We interrupt this blog for the sole purpose of wishing my beloved a very happy 20th anniversary.
I have only this to say:
We interrupt this blog for the sole purpose of wishing my beloved a very happy 20th anniversary.
I have only this to say:
Our dog’s name is Batman. This makes me smile. And as we are a culture enamored with our pets, I’m asked my dog’s name often. We’re popular on the walking trails. In my experience, introducing a big, black shaggy mutt as the Caped Crusader will often bring a smile to another, too. And if that other has a small person in their life in any significant way, I can pretty much count on a chuckle. Batman gets an affectionate schcruzz on the head, and we all leave feeling a little warmer than we did. Lighter. Because a beast named Batman clearly hails from a home with a sense of humor. A home where people don’t take themselves too seriously. A home with children.
We got Batman about two years ago after a trial with a long promised puppy proved a terrific non-success. Let’s just say when a 200lb man fears a 10lb creature of any species, something has got to give. Despite the majority rule of the family at the time, I felt an old school “for better or worse” obligation to keep my husband and lose the mutt. I wasn’t a fan of the idea in the first place. Still, I assured the kids that once daddy’s lacerations healed and the home flooring replaced, we had a decent shot at convincing him to buy a ticket for the canine carousel one more time. This was, at best, incredibly optimistic and at worst, a bald-faced lie. I kept my fingers crossed that, kids being kids, they would lose interest. Get sidetracked. After all, these are trying times for the youth of America. They face the agonizing “Team Edward” versus “Team Jacob” dilemma, whether they should beg for an Xbox or a Wii, and whose idea was it to air “Caillou”* and “The Wonder Pets” at the same time anyway? I liked my odds.
Remind me never to gamble.
It should be noted that one would not exactly call our family “pet-friendly”. From Mia the hamster (may she rest in peace) who was forgotten and left outside in her plastic exercise ball …in January, to Frank the fouler than Limburger cheese ferret who met his maker at the tender young age of who-can-remember-if-we-even-knew-in-the-first-place, when he slipped, all weaselly and ferret-like, out the front door where my husband accidentally (he claimed) backed over him with our Ford Explorer.
Oh, and Ernie. The ball python. A birthday gift for my husband who had always wanted a snake. Fine. What did I care? I didn’t mind him much. But as Ernie grew, so did his, er,..nourishment needs. This was something I had not anticipated. I could stomach him being fed those tiny, frozen baby mice but soon Ernie required more. Ernie required rats. Uh-uh. As it happened, my daughter and I found Ernie’s meals considerably more appealing than Ernie himself ( not a tremendous compliment), and we launched a two woman crusade to save each one that came through our doors. It wasn’t long before Ernie was wasting away and we were in imminent danger of becoming rodent hoarders. In the end, Ernie was bartered to our teenage babysitter and, though our relationship with his parents was slightly strained for a while, it remains to this day, the best deal we’ve ever made. As for the rats (bred exclusively for the purpose of being swallowed whole by legless reptiles) we self-righteously set them free only to watch them violently snatched up by our local hawk population. Bones picked clean and scattered across our yard. Our good intentions mocked. The circle of life is not a pretty one, friends.
My least favorite animal experience though, has to be the bird. Moses. A yellow something-or-other. Canary, maybe? It was little. It had wings. Whatever. He was a gift from a deaf friend who told me that he just couldn’t keep him anymore. He said his hearing wife (noteworthy detail) told him the bird needed to go. In retrospect, we should have questioned that, but we were assured old Mo was a terrific pet. Extremely friendly. How you judge that of something that sits on a stick all day is still a mystery to me but the kids loved the idea and so, because we never learn, the bird was christened and taken home. Here was the deal with the freaking bird. It never shut up. NEVER. SHUT. UP. “Are you putting a sheet over his cage? You need to put a sheet over his cage.” We heard it a million times. Thanks, ornithologists. That much we knew. The only one in the whole equation who didn’t seem to know this effective silencing technique was Moses himself who squawked and shrieked and chirruped ALL day and ALL night. I told my friend (a term I now use loosely) this.”Hey, thanks ever so much for terrorist Tweety. Our nearest neighbor is a mile away and he’s been complaining of Hitchcockian nightmares.” I saw understanding dawn on him and he laughed. A little too hard. Shrugged. Pointed to his ears in jest. “How was I supposed to know?” Terrific. Everyone’s a comedian.
I know. Reading this you can’t help but think that my family living fur-free is a big “duh”. You’re wondering now how we’d ever think about thinking about taking on an animal again. You know memories though. How they become fuzzy around the edges and kind of crinkly and dull? Over time our beastly misadventures became treasured family narratives that got more side-splitting (and wildly exaggerated) year after year until one day..
