Fate I guess

September 26, 2007

I’ve been pondering something in the back recesses of my mind these past few days, kind of turning it over and over — yet I’m not coming any closer to a definitive understanding.

It’s this issue of fate. Biblically speaking, I can say that: God allows situations to happen for the purpose of drawing us near to Him, that He works all things together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes, that He clearly hates injustice and suffering in the world…and no matter where one stands on the issue of predestination (and no, I’m SO not going there), it’s clear that God foreknows everything that happens to everyone.

So. Clearly, God foreknew that certain members of my high school class would die young. One woman — a girl with whom I had been in Brownies — died at the age of 32 from breast cancer when we both had 3 year old daughters. I think of her sometimes, see her in my mind walking into 8th grade history class (who knows why certain images are burned in our memories), her brown hair bouncing in curls around her head. We were never especially close, much to the chagrin of our mothers, but I never had any feelings of hostility toward her. She just never registered particularly, as I’m sure I probably didn’t register for her. I remember my mom telling me about “Susie’s” first round of breast cancer when they thought she could beat it, and I remember when I found out that the cancer had returned and had moved to her brain.

The thing is, God knew all about that long before it happened. Strange to think that at the moment she bounded into 8th grade history class, her remaining days were only numbered out until she turned 32. Who of us at 13 says, “Well, I figure I’ll die at 32 and never get to see my daughter grow up.”? And yet, looking back on that moment, I can’t help but feel the crushing inevitability of her death.

And yes, yes, of course we’re all going to die. Each year, we pass the anniversary of our death and all that jazz.

But we all expect to die at an old age, a far away age.

I just received an e-mail from a classmate about another classmate’s relapse of brain cancer. Jesus, brain cancer. This guy and I used to argue in Psychology class. And he’s got brain cancer for a second time? And a wife and two young sons? Again, I hardly think that back in high school he ever thought to himself, “Yeah, I think I’ll go for some relapsed brain cancer around the age of 40.”

It’s just — looking back on life — is there nothing either of these people could have done to prevent their illnesses? Really, probably no. Neither situation is like lung cancer where behavior can play a part in its occurrence (btw — almost 4 weeks of no smoking for me!). There’s just something so…awful…thinking of each of these people as a teenager, believing that life was spread out before her/him with so many options open, when in truth, life wasn’t going to be like that at all.

There’s no sound theology here, unless “Sometimes life totally sucks,” is some kind of doctrine. God knew in both cases and He didn’t prevent. And we don’t know why. We don’t know what glory He can wring from disease and death. We don’t know. And I hate not knowing. I cling to the fact that He is good. Even in my not knowing and wishing I understood, I cling to that fact.

A Fish Story

September 20, 2007

for my sister-in-law, Julie

I don’t know why Tim told Rob that he could get a fish with his allowance money. I’ve always been very suspicious that I could kill a fish pretty quickly, and with a new kitten, I didn’t think a fish was the greatest idea. But who am I to say, right?

So Rob purchased a beta fish about a month ago — a pretty reddish/blueish guy in a teensy-tiny cup with a lid. No need to move the fish to a big tank — just feed him a pebble or two a day, and according to my friend, Tracy, who has some fish expertise, that’s all she wrote in terms of caring for said beta fish. The fish that Rob named Nubby. Of course he named him Nubby.

And frankly, I sort of forgot about old Nubby for the next week or two, so little did his fishy presence interfere with our Big Lives of soccer, dance classes, school, etc. Rob fed him daily and Nubby seemed to be getting on quite nicely. By this I mean, he hadn’t actually croaked on our watch.

So one day last week after the kids had left for school (an event which sometimes inexplicably makes me shout “Tequila!” — a story for another post), I thought to myself, “Oh, I gotta lay out the boys’ soccer clothes for their game tonight.” I ambled down the hall to their room, only to find Gracie, the cat, in their drawer. “Those boys,” I said, in a tone not unlike the dad from My Three Sons. “They have to remember to close their drawers,” I said to the cat as I picked her up out of the drawer. At that point, I felt jovial, motherly, in control.

