Monday, July 26, 2010


I'm in a slump. Yeah, I know. Wah Wah, poor lil me. You don't have to tell me to "get over it" because I've already told myself. The thing is that I'm also a procrastinator so I think I'll wait till tomorrow to "get over it." I can do that. It's allowed.

Trouble comes in 3's right? The faucet on the tub is broken, the desktop is having boot up issues (which is probably being made worse by me shutting off and on the power to get it to boot up) and the bottom element on the oven has died. That's three. We reached our quota, right? So what if they are all fixable problems. It's the inconvenience that counts! It's taking forever for the tub part to arrive. I'm having panic attacks about bringing my computer in to be fixed (how long is it going to am I going to survive?), and the oven repair person won't be here until the end of the week. :::cue the wah, wah, wah:::

But none of that put me in my slump. None of that has me feeling helpless. Forget three. Trouble came in four this time.

It happened in a flash. My husband leaned slightly over the table to take a bite of his supper. That was all it took. No heavy lifting. No straining or twisting. He just tried to eat something and his back seized up. It wasn't the first time. He has dealt with back pain for quite a while. The worst was a little over a year ago. That time it hit him so hard that he fell and was unable to get up at all. Woefully weak woman that I am, I wasn't even able to help him get off the floor. A call to 911 brought the paramedics who took him to the ER, where he was admitted to the hospital for a couple of excruciatingly painful days before his back was sliced open and the offending part of his ruptured disk was removed.

Have you been in the position of watching a loved one suffer, knowing that there is nothing you can DO to make it better? Being here, in that helpless state again, has brought to mind a time when he was the one who was forced to stand by - unable to fight the invisible enemy that was attacking me. I never really looked at it from his point of view before. He had just come back from a 5 1/2 month tour in Haiti a few weeks before it happened. I was seven months pregnant with our second child. I went to my OB with a complaint of feeling "chilly" and before I knew it I was being hooked up to a special bed that circulated ice water, one monitor for our baby's heartbeat, another to watch for contractions, an automated blood pressure cuff that went off every five minutes, a pulse ox and three IV's. Naturally I can remember what that was like from my own POV, but now I wonder...what did HE see? What went through his mind when the OB told him that she decided to air vac me to a civilian hospital in another city because there were fears that if I were to go into labor at that point, the military hospital I was in wouldn't be able to support both my life and the life of our unborn baby. What must he have felt watching them load me into the helicopter? What strength did he drawn on when he took our little girl back to our empty quarters?

The funny thing is that I knew that we (baby and I) were going to be fine. Oh, there was a claustrophobic moment when I was pushed through a tunnel like tube into the helicopter. For an instant I wondered if the scurry and fuss was warranted after all, but that feeling quickly passed and I just knew that everything would work out.

I didn't KNOW that last year when I was the one watching. I only knew that my husband was in pain and I couldn't do a darn thing about it.

I didn't KNOW it yesterday when I was so frightened that he was going to have to go through the same ordeal once again. I still don't know that he isn't headed in that direction, but I am relieved that this time at least seems to be a bit different so far. He is still able to move on his own and there is hope that he can be treated with medication instead of another surgery. We'll find out more after his MRI tomorrow. Till then, I'm going to stay in my slump and admit that I'm... helpless.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seeking John Marco

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

I feel that quote with every fiber of my being, and yet, writing comes last. I know, I's suppose to be this overwhelming force that leaves me unable to eat, sleep or do anything else until I create. The need to record my story should supersede any and every desire that dares to distract me from the singular purpose of composing ...ummm...excuse me a moment.
Anna was hungry. Now, what was I saying? Oh, forget it. Writing comes last. It doesn't matter that in rare moments of still, the story calls to me, begging to be unfurled.
Just thinking about my fictional island brightens my soul with purpose. There are times when I find myself wanting to re-read chapters that I haven't even written yet. My characters are friends that I long to visit.

They will wait. They have waited this long already.

I guess that means that I'm not really a writer. Heck, I can't even seem to give a few lines to this blog as often as I would like.

