Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Goodnight, Chipmunk, Goodnight

My sister just visited for a long weekend and it was fabulous.  What was not fabulous was that minutes after she arrived at my house for the very first time, my scrappy little terrier mix caught a chipmunk and started flipping it around the yard.

"I think Kima has something," my sister said while eyeing the edge of woods with suspicion.

"Yeah...what is that?"

Initially, I thought she just had a wide stick or large piece of mulch.  And then I saw it bend the way only a little furry body can when it is being launched in the air and batted like a toy.

"Kima!" I yelled as I marched across the squishy grass.  She came immediately.  Instinct had run out and she didn't know what she was ultimately "supposed" to do after catching a critter.  I dragged her and her 85-pound hound mix "brother" into the sun room where my sister and youngest daughter were watching.

"What did she have?' my sister, who lives in south Philly, wondered.  She was already on nature overload.

"I don't know yet.  I'm going to go see."

I trudged back across the yard to the treeline where the victim lay.  I knew it would still be alive and I hoped it was merely stunned or playing possum to avoid further injury.  I thought getting the dogs inside would give it some time to recover and it would hop right up and run off.  I was wrong.

I soon saw that my dog had caught and slobbered a chipmunk.  The poor thing looked like it had been through a hurricane.  It's fur was plastered this way and that and its once poofy tail was thin as a string. He was still breathing.  His eyes were even open.  But it was clear that the bottom half of the animal was broken.

Immediately, it crossed my mind that I should kill him and put him out of his misery all while simply skipping a few steps to his soon-to-be demise.  Instead, I headed to the garage to fetch gloves and a box.  I picked him up gently and placed him inside it.

I brought him over to the four curious eyes of my sister and my daughter, one of whom had muttered, "You picked him up?!?"

My sister refused to look, but my daughter was willing.

"I should probably kill him, right?  What do you think?  But I don't think I can do it.  No, I just can't."

I pictured a few possible scenarios in which I did end the life of the tiny thing.  But that sealed it for me.  I couldn't do it.  I wouldn't do it.  Maybe my husband would when he got home.

For four hours I checked on the chipmunk.  Every time he was still alive.  A few of the times he would crawl, dragging his legs behind him.  Other times he appeared to be very still yet quivering and I assumed the end was near.  Still other times, he appeared to be cleaning or scratching himself as if it were business and usual.

When my husband got home he said he would toss him over the fence into the neighboring lot of woods owned by a house so far behind us we had never seen it or any of its residents.

"Will that kill him?" I asked, obviously more than obsessed with the fate of this rodent.

"I don't plan to throw him that hard."

After a bit of debate, I decided I should do it.  I had forced the thing to live all this time, I deserved to do the deed.  I put on the gloves and opened the box.  He was bright eyed and moving around.  I instantly balked and began to cry.  How could I leave him to die?

"What would you rather do?"  My husband asked not cruelly, but practically.  The fact of the matter was that this was a wild animal, more or less broken in half and doomed.  I had to just let nature take its course, in nature.  I had possibly prolonged his life by stressing him out in a strange white box and adding unnecessary adrenaline to his already aching body.

His question did the trick.  I swallowed my sadness, picked up the weightless wad and placed him under a tall, leafy weed on the far side of the fence. For hours after, I fought the urge to go peek at him, but I held firm.  Through tears I commented on how silly I was being.

But the truth is life is made up of moments like these: loss, change, growth, grief.  Ends, but also beginnings, good and hard and awful and awesome and everything in between.  Life is made up of little deaths.  And that damn chipmunk reminded me of that.

In retrospect, I think its OK that I didn't have the guts to kill him.  But I did hold on to him for selfish reasons.  Eventually, I saw the need to put the chipmunk to bed.  I got there. And so did he.  I hope minimal damage was done.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Crash Landing

My middle leans against the kitchen island as I begin to type this blog post.  My back is over-arched as always.  I check my shoulders and force them to relax toward my bare feet.  I spy a bag of mini marshmallows hiding under a kitchen towel to my left.  I grab them, unwind the plastic, and dig in, popping probably eight or so into my mouth.  I smush them between my lips and my teeth as I ponder how to express the way I am feeling...

* * * * *

My eldest daughter launched off the bus 37 minutes ago.  She tore up the driveway to her sister and me who were waiting exactly for that.  We had had a typical day: preschool pickup, library (book sale!), lunch, TV and outside play, but we were both ready for a change of pace.

"Mom, can we go to [neighbor girl]'s house?  She was on the bus and asked if we could."

"Sure, let me text [babysitter] and let her know you are on the way."

