Category Archives: Old Rambles

A Special Goodbye

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When I think of my Nana, a thousand images spring into my mind. Warm cinnamon toast, made carefully in the oven. Cooked to the perfect balance of melted toasty butter with just the right amount of softness left.

Stew simmering on the stove, its savory, delicious scent encompassing the whole house.

The smell of Vicks permeating the house in winter from the old cast iron pot of water sitting on the floor furnace in the hall.

My head on her lap, her running her fingers through my hair as we watch the Jeffersons in the late evening. The light scent of Estee Lauder body powder, Oil of Olay and a hint of moth balls hanging in the air.

Lying on opposite ends of the couch with our feet overlapping beneath the handmade afghan while the Lawrence Welk show plays into the late night hours. I remember I was always fascinated by the shiny lipstick on the singers’ lips.

Watching the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. I remember Nana kept telling me it was history being made and very important to watch. I was excited to see an actual princess.

Watching her small hands deftly work on whatever sewing or crochet project she happened to be in the midst of. I remember being amazed as whatever it was seemed to suddenly take shape beneath her carefully working hands. A plain cloth with faint markings became a beautiful landscape of color. A few skeins of yarn gradually became one of those warm, cozy afghans we snuggled under while watching TV in the evenings.

Lying under the blankets in her bed in the early morning, listening to her singing, humming and whistling in the kitchen as she did whatever it was she did in the early morning hours. . .until I decided I was tired of being alone. Our funny habit of me staying in bed and calling, “Naaaaaaanaaaaaaa?” Waiting to hear her answer of, “Whaaaaaaatteeeeeee?” Which I followed with, “Come heeeeeeeere!” And she answered with “Coming!!!” I will forever remember the skuff-thump, skuff-thump, skuff-thump of her house shoes as her rapid, short, steps approached from the kitchen to give me a morning hug and kiss and to sit and chat for a few minutes before I got up to start the day.

A freshly peeled carrot after school while I sat on her couch watching Woody Woodpecker. She was forever in the kitchen or on the back porch doing laundry or dishes or standing in her kitchen “corner” reading some article or something interesting that caught her eye in Readers’ Digest.

Watching her eat her nighttime cereal over the kitchen sink. I rarely remember her sitting down at the table to eat with me. Standing in the hallway at the phone shelf, talking to a friend or one of her sisters on the phone. I remember her mostly in motion. All the time. Except during those lazy evening hours when we sat and watched TV while she sometimes crocheted or dozed.

Summertime on the swing set while she “piddled around” in the yard. Tending her beloved flowers, mowing her yard, stringing pie pans around her tomato plants to keep the squirrels away.

I remember she always thought she was TOO. . .something. Too fat, too wrinkled. . .her house was too dusty. . .but to me in those childhood years, she was perfect. And those memories are still perfect and peaceful and a place I can retreat to when real life gets too busy and overwhelming.

As I became a grown-up myself, I of course began to understand that she wasn’t perfect. She carried a lot of anger toward a lot of people. Bitterness that at times almost incapacitated her mind and emotions. She had been hurt. She had hurt others. She had a skewed view of life and people and the world. The prism of her personal experiences bent the light of the beauty of life around her into something a little different than the rest of us see. I remember when I came to tell her I was to be married, she sat me down and told me she had to tell me something important about marriage. “All men cheat, Jennifer. Every. Single. One. It’s just a fact of life and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You just have to live with it.” I remember thinking how sad it was that she viewed the world this way, but understanding that her experiences left her trying to make sense of how certain things had happened to her. She had come to the conclusion that life is pain, and her pre-marital talk with me was her misguided way of trying to save me from pain.

She was not perfect, but she was mine. She disagreed with some of my adult decisions, but she kept on loving me unconditionally. As my own emotions made the transition from the little kid who only believes people are good or bad, to the grown-up who knows that we are all broken and doing the best we can, I came to appreciate how well she loved me. And she loved me WELL. She loved me in a way that made me never question that she did.

In the last years, as her memory began to leave, she sometimes couldn’t place me right away when I came to visit. The last time she truly knew me, I came to visit with my two young daughters. Upon arrival, she was confused as to my identity, but once my mom and I explained who I was, I saw a spark of recognition in her eyes. We visited a bit, she held my youngest . . .a baby at the time. . .and sang the little songs to her I remember from childhood. We took a picture together and I felt joy in her company. It became laced with sadness as we prepared to go. We stood up and I leaned down to hug her goodbye. She pushed me back and caught my face in her hands, pulling me almost nose to nose as she looked me squarely in the eyes. In that moment, we were both there, 100% connected. I saw sadness and deep love in those weary brown eyes. With her teeth gritted together in a way that made her voice sound fierce and strong, she said, “I sure do love you.” We kissed one another’s cheeks and hugged the tightest hug. As I waved from the doorway of her room and prepared to depart down the hall, I knew in my heart that we had said goodbye for more than just the day. I knew she would not know me again. And I cried off and on for two days.

