Monday, December 30, 2013

Sharp Knives and Lingerie... deep thoughts about motherhood

As I was cleaning the kitchen this morning, I put a knife in the utility drawer. I didn't even think about it. I just plopped that sharp baby right in the drawer and went about my business scrubbing the yick and the yuck from the weekend.

And like a smack across my heart, it dawned on me. Oh, it's been dawnin' on me all year long, but there are these simple, random times where the dawnin' is brighter than other times, and this one stopped me in my tracks, and nearly blinded me.

I ain't got no babies any more.

I have five children, gave birth to them all, and my oldest will be 20 years old this summer.  Leapin' lizards! All those annoying old people were right!  It truly does fly by, and before you know it, your little baby will be all grown up. Savor each moment (gag me with a spoon). But really, they were right.

My other babes are 17, 12, 9 and 7. So, yeah, ploppin' a sharp knife in a drawer isn't a big deal around here any more. It's not a big deal to have hazardous cleaners and detergents within reach either.  When did this all change?  I don't know.  All I know is that I was once a hyper-vigilant-extremely protective mother, and now things are much more relaxed around here.

It's also weird not to haul big boxes of diapers in the grocery store buggie any more. Great Lord, I changed diapers forever. My little guy wasn't potty trained until he was in first grade last year. He has special needs, but truth be told, I did not care one bit. You know what a freakin' hassle it is to potty train a kid? I had already done it four times. The thought of doing it that fifth time made me feel a little bit suicidal. I think I was like, "Forget it. He can potty train himself." And he did. Eventually.

Although, I still, and will forever more buy Bootie Wipes, you know those moist toilettes that cleanup stinky little fannies.  Well, it turns out they are excellent at cleaning the faucets, the sink, and the back of the potty too. If you have sons, you need Bootie Wipes because they miss.  Plus Bootie Wipes are good to take along on picnics, and I'll admit that from time to time, especially during exam week, using five of those puppies constitutes a full shower. If I ever smell baby fresh, you'll know why.

I'll tell you what else is weird: my lingerie drawer. Having twenty pairs of maternity panties does something to one's psyche. They are big and comfy. They make granny panties look like thongs. So, like yeah, I wore them even when I wasn't pregnant. Wearing them felt like I was getting a big ole hug all day long.  They really make ya feel secure.  But wearing them doesn't make you exactly wanna keep the lights on when you're getting undressed. Those things are the size of draperies. I could have hung them over the windows for shade. Perhaps this is why my butt is still so big. I mean, hey, if your panties fit, why work at changing the size of your bahonkus?

And the nursing bras!  Those are the best things ever. They were good to my "girls," which for several years looked like something outta National Geographic. In all total, I nursed for 9 entire years of my life. But I got rid of all those boob slings. And you know what I think it means? I think it means I got my body back. My body still has the shape of a mother, my hips are wide and my boobs are still kind of Amazonish, and my tummy looks permanently four months pregnant, but it's mine. Nobody wipes boogers on me any more. My hair does not have sticky food in it. I haven't worn a vomit crusted shirt in years. Now my drawer is filled with pretty, relatively little things to remind me that I am a woman, not just a mother. Yeah, baby. This is my body. Give me five baby wipes and I am good to go.

I am so happy that I decided to go back to college when my little one started kindergarten. He's in second grade now, and I am a junior. I discovered how much I love to learn.  I am a huge nerd.  I have big ideas about graduate school, and I am truly happy to neglect my family once in a while, like during exam week.  It turns out they do great without me.  They pitch in and things get done. 

For so many years of wearing big ole maternity panties, I had completely forgotten who the heck I was. I was just Mama. And now I feel like every time I plop a sharp knife in the drawer, or every time I walk right past the diaper aisle, that I am getting to know Abigail.

It turns out that I am actually a pretty cool person.  I am kind of surprised who I am.  I know I am not much like the Abigail I was before I became a mother.  She was kinda dumb.  She lacked self confidence.  She had no idea how capable she was.  She was a bit of a flake.  And she was selfish.  This new Abigail is a go getter, and she has a huge heart.  She is self-motivated.  She's not afraid.  She's self confident.  She's a multi-tasker.  She is super efficient.  You'd want this chick to balance your budget, mediate your conflicts, or negotiate your business deals.  Motherhood gives you phenomenal skills that no school could ever teach you.   

I truly sympathize for all the mommies out there who are still wrestling with car seats and late night feedings.  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  And really, no one helps you.  Even if you have a good husband and good parents, it's still more difficult than you'll admit.  But you'll continue doing an excellent job, even when being a half assed mom is tempting.  These are your children.  You'll keep going above and beyond the call simply because you love those stinky little trouble makers more than you ever thought humanly possible.

And I know you go to bed feeling like a loser sometimes.  I know I sure did.  You'll second guess yourself and beat yourself up because you might have yelled this morning, when you really wish you could have exemplified patience.  You'll beat yourself up because you got Happy Meals three times this week, and you are afraid all of your babies will have heart disease and diabetes by the time they are seven.  And you'll beat yourself up because you haven't had a real shower in four days, and your husband is starting to notice.  But you know what?  It's OK.  You're still doing a wonderful job.  You're not a robot.  At least, that's what I wish someone had told me.  I am not a robot. 