We knew. Our family was incomplete. Most of us were on board. As for my husband..you know the saying “Better to ask forgiveness than permission?” He’s very forgiving. And we needed a dog.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? The designer dog fad? You can mix and match your favorite breeds. Clone a favorite pooch who has passed. Dye poor Fido’s fur to match your new drapes. But us? Given our track record,we didn’t know what to look for. But here’s what we found. A dog who, upon a gleeful toddler attempt to saddle and ride him up the stairs, scoots along, head on paws, sighs deeply, and waits patiently for adult intervention.We found a dog who will allow himself to be painted and braided and dressed and dragged and tickled and chased and hugged and kissed and, on one occasion bit, and continues to grin a doggy grin and wag his doggy tail. Who spins himself in stupid barking circles of delight when someone walks in the door even if that someone has been gone merely minutes. One who knows enough to look remorseful when caught munching Matchbox cars or rain boots. We found a dog who pads from room to room while the children of the house sleep, sharing his snuggles, so that by morning each can rightfully boast “Batman slept with ME last night!”
Or maybe he found us. Either way, he’s here to stay.
My mom always called me heartless when it came to anything related to the wild kingdom. Said something is wrong inside of me. Maybe. I admit , I’m not one who coos at the babies in the pet store. I didn’t have puppies and kitties splashed across my notebooks as a kid. I’ve never felt led to give to the ASPCA or rescue the innocents jailed at the pound. I loathe the zoo. No one would ever call me an animal lover. Not then. Not now. It’s completely unrealistic to expect one common pet to change a lifetime of indifference.
It’s just..I know this one superhero..
Ponder- to think about carefully; to weigh in the mind with thoroughness;to reflect or consider deeply
“..but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”*
Righteous and young, pure of heart, free of touch/ A messenger from God to believe/“Rejoice” was the word, highly favored young girl/ By His spirit the Child you’ll conceive
Troubled and anxious she’s told not to fear/The Almighty has chosen her one/To carry and bear the great Prince of Peace/The Counselor, Messiah, the Son Stirred by a dream showing prophecy fulfilled/The affianced with honor did wed/A journey, a sojourn, convergence amassed thus/No rooms in The House of Bread
The shepherds behold heavens hosts as they praise/Good tidings of great joy they sing/A stable, a manger, a virgin’s embrace/Bow to the true King of Kings
Righteous and young, pure of heart, free of touch/Through His mercy salvation below/She who had borne was now quiet in heart/Oh Mary, blessed Mary did you know..?..
“..but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”*
It was not a silent night/ There was blood on the ground/You could hear a woman cry/In the alleyways that night/On the streets on David’s town
And the stable was not clean/And the cobblestones were cold/And little Mary full of grace/With the tears upon her face/ Had no mother’s hand to hold
It was a labor of pain/It was a cold sky above/But for the girl on the ground in the dark/With every beat of her beautiful heart /It was a labor of love
Noble Joseph at her side/Callused hands and weary eyes/There were no midwives to be found/On the streets of David’s town/In the middle of the night
So he held her and he prayed/Shafts of moonlight on his face/For the baby in her womb/He was the maker of the moon/He was the author of the faith
That could make the mountains move
It was a labor of pain/It was a cold sky above/But for the girl on the ground in the dark/With every beat of her beautiful heart/It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace/With the tears upon her face/It was a labor of love
It was not a silent night
On the streets of David’s town..
Songwriters: Cunningham Grant Evan, Davis Christopher
“People love in their own way..”
It was a quiet rebuke. Seemingly defensive. Unmistakably disapproving. But quiet nonetheless. And being spoken to in such a manner has a powerful shock-to-the-system effect on me that must be very similar to what those who are in the throes of hysteria must feel when they are abruptly slapped across the face. It’s confounding.
Having been raised in a family of screamers, it’s quiet that speaks the loudest. Quiet that I don’t trust. Just as I was getting ready to croon the “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” chorus, a personal favorite, she continued. “Maybe it’s not be the way you want or the way you expect, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. We can’t expect everyone to do things the way we would do them. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say. There aren’t words. And this“, she gestured at my battered profile, “this is really hard to look at. I mean, it’s frightening.” Whoomp, there it was. The truth. Too bad I’d probably be completely healed by Halloween. I would clean UP.