I saw her again a few times between that day and her death and her mind never knew me again. I felt like her heart did. We sat and visited and she told me stories of her youth and her family and the farm she grew up on. I enjoyed learning about that part of her life. It seemed as the dementia took her present and recent past, the distant past became a fresh and vivid memory. I remember hoping that those memories brought her peace in those last years.

As I went to be a part of laying her remains to rest yesterday, I found myself feeling empty. As I looked at the shell that used to contain her spirit, lying there in the clothes she had so carefully selected for her “homegoing” years before, I did not feel closure. I forced myself to touch the cold hands in the lace gloves folded neatly on her stomach by the undertaker and I did not feel comfort. I felt dark. Cold. Heavy. Distant. At the cemetery as the minister read the 23rd Psalm, I felt lonely. Sad. Hard. I looked at the tombstone that had her name and birth year engraved on it. I recalled childhood years as she brought me with her to the grave of her parents that same stone marked. I remembered how anxious it made me feel that her name was already on it all those years ago. I remember crying and asking her why she would have her name there and telling her I couldn’t bear the thought of her dying. I remember the calm and matter-of-fact way she would answer that it was just practical. We all were going to be laid to rest someday and this was to be her final resting place. I thought about the way my mom said she kept asking to go home in her last months. And I shed a tear or two, and whispered goodbye as one does at a funeral. But still I didn’t feel as if our relationship was finished. I felt robbed of goodbye. Like it couldn’t be over. Like something inside me was left incomplete.

Then this morning, as the plan to write this memorial piece began to take shape in my mind, I started to understand why yesterday brought me no comfort. Just like in the biblical account of old, when the disciples of Jesus spoke with the angel at His tomb and were told He was not there. . .yesterday when I tried to draw comfort from being with her body, no comfort could be found because she is not there. And our business feels unfinished because it IS unfinished. We will be together again. Someday we will sit together again, and our minds will be clear. And we will know one another on yet another level. We will love purely with no pain, or sorrow, or bitterness, or fear in the way of that purity. She will know me again.

We will feel pure joy. Music is my language, and so in order to fully open up and grieve, I’ve been listening to songs this morning that minister to my heart. Lyrics from a few different ones weave together today to flesh out how I’m feeling. I’m happy that she is now free from all the heaviness she carried. That she is now free to leave her heart wide open and to “love and have no fear.” That her heart is young again. . .free from all the scars and hurt and sadness that made her weary while she was here with us. Free. That’s a weighty word. . . and a marvelously weightless one. She is free. . .and I truly do not selfishly wish her back here with me. But I do miss her. And I feel a renewed fervor to “Hold on to Jesus with all that I have” to see her again. . .

When I Get Where I’m Going by Brad Paisley

Homesick by MercyMe

Racism – Are we really making it better?

Photo by Don Hankins

Photo by Don Hankins

On our way to school this morning, we passed a school with a big sign out front advertising Black History Month. Melody (who is 7) noticed it and was puzzled. Our conversation went something like this:

Melody: “What’s a black history month?”

Me: “It’s a month set aside to focus on black people in history.”

She looked confused. “Do you understand what that means?” I ask. “No.” She said solemnly. She did not understand the “black” in the title. She has never referred to her friends with other colors of skin as their color so it did not make sense to her. With a slightly heavy heart, I tried to explain why the month is titled that way. “Is there a white history month?” she asked. I tried to answer with the best information I could. “No. Some people feel like all the other months are white history months and that we need to set aside one month to focus on black people in history so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.” She was still confused. “That doesn’t make any sense to me. Why does what color people are matter in history? I thought it was about who people are and what they did?” *sigh* After a bit more discussion, she seemed satisfied if still baffled. And I felt like I had robbed her of a tiny bit of innocence. The whole conversation left me unsettled and in deep thought.

I was not raised to view all races as equal. In fact, I was raised in a very racially divided atmosphere, where each “side” was afraid of or had certain views of what the other side was like. In high school, I got to know someone of another race and discovered that I quite enjoyed her company, much to my surprise. As a result of that friendship, I started to question the views I had been raised with. It’s been a long journey for me, but once I began to realize that we are all created equal and that diversity is an amazingly enriching thing, I became determined to raise my kids to see people, rather than skin color.

