In which I vent my back

October 29, 2008

I’ve never understood the venting the spleen thing. To my knowledge my spleen is fine and dandy, but my back hurts like total crap all the time. So if anything needs venting, I’d say it’s my back.

I always find it ironic that after I post a beatific piece about the wonder of my children that they spend the next few days acting like complete jerks. Whateves!

Today I feel like a shelled out hull of a human being. That feeling alternates with one where I feel as though I’ve gulped poison and I’m seeping some kind of low level vitriol all over everyone in my path.

I am, in a word, stressed.

I am not going to have everything and everyone in a state of perfect harmony before my scheduled surgery a week from today. I will not get to the kids to stop bickering and picking at one another. It remains doubtful whether Tim will ever grasp The Chip Bags for Each Kid’s Lunch Saga:  Fritos — Rob, sometimes Abby; Lays — always Abby; Red Dorritos — everyone; Blue Doritos — Rob and Dan, emphatically not Abby; Sour Cream & Onion — Dan and only Dan; BBQ — Rob, especially, but sometimes Dan too…hey I keep a lot of complicated information in this old brain of mine!  Which may be why I can never find the car keys.

I received the information packet from the surgeon, which contained (inexplicably) a bottle of cleanser to be used the night before and the morning of surgery.  Do people come to surgery…dirty?  The letter with the packet also reminded me that because Dr. F. is a neurosurgeon, he sometimes has emergent cases that make postponements necessary for the rest of us.  I sincerely hope that nobody blows an aneurysm on Tuesday night, or any other night for that matter.  I just feel like if we have to reschedule that I might blow an aneurysm.

I’m trying to plow through my to-do list:  the boys have both grown out of their winter coats and need bigger ones; I am trying to write a letter to each kid for each day I’ll be in the hospital; I am making lists for Tim (see Chip Saga, above); the kids all need their drawers changed over to winter clothes; I want to pick up some more Christmas presents for everyone this weekend.  And Halloween is Friday — goody!  Just what I need this weekend, kids ramped up on candy but still edgy about their mom’s surgery.  Wow, I bet everyone wants to hang out with me now!

I need something great to read in the next few days and something light and great to read in the hospital.  Suggestions are welcome.

So yeah, my stress goes directly back to my feelings of being out of control.  Yeah, yeah, the little things don’t matter — the big things will be taken care of.  I know.  And God will be with me in the pain.  Did I mention that there’s supposed to be hella pain, post-surgically.  I believe that I’ll have a morphine pump for a few days (this is never a bad thing, mind you), but I admit that I’ve been scared about how much it’s going to hurt.  And how I won’t be able to completely hide that from the kids.  And how very needy pain makes me feel.

Man, I’m tired, so so tired.  But I think I’ll go put post-its on the chips….

god, I’m kidding.  Kidding, okay?

Mostly about my daughter….

October 28, 2008

….who on the one hand, I wish I could trade places with, so boundless is her mind, so confident is her spirit in ways that I never could have imagined at ten and a half. This girl has no math insecurity, no sense that she ever need choose between her love for numbers and science and her passion for beauty and literature. Sometimes her future seems to be without limits — sure she can be a famous author/chemist/mother — what could possibly stop her? (Incidentally, that’s rhetorical; I don’t really want answers as to what might hinder my kids!) But on the other hand? Oh, I wouldn’t trade places with her for the world times ten.

It’s a tricky thing, these days, talking about my kids on the internet. I feel acutely aware that information here can be accessed, found, discussed by others, and that as my kids get older they may feel that my mentioning them at all is an invasion of some level of privacy. Just because her mother keeps little of her life behind closed doors, Abby may not necessarily be the same type of person. So while I’m here, I’ll try to be both honest and circumspect.

She’s changing, you see. I remember this age and remember feeling like every morning I woke up to a slightly different body and a slightly different state of being. Not that I could have articulated that at the time mind you — my articulation of such a mind-boggling place in my life probably often manifested itself in giggles and slammed doors, in long telephone conversations with friends and eye rolls at my mother. (By the way, sorry about all that, mom.) And we have some of the aforementioned going on here. But what I don’t remember, or couldn’t at the time see from my then ten year old self, was that I probably got just a tad more…well, interesting around this age.

