Sacred trust.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I kept him out too late last night, visiting with friends while I let him play games on my phone.  His red eyes drooped by the time I scooped him into his booster seat for the quick ride home.  "Thanks, mama," he said, already leaning his head against the side of the seat.  He barely woke up to be carried to bed once we were home.  Sorry, buddy.

 Maybe those missing hours of sleep messed with his sleep cycles.  In the dark of the night, I hear little feet running.  He clambers over his daddy to get to me, and I can hear his short wheezing breaths, feel the tremor in his hands as he tries to get to me.  It's a Bad Dream Night.

"It was a fire," he gasps, and settles his forehead against mine, his little hand still trembling against my cheek, gasping for air-- whether from allergies or panic I'm not sure.  I whisper reassurances with each breath... it's over now, it wasn't real, we're all here together, you can stay here with us... while Daddy goes in search of the inhaler.  A breath or two of the medicine, and a snuggle with me, and he's back to sleep in moments.  Waking up several times through the rest of the night, I always feel his hand, a foot, or his head pressed against me.  Making sure I'm still there.

There is something so unspeakably precious about this time to me, when I am the biggest part of Making It All Better in his little world.  I know it will not always be like this.

Latest obsession.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

I have a private obsession.  Lately at night, after the rest of my family goes to sleep (for my husband has turned into an early bird, and my tendencies are so "night owl" that I almost hoot and hack up pellets), I get something hot to drink, throw the blanket over the grateful dog, and settle in for at least two (but sometimes four) rounds of my addiction.

I am deep into the first season of Parenthood.  I laugh, I cry, I pause the show to get a closer look at the incredible old houses they live in.  Will Sarah ever begin living like she's aware of her worth as a parent and a human being?  When will Adam snap under the pressure from his unsteady work environment, crazy Braverman family, Aspie son, and teenage daughter?  Can Amber keep it together long enough to get into college?  Does Crosby grow up into Awesome Father and Husband or lapse and screw up his amazing good luck in the ready-made-awesome-family department?

Don't answer ANY of those questions.  I realize I am a good four seasons behind the rest of the show's fans.  This is why I mention it on this nearly-dead blog instead of asking my friends if they watch it.

Don't tell me a thing.  I'm going to watch it ALL play out, late at night in a dark room, drinking hot tea next to my snoring dog.

What am I going to do when I grow up?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Aaron's squirreled me away at Big Cedar for two nights, this first without the kids, for rest and sleep and rejuvenation.  I am so thankful.  Big Cedar is inexpressibly beautiful, if a bit "Big Fish" (Q's word for Bass Pro) overdecorated.  The valley dazzles with the lake below and the steep hillsides and tonight's stormclouds racing around punctured by flashes of orange lightning.  I don't even care that it's raining and we haven't been able to enjoy the pools, etc.  The scenery is just stunning.

But... I'm not cooperating by sleeping.  The steriods meant to ease the inflammation in my lungs keep me awake, sometimes all night.  We're on day 8 now, with four more days to go, and it's hard to keep going on such little sleep.  There are dark baggy circles under my eyes... a first for me.  Nothing to be done about it-- lung health trumps shuteye at this point-- so I'll stay up a bit, till my eyelids grow heavy again, and head back into the bed to see if I can grab another few hours of sleep before morning.

He asked me at dinner tonight what I'd like to do when the kids are off to college.  We're years from that, and I was a little flummoxed by the question.  Um... "something creative," I said, "something fun.  I really would like a serious garden...."

I'm a little surprised by my own lack of vision.

I do have one little idea, though:  I would love to somehow be involved in recording the history and music and culture of our region.  Some of my most electric moments, when I felt most fascinated and most thrilled, have been when I was learning and connecting to Ozark history.  Dr. Bob Cochran's Folk and Popular Music class in college, discovering the wonder that is Winslow's Ozark Folkways, Still on the Hill's Ozark project, hearing stories about the old times and ways that Aaron hears as part of his work with local seniors.  All of this feels like a tuning fork that makes me quiver inside somehow.