After my conversation with Melody this morning, I realize that we have done a good job with keeping racism out of our home. But it saddens me that no matter how neutral we are, or teach our kids to be, that they will learn that many in this world view people as different and different as bad. Are we perpetuating the divide with all the things created to close it? The purpose of Black History Month as I understand it is to make sure black historical figures get the attention and study they deserve. . .but why does it need to be a separate month? Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach about those people in the context and timeline where they made a difference. . interwoven with the people and places they touched in their realm of influence? It feels like separating them out for a month is like saying they don’t matter for the rest of the year, which is far from true. Or maybe I’m just missing some major part of the goal for Black History Month.

One thing I do know, is that my daughter sees her friends as her friends. She categorizes them by age sometimes, or by interests. . .or by who likes math and who likes reading, but never by color or even by appearance unless she’s trying to describe a friend to me so I’ll know who she’s talking about. And then it’s not, “You know, the black girl,” but rather, “My friend Amber. . you know, she has dark brown eyes, dark curly hair and brown skin? She’s a little taller than me, too.” And it saddens me that as she grows, the racial divide will become obvious to her in spite of our efforts to help her see people as a mixture of personalities, appearances and interests. It does make me pause and wonder, if we all raised our kids to view skin color the same as eye color or height, what would the world be like? I just can’t help but think it would be a more peaceful, more tolerant place.

If Your Kids Are “Fine”

I frequent several parenting forums and groups online, and an underlying theme I find throughout them has recently begun to bother me more and more. Tell me if you’ve ever heard statements like these:

“I gave my baby formula and she’s fine.”

“My kids never even rode in a car seat and they’re fine.”

“I did insert item here to my kids and they’re all TOTALLY fine!”

So what does fine really mean? Well, in example number 2, it means that the child never rode in a car seat, was likely never involved in a serious car accident of any kind, and survived and thrived into adulthood. I don’t see that as a valid argument to use a car seat improperly. If my kid fell out a two story window and survived with no injuries, I wouldn’t push them out again just for kicks and giggles.

But example #1 is the one that’s bothering me today. And here’s why. . .

I recently visited a doctor who took a very detailed medical history from me and unlike other physicians I’ve seen in the past, did not blow off my “minor” gastrointestinal issues as no big deal. Nothing I have is serious all by itself. I have a pretty bad case of acid reflux, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and a case of Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth as diagnosed by a mainstream gastroenterologist. All of these “syndromes” have been treated by the GI doctor to the best of his ability, but still they persist. . .and I’ve now been told that I just have to live with them. I also have a pretty moderate case of OCD and anxiety. My new doctor was able to offer me some long term lifestyle changes that will bring relief. . but that’s for another post.

What this doctor had to say to me made a lot of sense. As a formula-fed generation, (not saying everyone from that generation was formula-fed, but it was definitely the “in” way to feed a baby at that time), my parents’ generation started out with a less than ideal balance in their gut flora. A baby is born with a predisposition toward the gut flora in his/her mother. If that baby is also formula-fed, his gut does not get the opportunity to re-balance to a healthy flora level, and the problem gets worse. . with each generation it gets worse until breastfeeding a new baby helps that little one some by repopulating the gut. I’m not saying a nursed baby won’t have any digestive issues, but they are much less likely to suffer severely from GI problems than a baby who doesn’t get breastmilk at all.

Secondly, the doctor explained to me that 50% of our “brain” chemicals are produced in the gut, and 80% of our immune system is contained in our digestive tract. A digestive system that is not functioning well is going to have a hard time effectively balancing chemical production, immune function and digestion. That all makes sense, doesn’t it?

So I offer all of that information to say this. Yes, a formula-fed baby will grow and thrive and be smart and relatively healthy, just like a breastfed baby will. (Read about the benefits of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding here if you want more comparison/contrast information). . .but that doesn’t mean that person will be “fine” forever regardless of whether they nursed or not. I am 35 years old and my problems did not start in earnest until my mid-20s. So we really can’t know how “fine” our children are going to be. . .ever. . .because with any luck, they will outlive us and we will have no idea if they contracted cancer at an older age, or if that was in some way linked to the way they were fed as infants. The effects of much we do with our children AS children can be far reaching. . .beyond what we think about right now. And that’s okay. We can’t protect them from everything.