What I am (beside mom,
home management connoisseur, cook/nutritionist, laundress, maid, finance director, transportation specialist, keeper of electronic gaming devices, homework motivator, psychologist, referee, teacher, judge, jurist, enforcer of law, mind reader, Anna chair, first aid dispenser...yeah, I know that everything after "mom" is redundant but it's my blog so I can yammer on if I wanna) is a reader.

Books are my escape, my sanctuary, my portal to new worlds. Stories feed me. Unfortunately life doesn't always leave me time for decent meals, so there are long spells when I have to make do with grazing. When I take the kids to a fast food place, I devour every silly word printed on their happy meal boxes/bags. Standing in line at the grocery store, I'll scan headline after headline on the magazines on display...until I literally feel my IQ falling and then I'll tear my eyes away from that and start reading the ingredient list on the items in my cart. And then there is the internet...or as I like to call it...paradise. From email to news articles to discussion boards to social networks to blogs, the internet is a never ending smorgasbord of awesomeness.

It was here on the world wide web that I was first introduced to Mr. John Marco - on Myspace to be exact. Any female with a Myspace account knows that there are three types of "friend requests" there.

First there is the "let's keep in touch here too" kind. Those are from people you know.
Next there is the "Musician" request. Those are from people who want you to hear how amazing they supposedly sound. Sometimes they are worth checking out. Sometimes you wish you hadn't bothered.
Then there is the "Girl collector" request. Those are from pigs posing as men. Luckily, they are pretty easy to spot.

The friend request from Mr. Marco didn’t quite fit into any of those categories. You see, he is an author. I had not read his books, nor had I even heard his name before that day, but suddenly I was intrigued. An author made a request to ME? I had to find out more. Wiki told me that he had two sci/fi - fantasy trilogies in print (he has since had a young adult novel published as well.) Various reviews let me know that the books were worth checking out. I did and before I was halfway through the first of his novels, I was a fan.
I was also a little star struck.

There is something quite wonderful about being able to speak to a favorite author. That isn't something I ever thought of doing when I was younger. Back then, I didn't think much about the people who wrote the stories that I enjoyed so much. Authors were simply names that had to be listed on book reports for English class. How the sentences came to be on the pages wasn't something I took time to wonder about. They were there and I loved them. Nothing else really mattered. Somewhere along the line, that changed. It started when, at 17, I read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings knowing that although it read like fiction, it was actually an autobiography. The character was the author...the author was the character. Suddenly the people who wrote the stories were as real to me as the words they used.

Later (okay...MUCH later), the internet opened doors to discovering more about the word weavers that I learned to admire.
I’ll admit to visiting RK Rowling’s website frequently back when my life revolved around Harry’s fate. (Okay, maybe not my entire life, but I did once comment to a friend that it would totally suck if I died before the seventh book was released.) I’m a “fan” of Terry Goodkind’s Myspace and Facebook pages. Every one in a while, I’ll check out Christopher Paolini's website (hoping, hoping, hoping to see some sign that the fourth book is getting closer to being published.)
Twitter updates from Kevin J. Anderson let me know what progress is being made on the next Dune book.

Yes, those types of things are nice - but it was Mr. Marco's blog and Facebook updates that I most looked forward to reading. I guess that's because his posts offered a personal connection that fan pages and official websites don't. When he wrote about reading to his son's kindergarten class or mishaps that occurred on a vacation, he became a real person to me.

Then he disappeared.

Gone from Myspace. Gone from Facebook. Even his blog was closed. After a while, curiosity got the best of me and I emailed him. His response was very human. While I will not divulge the details of the correspondence, I can say that his explanation spoke to me not only as a fan - not only as a reader, but also as a person who understands how the demands of life can trump even the deepest longing to write.

