Saturday, September 22, 2012

Five months...

We usually reserve the quantifying of time for the good things in life.  We count the weeks of pregnancy, the years of life, the grades of school, the years of marriage, how many months or weeks until the next holiday or special event, or how many days until our next paycheck.

When my mother died, it was the first experience with keeping track of time in my mind as it pertains to a negative event.  It's quite different than from the anticipation of something or the leading up to another birthday.  It's surrounded by anxiety and sadness, and every time that date rolls around in a month, a reliving of the death is experienced inside the brain.

It's weird.

Today marks five months without my mother.  And though it seems like it's been five forevers since I saw her last, there are moments that her absence seems like such a fresh wound in my soul.  I miss her every bit as much today as I did the first day without her, and I don't think that will ever go away.  Funny things is that now that we are settled into the normal every day life, the ways I miss her seem to multiply.  Nearly every day something small occurs or I see or hear something that I would like to share with her, to go over with her, to hear her thoughts on.  And though I know that I can talk to her empty space in the air around me anytime I want, there's little to no consolation in doing so.  Truth is, I don't want to pretend to talk to her... I want the real deal.  And my heart doesn't settle for talking to imaginary friends anymore.

I had an imaginary friend when I was little.  Her name was Marcie.  My mother said that I would talk and talk and talk to her just like she was there.  Even to the point that it was a wee bit embarrassing to my mom.  Wherever I went, Marcie was there.  I assume she was as real to me as a real friend, but no one else could see her.  How I wish I could back to that place in my mind where a figment of imagination is enough to satisfy me.  Oh how I wish... then it wouldn't have been five months since I had seen her face.  I could see her and talk to her anytime I wanted, and no one would even know.

If only...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Drink it...

In the fall of 2001, I opened my Bible and read.  Every day.  During David's nap time, I turned off the TV and the outside noise of the world and read.  I started in Matthew and read right through.  When I got to Romans, I was enthralled.  Literally mouth gaped open and in awe of some of the things I read.

The first verse I ever felt deep in my soul was Romans 8:11...
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Does the thought of that give you chills?  It does me... that the very Spirit of Him who is able to bring a dead body back to life is living inside of my soul.  That He designed it all this way.  That He wanted to be within me.  Isn't that amazing?

There's also another element to this, too.  That power is inside of me.  Immeasurable strength.  The ability to make it through today, no matter what today may bring.  The strength to make the right choices, to live a life controlled by the Spirit of God not by the world.

Let me share a little story...  I have a cat.  A sixteen year old cat, to be exact.  And she's on the verge of senile.  I have always kept a water bowl for her in the kitchen.  Nothing fancy; just a lime green plastic cereal bowl from Walmart.  Every so often over the last eight years, I rinse it out or wash it or throw it in the dishwasher.  I had noticed over the last few months that scaling was building up all over the inside of the bowl from our hard water, and it was beginning to look a little gross.  So I threw the bowl away and put another one down for her, similar in color and shape.  The stupid cat refused to drink out of it.

Now, Millie, the cat, has always been a fusser.  The night my boyfriend (and future ex-husband) brought her to me after his shift waiting tables at a little pub, I had to put her in a pet taxi and place it on the back porch so I could get some rest.  She would not shut up.  And nothing has changed since then.  If she's not happy, she will most certainly let you know.  If she can see the bottom of her food bowl at any place, she fusses until I go fill it up or shake it to spread the food around evenly.  If her water runs a wee bit low, she follows you around until you fill it back up.  If she's having a good day and just wants to chat, she does that, too.  We have conversations, I tell you, and we've been together for so long that I feel like she understands what I am saying.

But as of this morning, she still would not drink out of the new bowl.  I had filled it to the point that if I bumped it in any way the water rolled over the curved edge and onto the floor.  I sat down beside her on the floor and stuck my finger in it to show her there was indeed water in the bowl and it was safe to drink.  I tried just explaining it to her, thinking maybe her little kitty mind would accept the fact.  But, no... not drinking from the new bowl, and going to go down screaming.