Backpacks, shoes, and helmets flew off and on in the hustle to find their friend.  I unzipped the backpack after it landed to skim homework, other contents and action items.  I am always looking for something to do.

Minutes later, they were off, biking down the driveway, up the street and behind the house next door to play pirate ship on the swing set.  I could hear their chirps and giggles faintly as I scooped up a few things and headed inside.

I called the dogs to follow me and they looked at me like my children do, "Aww, mom, do we have to?" (Yes, and here is a fake piece of bacon for your efforts and in an attempt to prove I am not always a buzz kill.)

I moseyed around the house aimlessly, grabbing this and that.  I thought about jumping in the shower, but then I realized I should let [babysitter] know.  I slapped my butt pocket to check for my phone.  It was actually there.  I pulled it out to text her again, the babysitter for the children next door, the woman I feel the most myself around in Northeast Ohio, to casually let her know I'd be in the shower.  I lost heart, put the phone down and wandered back through the kitchen - the place I can always get something done.

Eyeing the two empty jars of spaghetti sauce by the stove, dead soldiers from dinner last night, I carried them across to the sink to be washed.  They left behind them a trail of tomato water, on the wood, on the rug, on my toes.

"Shit," I mumbled.  It came out just like I've heard my mother say it.  Long "shhh," quick, harsh "i," super enunciated "t" as if singing a motherhood choir selection entitled, "Why Me?"  I shook it off and wiped it up and rinsed them out as intended.

Other dishes beckoned and before long I was squeezing soap into its compartment and clicking it closed.  I slammed the dishwasher door and pressed a button.  The wrong button.  It started doing something I didn't want.  I tried "cancel."  I tried "start."  I said, "fuck."  I don't know how to use my own dishwasher.  Cause it's new to me. Like everything else!

I plopped to the floor.  My husband was in Indiana and wouldn't be home until the next night.  The kids were down the road playing in the newly budding woods.  My physically closest "friend" was with my kids.  And I was sitting on the floor, looking at my wobbly reflection in the dirty dishwasher front.

It was dirty.  I stood up, grabbed the rag and wiped the front of the dishwasher down.  I dried it and turned tossing the towel on top of the marshmallows.  I put all my weight on my front foot and then let the rest of me crashed into the kitchen island. Thankfully, it catches me every time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Rubber Ducky, You're the One

We just moved into a new house, in a new town, in a new state.  My husband has a new job, my kids are in a new school. Most of the new stuff is great. Some will take some getting used to.

One new thing that I have seamlessly embraced is my soaking tub.  I love taking baths in that thing. I easily take two or more baths a week.  They slow me down, warm me up, and pull me away from everything going on on the other side of the door.   Which is now in Ohio and can be especially overwhelming at times.

I can hear all the unbelievers (men) now:  Gross! Why would you want to take a bath?  It takes so long! Bathing is basically basting in a tub full of your own filth!

Excuse you.

1. I (like every woman) do not create filth in any shape or form.  When I sweat it smells like raindrops on a rose.

2. I soak in the tub before I wash up.  At night.  I shower in the morning like a normal person.  Please.

3. I maintain it is WAY easier to shave EVERYTHING (not like everything, everything, but everything you want to) in a tub.

MEN: why are you particularly prissy about bathing?  Here's my theory:  you don't like it when your junk floats up and around in the bath water.  It makes you nervous.  Or vulnerable.  Like you're not in control of your penis or something.

Get over it!  Baths are great.  And besides, this problem seems easily rectified: hold on to the darn thing.  I know you like to do that and it would probably make the bath even more enjoyable.

I joked with my husband recently that in church, the answer to any question is usually "Jesus."  And in relationships with men, the answer is usually "penis."

What do you want to do tonight?  Penis

What do you have in your hand?  Penis

Why are you fidgeting so much?  Penis

Why don't you like taking baths?  Penis

WOMEN: Encourage your men to take baths.  Modeling is a great way to introduce a new activity. Show them the joy of steaming water, flickering candles, cool red wine and a glossy magazine.  They won't mind. If your tub allows, invite your man to join you.  And then jump out, point at his bobbing junk and laugh!

No, don't do that.

EVERYONE:  Don't be scared.  Try (or retry) something new this week.  Like baths!  I've been forced to do lots of new things because of the move and it's refreshing.  You can do it too!  Step out of your comfort zone and allow your real or metaphorical penis to float for a change.  Vulnerability is where the growth is.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mother, Interrupted

The air is cool, but still.  The girls and I exchange our typical banter.  Subjects include rocks, butts and Jesus. We debate the use of the umbrella.  Tiny raindrop hula hoops spread out upon the pond, but (as my eldest daughter put it) the light rain feels refreshing.  So they take turns struggling with the button that makes the umbrella "bloom" and then hand it to me so I can push it closed, bringing winter again.  After a final pop of spring, the bus flashes brightly between the budding trees and turns the corner onto our street.  The umbrella is forgotten and so we watch.  Oliver runs down his own driveway, waits to be waved, crosses the street and then disappears onto the bus.