That's a weird statement.  Ever feel like you were made FOR something?  This is about as close as I get to that, other than the simple but intense joy of having a husband and children of my own and the spiritual peace that comes from knowing Christ.

Ever since we returned from Florida, I can feel my roots growing into this place as surely as if there were taproots coming off the tips of my fingers and toes.  My genealogical  roots are a few hours further south, but I feel a connection to these hills that I can't really explain.  My mother-in-law feels it too, and we've talked about it:  this is HOME, and our soul rings truest here.

So, late at night, in this overly woodsy little condo, being stared at by various local dead animals on the walls, I got up to write this down.  Who knows, really, what the future will bring?  But perhaps:

Something about history.
Something about the Ozarks.
Something about writing.
Something about music?
Something about stories.
Preserving it before it is lost.

Food for thought, anyway.  We'll see what comes.

Rain and mutinae in the midst of the night.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The rain just started falling, softly, with thunder rumbling far-off in the background.  It's 3 am, but I've had a night's worth of sleep, having gone to bed just after we put the kids down.  A headache woke me, but Alleve's beaten it back (or else "faster EFT," a bizarre little method which I'm experimenting with but not so confidently that I don't still take the Alleve)... so I have space to hear the rainrops and feel thankfulness, to feel the silence of the house without the guilt of being awake so late/early.

The chalk sticks the kids left outside on the sidewalk may be ruined.  I guess there's a lesson in that, so I won't scuttle out there in the downpour trying to find them.  (I warned them to pick them up today but I think we all got distracted.)

Parched, from six days without my best friend and love, six days of company staying and adventures happening and kids needing and there not being a scrap of time to myself that didn't have a necessary task attached.  It was wonderful to see friends, celebrate a family wedding, help with the cake, go swimming, play tourist, and cook for a houseful, but goodness am I bone-tired.  I wish I could tumble back into bed for another four hours of sleep, but at the moment that's not likely. 

My Kindle's MIA after this week's craziness.  I have no idea where I put it.  Last saw it in the passenger's seat of the car, which worries me.  Did someone snatch it?  (Random thoughts at three a.m. ... this will not be a deep post.)

Our little garden's a maze of beautiful flowers, gorgeous but fruitless okra, corn with unharvested ears slowly drying, and bermuda grass rampantly overtaking it all.  I want a cool kidless morning to spend restoring it, but August in Arkansas does not lend itself to cool mornings.  September will do, and I'll have to fight back a jungle by then, but that's the nature of the beast.

My children and I have had a glorious summer of swimming lessons, pools, theme parks, bikes, crafts, travel, family, and fun.  I feel both triumphant and wrung out like a dishrag.  Bring on the predictability of school season, please.

Ah, the rain's stopped.  Had a feeling the thunder wasn't close enough to bring much to us.

A list of good things.

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's past midnight, and I really should head for bed.  But the crickets are singing, the house is cool and quiet, and I don't feel quite settled yet after day 3, hours 7-9 of helping with Vacation Bible School at church.  For an introvert who didn't grow up around kids' church activities, being Happy 3rd Grade Leader every evening, all evening is more than a little exhausting.  I love much of it, but it also wears me out.

May I list a few things I enjoy about myself, please?  A day or two ago, I could not think of a single thing that made me a useful part of my family.  (That sounds awful.  It felt awful, in that moment.  I'm sure you've had them yourself.  Let's leave it there for now.)

Tonight, though, I can think of a few... and I'd like to take the luxury of pondering them for a moment while the crickets sing and the dog snores at my feet.

1.  I make a mean chicken soup.  And the leftovers, after a day or two to deepen in the fridge, are even better.  (Everybody in my house likes my chicken soup.  I think it is just about the only food that we will all eat.  Food is an issue these days, a source of stress and judgment and rejection and cajoling and bribing and insistence and frustration and, some days, maternal surrender.  It is nice to remember, tonight, that if I set a bowl of chicken soup in front of everybody in my house, everybody will be happy.)

