Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Monkeying with Advent

1.  As I mentioned last week, I am giddy for Advent.   I enjoy saving Christmas for the season beginning December 25th, and preparing our hearts and homes in the meantime.  There are crafts, activities and feast days to fill our four week wait in this domestic church; all of it builds my longing for Christ.  Our tree does not go up until Gaudete Sunday; Christmas music typically fills our speakers that day, and not so much beforehand.  In the meantime, I am such a geek that I've created an Advent-appropriate playlist on iTunes to get us merrily and mindfully through until then.  (The selected songs are akin to not singing "alleluia" in Lent.)

Before anyone slaps a gold star of liturgical orthodoxy on my forehead, I must publicly confess: I've failed to wait this time around.  My moment of weakness arrived last Friday;  our left over turkey was already in the freezer, and December 2nd was just too far out.  As my FB friends talked lights, shopping and Christmas carols, I'll admit it: I despaired.  I lost control.

I was jones-ing for my Advent hymns, and all things purple.

I plunged into Advent nearly two weeks early... even as I knew the Church Herself still observed Ordinary Time.  Mea culpa!

What guilty pleasure did I have to indulge in ahead of time?

Here it is: The Monkees' Riu Chiu. Play this now, or wait for Sunday... but be awed.

2.  I love this tune (totally an Advent hymn), this band (yes: band! I'm controversial like that) and this season so much, I may have to dedicate an entire blog post to this topic.  Consider this a preview.

3.  Speaking of preparing for Christmas: how do I untangle unbridled materialism from our celebration?  I am striving to impart more "Let's give," and "Let's do," and less "I want," but this doesn't seem to jive with how we've been doing things.  My girls already have lists of pined-for "My Little Pony" characters, and my son's wish list includes such reach-for-the-stars items as a battery-powered jeep to ride around in...  Ugh.   Even if I moderate their desires (and admittedly, my temptation to give them the world on a platter, too) I still end up spending more money on toys that get broken or not used in very short spans of time.  This does not promote stewardship of either finances or the environment.   It also takes the focus off the birth of Christ and puts it squarely on Toys R Us.

Perhaps Sunday will begin a moratorium on phrases beginning, "I want..."

4.  We need paring down.  I need paring down.  One blessing of the tiredness resulting from this pregnancy is that it has brought me to clearly see and admit what I'd been denying before:  this family has too many activities.  We have been sucked into the vortex of what now passes for American Family Life, namely: thrust each kid into an extracurricular activity, plus a club, plus another club, and then stretch yourselves so thin in the name of socialization (you know, that thing we homeschoolers lack so much of)  that you snap, and end up barking/braying/losing your composure with your brood every other hour, in the search for missing socks, unmatched gloves, hats, dance shoes, piano books and whatnot...

Yes.  We are out of the house at an activity nearly every afternoon of the week.  While that may sound great to some of you, in truth, it is a strain on me, and often on them.  Once I've finished the duty of imparting knowledge to three blossoming minds,  I am spent.  Emotionally, and now that I'm pregnant, physically spent.  Plus, with all of these organized activities, I find there is no time for the impromptu play date with friends.  Our house is always a shambles, because I constantly have to leave on a dime to get someplace on time, and there is no time (or energy!) to put it back together.   I need to stop the insanity.

My question to weigh is this: do I finish out the year, teaching the kids to honor their commitments, or do I pull us out now...  How would that impact the kids?  How will I feel if we "quit" midway through something, especially with non-refundable money laid out?  Am I quitting, or am I ceasing to act crazy?  These are thoughts to ponder.

5.  One of my husband's Amazon Prime picks this week was so incredible, I have to share it.  I was dimly aware that Robin Wright had starred in a new film about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but I'd been sketchy on the details.  If you can stomach a Civil War period piece with neither zombies nor vampires, The Conspirator may be the movie for you:

6.  Yes.  Robin Wright is Buttercup.  My husband saw the whole movie without making that connection, but any degree of The Princess Bride in anything can only enhance its artistic value.

7.  Sigh.  I have been at this computer too far into this school day morning.  I must tear myself away to attend to the booklearnin' that these young, eager minds await.  First, some coffee... and one more round of Riu Chiu.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Do I Handle Emotional Darkness?

Last Sunday was one terrible day for mood swings.  I hadn’t felt so extremely low in ages.  