This morning, I gave in.  I pulled out a totally different bowl, filled it with water and set it down.  Wouldn't you know that she lapped it up.  For three days I have been listening to this senile cat drive me batty over not liking the bowl I had given her.

Got me thinking, though.

Here we are, God's amazing masterpiece.  Full to the brim with His Spirit, Power, Mercy, Love, Forgiveness.  All we want, need, desire.  All at our disposal.  Overflowing and spilling onto the floor.  And, yet, so many times, we refuse to drink.  Maybe we don't like our bowl or the temperature or the setting or the circumstances.  But the Spirit inside us never changes, never falters, never goes away.

To be honest, I don't like my bowl most days.  I am motherless at 35, and I miss her terribly.  I am fifteen pounds heavier than I want to be.  I am unorganized and absentminded.  I medicate my soul with  food.  I feel like I am a mess and a half.  But God doesn't feel that way about me.  He thinks I am wonderful enough to host His very Spirit, the one that raised Jesus Christ from the tomb on that first Easter morning.  If that doesn't make you feel special, well then I don't know what will.

I don't know that God gives us a fresh bowl just because we fuss too much or too loudly like my stinking cat, Millie.  But what He has shown me over the past two years is that He will give me what I need to make it through every single day.  His Power is sufficient if I simply choose to drink it in.  If I choose to live in His Spirit, make my choices according to His purposes, my bowl will always be full.  And where I fail, His mercy will cover me.

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Jesus, John 4:13-14

Drink it today.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Coming out of a dusty fog...

Well, I've got news for you.  Right now, your home is covered in dust.  You may think you keep a pretty tidy home or pride yourself in cleanliness, but don't overestimate your achievements.  Dust is everywhere all the time covering most everything you don't really think about.  The backs of your televisions, radios, books and book cases, the tops of pictures hanging on the walls...... you get the point.

I have, for the past week, been working on David's room, making it a safe place for his little nose.  I had no idea how intense this process would be until I cleaned off the book shelf in his room and moved it away from the wall.  There was dust everywhere.  All over the wall, the shelves, the books.  And that  was when I realized this battle would be a process.

One week later, I have vacuumed over and wiped down all the walls in his room, pulled all the furniture away from the wall and cleaned behind it, and cleaned the baseboards.  I have encased his mattress and pillows with allergen protectors.  I have boxed up some of the clutter and put it away.  I took down his dusty horizontal blinds and replaced them with bamboo roman shades that will be easier to vacuum over and keep clean.  I cleaned his carpet with a dry kit that I bought designed to help your vacuum suck up the allergens in the fibers of your carpet.  I put a HEPA filter in his room that will run 24 hours a day.  And I am sore and worn out.

Only one step remains.  I just ordered an allergen cover for his futon mattress below his bunk bed.  That should be in one day next week and will complete this room overhaul.

After a week of all the cleaning and the medicine regimen, I think he is breathing some better.  His nasal passages are not open completely, but I think they are a little bit more so than a week ago.  We will return to the allergist on the 20th to check in and see how things are going.  I am hoping he will be even better by that time.

And of course, we can't stop at one room.  Seeing all the dust in his room has made me painfully aware that it is in every room of our home.  We've been here eight years now, and some of our furniture hasn't moved in eight years.  So I can only assume what lurks behind and underneath and within.

Now I won't go insanely crazy and replace everything we have with new stuff.  But I will say that finding out what his allergies are will change the decisions I make in the future.  When it's time for a new sofa, it will most likely be replaced with leather.  When we finally have the funds to replace carpet, it will most likely be replaced with tile or a wood product.  When I finally have the money to redo our window treatments in the rest of the home (which I had already been dreaming of doing) we will not be purchasing dust catching horizontal blinds.  It's time for a major overhaul in our home, and I am willing to do it to make my little one healthier.

