Monday, April 27, 2009


Yesterday, the streets were lined with skeletons—tall and bare and brown. Today, the same bodies are enfleshed with green leaf-lings, bones no longer visible. In an act of divine mystery sometime between the dark and the light, life burst forth into my neighborhood, catapulting us from winter into spring in one lone 24 hour period.

I lay on my bed, waiting for teeth to be brushed, and gaze out the open window, taking in the sights and sounds and smells and sensations of spring. Birds titter and call, fledgling leaves rustle in the gentle breeze. The setting sun casts a golden glow across the expanse, while the scent of crabapple blossoms drifts upward on the same sweet wind. A lover of green, I soak it all in.

Yesterday, the grand trees that dominate the landscape outside my window were still bare. Today, they are suddenly clothed. Just like that. Were that all transitions so sudden. Or perhaps at least a few. Perhaps.

The shower runs in the background, my six-year-old's soprano voice cutting through the buzz of the spray. No, it is a good thing not all transitions happen that quickly. Though should you ask me in another twelve years, I'm sure I'll tell you it happened overnight.

The light is fading, the twilight songs moving toward their finales. The breeze settles, and all is calm outside the bedroom window. The rich blue of the sky deepens, and, tonight, for the first time since last summer, there is green against its royal background. Bodies grow restless beyond the bedroom door, and the rites and passages of bedtime await less than patiently. I cast one last glance across the roof tops and tree tops, marveling at the difference one day makes. I leave my pen and paper, my twilight serenade, my moment of quiet reverie, and I go take advantage of this night, before it, too, has passed and become something new.

too much yes

My mind begins rationalizing. I just want to eat like everyone else is eating (although I’m not—I’m eating much, much MORE). It’s a special occasion (like a Friday… or a Saturday). I won’t get the opportunity to eat this/like this again for a while (like until NEXT Friday or Saturday)...

(read more at more)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

pass the tissues, please

I'm convinced his entire goal is to make us cry. He always succeeds. Were it not for the fact that he is so likeable, I would really hate that about him.

He greeted us all with high fives as my kindergartener stepped off the bus this morning with 14 other similarly nervous-looking six-year-olds and quickly came and grabbed my hand. Despite the fact we've been in the elementary school every day of the last four school years, Buddy was now suddenly nervous. What seemed downright blasé this morning was now unnerving him in his quiet little way, and I allowed him to cling for a moment as we were ushered into our classroom.

The visit to first grade is an important rite of passage at our school, for both children and parents alike. Because the kindergarten is housed separately from the elementary school, the visit is intended to calm any fears that may arise as fall approaches by making known the big unknown, both for the little and the big in attendance. Introductions were made, buddies were assigned, and the exploration began as the parents were whisked off to meet with the principal in order to allow the children time to spread their wings and move toward the edge of their safe little kindergarten nests. Or at least that's what they'd have you believe. But I know better.

Because this is the point at which he always makes us cry.

Get the emotion out of the way now, and next fall won't be so hard. Perhaps that is his philosophy. But I know enough from the tears in his own eyes as he talks about his oldest son to know that he knows better. There will be tears now, and there will be tears later, and that's okay. But it's still not nice to deliberately make us cry.

He begins, as he always does, by cutting right to the truest, deepest question within our hearts. "Your child will be cared for here," he tells us. Four years ago, it was these words that dissolved me, as that was, indeed, my greatest fear. Would my quirky little bundle of energy and excitement be received and appreciated for the joy she could be, or would that spirit within her be squelched and drained? The answer, I learned very quickly, was the prior. So now, four years later, these questions are a moot point for this mother. I know my son will be cared for here. I don't worry about that at all. I'm just not ready for him to BE here yet.

"The umbilical cord was cut six years ago," he reminds us. This is the line that kills me this year. "They're not ours—they're merely entrusted to us for just a short time." I know this. I KNOW this. But that doesn't mean I LIKE it.

My baby is not a baby any longer, and despite my desperate longing for full days of being BY MY SELF, I am just not yet ready to let go. I don't want the years to keep moving on. I don't want to think about my baby going to school all day. I don't want to think about approaching Bub's last year in this building, about middle school, about being home alone, about outgrowing the sweet one on one hand-holding dates to the zoo, the conservatory, to COSI that I have loved for the last ten years. I know the next stage will be good and will have its own unique joys. I know this. But I liked THIS stage. And this stage is almost over.