There was a period in my life when heavy moods lingered without lifting. I suffered from depression, although for years I didn't know the interior darkness for what it was.  I used to be ashamed of my melancholic feelings; I thought they pointed to my weakness, my sinfulness, my being a lousy person. (I confessed to emotions as if they all were sins.)  Yet my dark moods did not indicate any of those things, and trying to hide and deny them could not make them go away.  On the contrary, stuffing my feelings made my condition worse.

Emotions, including the unpleasant ones, were created by God.  Understanding that fact, today I can appreciate even my negative emotions; they are signs which indicate the places I need healing or change. This has been a huge shift in my perspective, and I would not have arrived here without much therapy, journaling, reading, and more therapy.  While emotionally trying, last Sunday was a wonderful case study to remind me how far I have come.  

The day began as "normal." I made breakfast at 8 a.m.  I began to feel a bit of anxiety in my decision to make chocolate chip pancakes from scratch; valuable "get ready" time was being lost!  At 8:30 a.m., annoyance joined my anxiety as we prepared to leave; no child listens the first time I say something like, "Please brush your teeth now," "Let's get dressed for church," or "Go find your socks and shoes."  As CEO of herding cats, I am the last to get my shower, and so in the end I become the most harried family member of all.   Still... as long as we all got out the door and into the car by 9 a.m., I expected to exhale and be happy.  

Instead of meeting with relief in the car, I landed in despair.  Over what? While driving on the highway we realized  that the car was on Empty; we needed to stop for gas.  It takes a half hour to get from our house to our parish.  This meant we could not be on time for the 9:30 a.m. Mass.

My Despair then morphed into Monumentally Pissed Off.  I became angry at: myself for skipping the gas stop yesterday, myself again for choosing to have the family join this distant parish (with only one Sunday Mass time!), the recently assigned pastor for cutting loose the homeschooling ministry which had drawn me to that parish in the first place.  I was beyond frustrated because this was my son's longed-for sacrament year, so I felt trapped there now, and it was all going horribly wrong. 

I huffed, I puffed, I ranted.  My language grew increasingly colorful; my husband cut me off before I taught the little pitchers some choice new words.  “Whoa--!  Hold it right there! You are being irrational.  We can just go to a closer parish with a later Mass time.  This is not that big of a deal.”  A church we’d visited the week before had an 11:30; we would go there.  We returned home to let the kids play until then.    

My interior remained like a pot of boiling water.  Now I was ticked off for being labelled "irrational." More steam gathered as I realized it was possibly true.  I was ready to blow.

There was a time when I would have roared at my husband, jumping on his words as the line in the sand at which to stand and do battle.   Truthfully, at most his words would become a red herring, a distraction from a larger issue.  I would launch a fight.  Afterwards, the air still thick with both of our resentments, I'd grow increasingly confused (what just happened?!) and then eventually contrite, and ultimately guilty for the argument.  I would make peace with Emre.  And in my hour-or-more detour through marital angst, I would have dropped -- and lost-- the trail to what actual hurt had lurked and set me off course in the first place.  Some buried psychic pain drove me in such moments, like a wounded and frightened cat, to growl, hiss and lash out at those around me.

That was Pre-therapy Lee.  Post-therapy Lee moved through Sunday's scene quite a bit differently.

What was different?  On this day, I held my tongue, and heard Emre out.  While he left the car to pump gas, I mulled over his words.  We arrived home to kill time before Mass, and I was still at my boiling point.  I have learned to withdraw and regroup at that critical moment.  I knew it was time to take stock and take care of me.  No one can do that for me; it is solely my responsibility to assess how I feel and why.

By 10 a.m. I’d retreated to my bedroom and closed the door.  With lights off and tissues in hand, I curled into bed and mentally walked through every thing about the morning which irked, worried, frustrated or upset me.  I realized there was more to my pain than merely not getting to the parish I’d had my heart set on attending that day.  

Yes, it was frustrating to miss that Mass;  I had anxiety about the pastor not allowing J.P. to receive first penance if we weren't there for several weeks running. As I mentioned, I was angry about his lobbing off a large and vibrant homeschooling ministry; my anger was a response to the pain of rejection I felt inside.  There was something more behind that, though, further fueling the anger in my reaction: a memory of another time and place, when people and events beyond my control spun around and hurt me.  And behind that memory, there was another one very much like it. 