And guess what?  It really will fly by too quickly, and one day you'll be putting sharp knives in a drawer that everyone can reach, and you won't worry about a two year old gauging his eyes out.  You'll have empty seats in your derpy, old  minivan, and you'll only have to vacuum it once a month.  And you'll hold on to the precious memories of when your little ones were so helpless, and you'll regard those days as deeply spiritual, holy experiences.  And then you'll realize that you are stronger and braver than you ever thought possible.  You are a survivor.  You've conquered some nasty stuff if you've raised a family.  If you've handled lice, parasites, thrush, and hand-foot-mouth disease with one iota of grace and dignity, you can seriously do anything.  You can even go back to school and be whatever the heck you want to be when you grow up.  And you'll know one thing for sure... that you already get to be the best thing in the world.  You get to be a Mom!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lost and Found

I was recently asked what my greatest shortcoming is.  Gosh, I don't know.  There are too many to choose from.  It's certainly hard to pick the "greatest" one.  I suppose the one that hinders my life the most is my absolute lack of navigational skills.  I can get lost anywhere, any time. 

My brain does not have the ability to comprehend a map.  Don't suggest I get a fancy thing for my car that says "Turn here."  I have a GPS system, but using it makes it worse. I have tried it. And I have ended up fifty freakin' miles away from my destination, thinking I had discovered some new lost city.

My brain does not remember things in order visually, so I can never rely on passing landmarks to tell me if I am close or far from my destination.  For instance, I've been driving to Gainesville via the Cleveland Highway at least once a week for the past decade, and even on that straight path, I cannot tell you what comes first, the Dairy Dip or the crossroads.  Seriously.

I get lost in buildings.  I get turned around easily.  I have no innate sense of east or west, north or south.  I forget where I have been, locationally speaking.

The first time I got lost in a building was when I was about six years old.  I was shopping with my mother and sisters at Lenox Square Mall, and mama let me play on the escalators by myself.  (Times were different back then, OK?  And I wasn't exactly the best child to shop with.  Shopping at a mall rates right up there with going to the beach, in my opinion, and anyone who knows me knows how I feel about that. She may have had plans all along to lose me, but whatever...)

So, she explained how I could go down one flight at Rich's, and then walk around to the other side and go up.  She'd be right there in the children's clothing section picking out all my lovely finery for the upcoming school year, that I would refuse to wear, because I only wore the same three outfits based on the fact that they felt soft and good.  The clothes she picked out were beautiful, and to me, beautiful meant itchy.  But whatever, she'd buy them any way, and then wait five years until my little sister could wear them.

The only store I liked was Chocolate Soup. They had these cute little jumper dresses that I could actually tolerate wearing because they went OVER clothes I already had, and plus, they sold puppets, and if I was good, I could buy one as my reward.

So, here I am, testing out my navigational skills at this tender age. I got completely lost. I have a vivid memory of the event, but I cannot figure out how to get from point A to point B, even now. I am serious. Do not take me to a department store. I still cannot figure out how to go down an escalator and get back up to the place I was before. It's like, in my head, it everything flip flops, and I can't decide if I have just ascended or descended.

Well never fear, because the story ends well. My mother was paged over the loud speaker. I had wandered far away, but at least I stayed in the store. A nice lady at the jewelry department helped me when I unashamedly pronounced that I was lost. She thought I was cute, and my mother beamed with pride when she came to claim me. She gushed about how smart I was to find a store employee to help me. I was rewarded for doing the right thing. No one ever said, "How could you get lost doing something so simple?"

It's no wonder why no one seemed surprised that I recently got really lost in a hospital. And I don't mean just lost, I mean the scary kind of lost, when I wound up in the bowels of the restricted hazmat area of Eastside Hospital, just trying to find the cafeteria to buy my husband some food while we said our goodbyes to his mother who was dying.  And I got locked in a construction zone. I could not escape.

See, I accidentally took the service elevator, instead of the visitors elevator. This is because all hallways look the same to me. I can never remember if I turn left or right. So, even though I had gone to the cafeteria before, each journey is refreshingly new to me. And it's not a memory problem. I was the oldest student in my psychology class, and I whopped everyone on the memory tests. I had the best darn memory in the class. I am a dean scholar, and have a 4.0 grade point average. I am not saying I am smart, but I have a great memory come exam time. And yet, I get lost trying to find my classroom to take the exam. Go figure.

Any way, so my mother-in-law is dying. Things aren't going well. I want to take a little walk to the cafeteria to get my husband some food. I take the totally wrong elevator. The doors shut, but the elevator does not move. I try to push the buttons, but it does not work. The sign says I need a key to operate the elevator. Oh, I don't have one. I panic.  I sit on the floor and cry a little bit. I pray. I am scared to press the red button. I don't want to set off an alarm. I figure someone will come use this elevator any minute.

After half an hour, no one comes. I break down an push the red button. Miraculously, a voice comes over the intercom. Ah, ha! I'll be free any minute now.

I explain that I got on the wrong elevator. The nice voice on the intercom says, "Do you see the button that says, 'OPEN DOOR'?

Oh. My. God.

The back of the elevator opens, not the front where I entered, but who cares, what's the difference? I exit. Only, I am now in a construction zone. I walk down a hall, and there are doors. But they do not open unless you push a code on the key pad.  I walk down another hall, and find another door, but that one has a key pad too. I push on the door, but it won't open.  I walk down another hall, and luckily I see a man.  I knock on a door and pitifully yelp, "Help."

