a good book. If it’s raining I at least want it not to be windy.

Gossip or sealed lips?
-Some years ago I made a resolution to stop gossiping, and I’m glad I did.

Sing or dance?
- I can’t dance. At all.

Nest” or go out at any opportunity?
- I’m a homebody.

Shatner or Norris?
Chuck Norris is cool even though he does stupid commercials.

Gold or silver?
- Silver looks much better on me.

Swing or push (on a swing, people… on a swing)?
-Confession: I get bored with pushing the kids.

Breath mints or gum?
- I got out of the habit of chewing gum when I had braces.

Pine tree or palm tree?
- I’d rather be in the climate for palms, because then I would be on vacation.

Self-deprecation or quiet confidence?
- I can finally say quiet confidence. I spent years with the other, but no more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two Strange Utterances

  • Strangest thing I have heard a kid say in a long time: “I only want to eat spinach ever again!” –Miss Pink, last night.

(Guess I need to make that casserole again.)

  • Strangest thing I have said recently: “No, you can’t climb up Daddy’s package!” –in reference to a tall box that came in the mail for Justin (he often has things for work sent here), which Miss Pink had the bright idea to climb like her own personal Everest. I wish he'd been here to hear that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Don't Understand Regular Math, Either

Let N = the number of times the kitchen floor gets swept in a week, where N is a number usually >0 but never >2.

Let X = the amount of debris (dirt from the garage, dried-up cereal, various unidentified bits of food, glitter, and string, among other things) contributed by each member of the family.

X * ({2 children under 5} + {2 parents, neither of whom really enjoys sweeping but don’t like their feet to stick to the floor, either}) – N = a big pile of gross debris that embarrasses me every time I sweep the floor. ("I left that on the floor for how many days?")

Feel free to point out any errors in my “equation.” (Yes, the quotation marks are ironic.) But what I am describing is accurate, every single week.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A More Abundant Life

Here is something I’ve been thinking about, a new idea for a new year: Cultivating a mindset of abundance, rather than a mindset of scarcity. I don't mean becoming a mindless consumer, flashing a credit card, shouting, “Whee! I have SO MUCH money that I can buy useless crap every time I set foot in a retail store! And so what that we will never be able to retire. At least we will have a fondue pot, lava lamps in multiple colors, and big-screen TVs in every room!”

No—what I mean is, for my family, having a mindset of abundance means buying the best quality we can afford of the things we need (which of course means knowing what we really do need); enjoying the things we want that we CAN afford; and blessing the kingdom of God and other people. Not hoarding, is what I’m saying. Being a good steward of the resources we have, then trusting God to provide for us while we help take care of others.

I spent several years when we were barely getting by with a scarcity mindset, and it was no fun at all for me. Some people may enjoy the “frugal down to the bone” lifestyle, and I’m all for saving money UNLESS it causes you to be stingy and start asking people for gas money when you give them a short ride, or other stories of tightwads I’ve heard.

Living with abundance also means choosing to enjoy what you already have, and not hoarding it in case you need it “someday.” My late grandparents’ house is full of unopened gifts—packages of sheets, pajamas, scented soap—that they saved for “later” because they felt it was too good to use, that what they already had was not threadbare enough. "Later" never came. I’m glad they were careful with their money, that their worst fear (running out of money in their old age) didn’t come true—but I wish they had enjoyed the gifts, that didn’t cost them anything, while they had a chance.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My New Year's Resolutions, Or Suggestions, Whatever Makes Me More Likely to Follow Through

Last year I had one resolution: to recover from the attack of postpartum depression/anxiety that swallowed me up in the latter part of 2006. I could go on about how I emerged from the pit, and in fact I fully intend to write up that story, but it deserves—no, demands—its own post. So I guess I should add writing about that experience to my list of things to do in 2008.

This year, I am more ambitious since I am feeling so much happier and more energetic. However, my resolutions are a little different than in years past. As far as being a better person, I know what I need to do in that direction and I will just keep keeping on, trying to be a better wife, mother, and friend. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are in relationships and I have gotten better at refraining from inflicting my weaknesses on those I love. So it’s not that I don’t need to work on my relationships; it’s just that I need to keep practicing what I have learned in the past few years.

Here are two things I intend to keep doing in 2008 that have been helpful in 2007:

  • Reading the Bible daily. I am using The Message: Remix and it has made a huge difference in my desire to read Scripture. Even though I’m currently at the spot that I’ve gotten bogged down in the past (the book of Jeremiah), it’s much easier to understand (and therefore more interesting) in the Message version.
  • Exercising 3-4 times a week. Soon with an iPod! I’m so excited. I do need to keep pushing myself physically instead of coasting, though, or I won’t see results. I also really should go back to tracking what goes into my mouth because my thighs stay chubby unless I STOP EATING WHATEVER I WANT. Who knew? I'm still surprised I can't eat like I'm 16.

Here’s what else I’ve been reflecting on—things I want to do in the new year.

  • Learn to make homemade stock: chicken, beef, and veal.
  • Read at least one book that requires Serious Mental Effort and goes outside my intellectual comfort zone every month. (I know I already read a lot, but I need to push myself in this area, too, by reading about topics I normally might not.)
  • Make music an important part of my life again, with the help of the iPod, of course.
  • Write every single day, even if it’s one sentence about that day or a thought I had.
  • Now that I’m basically caught up with my scrapbooking, scrap more “slice of life” type things that capture how we live now, rather than the same holidays every year.
  • Spend more time in prayer and quiet time with God.
  • Serve a few meals on my wedding china, which has been used only once or twice since we got it over ten years ago. (Mr. Blue might still get a plastic plate, though. He likes to hand me his plate when he's done: "Heah, Mama" while it tilts dangerously.
Happy New Year to you and yours! Here's to enjoying life more, living in the moment, choosing not to fret and worry, but to be grateful for all the blessings we have been given.