He knows this. And rather than dance around it and pretend it doesn't exist, he brings it right out in the open for us to acknowledge and even bond over, knowing that it may mean tears for some. For many, even. I suppose that is a good thing. I suppose. But I sure am glad I won't have to do it again…

Not until fall, at least.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


"There's nothing you can say, he told me with a shrug, looking intently into my tear-filled eyes with his own. "There's nothing you can say." And so I hugged him tightly, adding my tears to those already blended on the shoulder of his jacket, and I didn't say anything at all.

It was Good Friday. He had just lost his twelve year old daughter after a long, hard fight against the insidious evil that is cancer. There are no words for these moments. Only tears.

Tim was a friend and colleague. We had gone through grad school together, and despite a mutual disdain for one another at the very beginning, by the time we worked together there had grown a deep respect and an amusing fondness between us. Though I had moved away a year or so earlier, while Lin was in remission, I had kept abreast of Lin's recurrence through Tim's email updates, maintaining that connection within my heart. That Friday, my heart was aching with the need to speak something that could not be articulated, but only felt.

There is something about the silence of grief—the void created by loss—that compels those of us around to fill that space with well-meaning words. I felt it then, I feel it now. That helpless, I-want-to-make-it-all-better feeling that drives so much of what I write and say and do. But despite my clinical training and my carefully-crafted prose and even my very best intentions, I can't make anything better. And I can't quite come to peace with that.

I re-read my attempt to process another Good Friday funeral, and I find myself wanting to delete my words. "No, no, no—I said it all wrong," I think to myself. I remember Jill at women's group, this past week, graciously dodging our often mis-aimed attempts to say the right thing, and I wish I'd just never said anything at all.

I have to step back and remember who these words were really written for. Often the words we speak are often the words we ourselves need to hear. This was certainly the case with this post. As I wrestled with my own questions of faith, brought too close to the surface by David's death, I spoke, unaware, to the reassurances I, myself, needed to hear. Perhaps they will bless others, perhaps not. But my heart was more at peace for having written them.

Sometimes it is best to keep quiet. To listen, to cry, to hold. To not attempt to speak what is truly not speak-able. But sometimes our own hearts must grapple to put words to that which alludes words, no matter how clumsily we may do so. For me, it is this process within which God speaks the perfect Word, and that is, after all, what we're all longing to hear.

more of the same

Panic grew and spread like the layer of fat sprawled across my backside. My weight consumed my every thought—trying to figure out what to wear, what to eat, what to do. I was at a point of despair. So I did something desperate...

(read more at more)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

something more

a friend of mine emailed me today "pleading" with me to post something. "i know you're in a raw place," she acknowledged, "but it's such a treasure to read your heart. more, more, more!"

i found that ironic. i've been working, these last few days, on getting a second blog ready. the title? more.

i've been very open on this blog about my struggle with food, my body, my weight. that struggle has been especially intense lately, and the way i process best is to write. i like the current format of this blog, and therefore do not want to devote it solely to the purpose of my neurotic and, let's face it, lame issues. so i have created a home for those ramblings, but will still keep you posted here when this struggle is rearing it's ugly head.

you can read "more" at:

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Three words. Chocolate. Covered. Bacon.

Day four on my diet and my husband climbs in bed with his magazine. I look over and there it is. "Two equally obsessive foods come together in one perfectly balanced bite of savory, smoky, and sweet." Oh. My. Gosh.

I can't sleep.

You can order it for me here, if you're so inclined...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

promises, promises

"Return to me, and I will return to you. Put away the idols, and give me your heart. Lay your heart open before Me, and I will purge away the dross. I will cleanse it and fill it with My glory. You will no longer crave the leeks and the garlic of Egypt. You will no longer feed on chaff; but I will satisfy your soul with manna from heaven, and with milk and honey you shall be nourished.

And your health will return to you, and your vigor, and you will serve me with fresh energy. You shall go forth in new power, and My joy shall be your constant portion."

Come Away My Beloved
Frances J. Roberts

Friday, April 10, 2009

with love, for a fellow alto

(In honor of Jill, her precious babies, and the two loves of her life—Jesus, and David…)

She said goodbye in the rain, under a gray, it’s-still-not-spring-in-Ohio sky, in the kind of cold that soaks into your bones and doesn’t leave until curled up hours later under layers of blankets with another warm body pressed up against your own. Who will that body be for her, this afternoon, when she is cold and weary to the bone?