2.  Things grow for me, most of the time.  I have a garden that's fed us with broccoli and collard greens all spring, and is about to burst forth in tomatoes and basil and hopefully cucumbers and cantaloupe and squash and corn and okra and potatoes and onions.  I help make our little town's first community garden happen, where anyone with the will to get a little dirty can have their own full-sun garden plot, for free.  Old folks and young families and grieving fathers and locavores gather all together, dig and water, harvest and visit, and the diversity and harmony make my heart sing.  I am not quite sure why I love it so much, but I do.

3.  My kids always want me to tuck them into bed.  I turn them down regularly to let my husband have the honor (and me have a break), but they would prefer me, even though I tend to make them tidy up as they get ready for bed and often tell them there's no time for stories if we've stayed up late.  I think that means I am doing things mostly right.

4.  I think I'm pretty good at bargain hunting and finding cool ways to furnish the house and clothe the folks on the cheap.  (Yawn, I don't feel like bragging/elaborating on that.)

5.  Adventures happen in this family because of me.  I make sure that we get up and go do something occasionally... I think without me around there'd be very little of the new or different experienced.  This weekend, we are going to experience... a timeshare presentation!  (wheee.)  Also, two nights for free at a hotel, a day at our favorite theme park, the kids' first experience with an indoor/outdoor swim-through pool, and $75 worth of gift certificates.  I think we'll have a blast.

6.  I love my dog... my aging, arthritic, blinding, deaf-ing, seizure-ridden, peeing-in-the-house dog.  I watched videos of young minpins on YouTube the other night and laughed and cried.  Was she ever that nutso, that blinding fast?  Yes, this fat little sleepy thing was once lightning and hell on paws, humping her giant grasshopper pillow in front of visitors and dragging my underwear through the house.  Because she's licked my tears off my face and warmed my feet a thousand nights under our covers and caught frisbees from my hand over and over and overandoverandover, today I clean up her (occasional) messes and endure her erratic barking and her demands to go out, come in, go out, come in with some patience.  She's given us so much... I can offer her grace during her most graceless time.

7.  Despite my fears that I had lost the ability, I am in fact still capable of cleaning out a closet or desk or drawer and putting it into orderly condition.  I am actually excited about my summer because there are some hours available for this.  I am thankful to find that I still am able, still enjoy it; the constant press of meeting homeschooling deadlines had made me doubt I could ever be that type of person again.  I can.

8.  My daddy likes my fudge better than anyone else's.  Also, I make the most amazing Thanksgiving turkey.  (I am not out to best my mother in the culinary arts, but I am tremendously proud of the areas where I've managed to do so.  That is an accomplishment.)

9.  I write.  Actually, at the moment, I don't, much.  But I am able to write, and working out something on paper feels sure and certain, like it's something I'm supposed to be doing.  I suspect that there's a purpose for that out there somewhere in my future.  Don't know how, don't know when.

10.  My kids are my primary accomplishment during this phase of my life.  And you know what?  I am supremely pleased with them.  Don't misunderstand me; they are not flawless angels.  But my gal is sharp and passionate and kindhearted, and my fella is gentle and sweet and jolly and fun.  I'm proud that they're mine, and proud of the way that they're learning to get about in the world.  We raise them a little oddly compared to most... no cable tv in the house, no Barbies, no Little Mermaid, no Pee Wee Sluggers baseball teams or Little Diva Dance classes or the like.  And Gracie's homeschooled, of course, which protects her from all the drudgery of today's schools (and the drama and despair of today's vicious little girl cliques).  I worry sometimes that I'm oversheltering them... but for pete's sake, they're tiny, and I'd rather none of that imprint deeply on their sense of normality this early in their life.  ...I'm digressing.  My point is, I like who they are, who they appear to be becoming.  I think perhaps we're pretty good parents, giving our kids a pretty special childhood.