He opens the door and says, "You are not supposed to be down here. This is a restricted area. I say, "I know. I got lost."  Only, this man is not as nice as the lady at the jewelry counter. My mom isn't there to say, "I am so proud of you, you did the right thing, bless your heart."  With this man, it was more like, "What the hell?"

He found someone to escort me to an exit. I felt like a criminal. They were looking at me quite suspiciously.  It was weird down there.  They had radioed security to report a fat, mildly retarded woman on the loose. They may have thought I was one of those nut jobs trying to steal a baby form the maternity ward. I kept explaining I was just trying to find the cafeteria.

They probably thought I was an escapee from a psychological evaluation in the emergency room. Or maybe they thought I was on the prowl for drugs. I don't know. I know I didn't look too good. I had been locked in the service elevator for 30 minutes, and had been going up and down locked hallways for fifteen minutes.  I was having a mild anxiety attack by this point.

I exited the building far away from where I started. I was on a whole other wing of this big ole hospital. I walked and walked until I saw the main entrance, I asked the lady behind the desk for directions to the cardiac unit, which was far away enough to drive to a completely different parking lot from that point. I hauled ass to the right unit, and on the way, I literally ran into a security guard who was talking on his radio, trying to find a lost crazy fat lady in the restricted area.  I turned on my heels and said, "Oh, that was me. No worries.  I am found now."  You should have seen the look on his face.

I finally made it back to my mother-in-law's bedside. My sister-in-law and my husband wanted to know what took so long, and I told them my story. And realizing, I had no food, I offered to take my husband's place, and I encouraged him to go get his own damn food.  Only, I said it real sweet.  'Cause his mama was dying.

I have trouble with directions and getting lost everywhere I go.  Luckily, I am married to a man who has amazing navigational skills.  My man knows his way around if you know what I mean.

He was a Boy Scout, and a soldier in the Army.  He can look at the sun and the stars and tell you how to get anywhere. When I have to take our children to the doctor in Atlanta, he knows that it does not matter if I've been there twenty times already, he knows he'll have to draw me a new "Abi- map" that will only make sense only to me, apparently, every single time.

And don't even get me started on my infamous trip to the corn maze when I took my small children on a fun adventure where we ended up stuck in the middle of a corn field for four hours, and the whole place CLOSED, leaving us stranded inside massive corn rows in the middle of the night, and me having to calm down my scared children as I tried to lead them to the promised land, all with one boob hanging out of my shirt so I could nurse my baby while I stomped over corn stalks, having to trail blaze our own exit for miles in the freezing cold.

Which brings me to the Celtic cross I wear, that symbolizes so much for just one little thing. It symbolizes the four directions, and it symbolizes heaven and earth, time and eternity, all things I will never fully understand.

But here's what I do understand: the focus of the cross is the centerpoint, the intersection of where it all comes together. For a Christian, the centerpoint is Jesus. It's no wonder that Jesus is called the Way. And  His Way is through LOVE. 

I may be a burden to those who have had to come to my rescue to lead me back home, but those experiences help remind me how good it feels to be found.  Love does that. Love finds us and brings us home. And that's the best feeling in the world.  And thank you Jesus for finding a lost soul like me. Amen.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fripp Island

So, we just got back from our annual vacation at Fripp Island, South Carolina.  Mama and Daddy started this tradition about 30 years ago, squeezing me and my two sisters into the back seat of our Jetta, with a trunk full of bathing suits, towels, clothes, food, and books, and we'd suffer through a hot and cramped six hour car ride, stopping only ONCE for lunch and fuel.

And the lunch was yucky.  Daddy thought that the greatest place in the world to stop was a little old place appropriately named, "Sweats BBQ."  That place smelled like sweat. It was hot and full of flies and old people. And on top of that, when I was a little girl, I collected pigs, and I did not want to eat one.  I hated BBQ.

The back of my legs would stick to the booth, and I would eat a few soggy French fries, and swallow a few sips of Coca-Cola, and wonder why my family couldn't be normal and go to McDonald's. The restrooms at Sweats were not appealing either, so I never went, which is why I only drank a few sips of Coca-Cola the whole, hot trip.  Did I ever tell you I was a brat sensitive child?

My children have no idea what car air conditioners were like in the 70's and 80's.  They were called "windows" back then, and they blew hot air in your face, and got bugs, rocks, and dirt into your eyes the whole way to your destination.  You could arrive at the beach with two scratched corneas, and think nothing of it.

The seat belts that we weren't required to wear by law, but by mom, always cooked while you exited the car during the ONE stop that your daddy allowed, and when you snapped yourself back up into the car seat, the red- hot steel buckle actually branded your skin like you were being driven to the cattle range. 

The seatbelts weren't retractable, and mama always knew if you were letting your tummy out when she tightened it up for you.  Thank goodness we never had a wreck on our way, because we would've been chopped in two by the safety features of 1981.

And like I mentioned, I was a brat sensitive child.  I have fair skin.  I get hot easily.  I burn.  I don't like sand.  I don't like salt water.  I actually hate the beach.  There, I said it.  It's true.  I am a mountain girl.  I like the woods.  Plus, Fripp Island is boring.  There is nothing there, really.  It's remote and exclusive.  It's quiet.  