So I am sending out a "thank you" to Mr. Marco. I hope to be one of the first to buy his next novel. I'd like for him to know what an impact he has had on me. By sharing a bit of his life with his fans, he helped me see him as human being and not simply a name on a book cover. That was a gift that, in turn, helped me understand that I can be more than I am today. If other authors/humans can work to overcome the challenges before them, I can too! I will not give up searching for those stolen moments that I can use to jot down a thought or two. I will not toss my fictional world aside even when, in exhaustion, I don't think that I'll ever be able to give it the attention it pleads for. Today I am a reader, but if I keep seeking... I might just find that I can be an author too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lake Woes

Thanks to a week long string of storms, we hadn't dared to make any family plans for Independence Day. On the morning of the 4th, however, the sun broke through the clouds - tempting us to enjoy the great outdoors while we could. I had just brewed a fresh cup of green tea when hubby walked in and suggested that we all go for a ride in the boat. I took a sip of my tea and glanced out of the window to judge the gathering clouds. Were we going to be treated to yet another afternoon soaker? Probably, but why let that stop us! I found myself suddenly willing to chance the rain. So what if we got wet. We were going to be in the water anyway! I drained the rest of my tea and then sent the kids to put on their swimsuits while I packed towels, sunscreen, a book and my camera. I had this crazy idea that I'd take a few pictures of the beautiful swampland and then sit back to enjoy my book while the kids swam with hubby.

This was our very first boat outing as a family, so you'll have to forgive me for being so naive.

Trying to fit the entire family in the boat didn't look like much of a challenge to me. Sure I'm fanatical about seat belts and car seats in the van, but this was a boat! Don't ask me why that made a difference to me. My thought process isn't very consistent. My husband, OTOH is much more logical. He knew that his cousin was going along to the same area which meant that we could split the kids between the two boats. We all found our places and put on our life-jackets as my husband carefully steered the boat into the canal. When I sat down, I discovered a slight problem with my life-jacket. It didn't fit. Sitting down pushed it up over my face. Then there was the fact that I could slip the whole thing right over my head altogether. My husband rolled his eyes as I pointed out that if it came off that easily while I was sitting down, it wouldn't do much good if I was knocked unconscious after being thrown from the boat. I wasn't going to be thrown out of the boat he insisted. My oldest daughter, who stands several inches taller than me, swapped her jacket for mine and we both got a better fit.

Impatient to get going, hubby started roaring down the canal as soon as I finished zipping the jacket. Actually, the increased speed might have begun even BEFORE I finished getting the jacket situated. Startled, I threw my arms around my baby girl and braced myself for the ride. That's when I discovered that holding a child on my lap in a boat meant having my face assaulted by thousands of tiny, needle like whips. Who knew that hair could be classified as a dangerous weapon?

Okay, you can stop calling me a wimp now. I didn't cry or anything. It was just an unusual sensation. Really. Stop laughing at me or else I'm going to have to start writing birth stories. You don't want that do you? I didn't think so.

Hair whips aside, the ride down the canal was kinda wonderful. Clusters of elephant ear plants lined the banks. Every now and again I'd spy an ancient cypress tree dripping with Spanish moss. There was a wooden cabin just down a side canal that caught my attention. I would have loved to take pics of all of those things, but getting the camera out as we zoomed along doing 70 mph just wasn't happening. Finally, right before the canal opened up into the lake, I managed to get hubby to slow down enough for me to take a picture of the striking water lilies. I didn't, however, manage to get him to take the time to pull closer to the lilies, so unfortunately it isn't a very GOOD picture.

We sped off again and hit the lake itself. That's when the fun really began. As we bounced from wave to wave, our oldest daughter squealed in delight and our youngest daughter slid down to the floor gripping my legs as tightly as she could. Me? Well, while I was jolted up and down in my seat, I reflected heavily on my last cup of green tea. Drinking it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. In fact, avoiding all liquids for at least two days before attempting the trip would have been surely been a much better option.