Speaking of healthier, the time has come for personal changes as well.  Over the past three years, I have gained twenty pounds.  The ups and downs and all arounds of life left me turning to my favorite standbys for comfort... food and alcohol.  The emotional journey of grief began long before my mother breathed her last breath, and now I am left with the physical repercussions of my coping mechanisms.  Couple that with the crazy misunderstood fibromyalgia issue that I live with and I have a mess on my hands.

I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to do a protein shake diet along with a week detox from white flour and sugar.  Today is day six, and I am amazed.  For the past two years, I have suffered with night sweats and swelling.  I wondered whether the sweats were related to hormonal changes, but now I am thinking they are not.  And the swelling I believe is tied into the sweating.  I truly believe my body does not like processed foods... there's something in them that reeks havoc in my system.  Every morning this week, I have awaken to no swelling in the hands, no tightness at all.  But I have not had any processed food with the exception of Triscuits (which are as lightly processed as possible) and cheese.  I am down five pounds, all of which I know is water, but I believe the processed food makes me retain the water in the first place.  I have not been fatigued at all.  Tired, but suffered from no fatigue, which is a totally different feeling all together.  I have been very active around the house cleaning and cutting grass, and have walked and done some other exercising on the other days.  I am feeling so much better physically that I have no idea why I eat things like Cheezits and Fruit Loops and potato chips to begin with!  I know they taste good, but I have to drill it in to my head that life is more than the moment something tastes good on my lips.  Every time I allow something into my body, it will produce a consequence, whether that be good or bad.  It's time for me to start rationalizing my food choices instead of reaching for the nearest and quickest fix for hunger pains.  In other words, it's time for me to grow up when it comes to my food choices!  Quit looking at food through the eyes of a child and look at it terms of what purpose it will serve in my life.

Truth is I do this in other areas of my life.  I pick what I will watch on TV this way.  There are many times I turn something off thinking, "This brings no good to the table."  I use this philosophy in my relationships with people and in choosing what I will do around the house.  I use this when deciding what to read and feed my brain with.  So why is it so difficult for me to do this with food???  I have prayed over this issue and lay it all at His feet that He will give me the strength and wisdom to make healthier choices for my body.  It's time.  I have gotten off the emotional roller coaster of the past two years.  My husband is settled into his job.  My faith is the firmest it has ever been.  I feel good about my life and my relationship with God.  But I am physically unhealthy and have to make the changes I need to make in order to return to who I once was.

I am not looking to be perfect.  Not looking to be super skinny or a workout queen.  But I am wanting to treat my body better and tailor my eating habits to what will make it perform better so that I can live a more energetic life.  And I am feeling incredibly hopeful after this first week.  It hasn't been easy.  Replacing two meals a day with a protein shake is tough.  But it will be worth it in the long run if I can feel better and live my life with more energy and less symptoms from this weird disorder I have.

So here's to overhauls.  Here's to a better and cleaner way of life.  Wish me luck.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Confessions... Part 2

I was already feeling like mother of the year after the allergist appointment on Wednesday.  Then Madalyn came home in rare form, and we (oh, I mean, SHE) had three math worksheets to do.  Plus reading and focus words.  Homework with Madalyn is tough, and that is the understatement of the century.

By the end of the day, I was done.  Tank was empty.  Frustrated beyond belief.  And in a moment upstairs in the kitchen when I thought that David was downstairs and it was just my husband and I in the kitchen and no chance of anyone in the world hearing what I had to say, I busted out an expletive.

Yes, I cursed.