So, as a little girl, the horrible, hot journey might have felt worth it if we were heading some place I thought would be fun.  But it wasn't, so I was sad the whole way there, the entire week there, and the whole way back home, I'd feel betrayed that I had been made to endure such "torture."  The rest of my family loved every minute of the annual Fripp Trip.  I was the odd girl out.  They thought something must be wrong with me not to love it as much as they did.

Now, my sisters and I are married with children of our own, and I imagine Daddy is resting on an eternal beach in heaven.  Mama goes the extra mile to make sure my sisters and I can always get together each summer, at a place that is special to our childhood.  Like it or not, it's part of who I am, and I go simply out of duty and honor to my family.  I would say that I "drag" my kids along with me, but that would be inaccurate, because this yearly trip requires no such thing as "dragging."  I just mention the word, "beach," and my husband and kids start packing their suitcases.  

Our cars are bigger, roomier, and real air conditioner even blows through vents pointed at the back seats.  Sweats BBQ is no longer there, and it's weird how I miss it.  I would pay $1,000.00 to eat there now, just one more time.  I wouldn't complain about the smell, or the lack of central air conditioning.  I'd probably drink a whole Coca-Cola and pee in the bathroom. 

I feel sorta sad for my children that we stop at places like McDonald's, where you can get the exact same chemical- cheese- burger-like- meat- substance any where in the world.  I would like them to appreciate that there are weird places that make their own "Award winning sauce" from scratch by people who actually get up at 5:00 am to stoke the fire your food will be smoking on.

It's really too bad that it has taken me more than 3 decades to understand "Fripp Island."  I almost didn't go this year.  I threaten not to go every year, but everyone knows I'll show up any way.  And I do.  But this year, I made the decision it will be my last trip there.  I figure, hey, I'll be celebrating a milestone birthday next summer, and by golly, I should be old enough to do things my way.

But this decision, this pact I made with myself, in my heart, really changed my perspective.  Knowing it would be my last time, I drank everything in.  I opened myself up.  Instead of resisting everything, I embraced everything.  Every time I did anything, I reminded myself, "This will be the last time you will do this."  And it made me sad.  Very sad.  But it also made me careful.  I treated the moments as if they were treasures.

Many of my favorite childhood memories are from Fripp Island.  Like the time when I was about 15 years old, and my family witnessed an entire nest of sea turtles hatch.  We stood guard, for what seemed like hours, under a full moon rising, as clumsy, adorable, tiny turtles made their way to the ocean.  It was magical.  When I've ever had the need to meditate for pain control, like during my five all natural childbirths, or during unfortunate dental procedures, I go back to that night, and I watch the turtles in my mind. 

Life is like that.  My least favorite place on earth is also very special to me.  I think it all depends on how I choose to see it.  If I seek treasure, I will likely find it.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mending the Seams (Christmas Letter 2012)

Dear Family and Friends,

This past semester in college did a number on me. I feel a bit wrung out. I just wrapped up another religion class, Theology 301. For a while there, I thought I had everything pretty much figured out, which is usually the first big clue that I am totally lost. And when I feel lost and messed up, I am ironically closer. Isn’t that refreshing? The questions are what lead us to reach beyond ourselves, don’t you think?

I shared Theology class with six amazing people, and our guide was a remarkable professor, named, Barbara Brown Taylor. Google her name on the internet and you will understand why I would be at a loss for words if I were to try to describe who she is.

As a class, we wrestled with some pretty big things in Christian Theology. Each of us comes from a slightly different religious tradition, and yet, we found ways to come together. We found the in-between places. It’s all in the seams. Those are the places we can tear apart, and they are also the places where we can do our mending.

So, this is the place from where I am coming--a place where I just spent the past month working on a ten point personal credo, a project that worked on me much more than I worked on it. For me, personally, it is a place of reconciliation. It’s in the seams where I find the paradox of a benevolent God and human suffering.

I discovered that I’ve actually been working on mending those seams for years, and I didn’t even realize it. It is why I write that silly Christmas poem every year, why I indulge in making fun of myself throughout this blog, and why I continue to write a weekly advice column for the newspaper. I have been mending those seams. It’s why I have found laugh lines and smile lines in the mirror as I get closer to middle age. I have been laughing for years. I’ve been reconciling my faith in a benevolent God and my recognition of human suffering all this time, and I didn’t even know it.

I mend the seams when I tell you about raising teenagers. Talk about suffering! Teenagers can break a parent’s heart. It’s why Adrian wrote the song about being a father of teenage girls, he lovingly titled, “Shut Up and Give Me Yo’ Money.”

It’s why I hold on to the story of when Jolie was in kindergarten, and wouldn’t let me drop her off. She made me carry her, and walk her in every single day. I tried to be firm, but I gave up when she kicked the little old man who was the crossing guard, as hard as she could, when he opened my car door, to offer my curly haired, 30 pound midget his hand.

Jolie never wanted to go to school, and yet, she finally made it to the end when she graduated this May. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to get there for either one of us.