High school sweethearts. Fresh-faced, bright-smiled, big-haired photos, dated back 23 years. Homecomings. Proms. Joyful wedding portraits, dated one week before my own. Family gatherings. First homes. Bringing home baby boys. Rejoicing over a baby girl. Vacationing with friends. Driving the ‘Vette. Easels full of smiles, smiles, and more smiles.

She still smiles, but it is a weary smile. A tired smile. A sad smile. I know a brighter smile will return—as will laughter, as will joy. But I know, too, that it will be bittersweet, as smiles always are for those who have lost much.

God is good, she reminds us. She raises her hands in exaltation. She reminds us to keep singing, when we “wonder if we’ll ever make it through.” I know her faith is strong. I know her God is big. But I know her heart is broken, and I know it won’t heal quickly.

Faith is an amazing, beautiful thing, and hers has been (and I’m sure she hates to hear this) an inspiration to many. It will carry her through, even when that very faith causes her to wrestle in the darkness with the one who gives and takes away. She will persevere, and she will overcome, all by the grace of God and the indelible spirit he placed within her.

But faith doesn’t spare her the cold, empty spot next to her in bed, the sight of the wheelchair in the corner of the garage, the driver-less Corvette parked in the driveway. It doesn’t spare her children the absence of their father or his parents the loss of a son. It doesn’t fill the empty seat at the dinner table or erase the smell of his cologne from his pillow or mow the lawn and take out the garbage. Faith doesn’t prevent the heart from aching, the soul from grieving, the tears from falling.

But what it does—oh, what that faith does. It receives into its soil every seed of hope—of healing, of mercy, of grace, of comfort, of peace—and it buries them inside its rich darkness, nurturing them with its life-giving, death-like silence. That faith protects each tiny seed—choking out the roots of resentment and bitterness, fighting off the crows that threaten to snatch up each deposit of life—and goes to work fertilizing, hydrating, compressing, forcing each and every one to burst open with determined life that presses up through the darkness and into the light, reaching higher and higher and higher until it opens wide and bears its fruit so that all may pick from its harvest and taste and see that the Lord is good.

God is good. Some days she will sing it. Some days she will shout it. Some days, it will be just a whisper. It will remain true, whether she professes it or not, but she will continue to profess it, nonetheless. Because she knows something about rainy days, and about pain, and about wondering if she’ll ever make it through—and she knows that all she can do is to keep on singing.

Keep Singing
by Mercy Me

Another rainy day
I can't recall having sunshine on my face
All I feel is pain
All I wanna do is walk out of this place
But when I am stuck and I can't move
When I don't know what I should do
When I wonder if I'll ever make it through

I gotta keep singing
I gotta keep praising Your name
You’re the one that's keeping my heart beating
I gotta keep singing
I gotta keep praising Your name
That's the only way that I'll find healing

Can I climb up in Your lap
I don't wanna leave
Jesus sing over me
I gotta keep singing

Can I climb up in Your lap
I don't wanna leave
Jesus sing over me
I gotta keep singing

Oh You're everything I need
And I gotta keep singing

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

post-traumatic parenting disorder

The adrenaline is gone, and the codeine is about to follow. My "good in a crisis" nature has gotten me through the worst of it, but has now abandoned me in the middle of melancholia with no more gas in my tank and miles to go before I'm out of the woods. Sleep is not coming easily, and it's not just the middle of the night dosings. It's the images. The sounds. The emotions. They won't let me be.

"I don't want to close my eyes, Momma," Bub sobbed repeatedly at the hospital. "I keep seeing my arm snap over an over again. I can't make it stop." After urging her for a while to capture her thoughts and try to focus them elsewhere, I took a different tactic. "Yep--you're going to see it for a while, Bub. It's okay. It can't hurt you again. It's okay."

I was wrong. My hope that in validating the struggle, the struggle would cease was misplaced. I know, because I can't make it stop, either. And it's keeping me up at night.

I close my eyes, and I see her coming toward me, her arm grotesquely mis-shapen, her eyes large with fright, her face red with fear and pain. I see her tears, I hear her voice, I feel her pain. Over. And over. And over. I see things I didn't even see--I see her fall, I see the arm snap, I see her screaming, I see what could have happened had God not protected her. I don't want to see any more.

Which is funny, because for years these have been the images that have played in my head from time to time as I've watched her at play, swinging and flipping and jumping. Images of falling, of twisting, of hurting. I don't bid them to come, but they come, just the same. And so when my eyes saw it for real, it become more than just a this could happen if she's not careful, if I don't protect her, if I don't teach her to have good judgement. It became a reality. And now it won't leave me.