11.  I keep going.  I may not do all things well (or even most things well), but I do not throw in the towel.  Marriage and family means that you get up every morning and you keep going whether it pushes your happy buttons or not at that particular moment.  Life is exhausting sometimes, and periods of life feel more like a desert than Fantasy Island.  Still, I am called to this family, this house, this set of things-to-be-done.  And I keep trying.  Kudos for that, at least, because some folks don't.

It's a satisfying list, and a weapon to wield if the Uncertainty comes knocking again.  Get back, you.  I am too worth something.

A smattering of updates.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring's sprung early, at least three weeks early, and it's fascinating watching what's popping up when.  The flowering things seem to be flowering with extra abandon, enjoying the extra energy left over after the mildest weather anyone seems to remember here.  The growing things are likewise growing with abandon; grass is already being mown for hay in the fields here, and our side yard is looking more like a meadow than a vacant lot.  The kids are playing in the sandbox and getting ticks already (how I hate ticks; after battling tularemia and Lyme's disease with Gracie, we only have one major tick-borne disease for her to catch; she is apparently irresistibly tasty).

I went last week with 9000 other women to receive the Word through a woman.  I'm still chewing on her words, thinking about what God would have me learn.  One thing:  a spiritual life lived alone, without connection to others, will on some level lack maturity.  I'm prone to this and it rings like a warning bell in my head.

I requested a second 10x20 plot in the community garden this year, bringing my total to 400 square feet of responsibility.  I think I may be certifiably insane.  If we don't get a significant harvest out of this year's efforts, I will be hard to console.  I've been watching Back to Eden repeatedly and pondering this good ol' boy's rain gutter grow system and am experimenting with both in this year's gardens.  Hopefully at least one of the methods does well, as my plot looks markedly odd compared to the straight rows and unmulched soils in most everyone else's.  I'm holding my breath and praying that my larder be filled and my vanity coddled.

We're on the home stretch of a year homeschooling kindergarten.  It's challenging, I'm feeling somehow both triumphant and a failure.  She's reading well, she's smart and fabulous, but I'm tired and I feel keenly my failures in time management and consistency.  Next year we'll do some things differently and try to cut  fewer corners.  I'm sure that, without the accountability of this program, I'd be a feeble homeschooling mama.  Next year:  a stricter schedule, piano lessons, community youth choir tryouts, and a stricter schedule.  Oh, and did I mention a stricter schedule?

My little uncommunicative boy is suddenly full of words, big and small, speaking in full sentences and full of "please" and "thank you" and all kinds of personality.  My mouth gapes open regularly.  This boy I'm fully conversing with, in some ways meeting, for the first time, deeply pleases me.  He's funny, sweet, gentle, good-spirited, loving.  Careful, always, but also enthusiastic and willing to try to please.  Stubborn as hell occasionally, but all in all, a beautiful little soul.  I am so, so proud of him.  I knitted him a sweater with a huge Q on it this spring, and I bask in his delight in it as if it was warm sunshine.  

Looking forward to summer:  a week at the beach next month, a Daisy Girl Scout day at Build-a-Bear, swimming lessons, cookouts, picnics, river loungin', NO school requirements, adventuring sort of summer.  Bring it ON.

But until then, a few more weeks of tracking school hours and marching with Gracie through curriculum that neither of us have a particular taste for.  Summer beckons, and spring is doing a pretty good job of seducing us as well.  It's time to resist their siren calls and buckle down for the home stretch.

Bated breath.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hating being told to sit still for a picture.  2009.
I think we nearly lost our little dog this afternoon.

ClaireDog's been with us since Thanksgiving weekend 1998, when I scooped her out of a pen outside Wal-Mart and decided that I couldn't wait until Christmas to bring her home to Aaron. I went inside, bought a tiny harness and some food, and brought her home in a cardboard box. She was six weeks old and could fit in the palm of my hand. We wouldn't have kids for another seven years, but suddenly we had a baby.