My daughter is suddenly an awesome conversationalist. At least some of the time. And she’s wickedly funny at times too, so long as she’s not already decided in that particular moment that I couldn’t be any dumber if I tried. She requires more privacy, both physically and emotionally. And wow can she be moody these days. Sometimes I feel like we’re in a cheesy old movie, where the heroine swings wildy from, “Alas, no one could possibly care enough to understand me!” all the way to “Oh, yes, yes, yes, do please get me some garlic bread!” I have maternal whiplash.

This past Friday, Abby had an overlong orthodontist appointment where she had the dreaded herps device placed. In short, this tortuous piece of metal connects her upper and lower teeth with a springy-thingy and has a bar that sits behind her top teeth — all for the purpose of pulling out her recessed lower jaw. And yes, so far, it’s just about as bad as it sounds. Over the weekend, she kept getting food stuck somewhere between her tongue and the bar, and her whole sweet face seemed swollen. We dosed her with motrin and fruit smoothies, but for a kid that already struggles with eating, this has not and will not be easy for her. Friday night she sat with me and wept, “Things have just been so HARD lately!”

And crap if I didn’t agree with her. It has been hard for her: new school, new feelings, ever-changing sense of her self…and now this damn thing too! I’m realizing, in short, that my job as a mother is less about changing or fixing her circumstances, but about coming alongside her in the midst of circumstances. I find it simultaneously frightening and exhilarating that Abby’s life experience is growing to the extent that I no longer manage much of it. Control freak (see previous post!) that I am, I want to fix everything for her, but the other side of this equation is that her expanding world and her ability to handle it is quite wonderfully wonderful too.

Several people have noticed how the herps device has already made a difference in the look of her face. I swear, sometimes I look at her and I’m poleaxed by the glimmers of the woman she will become. Sure her teeth will be straight, and by god her lower jaw will be aligned (!), but there’s something else there too. There’s a luminousness in her, a sense of being on the brink of becoming who God made her to be. And frankly, she’s pretty. Really, really pretty. She claims to not care about such superficial things, and on one level, she’s such a person of the mind, that I really think her looks matter little to her. And I couldn’t love her more, no matter how she appears. But it’s weird to catch sight of her out of the corner of my eye and see this lovely young…woman. Yes, this (still very) young woman.

These are going to be challenging years. The early polling for age eleven does not look as if this race will be won in a landslide. But I can’t wait to see how she turns out.

Control

October 22, 2008

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about the issue of control over the last few days, maybe because undergoing surgery is in many ways such a loss of control. And maybe because I’ve always been called by others something of a control freak. What? Moi?

Oh yeah.

But this morning as I was vacuuming (all great thoughts come to me in the car at night or when I’m cleaning my house), I figured something out about control. Now, the rest of you probably had this figured out eons ago, but I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes, so hang in there with me.

See, there’s things in life that we really really want to control, but we can’t: our health (yes, of course we can control this to an extent, but ultimately? Not really.), our children’s futures, the happiness of those we love, our net worth, traffic, etc. I just found out that an old friend of mine has a daughter fighting off a deadly disease (and winning, I might add!). I’m absolutely positive that if my friend could have controlled the situation to spare her daughter the pain and fear, she would have done anything. Anything. But of course she couldn’t, as none of us could, if placed in the same situation.

But what I’m beginning to get a glimmer of here: there are, in fact, many things we can control in this life, even if doing so is a major challenge. We can control our responses to situations. Wow, I hate that. I would much rather wallow in self-pity than be responsible for my own attitude.  We can control whether or not we choose obedience to God, compassion, kindness.  We can control whether we keep trying in rotten situations, through depression and sometimes despair.  We can still keep trying.

But I would much rather control everything on the front end.  I would much rather drive than sit in the passenger seat and react.  Yet, it’s just not feasible, not realistic, and truly, trying to control all the variables of life makes me nuts.

I always hate those platitudes like, “Let go, let God,” and I think I’ve figured out why.  Yes, we do have to let go of the steering wheel.  We become more sane when we realize that trying to control circumstances is like playing with a paper steering wheel while sitting in the passenger seat of a car.  Sure, we can turn and turn and turn the wheel, but it won’t change anything.  But “letting God” is no passive deal either.  Being responsible for ourselves and to God and to those we love — that’s HARD.  It takes more work than I sometimes think I can manage, and frankly?  I don’t enjoy it all that much.