My therapist likened this phenomenon of linked or associated memories to "pulling open a memory drawer."    Do you remember the old card catalog system in libraries?  Imagine the mind as working very much like that system: memories (good or bad), are grouped and filed away together.  It can be surprising to see how much hurt we have stuffed into one drawer; pull out one "card, " and those packed tightly behind it slip out, too.  

Last Sunday, Post-therapy Lee did something that took two years of work to learn how to do:  I took stock of my emotions and let myself feel it all.   Once my heart swelled to bursting on one score, I let myself cry it out.  Then I looked to see how this tapped other memories. The key to accessing those linked memories has been to ask myself, "When have I felt this way before?"

My private exercise runs like this: Remember the hurt. Feel it. Cry. Ask the Question. Repeat.

I marveled at how intensely my heart ached, but I didn't cork up or run from the pain as I'd done for most of my life.

A new thought intervened to say, 'This pregnancy makes your feelings even more intense right now.  This all will pass.'  Even in my Sunday sadness, I recognized that thought as a breakthrough for me: prior to therapy, I'd flounder about denying my moods, not facing their causes, yet feeling as if the darkness would never disperse.  The darkness had a near-tangible weight that hung on me.  In my attempts to lock away negative emotion and hurtful memories,  all positive emotions (i.e. satisfaction, happiness, peace) were stopped up, too.  Prior to therapy, I had given up on ever feeling joy again.

Contrast that with last Sunday: I cried in bed, feeling horrible, yet all the while knowing it was OK, because this storm would pass.  Call me crazy, but there is something miraculously hopeful in that expectation.  It was as if a hand rested on my back, to steady me.

A forty minute nap ensued.  The darkness was gone by morning's end, even as the problems which prompted that mood remain.  It is just that my reactions to these worries are not driving me; my conscious mind is calling the shots, and that is a very big deal.

Depression is different for everyone; my experience with it is not universal.  There are varying degrees, myriad causes, and a vast number of treatments.  I am not sharing my little Sunday moment as a template for anyone to go it alone if anything I've shared resounds in you.  This vignette is meant to show that it is OK and even good- and necessary! -to admit our weakness and seek help.

My journey to balance and sanity began with contacting a Catholic therapist I found through this website.  I would not be where I am right now without his help.  It is a resource I can not share or recommend enough.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Our Week & Recipes in Review

--- 1 ---
My kids and my husband have made me into a bigger Star Wars fan than I'd ever been in my own youth.  (Granted, I had been on the nostalgia bandwagon when the original films were re-released  to the theaters.  Emre & I even had Star Wars parties to celebrate.  It was a good excuse to get grade school & college friends back together.)

This is something else again.  My children are eating and breathing Star Wars.  We now have two light sabers glowing about the house, and the quest to accumulate action figures has begun.  I bought Scholastics' Star Wars phonics for school-time use, and it was the only thing my loathe-to-read son would jump to read. 

I found this song on the Essential Weird Al Yankovich album my husband just downloaded.  Given how my kids have had to endure Don McLean's American Pie since infancy, they found this version quite entertaining. The video is an example of Weird Al's absolute brilliance:

--- 2 ---
Our Thanksgiving meal was awesome.  I am thirty-eight years old, and have only just made mashed potatoes on my own from scratch for the very first time, in honor of this year's feast.  (My husband loves to cook, and chases me out of the kitchen for all major holidays.  This year, however, he fell asleep-with his shoes on!- before he could start prepping the sides.)   My potatoes were delicious; they included 8 oz of sour cream and 8 oz of Philadelphia Cream cheese, plus onion powder, salt, pepper, evaporated milk and yes, butter.

I also pre-prepped sweet potato wedges, marinated in maple syrup, olive oil, honey and brown sugar, and seasoned with thyme.  That may have been the only part of our meal to not include butter as an ingredient.

In total, our Thanksgiving meal preparations used up 8 sticks of butter.  I think that was my daily butter allotment for the entire year.

P.S.- I forgot to heat the steamed green beans.  No one missed them.

--- 3 ---
My husband made the most amazing stuffing I 'd ever had, out of Pepperidge Farms breadcrumbs, venison and Carolina Hog sausage.  I had to freeze the leftovers to prevent us from devouring all of it in 48 hours, thus becoming large as blimps.

