December 28, 2013

I Can Deliver That.

The coming New Year's been tapping my shoulder, pulling on my blouse and prattling and tattling at me like the people with whom I live as soon as foot number two crosses the threshold of our house.

My response to the New Year is much like the one I give to those two people:  I swat and whisper at it Okay, okaaaay...Let me get my feet under me and then I can pay attention to you. I just need one moment. Just one. Please.

That was pretty much last year's response to the incoming year too.

In all rights, I owe an apology to 2013. Poor thing, it's been waiting for me to get my act together, develop some sense of clarity and attend to its needs like I promised way back in late Aught '12, but that still hasn't happened. I'm sorry, Outgoing Year, I really am.

So, to the New Year:
I feel you there with your tapping, pulling, prattling, tattling and pushing me to attend to your needs. I understand you think you need some goals or resolutions; and I get it, I really do. But if you'd just talk to any of the New Years prior, you would've heard that those resolutions and promises were futile to begin with.

Just go a little over a decade back and consult with 2000. It would give you a wink and nudge as it told you something about my big ol' decision to savor my freedom and travel when and where I wanted. To be the girl with the maxi-coat and matching cap that I'd fling in the air while some nondescript vanilla singer crooned:
You're gonna' make it after aa-aal...
Then it would giggle and say I started out really well...until I met the guy who would eventually become my husband. So much for freedom. Or travel. Or cap-flinging.

Then go on, skip ahead a little. Chat with 2003. It would out and out guffaw at my resolve to preserve my identity as a person. Not as my barely-month-old kid's mother. Not as my husband's wife, but as a person who had friends and an active nightlife before those two arrived on the scene.
It'd barely be able to talk through the laughs about how this resolve had me working full-time, making dinner soon as I walked in the door, WHILE attending to the baby AND THEN visiting my friend for weekly hangouts.

...and that's when 2004 would jump in and tell you how exhaustion made me throw in the towel on the preservation schmservation strategy after three short months and turned me into the person who swaps out work clothes for pajamas once I'm done with after-work dinner duty.
Occasional texts, Facebook messages and the all too rare lunch with friends would be enough to preserve relationships and whatever was left of the non-wife-non-mom part of me.

Neither 2011 nor 2012 would have much to report on resolutions, except they'd unanimously agree that I'm a dazed and crazy person by the end of December who cares more about sleep and quiet than I do planning for the next year.

Which brings me back to you, 2014:
Please expect a less than earth-shattering-breakthrough-aha-moment year from me. I promise -- nay, I resolve -- to deliver exactly that.

...and at least you'll be able to tell 2015 that I made a resolution and stuck to it.

December 22, 2013

Peace Among the Broken Pieces

The easy way. The path of least resistance.

Admittedly, it's my route of preference. Conflict? Confrontation? Any sense of discomfort, and I'll go over the hills and through the woods and three times around grandmother's house to avoid it.

Especially at this time of year, the easy thing is kvetching about the endless running, the needle on the scale that threatens to inch ever forward, the expectations put upon us by our kids, our significant others and ourselves. Not to mention the music. Which I did. Right here. In this post.

But sometimes you have to dig and do the hard work. The antithesis of the easy way. I mean get dirt under your fingernails to find the joy -- even in the holiday music, since most of it beckons us to joy, happiness and peace.

Peace in the midst of reality.

For me, that reality is having terminal illness and death in some shape or form breathing down my back and lurking around every corner. Too many people in my circle will have one less person at their holiday table this season. Some exits were expected and others were sudden -- and tragically -- self-inflicted.

Now, where do you find peace in all of that?

Given that backdrop, I don't find peace in the Noels and Gloria in Excelsis Deos, to be honest.
I don't find peace in there's a reason for everything.
I certainly don't find peace in You'll never be given more than you can bear, because between you and me: I've got a seriously low threshold for pain or any kind of discomfort. (see paragraph 2)

What I find peace in is that God is sovereign and knowing that He's God and I'm not. That sometimes I won't find the answers on this side of Heaven. I find peace in knowing that He's holding my hand -- or at least holding onto my wrist the way my mom used to when we'd cross a street together to make sure that if I let go, there'd be no way I was getting out of her grasp and into oncoming traffic.

So to balance out my easy route of tongue-in-cheek Christmas song kvetching, this is the song that moves and touches me.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men...

...and in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,...

...Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

You see, peace on earth doesn't always mean that everything's perfect, each seat filled and a hearty God Bless Us, Every One.

It means finding peace among the broken pieces despite the empty chair.

And for the most part, I have. 

So it's my prayer that everyone finds that same peace. Especially at this time of year.

December 16, 2013

What 6 Christmas Songs Got Wrong

After Thanksgiving, a birthday party last week, another birthday party this week and Christmas coming up next week, I am officially overwhelmed. It'd take more time than I have to explain what yet needs to be done and if you're like me, you're probably overwhelmed and don't have the time nor inclination to read it all anyway.

But even with an overflowing plate, I still love the Christmas season -- from setting up the Christmas tree that we got two weeks ago and decorated only yesterday, to lighting bayberry scented candles, to every Rankin & Bass Christmas Special, and the music.

Oh, the music. Songs have a way of putting you in the Christmas spirit, warming your heart and next thing you know, you're hugging a stranger in the elevator. Okay, um...maybe that's just me.

But alas, all songs are not created equal; and the following Christmas songs inspire and awaken anything but peace on earth and goodwill to men.