Several people expressed surprise that anger was one of my initial reactions. Perhaps that was too strong, perhaps not. It is what it is. Because of her impulsive nature and passionate spirit, my daughter and I have talked ad nauseum about the need to think before she acts. She didn't fall off her bike. She climbed up on something she knew she shouldn't be on top of, and then tried to climb down it head first. She is a child, I know this. She will do stupid things. But I also know how I've drilled her to use the brain the good Lord gave her. For this very reason. For her. For me. For all of us. And so, when her first words were, "I knew I shouldn't have done it," I would be a bold-faced liar to deny the anger that rose up in me. Anger at all it would cost her. Anger at all it would cost us. Anger at all those words, spoken in vain. It's not pretty. But sometimes, life isn't pretty.

Shaunti Feldhahn, in her book For Parents Only, writes, "This is the stark truth: Short of locking our teenagers in their rooms day and night, there is almost no way to physically prevent them from doing what they want to do. And they know it." I considered this for days after reading it, and determined this is really the human condition. This is what we face as parents whether our child is six or sixteen. This is what we face when a spouse walks away. When a friend does the wrong thing. When we simply live our I-want-what-I- want-when-I-want-it lives. And God grieves like a parent taking her child to the ER, only more so.

My daughter was going to climb whatever it was she climbed and crawl down it head first regardless of what I'd ever told her, simply because she wanted to. I can't control that. I can't, no matter how desperately I try, control what she WANTS. And it scares the crap out of me. And that is really what this is all about. The fear. The talks. The prayers. Bones will heal. Her images will fade. But what will she WANT next time? What will she choose? And what will the cost be, then?


We are home, but not back to normal. The last 48 hours have been a fog, and I'm not even on the codeine. Sleeping on the trundle bed, awakened at all hours. Alarms set in the middle of the night for medicine. Chapters of inane cat warrior stories read out loud for hours on end. Naps at the foot of her bed, trying not to jostle the arm. Coordinating Buddy's care and entertainment. Figuring out what to eat, how to eat. It is all a blur.

Add to the mix the news that the husband of a friend of mine died on Sunday. Brain cancer. A year and a half battle. Three kids. Married same length of time we were. Perspective. More fog. More schedule coordinating--Dr. appointments, visitation, work, funeral, more work, Easter. I don't know what to feel, so I don't feel at all.

I gave my daughter a journal a year or so ago to write back and forth to one another. A way to share things that are hard for her to say. In the last six months or so, it has become her confessional. Last night, I beat her to the punch. I told her how much we loved her. How this could have been so much worse. How we were not happy with her, but we weren't angry with her either. I told her how we would not hold this over her head. And how this didn't change our love for her.

Then I told her the awful truth about being a mother. About how hard it was to watch her pain and her fear. About how I had tried to spare her that pain and fear, had she only listened to me. I told her about how hard it is to know that she will make her own choices when I'm not around, and I can't guarantee the outcome of those choices. And I told her about how scary that is for a Momma.

I think about Jill's children. About her breaking heart. About theirs. I think about how we would do ANYTHING to spare our children pain. I think about how their comes a point where it's out of our hands. I think about pins in elbows, about funeral arrangements, about sleeping but not sleeping, about carpool plans. Too much.

I sit here at work, wondering why I'm here. My first two appointments have not shown up. I need a distraction. Someone else's problems to think about. I'm tired of thinking about my own.

Perspective. Relief. Healing. I will focus here.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


“MrReesMrReesMrRees! I need you to come RIGHT NOW!!!” His shock of red hair ran toward us across the expanse between the playground and the picnic tables. We sat there for a moment, not certain what type of urgency his voice contained. We both stood, almost cautiously, scanning his face for an indication. “It’s your daughter. She’s hurt.”

We moved toward the playground, used to this scene. I wasn’t terribly concerned—she probably just needed some consoling, the mud wiped off her legs, the tears from her cheeks. Suffice it to say, we were not in any great hurry. Until we saw her coming toward us, another mother holding her up, nodding her head at us over the top of Bub’s. “It’s bad,” she mouthed to us. I looked at the arm my daughter was holding—bent in three angles, none of them natural. Oh shit, I breathed, breaking in to a dead run for the car.

Adrenaline pumping, I fought the various emotions that coursed through my veins as we drove to the closest urgent care. Fear, concern, anger—they came like a flood. “That was so stupid,” my daughter sobbed. “That was really, really stupid, Momma. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. That was really, really stupid.” You’re damn right, I wanted to yell. That was a stupid, stupid thing to do. What the hell were you thinking?!?! Do you have ANY idea what affects this will have?