Let me digress a bit here by saying that I used to have quite a potty mouth (sorry you are having to read about this, Daddy... you really did teach me better than that).  But once I had David, and he began to speak and repeat things at an amazingly early age, I realized how inappropriate it was.  So I cloroxed that potty mouth and became a better example for my little David.  But it's still something that bubbles up, especially when I am frustrated.  Now, I don't think that little wordy-words are the worst things ever.  Somewhere along the way, someone decided which words were appropriate and which ones were not.  And these words vary from region to region.  In my mind, profanity is broader than just a set of words; it's a manner of speaking, as in using words to degrade others or to deviate from the norm of society.  So, for instance, in my house, calling someone stupid is completely inappropriate, but my kids are allowed to say that things are stupid.  I am not going to teach my kids that stupid is a bad word, because it's not.  With language, it's all in how you use it, not in the word itself.

But now, for sure, there are words which I never want to hear my kids say.  And the word I uttered was on that list.  And just after I said it, I looked up from inside the kitchen to see my little David on the top step moving toward his room.  His eyes met mine, and I knew he heard me.  And instantly I shrunk from 5'5" to 1" tall.  Just like that.

Ever have those moments?  Moments when you think, "Well... I just totally negated my entire platform on choosing your words appropriately."  Moments when you think you've flushed a moral down the toilet.  Moments when you wish you could hit the rewind and edit buttons.  Mercy me.

So then I cried.  And then I went downstairs and apologized to him and told him I had spoken out of frustration and that I was so sorry he heard me say that.  And, of course, he told me that it was okay, that everyone makes mistakes.  I see that he stands firmly on my most important platform of all, that everyone makes mistakes.  Maybe he stood on it a little more comfortably than I do....

So guilt continued to course through my veins.  I told myself the one thing that hurts me the most: My mother would have never done that.  But then this little memory came bubbling up inside of me.

I must have been 13, and we were moving from Marianna to Montgomery.  It had been a tough couple of years.  We had left the little town in Louisiana along with lots of church drama to join a little church in the panhandle of Florida.  I don't remember a whole lot about that place except that the church property was really neat with lots of trees around it and a rustic kind of look.  We lived in the parsonage just walking distance from the church.  School was really easy for me that year as far as the books were concerned, but fitting in was the most difficult it had ever been.  And the church was not ready for my dad. His approach to the Scriptures was far different from the average preachers they had experienced.  My mom and dad decided to move back home to Montgomery, for my dad to get out of the ministry all together.  So after just a year, we packed and moved again.

Moving is not fun.  For anyone.  But it's really not fun when in three years time you've packed the contents of your house and moved it three times.  Once from one house to another just a few blocks down the road while we were in Louisiana, then to Florida, then from Florida to Montgomery.

So I remember that I was in the car with my mother.  I am assuming my dad was driving a Uhaul or something with the majority of our belongings.  And something happened; I can't quite remember what.  But I heard it.... heard it loud and clear.  She dropped one of those words.  And I was completely shocked for a moment.  And then I started laughing, and so did she.  And it was this moment of realness between mother and daughter that was just lovely.  And it makes me chuckle now.

You see, I desire to be the kind of example to my kids that my mom was to me.  She was a stand-up lady.  I am already a little more jagged around the edges than she ever dreamed of being, so anytime I make a mistake, I guilt myself way more than I should.  But the reality of me dropping a four-letter word in earshot of my son is that he knows that's not the norm for me.  And he knows that I make mistakes.  And I had the opportunity to apologize to him for not making a good choice, which is allowing us to have this open dialogue on both sides.  And he knows I would lay myself down in front of a truck for him, same as I knew my mom would do anything for me, too.

Even though I can't talk to her about all my mishaps now and hear her reassure me that I am a good Mama, I love it how I have all these memories that remind me of what being a good mom is all about.  And even though I have a tendency to memorialize my mom as being as near to a saint as a human can be, the reality is that she wasn't perfect.  But the perfect thing about my mom was her transparency and honesty.  And I think that's something that she passed down to me.  And I am grateful.

As for the word choices, I have now learned yet another lesson from my parenting mishaps.  Proper word choices should be made even when we think our kids are in another room.....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Confessions of a Crazy Mama...

It's been a hot minute since I've had one of these posts spill out of me.