She's been with us ever since, and her antics always entertained. She was a tiny puppy fireball who could hurtle herself over the back of the couch without touching it at all (skidding across the house on our hardwood floors on her rear end afterwards) and a "heat-seeking missle" that laid, panting, with her belly turned toward the flames of our gas space heater, baking herself until you couldn't touch her. (Then she'd stretch out belly-down on the coldest section of floor, recovering. Spa treatment, I called it.) She chewed on electrical cords until she shocked the tar out of herself on the a/c cord in her metal crate while we weren't home. She caught mice and floppy orange frisbees with wild and endless abandon. She fought the leash at first, hopping down the street on her hind legs, gagging, embarassing us to no end. She snowplowed through the yard at full tilt, spraying snow and pushing her body through the white cloud like a dervish. The first time we left town and left her with my sister, she immediately went into heat and started bleeding all over the place. My poor sister followed her around with little doggy diapers, trying to stop the chaos. We've laughed and laughed at her. God, she was nuts.

In Florida, she was my companion, digging with me in the sand as I built gardens and schemed to plant our front yard with natives instead of grass. She chased a giant black snake (harmless) that was living in our yard until he finally bit her in disgust and left forever. We would walk around the neighborhood retention pond, and I'd watch the bald eagles circle overhead and hope they weren't mistaking her for a rabbit. One day we came upon a giant momma sandhill crane and her baby, and had to beat a swift retreat as she spread her wings and advanced threateningly at us. She entertained our many visitors and gorged herself on fallen avocados from our tree. I remember crying and her licking my tears as we struggled through the horrid conflicts in our church (and employer) that led us to leave and head back to the Ozarks.

Now, she's a sleepy old thing who spends her days snoozing and asking to go outside. She loves to bake herself (still) on the sidewalk, even in this awful heat. When she's had enough, she comes and scratches at the door. (She's peeled the paint and scratched that old door something awful. I can't believe I let her do that. I do.) She loves carrots and cheese and any other treat she can scam from the kitchen; she loves the kids, and they've learned to treat her gently and love her, though not like Aaron and I do. She still thinks of herself as a fearful watchdog, obliged to bark furiously at anyone with a uniform, wheels or fur of any kind, or a tendency not to move right along out of her field of vision. As far as she's concerned, everything within sight is her property. Stay off your yard, neighbor. I have a fat geriatric minpin who's a-gonna bark you to death.

I've never had another dog. Before we had kids, she was our baby. She slept in our bed until she couldn't leap up anymore; then she slept on the floor in our room, until she started making a regular habit of peeing on the carpet in the hall. We tried and tried to get her to quit, but finally had to install a baby gate and keep her downstairs with the hardwood floors. She sleeps on her bed or on the couch now, and is apparently untraumatized by the switch. I still miss her warm body pressed against my feet. (Okay, I don't miss the hair in the bed. At all.)

Anyway. Today Aaron called as I was parking at the grocery store. She'd fallen out of an armchair in some kind of fit, and her hind legs wouldn't work right and her head was twisted and held hard to the right. She was panting hard. He sat with her, helpless, and I called the vet. There's not much we can do, he said. She'll either stop or she won't. Could be a seizure, could be a stroke.

Then, forty minutes later, her head straightened, and a minute or two later, she shakily got to her feet and tottered off for a drink. Aaron watched in amazement.

My sister says a 40-minute seizure would probably kill a person. But within an hour afterward, she was wiggling greetings and kissing us and asking to go outside just like she always does. I gave her half a baby asprin, as the vet suggested, and we'll go in for an exam tomorrow to see if there's any way to pinpoint or prevent the cause.
Hanging out with Gracie at the grandparents'.  2008?

There could be more of these, one after another. There could never be another. We really have no idea. Has she had them before, when we were gone? Will she have more, alone, when we're out of the house? How scary.

My sweet old dog. I'm thinking through 13 years with her tonight.

I know no dog lives forever. But how much time do we have left?