It is why I can laugh about the entire journey of calamities and mishaps it took to get there. I cannot express in words how proud we were of all her honors and accomplishments the night she walked across the stage.  And it is why we released 12 balloons into the air for her Boompa when she walked acorss the stage.  12 balloons represented the 12 steps of A.A. that gave my father hope for the last 24 years of his life, signifying that when a broken heart is mended, it becomes stronger than before.  She earned that diploma and several theatre awards, with her courage to find hope in a life that had seen too many hardships for one little girl. 

Jolie found her smile. It shone brighter than the stadium lights that night she graduated. She is moving on with her life, in love with Dylan, her high school sweetheart. She will begin her studies of dance and yoga in January, and hopes to be an instructor of both when she “grows up.” She’s working, saving money, and enjoying the life of an optimistic, hopeful, energetic, deeply spiritual young woman, mending her seams as she goes.

It is why Sydney found her calling of being a stand- up comedian when she was only two years old. It is why she tells me to “Just we-wax” when I am about to blow my top, the same way she’s always said “we-wax” before years of speech therapy, advising the world to just relax and stay calm. She once said it after she had poured gallons and gallons of water in her bedroom, turned up the air conditioner, ran some fans, all in a tremendous attempt to turn her room into an ice skating rink. She managed to keep me calm when I discovered the mess. Within minutes, I found the funny in it. Sydney has this ability to make people smile, even when they are hurting. She’s down- right hilarious, and when she laughs, I hear God. It is like an earthquake.

With the challenges she has always faced in school, trying to navigate through learning disabilities, I can honestly say that in tenth grade, she has come out the other side. She just made the second highest grade of her class on her state biology exam.

In fifth grade, when Sydney was reading on the kindergarten level, her teacher told me she was “not used to teaching children who were not gifted” as her excuse to why she didn’t like my daughter. Ha! Talk about gifted! Sydney is one of the most gifted people I know. She has big plans to go to college and major in biology. She wants to be a doctor. In the meantime, she stays busy working on her beautiful paintings at home, and in the theater, she makes people laugh with her out of this world talent in improvisation, all the while, mending her seams. If the doctor thing doesn’t work out, I highly recommend her to audition for Saturday Night Live as a back- up plan.

It is how I can hear an honorable masterpiece while listening to the various honks, squeaks, and toots coming from Fischer’s trumpet as he practices for the Middle School band. It is why I drive him to and from school every day so he won’t have to ride the bus anymore, and how he can make up funny songs about all the awful things he learned from riding that bus earlier in the school year. You know, songs about kids his age who download pornography on their cell phones, while they dip snuff and talk about smoking pot.

I’d like to say it’s a “different world” these days, and how the youth is self destructing before our eyes, but if you know my 11 year old son, Fischer, it would give you a bunch of hope for our future. If it rests in the hands of children like him, who instinctively know how to stand up for what is good and righteous, we will all be just fine.

Fischer is doing another round of torture… I mean physical therapy. He was in two stretching casts last winter and learned how to pop wheelies in a wheel chair. But now his tendons are contracted and as tight as ever before. Part of the problem is that he is growing so darn fast. He’s taller than me when he is wearing his new orthotics. He is in constant physical pain, and some other boys still make fun of him. Fischer takes it all in stride, and he knows that he is one lucky child to be able to get around physically, even if it hurts.

Fischer has discovered his musical gifts this year. The honks and squeaks have blossomed into music other people besides his mama, can appreciate. He has earned the second chair out of 24 trumpet players, and that even had to be decided with a tie breaker. He is also a self taught guitarist, one of those folks who can hear a song, and then play it from his heart. With a brain like his, that can retain such enormous amounts of information; that kid is going places. As he mends his seams, he brings us hope.

It is why Mollie is the sweetest and weirdest kid I know. It is why I collect her prayers, like the ones where she earnestly prays for physically “ugly people...because they just can’t help it, God.” It’s in all the ways that she has learned way too much, too early, from having older siblings, who teach her all the stuff I used to teach my little sister. It’s called what goes around, comes around. She’s corrupted just enough to make her funny, and yet her heart remains so pure and kind. It is evident in her drawings, where she can knock out that wonderful outdoor scene that 8 year olds all over this world are famous for: the ones with a tree, a sunshine, some flowers, and some birds. Only hers have such depth and perspective in the “angry mobs” she draws coming down the hill in the background.

Mollie participated for the third year in a row, in being a cheerleader for the White County Tiny Mite Football Team. She is quite the cutie pie on the field at half time, doing her dance routine. She is my only child who claims to love school. She is a voracious reader too. Mollie continues to be the happiest kid on the block, as she mends the seams that she is only beginning to discover.

It is how Nicholas stays out of trouble. I fear that if Nicholas had been a blessing to a different kind of family, his spirit would have been broken by now with well-meaning parents who would have tried to teach that boy a lesson or two. As we mend the seams, we’ve learned that children teach us way more than we could dream of teaching them, especially children like Nicholas.

He takes things apart, and the cost of his destruction must have reached into the thousands by now. Nicholas has a built- in- radar for things like screwdrivers. He has disemboweled my entire computer in less than ten minutes. After seeing this horror, I figured I’d put all the pieces in a bag and haul it back to our computer guy, again (Nicholas has crashed this computer 5 times, he’s been resetting my password and settings since he was four years old, you know, the age he was when some doctor in Atlanta diagnosed him with being retarded.) By the time I got ready to take the computer, I found Nicholas sitting on the floor, putting the whole thing back together, piece by piece. I just watched. He turned it back on, and that computer worked better than it ever had before.