Several folks present for our feast passed on the stuffing once they'd learned what meat it contained.  I admit there was a time I might have been turned off to trying hunted food as well.  Such reluctance now causes me to reflect on how truly removed from our food supply we are in our post-modern age.

Polite society finds it socially acceptable to eat cows and chickens if they live locked up in huge warehouses, slotted for slaughter, and butchered there; none of us see the animals' crowded living conditions, or the carnage of their warehouse-style deaths.  Yet so many people frown upon hunting, because we see deer in our parks and backyards and we think they are pretty?!  As I said to my sister's "poor deer" pooh-poohing, "This has nothing to do with the animal.  It has everything to do with your feelings toward that animal.  How is a deer different from a cow?"

--- 4 ---
Don't get me wrong!  I understand and respect people's decision to live as a vegetarian or a vegan; I have even considered that lifestyle for myself from time to time.  (All I have ever managed to eliminate is veal, formerly a favorite of mine.)  Yet if someone eats meat and frowns on hunting (which is harvesting meat from a wild animal instead of one that has been confined to an unnatural setting) well... I find that distinction to be oddly incongruous with the larger reality of how all meat gets on our plates in the first place.

Then again, maybe its just that I'd never watched Bambi as a child.

--- 5 ---
Thanks to inspiration from Lacy at Catholic Icing, our children participated in Operation Christmas Child for the first time this year.  In case you aren't familiar with this Christian initiative, it involves packing a shoebox with toys, school supplies, and toiletries for a child in an impoverished country.  The gift is meant to show these children that God knows and truly loves them.   I was often teary- eyed in the process of shopping, packing, and discussing with my own kids what life might be like for the children on the receiving end of these gifts.

This was a wonderfully concrete way for our kids to experience what "Love Your Neighbor"means,  an opportunity for them to learn how much harder life is for other people around the globe, and a chance to put the Corporal Works of Mercy in action.   We shopped for these gifts as a family, with daddy helping, after Mass last week.  I can honestly say that shopping trip was a spiritual experience.

One of the best moments arising from Operation Christmas Child was tucking six-year-old, always-silly, Gianna into bed and hearing her, unprompted, pray for the children who would be receiving the gifts she packed and dropped off.
--- 6 ---
That "Boyfriend's Guide to Downtown Abbey" video I shared last week totally worked!  My husband and I have almost finished watching the Second Season.  Although he wasn't impressed by the brief plot twist involving P. Gordon, at one point this week he really did turn to me and say, "This is the best show on television!"  

Sorry to ruin your image, dearest...

--- 7 ---
Whereas most people post-Thanksgiving are psyched to indulge in Christmas music, trees and lights, I remain here under my Catholic rock, chomping at the bit for Advent to start.   I long to drape the house with my favorite color (purple).  Our family has a ritual of lighting the Advent wreath each night, then praying and singing together by candlelight.   This tradition and togetherness is so lovely, I literally long for it all year.  Anna hopes to play "O Come Emmanual" on piano this year so that we don't need to sing along with it on iTunes.   

I plan to venture out to buy new Advent candles today.  While it is nice for a procrastinator like me to have a week to prepare, I am still bummed that Advent doesn't begin until next Sunday!   

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Recipes for Health, for Fun, for Downton Disaster?

1.  I feel morally compelled to hip everyone to this epic recipe I found online: Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno.  I serve my version over rice-- completing a protein!-- with shredded  Mexican cheese drizzled on top.

I am in heaven eating this meal; I have not been enamored of meat this first trimester.  The smell of this soup cooking is pleasing in a way that nearly nothing else has been these past several weeks (more on this in Take 4).  My husband is happy because this recipe is so high in vegetables that its virtually points-free for his Weight Watcher's tallying.  Furthermore, my dear hunter has hankered for the venison in his freezer; he can easily brown up ground venison and add it to his dish, and the meat need never touch my plate.

Frugal person bonus:  This is cheap to make with supplies I typically stock in my pantry (i.e. black beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth,  cumin, onions).  Busy person/lazy cook bonus: This is fun and easy to make!  Health conscious person bonus:  Runners World just sang the praises of black bean stew, which frankly inspired my search.  This recipe could be adapted to vegetarians and vegans by dropping the cheese and swapping chicken for vegetable broth.