The real point of my post is this: Don’t encourage other parents to give their children less than their personal best, based solely on the fact that you did xyz with your kids and they are fine. If you chose to formula feed based on your risk/benefit analysis of infant feeding, that is your choice. If you were sabotaged by a doctor with bad breastfeeding advice, don’t give advice to a struggling nursing mother unless you’re SURE you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, refer them to someone who does. But don’t just tell them what you did and how your child is fine. I think we often feel guilty in some way for our own choices and think that somehow convincing another parent that our way of doing things is “fine” makes us feel better somehow.

So. . .if you made a parenting decision of any kind with the best interest of your family at heart, based on all the information you had at the time, you are a GREAT parent. You love your kids and your family and that’s AWESOME. If you have regrets, do things differently when/if given another chance. . .but don’t selfishly offer advice to make other moms follow in your footsteps to assuage your conscience. Be a bigger person than that.

When did we get so mean?

Okay. I’ll admit that it’s possible that the hormones of pregnancy are making me extra cranky, but I swear, every time I read a headline the last few days, something gets me irritated. Most things are easily alleviated with a ranty Facebook post, but this one requires a longer analysis to get it off my chest. Feel free to stop reading here if you can’t take it. . .

. . .because I’m going to talk about America’s most loved and most hated family. The Duggars. And my opinion is apparently unpopular. . .because honestly it’s the lack of an opinion. LEAVE THE POOR FOLKS ALONE. Now, having said that, I recognize that they chose to put themselves in the national spotlight by going on reality TV, but having heard them share about their faith and their family, I really think even THAT move was motivated by some desire for good works. They wanted to raise awareness about their beliefs and making a little money in the process did not seem like a bad thing. I mean, they DO have 19 children after all. That’s a lot of mouths to feed for sure. . .but feeding them they are. All on their own. So why does everybody care so much about the fact that they have a large family that keeps expanding?

My “beefs” on this topic are many-fold, but the two that are really stuck in my “craw” at the moment are the following. . .

-The fact that everyone and his brother seems to have an opinion about whether or not they should have more children at this point. . .

-And the comments in the media about Michelle’s recent 19-week miscarriage being caused by the fact that it was her 21st baby (I’m counting her other miscarriage here). . .

To address beef #1:

WHY DOES EVERYBODY CARE so much if the Duggars have 19 children. . .or 30 for that matter? While I personally don’t think I could HANDLE that many kids, it seems to me that they are doing a fine job raising them. They are a self-sustained family unit. They don’t have to rely on state aid or charity to get by. They appear to have well-nourished, mannerly children who are all shaping up to be highly functional, pleasantly contributing members of society. That’s a lot more than many families with 1 or 2 kids can even say. And here’s the main issue I have with all these “Don’t they have enough children already. . .?” and “They need to stop procreating and start focusing on the kids they already have!” comments. . .WHO ARE YOU to say that they have enough and um. . .it appears they DO focus RATHER WELL on the kids they already have. Some people are just really good parents and I’m sorry, but they appear to fall into that category. If a family ADOPTED 20 kids out of the system and did such a good job with them, they’d be on Extreme Makeover Home Addition and hailed as heroes and humanitarians. Who knows what force these kids may become for good, but with a stable home environment and the lessons they’re learning, I’d say the odds are good that they may make a huge positive difference in the world somehow.

Which brings me to a sidebar. . .it’s nobody’s business how many kids are conceived and brought into this world by others. Sure, there are bad situations, but every child is a gift. . .and in our country of reproductive “freedom” it seems we’re talking out of both sides of our collective mouths! “My body, my choice!” is the motto the majority of America wants to shout from the rooftops. And while I’m not going to make this into a debate about abortion, it seems worth mentioning that America is all about reproductive choices being personal and private. . .until something ruffles our senstivities and we start practically crying out for the Duggars to be sterilized. We are a hypocritical society.

Beef #2-Did someone read in Michelle’s medical record that the loss of Baby Jubilee at 19 weeks was caused by the fact that she has 19 living children? No? Then WHY would anyone think that’s what happened? Miscarriages happen every day to women who have no children at all. A miscarriage at 19 weeks is more rare, but the fact that everything looked fine until her 19 week checkup when there was no heartbeat does NOT point to anything related to her large family. Just the publicized statistics of their family fall into the realm of “normal.” She has 19 living children and 2 who didn’t make it. That’s about a 10% miscarriage rate.

 

“Miscarriage in early pregnancy is common. Studies show that about 10% to 20% of women who know they are pregnant have a miscarriage some time before 20 weeks of pregnancy; 80% of these occur in the first 12 weeks. But the actual rate of miscarriage is even higher since many women have very early miscarriages without ever realizing that they are pregnant. One study that followed women’s hormone levels every day to detect very early pregnancy found a total miscarriage rate of 31%.”