Nicholas will be 7 in February. He has not outgrown clothes or shoes for two years, and still hasn’t made it past 30 pounds, but may I tell you how pleased I am that he is finally officially out of diapers! He is in first grade, and is doing so well that his special ed teacher told me that she finds it challenging to set goals for him, because he keeps mastering them. He may do things a different way, but we feel so grateful that he is in a school environment where he is well loved. He comes home often smelling of his teacher’s perfume, and I know it is from the hugs he gets. His teachers guide him to follow the routine, but they still allow him to be himself. Nicholas helps a lot of people mend their seams just by being his special little self.

People always tell me they don’t know how I do it all, being a busy mother and all. But honestly, I don’t know how Adrian does it all. I know the children and I have driven that sweet man out of his mind, and yet, he still claims to know us in public. He literally holds this whole shindig in his hands. He is our fiercest protector. He is our gentle teacher. He is the smartest and wisest human being I know. And just being with him, makes me want to be a better person.

It is hard to believe that it’s only been thirteen years since he asked my daddy for my hand in marriage. Oh, I could just cry when I think of all the heartbreaks we went through before we met, and how somehow, very mysteriously, we helped each other mend the seams of our brokenness. Together, we become so much more than we ever could have been as separate people. Love does that. Love mends the seams.

And so it brings me back to my theology class, as I wrestled with questions about human suffering and the benevolence of God. I haven’t found the answers, but I find my peace, right here at the appropriate time of the year... where there are reminders everywhere I look: with lights on trees, wreaths on doors, busy shoppers in the stores, stockings on the mantel, Santa ringing the Salvation Army bell, and nativities displayed. It is Christmas: a time we remember that God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son to mend the seams. It’s all a love story. It is about being torn apart and being mended back together over and over again, constantly.

Merry Christmas!

Xoxo Abigail

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The World According to Mollie

Last night, Adrian and I read Mollie's 2nd grade journal from school.  I don't think I have laughed and cried so hard in a long time.  The entries were so sweet.  Her drawings were excellent.  She wrote about things she did on the weekends, about losing her dog Patches, about her family, and about her hopes and dreams.  It was inspiring to us to be able to get inside Mollie's head for a while.  She is so creative and funny.  Although, I must say we were a little bit embarrassed by some of the entries that her teacher probably read in school, such as "On the weekend I didn't do ennything.  I just watched a movie repetedly and played Zhu Zhu pets."  I wonder if her teacher thinks we are alcoholics who just let our precious daughter watch hours and hours of television.  How about  this one...

How You Can Show Your Respect by Mollie age 7
1. Keep hands and feet to your self.
2. Do not blert (blurt) out.
3. Do not tell someone a seacret (secret) in the middle of class.
4. Do not grab a hand full of marbles.

Rules That No One Cares About
1. Do not get out of your seat and shake your booty in front of the class.
2. Do not run around naked.
3. Do not run around in a beceni (bikini) drinking beer.
4. Do not get drunk in school.
5. Do not barf on some one.
6. Do not burp in some ones face.
7. Do not fart on some one.

And here are the reasons to follow the rules according to Mollie

Because if you tallk at appropiate times you will be able to lern and live a good life and if you don't you will not lern and if you don't lern you will not go to 3rd grade you will have to be held bak and when you finly get to 4th grade then 5th then 6th then a lot and get to middl school you will not go to colage and if you do not go to colage you will not get a job and if you do not get a job you will not get money and if you do not get money you won't get your needs you will be cold, hungry, wet, and unhappy and if your unhappy you will be sad.

Paches (Patches) by Mollie age 7 (This one made me cry)

Paches is my dog. She died. I miss her a lot. Before she had my family as a family another family did not like her one bit but paches is now ares (ours) still even thow (though) she is buryed in are back yard whith gorgus red flowers whith sinamin (Cinnamon) and Gigit. I feel like crying when I read this but it just won't come out.

(This one made me cry because I thought about my dad)

When I grow up I want to be a baby doctor so I can see lots of cute new borns and so I can help people and I'll enceroge (encourage) pecents (patients) if they have a seesection (C Section) and I'll be the nicest doctor so when I grow up you whold no longer call me Mollie. You whold call me Dr. Cutchshaw.

Here's her entry about her research project

I loved doing my research it was awsome. I lerned a lot about Jupiter and it is freezing cold on Jupiter and 1,000 Earths could fit in Jupiter. Jupiter is cool, fantastic, awsome, and amazing. It is the best planet in the world but Earth is a little better than Jupiter because if there was no Earth I wholdn't even egsist (exist) achuly (actually) no one whold egsist so Jupiter is my second favrit planet and Earth is my first favorit and I'd like to visit there once.

A Thanksgiving Story

Hello!  My name is Gobbles. I am a turkey and I am here to tell you about the story of when I almost got eaten by ten coo coo humans.  One day I wandered off in the woods and I saw three angry, hungry, and ugly hunters they saw me and tryed to shoot me but insted they got my friend meowy he's a mixed up turkey he says meow and he has 8 light pink wings. He was wered (weird) then a family saw me not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5. not 6. not 7, not 8, not 9 but 10 people were in the family so I jumped on 1 face at a time flapping my wings and then I would peck them till they cry and they never messed with me again.