This signals our preemptive hugs and kisses and squishing cheeks.  My 5 and 7-year-old darlings still desperately dangle from me whenever they can.  I shed them like porcelain doll leeches and cheerfully say goodbye.  I watch their little behinds and their little legs reach high to climb the maturity mountain that leads on to the school bus. The driver smiles and says good morning.  They become officially hers.  I do this most every morning.  It feels confusing.

The doors close and I turn to retrace our steps to the house.  Where there were six there are now only two. The snow has finally melted, but I sense their footprints just the same.  I glance at the pond and the yard and the trees, but mostly I look down at the cement, at my feet.  No doubt I am wearing a comical combination of wrinkled skinny jeans and slippers or yoga pants and big bulky boots.  I smile at the sight of myself.  With each step I let go of them a little and begin to remember that I am alone.  I am not sad.  I am glad they are gone, for then they get their time and I get mine.  But still, I miss them.

They are funny and sweet, clever and bright.  They reek of their father (in more ways than one) and I love seeing him in them. They are aggravating and pushy, ungrateful and grumpy.  They remind me of me (and then, yet, not quite) and I remain puzzled most of the time.  They are the richest and hardest thing I have ever chosen to do.  And honestly, one wasn't exactly a choice.  But, there is nothing I feel more genuinely, more viscerally, more willingly than motherhood.  I wear it inside and out, in my head and my heart, on my sleeve, on my face, on my car.  I literally question everything else.

I am a mother.  

My darlings

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Just Move

My thoughts have been a bit all over the place recently.  This is not necessarily abnormal, but since the head that holds the brain that conjures the thoughts now sleeps on a pillow in Ohio, it's different.  Normal, but different.  That pretty much sums up life right now.

I already struggled with focus and decisiveness.  I have lots of ideas, but not the best follow through.  I tend to flourish in a reactive role, putting out "fires," supporting a friend in a crisis, executing an unexpected out of state move. But saying I am a motivated, self-starter would be false.  Certainly, I have lied during several interviews over the years.

But on occasion, I put blinders on and move with the force of horses to accomplish a task.  I don't mind hard work.  I come, as my mom puts it, from peasant stock.  We rip up old t-shirts for rags and get on our hands and knees and wash wood floors.  I just have trouble harnessing this Murphy's Oil Soap scented lightning, so to speak.  

A few evenings ago, in the midst of my mind juggling mom stuff and wife stuff and house stuff with a side of moving aftershock, I decided on a task.  I decided it was the perfect time to rip up all the dandelions in the garden.  I had tried waging war on their roots the first few weeks of spring, but soon learned that trying to stay on top of digging them all up was impossible.  I despise lawn chemicals, but I'm the new neighbor.  With a shitload of dandelions.  Some people get really edgy about dandelions.  I'm out to make friends, not enemies.  

Whether this was my reason or not, I dove right off the front porch into our expansive perennial beds with bare feet and abandon.  I was on a mission. A mission, I realized shortly into my quest, was probably a ridiculous one.  While, yes, I was keeping the yellow dandelions from going to seed and the existing seeds from spreading, I was essentially dead-heading the dandelions.  A process I gladly due to petunias, for example.  So that they can expend their energy on MAKING MORE FLOWERS!

Regardless, I forged on, digging my toes into the wet mulch to reach every last one of those buggers. When my back began to ache, I considered surrendering, but it simply felt too good to be doing it.  To be doing something I decided to do.  That didn't need to be done.  As, obviously, the purpose was unclear.  

So I took it in.  The sound the hollow stems make when you pop off their tops.  The opportunity to sense nature in a new way.  The ability to have some head space and think.   And what hit me was this: I don't just decide to do something enough.  I waiver and wobble and weigh when really, in most circumstances, I should just move.  Pick a direction and move. Do something, anything and take it from there.

Like with the dandelions.  I just got the urge to pick them all and so I did it.  I didn't over think it.  Everything does not require over-freaking-analyzing.  Just move.   And it was while I was moving that I realized the benefits.  They were not the ones I imagined they would be when I set out, but they were there.  I would guess most of us don't just up and move enough.  We are a tentative lot.  I wonder what we miss.