But then I saw Nubby’s cup. Tipped over with the lid off. Water all over the inside of the drawer. And no fish.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” I began to mutter. I fearfully looked at the cat’s mouth. “Oh please, God, don’t let there be half a fish hanging there.” There wasn’t.

But where was Nubby? “Ohnoohnoohno,” I moaned as I looked atop the dresser. I started throwing clothes out of the drawer. And then I saw it, leaning against the front of the drawer: a smallish black blobby looking thing that was sort of jerking. I swear to you that I heard gasps for air. Or I mean water.

At this point I did the entirely logical thing. I called Tracy, the aforementioned fish expert. Because obviously Nubby had all sorts of time for me to dither. As I pushed in her phone numbers (Note to self: put fish expert on speed dial for fish emergencies), I raced to the bathroom to fill up Nubby’s cup with water. Never mind distilling the water, this damn fish needed water NOW.

“Hello,” she answered.

“My god, my god. The fish, the cat, my god, my god. I gotta pick him up. Oh I can’t pick him up. No I gotta pick him up. Oh I can’t! But I gotta.”

I tried. Do you know how icky slimy fish are? Eeeeew!

“Is the fish dead?”

“I don’t knoooooooow!” I wailed (embarrassingly, I really did wail). And then I restarted the mantra about needing to pick up Nubby.

“Just do it,” Tracy advised, apparently an ad writer for Nike in a previous life.

“Oh god, oh no, oh yuck!” I screeched (yeah, I screeched). But I grabbed Dan’s basketball shirt and managed to pick up Nubby in the shirt and fling him into his cup of water.

“He’s alive!” I bellowed. “He’s alive!!!!” But I wondered if he would actually survive this level of trauma.

(Somewhere in this whole story, I apparently cursed out the cat and flung her out the door a couple of times. This according to the fish expert on the phone line. I guess I blacked out some of the worst moments?)

I called Tim and cursed his voice mail for ever allowing Rob to get a fish in the first place. “The next 48 hours are critical,” I reported.

I was so afraid that old Nub would die alone in his little cup while I was out that day, so I did the logical thing again: I took him with me. I put his cup in the van’s cup holder and he rode around with me.

And I am happy to report that though Nubby seems to have a tiny little nick taken out of one of his fins, he seems just fine otherwise. I opted not to tell Rob about Nubby’s near miss, because I didn’t want him to be angry at the cat for doing what it is that cats do (remember who said that cats and fish don’t mix?). But I did tell him, quite truthfully, that Gracie had shown “a lot of interest” in Nubby, and that we would have to keep his room door closed from now on.

“Maybe she just wants to be Nubby’s friend,” Dan said.

“No, honey. She wants to eat him.” I responded.

Because the boys don’t like their door shut at night, every evening, either Tim or I put Nubby up on the unreachable-to-cats closet shelf. Tim refers to this as the Fortress of Solitude.

And we’ve actually had moments in the last week where one of us goes, “Oh crap! Is Nub in the Fortress?”

“Yeah, I put him there about an hour ago.”

“Oh, good. Thank God.”

All of this for a four dollar fish. What a rewarding pet he is. But you can’t say that he’s not a surviver.

A Short Lexicon of Suckage

September 5, 2007

First, I apologize to those of you who find forms of the verb “to suck” offensive. Believe me, much more offensive language could be spewing from my keyboard (day 4 with no smoking), so in the words of someone, somewhere: “Deal with it.”

Isn’t that nice to come to someone’s blog and feel outright hostility? (My 6 readers suddenly gets reduced to 2.)

But anyway. I have developed a theory that centers around this idea of suckage. You see, there’s a certain amount of said suckage inherent in life. We can all agree to this, no? Here I am particularly talking about the suckage centered around child rearing. Yes, yes there are many times of rainbows and puppies in being a parent to my children. They can be lovely little people. But because they are, well, not so perfect, sometimes a certain level of suckage accompanies my three darlings.

Post Grocery Suckage: I normally go to the grocery story Saturday night (yes, yes I have no life). When my friend, Tracy, and I return home with a van full of groceries at 8:00 pm, I can say with certainty that we can anticipate a solid hour of suckage as groceries are unloaded (“I’m hungry, I’m hungry!!!!” my children shout as though they have never before seen food) and put away (“Mommy, can I have Pringles? Mommy can I have a hot dog? Mommy I neeeeeeed some jelly toast.). Tired kids faced with new food, clamoring around my kitchen, pulling food out of infinite numbers of plastic bags? Wow. And then I have the bedtime push. They’re “not tired,” they don’t want to go to “early church,” and heavens no, they don’t want to “brush my teeeeth.”