It had only been a week since my potentially life threatening car wreck. A personal roller coaster ride complete with spinning and somersaulting, violent shaking, and a dramatic finish that left my world wrong side up and me, dangling from my harness, steadily pendulating as if trying to keep in time with the pounding of my heart. Though I was airborne for a second or two, I don’t think I had much fun.
Never been a huge fan of coasters. More a Pirates of the Caribbean than Space Mountain kind of girl.
It wasn’t long before it became clear to me that although I was sprained, fractured, bruised and concussed, it was my face, curiously causing the least amount of pain, that was going to look the angriest. Frightening. An apt description.
My blackened, blood clotted, puckered grimace was a distraction from my daily “to weigh or not to weigh” tug of war with my conscience, but was it relief? Really?
Or is it true that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t? Because no matter how often I scrutinized myself in the mirror, I could not recognize the woman staring back at me.
I spiraled into a dark place in the days after the accident. Initially, my family and I felt astonishment, then relief that naturally gave way to joy. That I walked (crutched) away from the remains of a sardine can, more or less unscathed,was no less than a genuine water-into-wine miracle.
Paramedics, doctors, nurses, they all made a point of telling me that I was “very, very lucky.” I made a point of telling them “It wasn’t luck. It was God.” Unfortunately, I was on a steady morphine drip at the time and my exaltation sounded a lot like, “Ih wush uhh. Ih wuh guuu.” The closest I’ll probably ever get to speaking in tongues. I think they understood.
Sadly, by the time I was discharged, my initial adrenaline (and subsequent pain medication) buzz had all but vanished. At home, I lay on my bed in a perfume cloud of “Get Well” bouquets, and skimmed my Facebook messages that offered X’s and O’s and homemade meals. I felt anxious. Unsettled. I should have been resting in the blessings. I should have been sleeping in stillness and serenity. But something wasn’t right. Greatly not right. But I didn’t know what it was. I wouldn’t for a while. A traumatic brain injury arrives as an unexpected and highly unwelcome house-guest. It arrives on your doorstep and settles in for a stay of indeterminate length. Before you’ve had a chance to remove your puke-green hospital slipper socks, your entire home-sweet-home with all its creature comforts has been wickedly upended.
The family is challenged with an unknown personality. A Tasmanian devil who ferociously and mercilessly tornadoes through your life leaving about just as much damage in its wake. The transformation is shocking to all, catching even the devil by surprise. The onset is abrupt. The onset is severe. All involved are ill-equipped.
I am beyond blessed to have a devoted circle of intimates who were ready to put an arm around my shoulder and tirelessly guide me through the blackest of my nights. Always with a smile, currents of grace still coursing through me long after they’d left. I’d needed it badly but would never have asked. The riotous shouting in my head came from unknown characters I couldn’t begin to tackle on my own.
It began a day or two following the fun of my brain knocking forcibly against my skull ( see, they’re really not meant to do that). Somewhere in my mind tiptoed the macabre hiss “You were supposed to die. You’re were SUPPOSED to die.” Understand, my head was already considerably muddled.
I lost entire conversations. I had difficulty accounting for large blocks of time. Speech became difficult. I couldn’t remember simple words. Couldn’t articulate them when I did. I’d always thought that the worst way to live was to be altogether lucid while living in a decrepit body. But now I had to consider the torment of being physically whole while recognizing that you’re gradually losing your mind.
I was terrified.
I slept during the day…or maybe I didn’t? At night I slept..or I didn’t.. I might have emailed friends..or I did it in my head and figured the end result would be the same. The narcotics helped arrest the herd of tap dancing elephants between my ears but not all effects were so discernibly beneficial. The drugs also inspired behaviors such as crying over imagined jeers from nonexistent visitors or writing terrible and detectably suicidal poetry at three in the morning.
“ The LED numbers stare at me unblinking Mocking me Challenging Nothing to be done
Not tonight I accept defeat The thickness of my head muffles the sound of metal dancing too closely with metal
But my eyelids, so delicate, don’t hide the image of glass..crystalline..like a snow globe..turned into countless little ice cubes that veer too close
The reminders that can’t be escaped have me ever shifting. Always twisting. The elevated foot that pulses uncomfortably, the face where one cheek and only that one cheek must remain firmly affixed to my pillow. The knee, the elbow, the ribs, easily forgotten in the dark shadows cast from the head.
Where lies everything that makes me who and what I am. Trouble has come. I am unsure and wrong-footed and thoughts are dark. Painful. Laborious.
Death as release. For those I love. For me. New thoughts. But persistent. The tack of fresh blood soothed only briefly. Now it is one more hurt. One more pain to keep me staring at the ceiling.