(About.com article)

So basically, they’re actually AHEAD OF THE GAME. All those yelling that this should be a “sign” that they need to stop reproducing are just ignorant of biology. They are actually in a lower risk category than most. While the risk does go up for women as they age, would anyone be judging if poor Michelle was a woman who had struggled with infertility for years and finally conceived her FIRST baby at the age of 45? Doubtful. . though in our highly judgmental society, I guess anything is possible.

And WHERE is our human compassion and sympathy in the midst of all this? Apparently non-existent. Losing a baby at any stage, but particularly at the point that their little one passed, is a tragic and painful experience. . .but I see very little sympathy being published. Criticism is rampant. . .and yet they continue to carry themselves with dignity and kindness, allowing people to see photos of the memorial service they gave themselves to honor their baby. . which just led to more “outrage” because of the (very tasteful) pictures of the baby’s hands and feet that were present at the service.

In the wake of all the recent drama, I hope the Duggars are able to take the time to grieve and heal from this tragedy. . .and then move on with their lives. And if that process of moving on involves having more children, I wish them all the best in their endeavors. And for all those out there who don’t “agree” with their “lifestyle choices?” Get a life. Because the Duggars apparently have quite a full one and would likely wish you the very best in yours, whether you choose to have ZERO children, or 50.

The Mommy Wars

I recently read a blog post on Cafemom that was quite intelligently written. The author posted a list of the ingredients side by side comparing breastmilk to formula. I enjoyed reading the article and simply thought, “Wow, I’m so glad I nursed my kids,” much like you’d be proud of sending your child to a certain school when the testing and rating system showed that school to be ranked one of the best in town.  It’s wonderful to know that a momma has the ability to give her little baby so much in the way of nutrition. . .and it’s wonderful to know that science has brought us to the point that babies whose moms can’t or won’t feed them breastmilk have formula as an option to survive and thrive.

I scrolled down to the comment section to add a short kudos to the author, only to find myself somewhat flabbergasted by what I read there. Breastfeeding moms bashing moms who formula fed their babies, calling them selfish and implying that they didn’t care. Formula feeding moms bashing nursing moms, calling them arrogant and judgmental. The discussion taking place there just makes me sad. Why are women so vicious? And it’s not just about breastfeeding. I see this type of comment conversation on lots of issues involving our kids. . .circ/anti-circ, vax/anti-vax, co-sleeping/independent sleeping, public school/private school/homeschool. . .and the list goes on. I am disappointed in us as mothers.

The bottom line is, moms who love their kids and make choices according to what they feel is best for their families should not be judged by other moms just because they are not the same choices they would make. Many times, we make choices that are less than the **best** for our kids for a thousand different reasons. Ever fed your kid fast food or fruit snacks? Given in to a tantrum just to gain silence? I have. Just sayin’. None of those choices are considered to be the “best” by the experts. Yet we’ve all made one at some time in our parenting careers. At least one. And the reasons don’t really matter.

The point is, they’re OUR reasons. OUR choices. We each pay different consequences for all of our choices. Do you have to pay the price for the choice of the mom you’re judging? NOPE. You have your own set of consequences. . .and don’t kid yourself, there ARE pros and cons to EVERY decision. Every single one. There are no perfect parents, only a bunch of broken people doing the best we can. If we put as much energy into offering friendship and support to other moms as we do into tearing down the ones that don’t do everything exactly like us, we mothers could be a powerful force for good.

Clean Enough

At the beginning of my marriage (read-when I first had to clean my OWN house), I didn’t work for 3 months and we had no children. Our little 800-square-foot apartment was spotless. Always. Seriously, you could eat off the floor. I cooked dinner every night (what newlywed couple has the money to eat out? Well, at age 20 anyway.), and stuff just stayed clean. I was bored out of my mind because how many times can you vacuum the floor in one week, really?

Then, I got a job. And the days of perfect clean were over. I began a cycle of. . .cleaning for 9-12 hours on Saturday (and not every Saturday, just the ones when it was getting to me), walking around behind my husband picking up his sock fuzz for 2-3 days afterwards, then completely letting the place go. . . Until it piled up to maddening proportions, at which point I spent another 9-12 hours cleaning. It became a vicious cycle. Either my house was spotless, or it was a total disaster. . .and when I say disaster, I’m not exaggerating. We’re talking having to wash a dish out of the sink to have a plate to eat on, contemplating a package of new undies from Wal-mart because the laundry is so backed up. That kind of disaster.