But I think — I think, mind you — that somewhere here is the key to contentment.  Letting God do God’s part and forcing myself (at least at times) to stop spinning my wheels and to have enough self-control to react how God would have me.  My friend and her daughter, really their whole family — they’ve been dealt the kind of crummy cards that would stagger any of us.  But I see them living in thankfulness, finding joy in their love for one another.  Even in a situation they can’t control for a damn.  I want to be like that when I grow up.

Um, well, yeah.

October 21, 2008

I guess this would be hello. You know, to the six, now down to twoish of you reading. Would it help to say that I didn’t mean to be away from this blog for so long. Yeah yeah, like you care, right?

But assuming that maybe someone cares, I’ll try to catch up a wee bit.

So…

We went on a cruise this summer. Cruise lines like to nickel and dime one to death, or at least this one did. But the Caribbean is gorgeous. And family is fun to travel with, and I’m not just saying that because my mother-in-law reads my blog occasionally. The kids loved the whole trip, and they ate like kings and a queen (especially Dan who bemoaned my lack of making five course dinners when we got home). Stingrays are cool. Balconies off your room are an absolute treasure. And snorkeling is holy.

Abby started her new school and overall has adapted with great aplomb. The work load is much much harder and heavier. As a direct result of this, I know more about the chemical element francium (about which Abby wrote and essay and made a poster) than anyone who isn’t a chemist should ever even consider. I’m thinking that it will make me a hit at cocktail parties. Since I get invited to so many of them.

Rob and Dan have had a challenging fall. Tragically, their dear friend’s mom passed away from cancer right before school started. She is a lovely and dear woman who loves (and I say this in the present tense because I know her to be in heaven) her family and God. But oh the sadness of it all.  You know the expression, “Little kids, little problems; Big kids, bigger problems”?  Answering or trying to answer the boys’ questions about grief…teaching them to come alongside another in his grief…Rob and Dan are learning compassion and how to express love in ways that most eight year olds don’t, and golly I love them for that.  But watching your kids learn about the agonies and injustices of this life is still pretty heart-breaking.

Tim, in his consulting job, has moved from one retailer to another.  And that’s all good.  He’s in Columbus and he’s employed in a job he likes.  We count the blessings there.

And I am having spinal fusion surgery on November 5.  Please oh please, friends, this might not be the time to tell me the story of your Aunt Carol or your cousin’s boyfriend’s brother who had completely crappy back surgery.  It’s like this:  I hurt ALL the time.  I can only sit for short periods without feeling like a rubber band has been pulled taut around my lower spine.  I wake up in the morning feeling like someone has put a hot poker in my spine (hmm…maybe Tim has hidden anger issues?).  After I drive for a bit, I get out of the car and I actually stoop when I walk for a while.  I know the risks, and I know the possible rewards, and I know that the recovery is a bitch and a half.  Heck, I’m in the hospital for 3-5 days, which I think might be longer than my father stayed when he had open heart surgery in 2001, so yeah.  Wow.  But I’ve tried everything non-surgically possible on and off for the last six years and I’m getting worse all the time.  My parents’ health situations are reasonably steady right now, and as many of you know, that could change with one phone call at 3:00 am (which seems to be when most bad phone calls take place for some reason).  So I am seizing the opportunity, so to speak.  I have a very conservative surgeon who has told me the whole ugly truth and still thinks that he can help me significantly, or he wouldn’t do the surgery.

Prayers here are appreciated of course.  Prayers for little things like, oh, how in the heck my kids will get home from school during the period I can’t drive.  Prayers for my kids, who to varying degrees and in a myriad of ways, are in a white hot panic about Mom having surgery and being gone for so long.  Prayers for Tim as he tries to keep all things afloat around here while I lie around and moan.  And yes,  yes, prayers that this damn surgery works.  I don’t anticipate ever being pain free, this side of getting my heavenly body, but I want to function at such a higher level and feel at least somewhat better.

And this time, I’ll try to go fewer than three months without posting.  Okay?  I miss my internet folks.  So, for my fragile ego, and to make sure someone has read this, please for the love of…well, please comment.  Thanks.