But the ceiling, with it’s clean canvas, shows me no ice crystals of glass. It’s coldness makes no grinding metallic crunch. I can lie here in safety, but not at all safe, and no one will tell me to get over it.
I’ll be fine.
No big deal. Because I don’t know that I will.
And it may not be. And it is. It really is.
If I could disappear, I would. Make myself so tiny that I could flatten myself against the wall, or curl into a petite little package and never be noticed.
A delicious prospect.
To bruise to bleed to swell to break to fear
To be confused in reading in writing in prayer
Oh to fly, To fly to escape, Or just to go home
People can thwart the will of God, can they not? What if What if I was meant to die?
And there it is
…..I know. Poetry hasn’t ever really been my thing but seriously? I forgive myself the obvious “woe is me” sentiment woven throughout because the words were born out of legitimate pain, but I’m still puzzled at the insinuation that my trauma was dismissed. Completely untrue. If anyone was discounting a brewing storm it was me and me alone. I adopted my usual droll banter and resolute attitude. Hastily stitched fig leaves meant to disguise my reprehensible humanity. The trouble with that?…
I was hurting. I was sad. And while most of the time the confidence I carried knowing that I was unquestionably loved was enough? This wasn’t most of the time. And the question now facing me was: Do I expect everyone to do things the way I would do them? Did I believe that the act of caring had to follow my personal outline in order to be heartfelt? Maybe.
Gradually, painfully, I acknowledged that I’d set pretty definitive criteria as to the “right” way one should show friendship during times of crisis and hardship. That being, naturally, what I would do. Oh. Also, ouch.
The realizations chug chugged to life and came quicker as they gathered steam. At the same time, I started thinking that the notion of everyone doing their own thing, going and loving their own way, couldn’t possibly be a panacea for those suffering.
There had to be way to weave together the best of these ideas but the “how” of it all left me stuck. Gnawed at me. Maybe neither she (previously mentioned), nor I were completely right nor completely wrong but I couldn’t articulate why. I wanted, as I always want but so seldom get, a very clear solution. A no shades of gray, let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, tale as old as time; song as old as rhyme, “That’s it! Miss Scarlet with the lead pipe in the Conservatory!” answer. So far, no luck on that front. I still hope though.
just one month later..
a devastating tragedy.
A dear friend I had known from inpatient treatment committed suicide. None of us saw it coming. I guess nobody ever does, do they?
And it came.
“It may not be the way you want or the way you expect.”
I can accept that. I love big. I love with all I am and all I have. Often, it would seem, to my detriment. I can’t and don’t expect that in kind. And yet. Yet. We shouldn’t use our individual habits as excuses to rationalize disregard. Or apathy. I mean, I’ve done it. Plenty. You’ve probably done it.
“He/she knows I love them, I’m just so busy/tired/important. I’ll make it up to them later.” And we wait..and we wait.. for later to arrive. Sometimes later arrives too late.
I keep imagining what it must have been like for my friend Emily on the night she died. Bottles of pills standing at attention on her desk. Just..staring at her. Did she pause for a moment? Regard them? Did she take any time to reflect?
Did she wonder, “Why am I doing this? So many people love me? They’re showing it in their own way. Maybe with their thoughts? Could be in their prayers. Positive vibes? I’m sure they meant to call. To write. To stop by. I can’t expect people to care for me the way I care for them.”
Losing Emily (I’m writing about this now for a later post) showed me that sometimes loving our own way isn’t enough. Sometimes loving our own way isn’t necessarily God’s way. We might need to venture into what’s unfamiliar to soothe and strengthen, to knit the tears of the heart and reach for the hand of all who’ve lost the faith to walk upon the waves. Who tumble overboard and then panic. Flail. Sink.
In Mark 8:34, Jesus, speaking to a crowd, said, ” Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Though brief, it’s no easy directive. Servitude while thirsting for autonomy. Great personal sacrifice. Everyday. Even when it’s untimely. Even when it’s unpleasant. I don’t mean to suggest that an outward deluge of affection would have changed the road Emily had determined to go down. I’m thinking more of future Emilys. We can’t know who or where they are. How seldom does a person’s outside mirror what’s actually happening inside? That doesn’t mean an impact can’t be made. Ultimately it’s not about loving the way I would love or the way you would love. It’s all about how He loves.
“LOVE your neighbor as yourself.”*
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, that you have LOVE for one another.”
“These things I command you, that you LOVE one another.”
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly LOVE, in honor giving preference to one another..”
“Let all that you do be done with LOVE.”