1. Christmas Shoes: This song makes my hair hurt.
How are we not supposed to be creeped out by a kid's quest for money to buy new shoes for his terminally ill mom because I want her to look beautiful if mama meets Jesus tonight.
And then the sad, creepy story is tied up in a "that's what Christmas is all about" bow.
Really? Christmas is all about begging for money? And shoes? And death?
I guess Matthew, Mark, Luke and John left those parts out.

2. Little Drummer Boy: Melodious enough, but...
I remember ushering my daughter into this world. The doc told me it'd be just a few more pushes and "oh by the way, do you mind if these interns observe the final few pushes?" I unsquinted my eyes to see about fifty bright and shiny twenty-somethings in the doorway peering intently past the stirrups at my lady parts. I cared, but I was in no position (literally and figuratively) to care.
That's why I'm not buying the Mary smiled at me part.
No Little Drummer Boy, she wasn't smiling at you. You were banging on a drum. In a barn. With animals. Where she had just had delivered a baby. Without an epidural. Did I mention the barn and animals part? Mary was just too tired to say "Little boy how did you get in here; and Joseph, why are you letting this kid continue his rum-pum-pum-pumming when it's keeping me awake."

3. Feliz Navidad: This gem causes involuntary muscle tics.
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas, I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas, I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.
Don't just wanna do it Jose. Please, for the love of Pete, stop wanna-ing to do it. Go ahead, dive in and just wish it already! And I'm a little slow here, so wish me in Spanish or wish me in English, but not both because my mind can't work that quickly.

4. Wonderful Christmastime: The Facebook humble brag of songs.
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime!
Sir Paul McCartney's Christmastime is so wonderful, he just can't help flaunting it in the faces of everyone, including those whose mood isn't up or who isn't here tonight.
Well, you know what Sir Paul: you're a bazillionaire, you're a Beatle, Her Royal Majesty -- Her Royal Majesty for heaven's sake -- has knighted you. If you aren't having a wonderful Christmastime, then there's something wrong with you.
Just enjoy it already and put lid on the saccharine for a second or two or three or four. Or more.

5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: What you don't want kids to learn about operating in this world.
Yes, kids if you're different, count on getting incessantly teased and excluded. Unless...just unless you've got something that people (or reindeer and Santa) want. Then you'll be invited to save the day by the very people (or reindeer and Santa) who discriminated against you to begin with.
Once you stuff down your feelings and swallow trauma so you can save the day, you'll be invited to play games, and everyone will love you.
So kids, if you're getting picked on, just remember: acceptance and love is just a catastrophe away.

6. We Need A Little Christmas
We need a little Christmas right this very minute!
Not this very minute, we don't. I've got a week of things to do and two days in which to do it.

Which is exactly why this post is ending here.

So, whatever songs you love or find cringe-worthy, I hope this will be a very Merry Christmas for you and the ones you love.
The tree we've had for two weeks and
decorated only yesterday

By the way, if you're feeling overwhelmed because things aren't going along as planned, read this post from Red's Wrap. I guarantee that it'll give you a new perspective.

December 8, 2013

What the Little Line Couldn't Predict

The little blue (or was it pink) line inched across the tiny screen on the stick. That stick. The plastic stick sold by the drug store that tells you whether you'll be taking another person home in around nine months to live with you for the next eighteen years or so.

I saw the line and walked away. Maybe it was a fluke.

Came back in ten minutes. Still there.

Yep. I was gonna have a baby. I don't say the politically correct We were gonna have a baby, because while We would be parents, only my part of We would host the cause of the little blue (or pink) line. Feed it. Expand as it expanded and ultimately usher it into this world.

The line was a surprise and I sat and thought...and panicked. The reality of knowing that I could barely go through three months straight of not locking myself out of the house, much less be in charge of another human's formative years of emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual welfare hit me. Hard.

Fine, I'd have a  vodka seltzer to calm my nerves. Oh wait: I'm hosting that little line now. No vodka seltzer. Fine, I'd just have a smoke. That little line can't even roll a window down for air in there. No smoke. At least a cup of coffee? Nope. The little line probably wouldn't like caffeine either.

While Jamie was ecstatic and friends and family absolutely bubbled over with joy over this addition, I silently panicked behind the facade of a smile for months throughout the ultrasounds, the heartbeats, the kicks...and even the ushering into this world.

The nurse asked if I wanted a mirror in those final moments, and I thought Why do I need a mirror? It's not like I'm reapplying lipstick right now. Seriously, that's what I thought and then it dawned on me: a mirror to watch the ushering. thank you very much. I had seen plenty -- far too much -- in those classes where they show the films where no one wears clothes or shaves any of things that oughta be shaved and moans and groans and cries until the ushering is complete.

The little line was a person -- a girl, when in fact, I had been thinking for the past seven months that she was a boy. And then, just like that, I was face-to-face with the little line. I rifled through my mental rolodex because she looked so familiar. Maybe it was in her brow, how her nose was so strong and how she looked so serious and was so silent -- unlike the usual newborn howling shown in those films from those classes with the hairy moaners.

I think she was sizing me up as much as I was trying to figure out from where I knew her when it hit me: she had my mom's face, her nose, demeanor -- even at a few hours old.

I'd like to say that all the panicking ceased at that magical moment, but that'd be a lie. I still panic about being woefully unprepared and unqualified for another person's psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being; and I still lock myself out of the house from time to time.

But eleven years and a couple of days later, she's turned Jamie and I into less selfish, more loving, and better people than we could've ever been without her.

...and that's something a little line (blue or pink) could never have predicted.