Then I got pregnant, and very, very sick. “Morning” sickness was a joke. I puked morning, noon and night. Cleaning was not happening. Ever. And while I love my dear husband, cleaning is really not his thing either. He’s as messy and lazy as I am. So the disaster became somewhat perpetual. Until I asked a dear friend for help a few times toward the end of pregnancy so I wouldn’t be bringing my sweet new baby home to a lab culture situation. I eventually got back into my all or nothing rhythm of cleaning with the new little one. Sometimes horribly dirty and cluttered, sometimes almost spotless. . .but completely spotless was never to be seen again. Really.

After baby number 2, I realized that something had to give. No one can live this way, and the junk was starting to bug my husband, too, which is hard to do. I was able to become a stay-at-home mom and I was ecstatic. Finally, my house would be clean. . .all the time. (Okay, so I can actually hear you laughing out loud as I type this.) NOPE. As anyone who has ever been a stay-at-homer knows, your primary job is to care for the children, not clean the house. AND you’re at home all the time, making messes. Perfectly clean is a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen unless you ignore the children completely and clean like a fiend, and even then, I’m pretty sure those ignored little ones will manage to mess it up.

It was at this point that I read a book entitled, The House That Cleans Itselfby Mindy Starns Clark. I read a review of the book in a parenting magazine and it sounded like just what I needed. The points I was able to take away from the book and apply in my own home are:

-When you have kids, at some point you have to learn to be okay with “clean enough.”

-It’s important to organize your house in a way that helps you keep it clean, rather than works against you.

-Use little snippets of time to do mini-cleaning tasks, rather than setting aside whole days and hours to do it all at once.

There was a lot more to the book, but these are the things that really turned it around for me.

-I realized that our dining room had become sort of a “hub” in our house, but that it also had to be a dining room. I changed the type of furniture in the room to things that had a lot of storage/organizational space.

-I bought an inexpensive shoe rack to house all of our shoes. Instead of an unsightly pile in some rooms and digging around in the bottoms of closets, all the shoes are now in the same place and easy to find.

-I re-purposed a pencil box for my husband to use as a “go box.” A place to drop his glasses, keys, wedding ring, work badge, etc. at the end of the day that wasn’t my kitchen counter.

-I bought a photo bulletin board to keep all the pictures people give us displayed easily. This eliminated the crazy mess of pictures/magnets on the front of my refrigerator.

There were other changes (I used more containers to organize the closets, etc.) and my house still doesn’t stay perfectly clean. But I can say that it stays “clean enough” most days. AND, when it gets messy, it takes about half the time it did to return it to a manageable state.

So. . this post isn’t really meant to be an advertisement for the book, but rather an invitation to share your own cleaning style. Are you naturally a “clean enough” housekeeper or do you struggle with all or nothing? Leave a comment and let me know.

The Nature of Mourning

I’ve had my own experiences with mourning. . .we all have. There’s nothing pleasant about it. Grief happens when something we didn’t want to happen, well. . .does. I can’t call it unexpected because sometimes it isn’t. When an elderly grandparent dies, we know it’s the normal circle of life, but still it hurts. The pain of separation is there whether the deceased is 19 or 99. For those of us who hope in Jesus, it truly is just a separation, because provided the one we lost shares that hope, we know we will one day be reunited for eternity.

Then there was my miscarriage. My baby was a person, no doubt, but the grief was different than what it would be if I lost one of the children I’ve met, loved for many months or years and built a relationship with. It felt more like the death of a dream, but very painful all the same. The death of dreams also calls for a season of grief. It’s still unexpected and painful. Still disruptive to the natural flow of our lives. Still requires a path through the pain to reach a place of hope and relative normalcy again.

My recent observation is not about the particular events we mourn, but rather the nature of our mourning. It amazes me the way we judge ourselves and others in the process. Because it is a process that is so inherently personal. . .so individualized that there really is no way to measure how it should look. Some people cry a lot, some stop talking, some talk more than is usual for them, some get busy, some get tired. . .but the point is, we have to do what feels right in our own hearts. There is no time table for grief. . .and I’m often shocked when I find myself suddenly melancholy over something I thought I’d “gotten over” months or years ago. I’ve come to realize that this is also completely normal, but if I focus on where I “should” be, I miss the healing that might be taking place right now. We’re so afraid of sadness that we miss its purpose. And we’re afraid of the sadness of others. . . .I think because it touches the sadness in us. How beautiful the relationship when we ALLOW the mourning of someone else to touch our own pain. We are then able to weave our heart with someone else’s and truly be with them in their sorrow. In my experience, having a friend willing to sit with me as I just feel the pain of grief and mourning is the most comfort to be had. No judging, no suggestions for self-help, just empathy, love and time. Food for thought.