I am not getting paid for this endorsement, mind you.  Check it out!   I promise you'll be happier for it.

2.  All that extra rice from dinner is calling out for me to make pudding with the leftovers.  Mmmm...  I pledge to post that recipe and a pic if I make it tomorrow.  While that recipe isn't exactly a Weight Watcher's win, it is supernaturally delectable, and one of Emre's favorites as well.

3.  I am decidedly not ready for Thanksgiving.  We host my mother, brother, sister (with boyfriend!) and mother-in-law here each year.  Luckily, my husband chases me out of the kitchen and cooks most of the meal himself.  However, given that we have entered the final week before Turkey Day, I should probably get out there and buy the big bird, the makings for stuffing, and some cranberry sauce.  (Random aside: the phrase "cranberry sauce" recalls that Christmas scene in Shadowlands, when C.S.Lewis [Anthony Hopkins] is striving to make Joy Gresham's [Debra Winger] holiday visit with him comfortable; he asks his cook whether she is familiar with cranberry sauce, and his cook replies, "I don't know, but if you get me some cranberries, I'll sauce them!")

4.  Did I mention how smells drive me crazy in the first trimester of pregnancy?  Like the character Gus on Psych, my nose has transformed into the Super-Sniffer.   I notice smells that no one I live with can detect.  A damp hand towel dropped on the  floor yesterday offends my nose from two rooms away.  Meat, cooked or uncooked, disturbs my equilibrium; even the slightest drib-lit of a splash-over from the previous night's dinner that was missed and left stuck the stovetop is enough to send me over the edge. Then there is the garbage-oh! Ugh! Bleagh! THE GaRbaGe!  To which I hold my breath and call, "Emre could you please...?" I have cleaned/bleached/aired/disinfected the bathrooms, top to bottom, twice in one week.  This is decidedly not like me. And don't even ask about the cats.  (Thank God pregnant women don't do litter boxes, you know? )

Speaking of cats, I have eliminated soft food from their diets, thereby restoring more sanity to the kitchen smells (no more bowls of seafood pate strewn about the floor).  The cats weren't happy at first, but I think their kitty memories have moved onto other needs.   They've quit harassing me with meows and head-butts, and I can type here in the kitchen without the compulsion to suddenly cover my mouth and bolt for the bathroom (which has this overwhelming scent of bleach about it.  UGHhh)

5.  The world has been turning with Downton Abbey for ages without me; I was recently elated to have finally tricked forced coerced convinced my beloved to watch this highly touted phenomenon with me.  He actually warmed up to it for a couple of episodes; the Mr. Pimuk incident struck us both as wonderfully bizarre in a Twin-Peaks-meets-Flannery-O'Connor kind of a way.

6.  Sadly, my victory was short-lived; the constant under-handedness of utterly cruel, self-serving characters apparently induces too much anxiety to be enjoyable.  His exclamation in the midst of episode six, "This is not entertaining!" announced his burnout and break from Downton before we'd finished watching Season One!  In hindsight,  too many nights of back-to-back episodes was a recipe for disaster.  Now, I am not angry; I completely understand his perspective.  Yet there must be something I can do to perhaps manipulate help him to return to the series (Remember the "co-Dependent" part of my bio?  Yeah. Totally. Really. Me.)   I figure other couples have endured this struggle for Downton as well: the internet must have a place to turn for support for people like us!  And by George, I think I've got it (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!! ... & some naughty language, too):

Its like reading the last chapter of a novel to mitigate the suspense (Like "Harry Burns," my husband has done that).  Yes.  This medicine just might work.

7.  Even if my public plotting fails inmost dreams are dashed regarding this Downton Abbey share-fest, I am fairly certain that I can at least get my husband in the room for what promises to be the social media event of Friday night:

Clan Donaldson: A Very Special Invitation

 A virtual Office Space party on Twitter!?   That sounds like a recipe for fun.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Clan Donaldson: A Very Special Invitation

Clan Donaldson: A Very Special Invitation

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our Own October Surprise

Last summer was a fantastic summer of change; my husband and I had already flirted with running as regular exercise the year before.   While I had not yet reached the point of running a 5k or a half-marathon, by July non-athlete me had gotten to the point where I could out sprint my three very quick children, even after giving them head starts.  (Important Life Lesson: running 150 yards across a field at a family campground without first warming up is not a great idea, even if fun in the moment.  Stretch first, or else... ouch.).  