A Christmas Story

If I could give a gift to the world I would give peace to the world, the best Christmas they could ever ask for, love, and forgiveness.  Merry Christmas world.

Twas the night befor Christmas and all throu the house not a creacher (creature)was stering (stirring) not even a mouse. The stocking were hung by the chemniny with care in hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Wiley was all nestled all snug in her bed,
Rexy was sleeping in her cage whith a strawberry under her head.

Santa landed on the house whith a big bump,
Whitch gave my cat goosebumps.

He gave Wiley a real horse and me too,
Nicholas got a little train that said choo choo.

And Fischer (her big brother) was Noughty so he got poo poo.

If there was no gravity by Mollie age 7

If there was no gravity I whould be floting rite now. My house whould be floting. Even the computer and we could get on our baks and swim in the air!  It whouldn't be lame.  It whould be cool!  We whould run in the air, jump in the air, we whould even do backflips in the air.  If I was in the air I whould yell yippy yahoo yah!  I whould be swerling, and twerling, and I'd be doing loopty loops, sumer salts, cart wheels, and splits in the air.  I'd love it, just love it.

If I lived 100 years ago by Mollie age 7

If I lived 100 years ago I whold ride my bike to school and for lunch I whoold eat froots and vegies and I whood eat biscuts and I whood not stare at the t.v. for a long, long, long, long time like I do now and I whood not play whith my grandmas wii and play epic mickey.

Who I admire by Mollie age 7

I admire James from Big Time Rush cus he is hot he's funny and when he dosent sing he probleblee is very pulite and I admire him cus he is a singer and I also admire snooky cus she's famis. (famous)

This is why I love America. I dearly love my good friends and I think that the laws are grate and I think the word America is an awsome name of a place like this.

If I went to outer space by Mollie age 7

If I went to outer space I gess I whold go to the milky way, the iner planets, the outer planets, and the astroid belt. It whold be so cool, awsome, fabulas, and magnefusent but I whold whatch out for blackholes and I whold try to do the moon walk on the moon and whold bounce very high when I walk.

What I did this weekend by Mollie age 7

This weekend I didn't do any thing. I just cleaned up the bace ment, gave my gerble a grape, and wached t.v.

Veteran's Day by Mollie age 7

Veteran's Day means a lot to me beacas my grandpa died in the army when I was a baby and my unkle died in the army befor I was born (I think Mollie is a bit confused how Adrian's dad and brother died) and my dad survived the army and people in the army even the nurses for the army helped our country becus the Verterans fight for our country then some one gets hurt he goes to the nurse and the nurse helps him to fight so then he fights for our country they even die for us they are very enportant.

The Sparton By Mollie age 7

Spartons are cinedove (kind of) like knights.  Boys think they are cool. Some girls think they are cool too and my brother knows a lot about them. Ofcors (of course) he knows a lot. He's in 5th grade. Spartons have things on there helmets that look like a broom that some custodieons have.  They are so cool!

Weekend!!!  by Mollie age 7

On the weekend I just sat around waching songe bob.  I went to my grandmas house and I call her Susu and at Susu's house I saw my cuson (cousin) Hosford but I didn't see my baby cuson Prire (Pryor) hes mighty cute. O and did I menchen (mention) Susu's dog Gretchen was crazy about seeing me and I also played out side whith Hosford and Gretchen it was so much fun.

What I like to do at Recess by Mollie age 7

I like to sing, play shef (chef), Bad side and Good side!, sing, dance, sing and dance at the same time, slide, chase, tag, transformers, and play cool/ famis (famous)/ hot/ populer girls.

Oh, I just love this little girl.  Reading her school journal was so much fun.  I wish I had time to share all the entries.  They are so precious.  Reading her ideas reminds me not to let go of my own imagination.  And of course, it reminds me not to run around in a bikini drinking beer in school and not to fart on any one.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Butterfly

Nearly eighteen years ago, I was holding a newborn baby in my arms, in total shock.  "Is this baby really mine?"  "What am I supposed to do?"  "I don't think I am qualified for this responsibility."  "What if I drop her?"  "What if I don't wake up when she cries, and she starves to death?"  "How do you dress this fragile little blob?" "She's so tiny, what if I break her?"

Luckily, my instincts kicked in, surprising me every day that I was actually capable of being a mother.  It was still daunting, though.  I was terrified every single day until she was about three years old, when I realized how resilient she was, and that she wasn't as breakable as she looked.

From the time she was three until she was about fourteen, I ignorantly believed I was the best mother on the planet.  By this time, I had brought in four more children into the world, and I pretty much felt confident that I knew what I was doing.  Mothering came naturally.  I loved rocking my babies, singing to them, reading to them, teaching them neat things like how to use a toilet, and the names of flowers and bugs.  I taught them to not talk to strangers at the same time teaching them to be tolerant and loving of everyone.  I helped them with school work.  I taught them to do their best.  Their successes became my own.  I truly felt that since they were so special and wonderful, that it must be because of ME.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn.  'Cause when you get on an ego trip like that, the universe typically gives you a lesson in humility.

My lesson came wrapped up in a beautiful teenager.  Let me tell you new mothers out there: be ware of this package.  Once you open this package, you will doubt everything you feel successful about as a mother.  This package comes with several challenging lessons.  It will test your ability to love unconditionally.  Isn't that horrible?  When you look at your child, you think you will always love them unconditionally, but that faith must be tested.  Because being critical, judgmental, non- understanding, and intolerant are not examples of unconditional love.  And I am sad to say that I became all of those things as a mother of a teenager.