Do you ever resist starting a task or a project because you don't want the pressure of finishing it?  I do.  And that's dumb.  It's completely OK to change direction after we get going and not end on a grand note every time.  Plus, we can lean on family and friends and (I believe) the Spirit to help us make sense of what we are doing and support us and guide us.   

Now, I don't mean to say that the Holy Spirit led me to pick the dandelions that day, but I do believe She was with me.  Despite the probable futility, that moment was one of light and lucidity.  The type that can only come from love. And trust. When we just have faith in ourselves and our situation and move.  



Monday, May 2, 2016

My Valid Reality

I'm on a new medication.  An additional medication to help me manage my now 12-year battle with depression and anxiety.  During a follow up today, the doctor decided that since I tolerated the initial dosage very well we would continue with a higher dosage, the dosage she always intended to prescribe.  The lower dosage had already helped.  And despite the many clouds of emotion (and paperwork) that surround picking up your whole family and moving to a new state, my brain feels the most focused and alert in years.  Now, I'm just regular sad and scared and nervous.

I left feeling positive.  I left feeling proud.  There was a time in my life (a mere five years ago) that I believed "depression" and "anxiety" were dirty words and ones I certainly did not want associated with me.  Today, I almost fully embrace my reality.  That my chemical makeup is a bit wonky and that it is OK (even necessary) to take medication and seek help.  Maybe one day I will completely get rid of my remaining irrational shame.

After the appointment, I texted my husband whose new job is just around the corner from my new doctor and we met for coffee and a bagel.  It was a lovely little way to start a foggy, damp Monday in May.  He left with a salad to take to the office for lunch and I left to pick up our youngest from preschool.

And then she and I headed to the pharmacy to pick up my new meds.

Initially, I thought there was only one simple task to accomplish.  But I remembered that I needed to print pictures for a school project (15 minutes).  Then I noticed that my favorite tanks and tees were on sale (15 minutes).  After that I realized I wanted to pick up a Mother's Day card (10 minutes).   And then, uncharacteristically, the pharmacy line was very long.  I somewhat set off my own spiral.

Little G handled all of this with poise, relaxing in the back of the cart as I allow her to do when the list is relatively short.  But it didn't take long in this line before she was starting to squirm.  By now it was nearly noon and we were both hungry.

When we got to the desk, the pharmacist quickly produced my bag and then quickly questioned why what cost 23 dollars last month was ringing up as 77 dollars this month.  You better call your insurance, he suggested.  The higher cost is probably due to the higher dosage, but I would recommend you check.

So I did.  I stood there responding to a robot, "member" and "yes" and "no."  I recited our ID number at least three times.  I gave Ruby Robot (and everyone around me) all of my information.  Even the name of the medication.

But after two calls to two different numbers, during which I never spoke to a human, my anxiety began to bubble. People are probably looking at me.  I probably sound really loud and annoying and dumb on the phone. Jason, the pharmacist, is probably rolling his eyes. G is probably going to break down in seconds. I'm probably going to have to go home without the prescription and then drive the 20 minutes back sometime later because I have no pills left.  But I have to make lunch and dinner and do laundry and homework and I ran out two days ago...

And maybe this increased dose won't even make any difference.

I'm not suffering from a serious medical condition.

And I don't make any money to help pay for this.

I'm not worth 77 dollars a month.

My eyes darted around in a misdirected attempt to make a decision.  I looked at my phone.  It was 12:29.

At this point I was close to tears.  I had to hang up with my husband (who I also called) to keep from losing it right then and there over what I see now as NOTHING.  I am sure I had cried at the pharmacy at our Target back in Maryland.  I did not want (or need) to cry at our new Target in Ohio.

I took a deep breath.  And smiled.

Jason was very nice.  I paid the 77 dollars as my husband and I agreed and we left.  I bought G an un-requested chocolate milk to thank her and tide her over.  We drove home.  We ate lunch.  I inhaled Cheetos.  I was exhausted.  I passed out on the couch during Wild Kratts.

I don't always know what triggers it, but, in the end, it's usually something I can handle.  It's often a wave of anxiety followed by a crash of depression.  Sometimes I need my husband to hold my hand or a friend to text me a kissy face.  Occasionally, I need to sleep or cry or paint my nails or watch Fixer Upper for it to go away.

This is all thanks to the medication.  It is because of the medication that I don't need hours (or days or weeks) to recover.  It is thanks to the medication that I understand that I am worth it, that I do contribute, that anxiety and depression are valid.  And that because of them I am not less.  I am more.

The medication allows me to see the devil that is the disease, stare it in the face and wiggle free.  

And so if this increased dose allows me even more fuel to fight?

I sure as hell deserve to pay for it.