My husband joined Weight Watchers at the end of July.  His decision impacted the rest of us.  I started to pay more careful attention to the food I planned and prepared for the family.  I re-evaluated how I shopped and what everyone had been eating.  The new point system for Weight Watchers makes all fruit and vegetables “free” of points, so I naturally began to cook more vegetables, even as main dishes.  I cut our fat intake in half by baking or grilling instead of frying meals.  We increased whole grains and virtually eliminated more processed white breads.  Desserts like chocolate, ice cream or cake became a once-per-week family event that Emre and I didn’t necessarily share in ourselves.

Emre has mentioned his success and motivation on his blog.  As for me, I didn’t count points.  I just ate healthier.  My snacking between meals became nutritious: I devoured more carrot sticks, watermelon and cucumbers, not so many crackers and tortilla chips.  

The results of these changes were gratifying.  With proper nutrition and regular exercise in place, I dropped down three clothing sizes within a three-month span. In May, I weighed just under 120 lbs. and I didn’t fit into anything in my summer clothes bin.  In September, I weighed my high school weight of 104 pounds! (Please note: I am short.)  I had more energy than I’d felt in a really long time.  

Then: a change.  At the end of September I began to feel really tired.  I thought I was fighting off a virus, so I slept later.  Instead of getting up at 5:30 a.m., I found myself glued to my bed until 7:00 a.m.  I gave myself a week: the feeling didn’t pass. Now I needed naps, too!  And my breasts hurt.  A lot. What was this!?  Could I be...?  Nah.  

At some point I looked at the calendar to discover with a shock that we’d entered the second week of October.  My last cycle had begun over Labor Day weekend.  Could I be...?  Since I had a dentist appointment with X-Rays coming up, I ran out and bought a home pregnancy test.  The “Plus” that showed up in the window made me laugh out loud.

Apparently, my body was young again. 

I am 38, I have miscarried twice, and four years ago we were actively using Natural Family Planning to conceive a fourth child.  After my second miscarriage, we repeatedly failed to conceive.  The inability to conceive was shocking, because we’d conceived “as planned” for each of our other three (Emre’s joke then had been, “If I look at my wife, she’ll get pregnant.) Eventually we stopped charting/trying.  We’ve been “providential” for over two years.  We said to ourselves, “Whatever,” figuring that it was just God’s will that our family remain an odd number.  We were getting older, not younger. (I recently blogged about the emotions I stuffed with this along the way.)  Then, suddenly, without planning or intervention: pregnant!  The only thing we’d changed was lifestyle.  (In other words, just about everything.)

I don’t offer this testimony with the intention of bragging, but as a witness to what surprises may lie in store if one maintains hope and is patient with oneself.  I am not special; I could be anybody.

Don’t give up your aspirations for health and fitness, whatever your stage of life.  Is it overwhelming?  Yes, it is.  Take baby steps: talk to your doctor, then change one thing.  (My first was regular exercise).  If you fall away from it, do not chastise, demean or put yourself down.   Instead, brush the dust off, stop comparing yourself to everyone else, stop beating yourself up for whatever you “failed” to do in the past, and instead do the best you can right now.  God is in this moment; He is not left in your past nor merely waiting in the future once you are “worthy” enough.  He is with you now, so talk to Him.  Make your change a sacrifice for Him, once.  Then make it once more.  Then once more again; before you know it, a habit has been born.  This may take weeks, or months.  It won’t feel “natural” or easy.  Don’t let that stop you.  Find support from family and friends.  Don’t give up.  

Eventually you'll see that one change has been molded into a habit.  Don’t stop there; you have momentum!  Commit to creating another good habit.  (My second was healthier eating, for me and for my kids.)   Then I committed to following another dream (writing).  I have committed to each goal with prayer and thanksgiving to Him, hoping for everything while expecting nothing.  It has all been an exercise in patience and fortitude.  