Yesterday had all the makings of an interesting day.  At our eleven year old well check up for David, the pediatrician finally decided that we had explored every treatment she could think of to alleviate his nasal congestion and wheezing and that seeing an allergist was the best option for him at this point.  Time to get down to the bottom of things and find out exactly what triggers his symptoms.

The poor kid has had a stuffy nose his entire life.  I remember first discussing it with his pediatrician in Montgomery when he was still an infant; he couldn't have been any older than nine months.  I first contributed it to teething, but when it never went away, I asked the doctor if he could be allergic to our cat.  He said most likely not and that allergies like that don't normally present themselves that early on life.  I found out yesterday that he was wrong.

As we sat in the little patient room and the doctor began asking questions, this Mama began feeling more and more inadequate by the moment.

"So, when you're laughing, do you sometimes laugh so hard that you end up coughing?"
"Yes ma'am."
(My internal thought: Wow... he does this all time.)

"And how do you do when you're outside playing really hard with your friends?  Do you ever notice yourself wheezing or coughing or feel short of breath then?"
"When we're playing football for a long time, I do.  I start coughing or feel weird in my chest and have to sit down for a little while."
(My internal thought: He's never told me about this before.  How could I not have noticed, though?)

"Do you get hoarse a lot?"
"Oh, yes.  All the time."
(My internal thought: I had no idea this could be related to asthma or allergies.  How did I not know that all these years?  Why did I think that was normal?)

I could go on, but I will spare you of all the weird little things that have been a part of David's little life so far that are normal for him but are far from what normal should be.  And it broke my heart to watch his little back literally explode in whelps in reaction to all but three environmental allergens they tested him with.  And to hear from a doctor that my son has never known how a normal respiratory system works, what it feels like to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  It broke my heart.  It really did.  And to think that we could have gotten a handle on this much earlier in life was almost unbearable to me.

I know, as parents, we do the best we can.  We make choices and decisions based on the information we have in front of us, and we move on.  But later on down the road, the what ifs of life sometimes haunt us, and that's how I feel in this situation.  What if I had pushed for this sooner?  What if I had paid more attention?  Would he have been a better student?  A better baseball player?  The allergist even told me that studies have shown that mouth-breathers, like David, have more orthodontic issues than those who breathe through the nose.  She said that breathing through the mouth for years, especially as a young child, actually changes the shape of the face effecting spacing of teeth and facial shape.  So could we have avoided orthodontic work all together?

I know I have to stop asking myself questions that are irrelevant at this point anyway.  I made the choices I made, and now we have all the information in front of us.  So on to more decisions.... shots or no shots?  What kind of HEPA filter to buy for his room?  What kinds of mattress and pillow covers to purchase?  The decisions are, at least, now proactive and moving toward a more healthy child instead of simply managing the symptoms of a problem.

So, the moral to the Crazy Mama story today is that Mama's intuition is usually right.  Turns out he is allergic to cats, just like I suspected ten years ago.  I was right; doctor was wrong.  Seems I need to listen more to my intuition than to the powers that be.  If I had, we would have know a long time ago that we needed to make major changes in our home to help our son breathe better.  Some things can't be avoided, like trees and grass and weeds (to which he tested positive to every single type of each), but I could have been more proactive with a few things that would avoid flare ups.

So, this Mama will be busy in the weeks to come.  Cleaning.  Eliminating the things that hang on to dust in our home.  Learning a new way to dust without stirring it up in the air.  Working on making David's bedroom as controlled an environment as possible.  And also being grateful that we finally know what is going on and know how to make it better.

Dear Lord... I am so thankful for a healthy little boy, one who has never complained about the little things that have effected him all along.  I am thankful that his allergies are not severe and life threatening.  I ask You to help me make good choices for him, to do all that can to make his life better.  And I ask You to grant me all the patience and strength I need to enforce to the things he will try to resist.  In the Powerful name of Jesus, I pray... Amen.