And my idea has always been that as parents we might as well simply embrace the suckage. Bringing home exhausted children from a day of swimming? It’s going to suck for a bit. Just breathe deeply and accept it. Your toddler won’t poop on the potty but poops on the living room rug? Obvious unavoidable suckage. New math concepts that your son or daughter doesn’t get? Suckage, my friend. It happens.

But now, I reveal to you a heretofore undiscovered form of suckage:

Compression Suckage: This form is new to me, because I’ve never had all my children in school all day. So, for 6+ hours at school, my kids are all pretty decent. They are reasonably obedient and pleasant. But around 4:30 when homework (OMG HOMEWORK!!!) must be done, a torrent of suckage the likes of a hurricane suddenly blows through my house. If you subscribe to the thought that a certain amount of suckage occurs each day — think about the combustibility of suckage that has been stored up, held back, kept from surfacing. So minor pieces of suckage that would have normally been spread out across the whole day, compress into about an hour before dinner. And in the case of today, spill over into dinner, but that’s another story. (Note: Torture, actual horrific torture, can be achieved merely by presenting meatloaf to someone. Who knew?)

I tell you — I’m completely flattened tonight. I feel like I was run over by a semi of suckage. I had no time to embrace it because the suckage rolled right over me and left me for dead.

Must go peel the fragments of blown up suckage still stuck to the wall and try to embrace what’s left of it.

The Diet Coke Manifesto

September 4, 2007

Don’t mess with my Diet Coke, okay?

I am going to allow it to be my one teensy vice, now that I have *small voice* quit smoking again. Yeah again. As some of you may remember, I “quit” back in February for a bit. But I stumbled and fell flat on my face on the concrete. And I really want to succeed this time, if for no other reason than what is becoming my mantra: “It’s never not going to suck to quit.”

I want to be the person on the other side of this vice, but to accomplish that, I have to be the person walking through the difficulty now.

But back to the matter at hand. I don’t want Coke Free (with Splenda), nor do I want Diet Coke Plus with extra vitamins. Good heavens, with as much of the stuff as I pound down, I would probably have to be hospitalized with an overdose of zinc or something. Just plain and simple Diet Coke. Cool and bubbly (flat Diet Coke is anathema to me), either in a cold can or over ice. In a pinch, and after 8:00 pm, I will accept caffeine free DC.

And please, dear friends, don’t make the mistake of offering me a Diet Pepsi in these coming difficult days. And don’t preach to be about the benefits of 374 ounces of water (bah!) a day. Because I may just rip your tonsils out through your nose, okay? I’m handling the stress of quitting with all the grace of a gorilla. Actually, gorillas can be quite graceful in their own…wait, wait, I lost track again.

Diet Coke is not a negotiating point right now.

I never eat potato chips with that olestra crap (First of all, it’s supposed to give one gastric cramps. Um…yuck?) because when I die, I want my brain to be the perfect specimen for studying the hideous and possibly brain-cell-reducing effects of aspartame. So my drinking Diet Coke is contributing to the future of medical science. You can thank me at any time. Should maybe someone contact the Nobel committee on my behalf?

And another thought: Diet Coke consumption doesn’t harm anyone else. It’s not like anyone gets a second-hand caffeine buzz from me. But with my luck, Franklin County will ban the drinking of Diet Coke in public. And Diet Coke drinkers will have to huddle around one another outside in the middle of winter, as we chug down our DC. And people will look at us like we’re pariahs! “Damn you Diet Coke drinkers! Don’t you know you’re only to do that in the privacy of your own homes?” they’ll shout. And bars will start collections for the inevitable Diet Coke violations sure to be leveled against them. And…

Deep breath. Deep breath. Yes, the stability I’m mustering while quitting smoking is admirable. Feel free to use me as an example to others.

Oh beautiful brown bubbly burp-inducing Diet Coke. I love you forever.