The love affair you have with your child changes when they start to pull away from you.  And that's a teenager's job.  Their job is to emerge from your protective cocoon and begin stretching their wings.  It is a painful process.  All I wanted to do was to keep my baby in the cocoon, and all she wanted to do was to break away from it.  It was tough.  It made me sad.  Every mistake she made, I felt the need to correct.  Every time she had a new opinion about the world, I judged it.  Every time she wanted to try out her independence, I was not as understanding as I should have been.  Every time she had new feelings about herself, I became intolerant.  I invalidated her feelings constantly.  I couldn't help it.  It all blindsided me.  I thought I was going to be a cool mom to a teenager, but I wasn't.  At least not consistently.  Don't get me wrong, I had a few good moments in the mix, but overall, if I had a do over button, I would have put duct tape over my mouth more often.  I would have told her I was proud of her more often too.  

Thank God she really is resilient.  Because I look at her now, just a few weeks from graduating from high school, and I see a beautiful, loving, hard working, deeply spiritual young lady.  I see a young lady who is compassionate, loyal, smart, and kind.  And she became all these things on her own.  Certainly not because of me.  I am just really, really grateful I got a front seat to watch her emerge from the cocoon, because it is absolutely awesome watching those fragile, wet wings stretch into something strong enough to carry her as she flies away to new places. 

 Jolie Suzanne, you are a beautiful butterfly, and I am honored to be your mother.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sadistics and Eating Fish out of the Aquarium

And I thought that last semester's computer class was going to kill me.  No, it seems that class was preparing me for the torture of this semester's Sadistic, I mean, Statistics class.  Torture, I tell ya.  Pure torture.  It is just not good for a person to take this class when she hasn't had a math class in 20 years.  Luckily, I have a nice professor.  She seems to feel a little bit sorry for me.  It probably has a little something to do with the fact that I come into her office a lot for help.  On the second day, I showed up to her office, lookin' all nervous and stressed out.  She offered to explain the basic formula we were learning, mentioning how simple it was.  I was like, "Oh, I get the formula.  I just don't know how to multiply fractions. "  After that, she took pity on me.

In fact, every class demonstration she does, she looks straight at me and asks the whole class if they are understanding what's going on before she moves on.  She waits for me.  If I nod, she moves forward.  If I look confused, she explains it all again.    So, I realize just how lucky I am.  This professor either likes me, or she hates me and wants to make sure she doesn't have me in her class ever again.    I can imagine her thinking, "If Abigail gets it, then everyone gets it.  And I  must make sure Abigail gets this so she won't fail and have to take this all over again.  Because let's face it, she won't really get this the second time around either."

The last time I came into her office, my eyes were blood shot from staying up all night, crying over my homework.  I whined, "I am really struggling."  And she said, "I don't think so, your grades are good."  And I was like, "But I spend 8 hours a night doing the assignments and I just don't think it should take a human that long."  But it turns out, that yes, it should, and it does.

I decided to ask my classmates how they were doing.  I got very scientific and asked, "On a scale from 1 to 10, how hard is this class?"  And what is your major and how smart are you when it comes to math?"  Oh, boy!  Was I ever thrilled when nursing, math, and science majors who claim to be smart, told me that this class was a 10. 

When you feel dumb, it is great to hang out with other people who feel dumb too.  It makes you feel less dumb.  Maybe that's why I like hanging out with my children so much.  Not that they are dumb, but let's face it, teenagers are absolutely retarded, and being around them makes me feel very wise and smart.  My younger children are just learning new things all the time and I look like the smartest person in the world just because I can tie my own shoes and I know which button to push when I run the dishwasher.

There are only a few more weeks of school left.  It really is too bad that I haven't been able to focus as much energy on my other classes that I really love this semester, like: German, English, and Theatre.  My brain can only do so much.  I am telling you, every time I leave my math class, I literally feel like someone has taken a shovel and scooped out part of my brain and thrown it on the sidewalk where a big dog has come by and eaten it all up.  Gross, I know, but it's how it really feels.  So, by the time I get to German class, which is my favorite, Eine Hunde hast geessent meine braineschluaffen.  (that really doesn't say a dog has eaten my brain, but it's close.)  It's like when I went around my kids' bedroom screaming, "Ich bin Freitag!"  Thinking I was saying, "I'ts Friday!"  But really, I was just saying, "I am Friday!"  Which maybe I was that day.   

I am always trying to speak in a different language.  I studied French for 8 years.  8 years!  And when I was teaching preschool in New Mexico, one of my students was the son of a famous French skier who had moved his family to Taos to run a ski shop and train for the Olympics.  This little boy was so cute, but he didn't speak very much English, so I tried to speak French now and then to make him feel comfortable.  I stopped doing that when I had the kids in circle time and I reached behind me to feed the fish in our aquarium.  I said, "Je mange les poison."  And he broke down and cried.  I had told the poor kid I was going to eat the fish.

God bless all the math teachers in the world.  God bless all the students who struggle, trying to make their lives better.  And God bless all the preschool teachers who really do eat the fish out of the aquarium. Amen.