One of Those Days

I’ve had an interesting week. . .and a productive week. . .and a stressful day thrown in for good measure.  Tuesday my hubby was off work an extra day after the holiday, so I decided to use that time to get some errands done.  My morning started off with restoring my newly repaired laptop data and discovering that somehow my budget didn’t make it.  Yikes.  I spent almost three hours recreating it from scratch.  My stress level began to climb.

Next up, I go pick up my leftover yard sale stuff from a friend’s garage (long story) and take it to a consignment shop.  Already stressed after the budget ordeal and trying to hurry because I have many other things to get done, I begin to unload my things.  I discover that it is necessary to not only traverse the large parking lot to the drop off point, but also weave through the aisles of the consignment store.  I bring in the first tote full of stuff and set it near the drop off point.  I return to my car with a shopping cart (that first tote was HEAVY).  I unload the rest of the stuff into the shopping cart, top it off with a larger item that won’t fit in the cart but straddles it well, shove a five piece luggage set underneath and set off toward the door, pulling my wheeled office chair behind me.  I lose control of the cart, then the chair, then the cart (chasing one then the other, gah!) and finally make it to the door.  The luggage set, of course, falls off as I wrestle the cart/chair combo through the narrow door and people are squeezing in on either side of me.  Finally, some decent human holds the door open and I manage to shove everything into the building.  It’s 95 degrees outside and I’m drenched in sweat after this ordeal.  I begin to follow the red tape line as instructed by a store employee when I first arrived.  To my dismay, I discover that another employee is stocking a shelf in that aisle and doesn’t want to move.  She directs me to the end aisle because it’s wider (and because she doesn’t want to move. . .did I say that already?).  As I’m waiting in the end aisle beside the line, yet another employee comes out and shoves the tote I already brought in to the floor beside me.  She then proceeds to tell me that I’m standing in the wrong place and that I should have followed the red tape line.  I explain to her that the employee in the tie-died shirt was in the red line aisle and told me to come this way.  She continued to lecture me that there is a REASON for the red tape line and I am causing a traffic jam.  My resolve to be extra nice, as this is my first time in the shop, begins to wane a little, but I calmly tell her that I UNDERSTAND what she’s saying about the red tape line.  I was FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS.  I digress. . .(can you tell the red line incident was irritating and stressful? It builds.)

After waiting until all the other people in the line (even those who arrived after me) finished their drop-offs, I bring my things to the intake person (yay, it’s the cranky one!).  She tells me that the first tote she shoved back at me is stuff she’s going to “pass” on.  It’s almost all of it.  You need 20 items to open an account.  I arrived with close to 30.  She goes through all of my stuff and announces that I have only 12 items she’s accepting.  If I can bring in eight more by Friday, I can open an account.  If not, I’ll need to haul all of my things back out to my car now, or I can donate them to charity.  I begin to cry.  Yes, cry.  Did I mention I cry when I’m stressed/angry/ready to rip someone’s hair out?

After I manage to mostly compose myself, I pull out the things I’m willing to donate to charity just so I don’t have to haul them back to the car.  If they’re not accepting them, I have no use for most of it.  As I’m sorting through, I discover a grocery bag filled with jewelry (all new) that hasn’t been opened.  I say, “You don’t take jewelry?” in what is now a less than pleasant tone, because I know they do. . .there are racks of it in the front of the store.  She says, “Oh, I didn’t see what was in the bag.  Okay, you have enough items now.”  I say, “Thank You, GOD,” and I really mean it.  I think God saved me from slapping someone.  At this point, yet another employee springs into action to get my account paperwork filled out.  She is nice and seems embarrassed that the other girl is so rude.  I get confused about the totes I brought in, can’t find a cart and she helps me get my stuff back together so I can take the “seasonal” items they won’t take now but will later back home with me.  I tell Nice Girl that I’m not usually this scattered and she says we all have days like that.  She puts me at ease in my final moments there.  I hope she gets promoted to Consignment Store CEO and fires Rude Girl.

From there my day got better.  I sold a few items to a second hand kids store, got all my grocery shopping done, and bought a table on sale that I’d had my eye on for a few days.  All this set me up to finish my home organization project I recently started.  I just wish I didn’t cry so easy. . .and that there was no such thing as red tape.