“And walk in LOVE, as Christ also has LOVED us and given himself for us..”
Be kind to one another. Honor one another. Be devoted to one another. Love one another. LOVE. Love. Love.
Like I said, I was just on the receiving end of some pretty amazing love like that. I was reminded daily that God was near. Was looking out for me still. That I was precious to Him and precious to people on earth. I eventually did sleep in the stillness and serenity. Rest in the blessings. And as I drifted off, I was filled with warmth. Sent up a silent prayer of gratitude. I was very, very lucky. Funny. Now I was reminding myself: Ih wush uhh. Ih wuh guuu.
Ain’t it the truth..
*Leviticus 19:18, **John 13:35, ***John 15:17, ****Romans 12:10 *****1Corinthians 16:14, ******Ephesians 5:2
We had a recent incident at our home. One might go so far as to call it a debacle. What my husband called it at the time is not suitable for print, but suffice it to say the story will go down in my mental annals to one day be shared with the children of the offenders around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Now however, the all too familiar antics of my four children seem far less amusing to me than the casual observer.
What shall hereafter be entitled “The Great White War of 2011”, most likely began as harmlessly as a food fight does in a middle school cafeteria. A tossed tater tot. A sporkful of ketchup…and pandemonium ensues. Alas, on this stifling summer afternoon our garage was regrettably condiment free. What we could provide our high-spirited progeny for entertainment was paint. White paint. Acrylic. Glossy. By the time the first perp sloshed his way upstairs to tattle on his older sister, leaving quick drying footprints in his wake, the trial that would befall us had..well.. befallen.The trial of the tint. The affliction of the artwork. The disaster of the driveway. I think I’ve made my point.
AND in what shall hereafter be entitled “The Great Inquisition of 2011”, the first question my long-suffering mate was able to articulate coherently was posed to our teenage daughter. “WHAT made you THINK…that would POSSIBLY be OKAY??!!”
And then she said it. The response heard ’round the world’.
“You never told me not to.”
While I restrained her father from strangling her on the spot, I reflected on the statement. She wasn’t wrong. We hadn’t told her not to have a paint fight in the front yard with her brothers that would result in hundreds of dollars to clean the driveway and the street as well as hours of scrubbing to remove every last trace of stray pigment that had flown in streaks and splatters, Jackson Pollock style, onto both of our cars. I had been remiss as a parent. Emphasizing far too heavily the “Do’s” rather than the “Dont’s”. Oh, the mishaps that could have been avoided.
So, in light of my daughter’s brilliant and insightful statement, I jotted down a woefully incomplete list of 25 things I should have told the fruit of my womb NOT to do. Well. I’m telling them now:
1. It is not appropriate to eat off the floor. No, not even if you brush the hair off first.
2. Underwear should not be worn as outerwear.
3. Any sentence that begins with “I triple dog dare you..”, usually leads to trouble.
4. The dryer is not a ride.
5. Legos should not enter any bodily orifice.
6. Live creatures do not belong in the microwave..
7. ..nor the freezer.
8. Floating off the roof with an umbrella only works in the movies.
9. It is unwise to remove your own or each other’s braces, casts, or surgical staples.
10. Keep in mind that many people will not be as amused as you are by “Yo Mama..” jokes. Including Yo Mama.
11. You’ll shoot your eye out.
12. Coins do not digest.
13. Eating a box of crayons will not make you poop a rainbow. Please stop trying.
14. A dog will eat almost anything if it is wrapped in cheese or coated in peanut butter. This does not make it a good idea.
15. A young sibling will eat almost anything if it is wrapped in cheese or coated in peanut butter. This should also be filed away in your mental “It SEEMED like a good idea but Mom said…” folder.
16. The world is not your toilet.
17. Vertical blinds do not grow and therefore do NOT require a “trim”.
18. Neighbors frown upon dancing naked in the front yard. Accept what you consider oppression as quickly as you can. The time will come when you’ll need more than my apology and a smile to avoid trouble.
19. Because I said so.
20. Licking yourself “just like a cat does” does not equal taking a bath.
21. Suspenders will not support you hanging from household light fixtures.
22. It doesn’t particularly bother me if you taste test a bug, eat a mud pie, or sip lumpy milk. However, if projectile vomit results from from any of the aforementioned actions, you know where the Lysol is.
23. Cereal cannot be eaten for every meal. Unless it’s Count Chocula. Because that’s delicious.
24. Biting people does not win you friends…..
and last but not least my precious angel dumplings…
25. Having a paint fight in your parent’s driveway will get you grounded for a
Sigh. And never forget..Mommy will always love you.