I said nothing of the sort. “You need to calm down, Bub. You need to take a deep breath, and CALM DOWN. Nobody’s mad at you, Sweetpea. We’re just glad it’s nothing worse. You’re going to be fine.”

“What did I do, Momma, what did I do? What’s wrong with it? Momma, it hurts! I want to die! I want to die!!!”

“LISTEN TO ME. You need to take a deep breath and calm down. Your arm is broken. We’re going to take you to get it fixed. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be FINE.” She’s going to be fine, she’s going to be fine, I repeat.

I called my brother. He was blessedly already in his car, three minutes away. He came for Buddy, who was near tears in his concern for his sister. “I think we should pray, Momma,” he said as we registered a few moments ago. “I think we should pray right now.” He would be fine in a few moments, but for a brief moment his world was crumbling. I prayed that mine won’t go with it.

Five hours, an ambulance transport, an admission to Children’s, and several doses of morphine later, my daughter is finally in surgery, having the compound fracture in her left arm set and cast. My left-handed daughter. I sit here alone in the parents’ waiting room listening to the fish tank gurgle and try not to obsess about what this latest lack of judgment is going to cost us.

What it is going to cost her has already been discussed throughout the afternoon. Championships are in three weeks. She will obviously miss them. Tryouts for the team, coming up this week—also off the calendar. Scratch the next session of gymnastics. Put the new skateboard on a shelf in the garage. She will pay for this dearly, as well.

I will resist the urge to comment any further. To lecture, to remind her that I’ve warned her this could happen if she did not choose to use the brain the good Lord gave her. “I didn’t think this would ever happen,” she repeated over and over, tears streaming down her face. “I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” her father and I both replied.

She has had a rough, rough afternoon, with a great deal of pain and fear. While I could have wrung her neck five hours ago, and still may consider it tomorrow, for now I think she has had punishment enough. I pray that the lesson sets along with the bone. It is not one I care to have us repeat any time soon.

good reasons why i have no good reason

reasons i have no reason to be depressed:

1. i have two fabulous kids who think i'm great 95% of the time.
2. the other 5% of the time, they're not my problem.
3. i have a husband who adores me.
4. he also puts up with a heck of a lot of crap, without too much complaining. most of the time.
5. i have a job that is enjoyable and meaningful about 98% of the time.
6. i get paid well enough that the other 2% is worth it.
7. we have a roof over our heads. and it's actually fairly cute, albeit very small.
8. for the moment, we can still afford that roof.
9. i don't have cancer. or any other life-threatening disease.
10. none of the people closest to me currently have cancer--including both fathers and a brother and a good friend who are all now cancer-free.
11. i have good friends.
12. i occasionally get to see some of them.
13. i'm not pregnant.
14. i have all my limbs and organs.
15. i occasionally get to do something creative for small periods of time.
16. sometimes, i even get to do it uninterrupted by small children.
17. i can see and hear and taste and smell.
18. the stupid cat will, on rare occasions, actually sit still on my lap and purr for me, which is why he was allowed to live here in the first place.
19. sometimes, not often, but sometimes i actually read something i've written and think, "i'm not too bad at this."
20. sometimes, even more rarely, i actually think, "darn, this is actually pretty good."
21. i still have my voice. mostly.
22. winter HAS to end.
23. soon.
24. we still have a season and a half of BSG to get through.
25. our kids have developed a love for TNG. we all watch it together. all crammed on the love seat.
26. chocolate.
27. my husband does most of the house-cleaning when i'm at work on saturdays.
28. he also empties the litter box.
29. all of our parents are living and healthy.
30. we have good relationships with all of them.
31. we live in a free country.
32. we have running water and electricity.
33. we have two running automobiles.
34. we are extremely fortunate.
35. i am extremely fortunate.

This list is meant to give me hope and the ability to sleep tonight. But it only makes me feel guilty. There is no reason for this sadness that engulfs me from the moment I become conscious in the morning until the moment I return again to the numbing escape of sleep. There is no reason for feeling as if I could cry at any moment. There is no reason why I can't when there is finally an opportunity.

I have lived with this--this disease, this demon, this character flaw,whatever you want to call it--for as long as I can remember. I am sick to death of it robbing me, and those around me, of my life. I have been called negative. I have been called pessimistic. I have been called a number of things, but none of them explain why I can't shake this cloud that clings to me like stink on a dog.

There is nothing to be depressed about. Why does my God-forsaken body not get that message?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009