Laundry-The Megabeast

photo by Mckaysavage

photo by Mckaysavage

You may have gathered from my title that I HATE laundry.  Sorting and washing and even drying is not so awful, but folding and carrying it to the far ends of the house. . .blech.  In fact, if I was told that I could hire someone to keep one chore completely done at my house, it would most definitely be the laundry.

So as most people do when they hate a chore, I put it off.  I typically do laundry once a week, sometimes every 10 days, or whenever someone moves into the “just in case” underwear stash (you know which ones).  As a result, with four people, I end up with anywhere from five to seven loads of laundry every time.  And that doesn’t include sheets and couch throws and all those other things that only get washed once a month or so (if that. . .I know, you think it’s gross).

Since I’ve been staying home, my laundry problem has actually gotten worse.  I’m not sure how, but more time at home leads to MORE laundry piling up instead of less.  I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this issue for a few weeks.  Laundry and keeping up the budget are my two chores that seem to ALWAYS be behind.  So I thought, what do these two chores have in common?  The answer? I have no system.  Because I have no system, I tend to put them off until there are piles of dirty clothes taking over the laundry room and stacks of receipts and bills everywhere.  With the laundry, someone being out of something is usually the catalyst to have a “laundry day.”  I’m ashamed to say, getting a late notice or e-mail reminder about a bill that’s coming due is often the catalyst to get the finances caught up.  Since I’m not superwoman (nowhere close), I’m conquering one thing at a time.  This week’s project is to get the laundry caught up and develop a system, so it stays caught up.  The psychological component to conquer is the fact that when I get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start to get something done, I don’t. . .start. . .until it’s a disaster.

So far today, I’ve washed 5 loads of laundry (not done yet!) and put away all the clean clothes that were sitting around the laundry room waiting to be carried to their various homes.  That was step one.  Next, I implement my new and improved system. Every single day, I will spend five minutes (or less. . I timed it!) sorting all of the laundry in the basket for the day.  When a load accumulates (I estimate every 2 days), I will wash it, dry it, and put it away.  The time it takes to move one load from washer to drawer will be significantly less on a daily or every other day basis than the time it takes to move my mountain of laundry from washer to drawer.  It’s a grand experiment.  I’ll let you know how it works!

I Miss Her

I’m currently out of town, helping my mom go through and clean out the house my “Nana” has lived in my whole life. We are sorting through her things, deciding what to keep and what to toss. . .and what to do with it all.  Normally, this is a process that occurs after someone dies. Our situation is different.  My Nana is alive and physically doing pretty well. About eight months ago, she moved to a nursing home because her mind is going. . .some days almost gone.  She has dementia, which I have now come to know as one of the ugliest diseases in existence.  She didn’t know me when I last went to visit, or rather didn’t recognize me.  Her mind is stuck in another decade, where I’m a much younger person.  Once we explained my identity, she knew me for a while and we had a moment of connection.  A moment where I felt I was saying goodbye.  And it hurt.  A lot.  She has been one of the most influential people I’ve had the pleasure to know in my life.  A treasure, even when she’s been less than perfect, which was often, as it is with most of us.

Anyway, as I sat in her house this morning among stacks and boxes full of her things, I could almost feel her there with me.  Some argue that there’s no call for sadness now, she’s still alive, but I would argue that now is the perfect time for sadness. . .because the little old lady that sits alone on a hospital bed in the nursing home is not my Nana. . .Or at least not completely.  There are still pieces of her there, but the parts I knew are disappearing little by little.  In some ways, it’s worse than losing her to death.  At least death happens all at once, not over months and years of remembering and forgetting.  So I am very sad today.  One way I cope with sadness is to write.  A blog like this one or even a poem, or something like a poem.  That’s what I did today as I sat there with my eyes closed, drinking in the memories that drifted around me like so many fragments of the past.  Something about the combination of her scent (a mixture of moth balls, Estee Lauder body powder, and hand lotion) took me back to my childhood.  Call me sappy or overemotional, but here it is. . .

Hot summer day

Light cold breeze blowing all around me

Her scent surrounds me

I close my eyes and she’s whistling in the kitchen

Humming a tune as she moves around the room

The droning of the old window unit is white noise

Cartoon voices from the television chatter incomprehensibly in the background

I can taste the freshly peeled carrot she gave me after school

The faint light filters in through the lace curtains at the window

Sunbeams mixed with dust float lazily in the air

The sensation of being loved so completely invades my heart

Her essence is here, but her mind is gone

Her possessions are here. She is not.

I miss her.