After an eternity of rough riding (it lasted at LEAST five minutes!) we arrived at our destination. The boats were tied up and everyone got into the water. Almost everyone. Anna (the youngest) wasn't quite ready to venture in, so I stayed in the boat with her while she built up her courage. After a bit, I realized that it wasn't fear of the water that was holding her back. Her little face showed a discomfort that I easily understood. She had to pee. I knew the feeling. Hubby overheard us discussing our mutual problem and told us to just go in the water.
I could do that.
Maybe not.
It wasn't going to happen.
Anna insisted that she couldn't either, but at least she was able to put her discomfort aside and begin to enjoy the water. I smiled and tried really hard to not think about the return trip across the lake. Eventually, I didn't have to worry not think about it anymore because it was happening. No, I don't mean that I was peeing in the lake...I mean that I was being bounced to death in the boat again. I'm pretty sure that at one point, my heart and stomach swapped places. What didn't move, thankfully, was my bladder. It kept it's size, shape and location all the way home thank you very much.

Later, just before bedtime, Anna made a small confession. She motioned me closer and whispered "Guess what? I pee'd a little bit on daddy when he held me in the water."

Ah, the unabashed joys of youth.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Salty Cheesecake

The start of my summer was bittersweet this year. On my final day as a preschool teacher, I turned in my keys, kept my goodbyes to a minimum (after all, I reasoned, I would be back as a sub next year!) and walked out of the door. The click of the latch settling into the strike box echoed in my head as I walked away from the building that housed giggles, hugs, learning and play. Doubt intruded. Had I done the right thing in resigning? Was I giving up too quickly? I loved my job. I loved the little faces that looked to me for direction. I loved watching them add their own touches to crafts, listening to them pour their voices into our songs and feeling pride spill over when they realized that they could master a challenge that I’d set before them. How could I walk away from that?

The answer came swiftly in His whisper. I was looking in the wrong direction. Instead of focusing on what I was walking from, I had to remember what I was walking toward. Still, a tiny accusation lingered in the back of my mind. Surely I could have found a way to continue juggling it all. And was it really juggling? The hours were perfect. The work was inspiring. The people I had been privileged to work with were both supportive and motivating. Wasn’t I just being selfish?

Possibly. Then again, I know that when I stretch myself too thinly, something always gives.

Unfortunately it doesn’t take too much to begin stretching me out. Recently, I discovered (again) what happens when I try too hard to make everything perfect. My inlaws were coming for dinner and naturally I wanted them to feel as comfortable as possible. You wouldn’t think that keeping the kitchen and living/dinning rooms tidy while preparing the various dishes should be all that difficult. I mean, surely the children would help do their part! And they did. Kinda. Except, you know, when they were busy making messes.

My children are experts at creating mess. Over the years, I’ve implemented a few tricks in an effort to curb their clutter. Sometimes those little maneuvers backfire on me. For instance, when I hide items from the children, I effectively hide them from myself as well. It’s not a problem until I actually want the object that I’ve stealthily stored. For this story, the hidden item that needed to be located was sugar.

I thought I knew where the sugar was. At least I knew where it wasn’t. It wasn’t in the sugar jar. Back when sugar was kept in the sugar jar, I would often find granules sprinkled all over the counter and floor. Telling the children to stop taking spoonfuls of sugar from the jar was kinda like telling the tide to stop rolling in and out. When I finally had enough, I poured the sugar into a clear plastic container and stuck it…somewhere. Problem solved! That is, until I needed sugar for my cheesecake crust. Fortunately, I spied the clear plastic container in the bottom cabinet when I took my mixer out. Unfortunately, the tiny white crystals in that particular container were not the sweet kind.

Have you ever tasted a cheesecake made with salt instead of sugar in the crust? I don’t recommend it. You might think that because the salt was only in the crust that you could at least enjoy the top part. You would be wrong. The salty taste seeped throughout the pie.

In the same way that one extra ingredient can affect an entire dish, every component of our lives influences us as a whole. There are sometimes very good parts that simply don’t blend well with the remaining elements. In another recipe, salt might be a necessary ingredient. For my cheesecake, it was wrong.
At another point in my life, I could have thrown myself completely into being the best preschool teacher that I am capable of becoming. For now, my focus needs to remain at home.

It can be difficult to let go sometimes, but for now I’m going to try looking forward and see where it leads me.