It has also been an adventure which has yielded an unexpected and wonderful surprise.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

7 Quick Belated Takes in Sandy's Wake

1.   When I wrote last week’s Takes, I was still in denial about the approach of Sandy the Superstorm.  We’d already had a freak blizzard at this time last year, and Irene had been hyped but downgraded to a tropical storm prior to that, so I was using an odd combination of superstition and faulty reasoning to pretend that Frankenstorm would also be a myth.  I was suffering from week 2 of the never-ending-cold-virus; I honestly did not feel up to the task of preparing for a catastrophic storm. 

2.  Eventually the husband and I broke through our denial and storm prepped.  We brought our lawn furniture inside, we purchased propane for the grill in case we had no electricity to prepare food with after the storm, we bought paper plates, cups, paper towels... and I washed every last piece of laundry in the house, so that we'd all have underwear and warm clothing to last a week if need be.  However, by the time we’d gotten to the grocery shopping part, every store was sold out of water and bread.  Thus, I filled pots, pans and soda bottles with water from the sink.  We baked bread, muffins, and brownies all day Monday before Sandy made landfall.  The night before the storm arrived we’d passed on the opportunity to buy a generator for $800 (we'd been on a waiting list), and I was glad because we never did lose power (and $800 is not anything we can just spend for the heck of it).  All through our storm preparations I felt feverish and lousy.  We ended up not needing the myriad containers of water, and we weren't housebound for more than a day.  Yet if I had not prepared, Murphy’s Law dictates that we would still be in the dark, and hungry.

3.  We did lose 4 large trees in the backyard.  My husband tested my anxiety-handling capabilities by deciding to not call a tree service; instead he tackled this sixty-five foot beauty on his own, with his chainsaw... cutting it up from the bottom in four-foot chunks, letting it fall/drop at an angle closer and closer to that elm it was caught in at the top.  As I watched, slack-jawed, through our diningroom window, he seemingly morphed into a Jack London character within a naturalist plot of  Man vs. Tree.  I accidentally proclaimed him CRAZY in front of the kids a few times.  However, I am proud to say that I never stuffed my opinions of the danger, nor my emotions regarding said danger; nor did I stomp my feet, yell or pout once his mind was made up to do this.  He is a grown up, after all.  He got this big 'ole tree down and cut into pieces within two hours time.  I'll admit to being both relieved and proud.

4.  In the storm insanity I’d almost forgotten that Heather King (an author I very much appreciate and admire) quoted me in her blog!  (Perhaps I need to ammend my inland vs. coastal New Englander distinction.  After watching the aforementioned large spruce tree fall vertically on my would-be-lumberjack of a husband, who afterwards said he’d “planned it that way,” I wonder if I am just projecting my cautiousness onto those who live around me...)

5.  Once Sandy passed, the family made it out for Halloween!   Since we’d been so busy with the storm prep, and then who knew if there would be a Halloween with that hurricane blowing, I didn’t get the costumes out of the basement bin until the morning of Oct. 31st. (No. I never made the milk jug skeleton, either.) We needed to go to Target for an extra light saber and Anna’s mask, but what they ended up with was not bad for last minute:

6.  I have had a form of writer’s block all week.  This is partly from the family-illness cycle we'd entered into, and partly from the anxiety and relief and sadness for others in the wake of Sandy, and of all the harried time that went into meeting her arrival.  Moreover, I’ve felt too wounded to write this week.  I’ve wanted to write and I’ve wanted that effort to be Good, but I am in the middle of something that is burning me.  On one hand I need to face that Thing, but on the other I want equally to retreat into a ball somewhere deep inside myself and not come out. (Was this maddening impulse why my mother drank?)  Meanwhile, there are these three little people (quickly becoming not-so-little) who need their mom to teach them, to lead them, to be an example for them... and to (hopefully) encourage them to love life, and Jesus, and not just try to make it through existence by avoiding hurt while fearing any hardship. 

7. Thursday was The Feast of All Saints.  The reading from 1 Jn 3:1-3 was reassuring.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God's children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

Ponder this with me, because it is such a relief: what we shall be has not yet been revealed!  God does not require me to be perfect now; He asks me to grow in patience as He perfects me.  We're in a process here, after all.  God does not require that I "hold it all together," or even that I walk around pretending that I have it all together; He prefers that I come to him in my very real weakness, and ask for His grace to strengthen me.  He never expected me to have won any races by now; He calls me to grow in fortitude and perseverance, and by His grace, endure. 

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