Trying to Understand

18 Dec

The first time I remember watching the news with tears pouring down my face was the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Then it was Columbine. Then it was 9/11. Now it is Sandy Hook.

After 9/11, I became a social worker. As a social worker, I trained myself to compartmentalize other people’s grief. I learned early on that I cannot take on their pain because life will hand me enough of my own. I help when I can. Sometimes that only means praying for them and letting them know they’re not alone.

Since then, I have watched tragedy after tragedy unfold on my television screen – soldiers’ funerals, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, mass murders. And not because I don’t care, simply because I have to, I have been able to distance myself from all of them. Until Friday. It hit me immediately. Viscerally.

As I watched the news with tears pouring down my face, my stomach in knots, my skin clammy and cold, fighting the urge to throw up, my almost-6 year old son sat in a kindergarten classroom a mile away from my house. I fought the urge to go get him. When it was finally time to pick him up I stood waiting with the other parents, all of us clearly desperate to hold our children. All of us scooping them up, hugging them tight, saying “I love you” over and over. His teacher hugged each of her students good-bye. She doesn’t normally do that.

****

My social worker’s heart tells me to stop thinking about it. Stop watching the news. Stop staring at little faces. Because I have to life my own life. But I can’t. I feel guilty. I feel like the least I can do is bear some of this pain along with the rest of the nation.

So I imagine the horror.

I imagine how many terrible mornings I’ve had with my son – when he refused to get his shoes on or finish his breakfast and what it would mean if I sent him to school and we were both frustrated and angry and something like this happened.

I imagine getting the call from the school district, telling me there has been a shooting at a school and rushing, panicked and insane with fear, to find my children.

I imagine being inside that school, what I would do to protect the children in my care.

I imagine what those poor babies went through. Because 6 and 7 is old enough to know what was happening.

I imagine sitting in a room, watching other parents weak with relief, file out with their children, knowing that with each reunion it is that much more unlikely I would have my own.

I imagine what it would mean if it was my son.

This isn’t healthy. I know that. But it is filling my head. Any time my mind isn’t otherwise occupied, it goes there. I am crying all the time. I cry when I see the flags at half-mast. I cry when my son says I love you. I cry at each Facebook post. I cry as I check on my sleeping children. I cry when I have to discipline my kids.  I cry when I drop my son off at school and I cry when I return home to research home schooling.

It’s not about me, but I am, as Jonniker said, flailing. It is too close to home. I am too helpless. I don’t know how to be thankful for my life and celebrate Christmas without feeling guilty.

I don’t know how to turn it off. I am terrified.

So I’m vowing to pay homage to those children and their families by being a better parent. By saying “yes” more. By not letting myself become annoyed at the little things they do that do not matter in the long run. It’s all I can do, I suppose.

****

Since my brother died, I never asked myself “why.” It seems counter-productive. If God has a reason, I’ll never know it. And it seemed clear “why” it happened – he and his friend made a really bad choice.

So as I struggle to deal with what happened at Sandy Hook, I don’t ask why. Even though I can’t imagine what purpose this could serve, I have to believe there is some purpose – God’s purpose – even though that makes me feel disgusted and angry and I am unable to imagine anything in this world is worth the lives of 20 babies.

A client of mine, a writer, posted an article about Sandy Hook on his site yesterday. It said, in part, this:

… consider the possibility that man is to God as a dog is to man, and a dog is to man as a flea is to a dog; i.e., the man, the dog, and the flea, who are merely tagging along for the ride, have neither the faintest idea as to why their masters do what they do nor the means to ever understand why.

The question then becomes:  Is God indifferent to us, as the dog is to the flea, or does He allow us to suffer for reasons we do not understand?  When someone takes his dog to the veterinarian, the dog has no idea why his master allows pain to be inflicted on him.  In the same way, perhaps God doesn’t always give us what we want, but what He knows we need.

…  If there is a God, surely He operates in a completely different dimension than we do, thus He alone knows His purpose.

… A Supreme Power would, by definition, transcend secular knowledge, just as man transcends a dog’s capacity to understand human reasoning.

This is the only comfort I can find. That there is a reason, far beyond our understanding. And because of that, those 20 babies are dancing in heaven right now, happy, comforted, souls alive.

Tidbits #3

7 Jun

I have approximately 7,309 posts in my head. I am still struggling, six months later, to balance this working from home/working for myself thing. It’s difficult when I’m “done” working (even though I’m never really done – it’s one of the drawbacks of having all of your work at home, staring you in the face) to take time to write for fun because there is laundry to do, errands to run, workouts to get through.

So! Bullets!

  • I’m becoming one of those people who I always thought were either weird and/or lying. You know the ones, the people who say they “love” working out and feel “bad” if they miss a workout. But it’s true. I get it now. I annoy myself. Now if only I would stop shoveling food into my mouth, maybe I would make it to my goal weight.
  • We’re buying a new car soon. And even though the thought of having another car payment (mine is paid off) makes me want to vomit, I really love the new-car smell.
  • My kids have perfected the art of whining. And by that I mean that they refuse to stop. They are, in fact, so persistent that as an alternative to literally losing my mind and/or inflicting harm on someone or something, I give in. I think this was their plan all along.
  • We joined a local pool this summer and even though I was not happy about spending hundreds of dollars on it, it has been awesome and I’m so glad we did.
  • I am FAR from perfect but sometimes people in my life do really dumb and annoying things and I really just want to say “Are you F-ING KIDDING ME??” Most of this involves Facebook posts and I’m starting to think I really need to quit Facebook so that I can keep a shred of my formerly nice and non-judgmental self.
  • I feel really, really, really lucky that I have an Internet friend as wonderful as Mrs. D.
  • I am already tired of the election crap and it’s only June.
  • I am also really tired of the stay at home mom v. working mom crap, in addition to the breastfeeding v. formula feeding crap. And pictures like this, with a title that suggests, however mildly, that if you don’t do [insert whatever thing you’re “supposed” to do] you are not “mom enough” does not help the situation. Let’s seriously just let other people live their lives.
  • I love Goodreads. Random, but true.
  • Hubs and I went to lunch yesterday and were talking about my job and the freedom it has allowed me to have and how much of a relief it is to me that I get to work and be the kind of parent I want to be. He cocked his head, looked at me and said, “So basically you’re living your dream life?” He was kidding around, but it hit me that, with some small exceptions, I am. And I am so incredibly thankful for that.

Curiosity Killed the Cat

21 May

Occasionally K from Two Adults One Brown Baby does a post I believe she calls “Nosy Nancy” (I’m too lazy to go look and make sure). Anyway, I loooove when she does that and totally stalk the comments on those posts.

I’m a naturally nosy curious person. One of my most favorite things in the whole world is going to someone’s house for the first time. I love to see how people live – Are they clean or cluttery (that’s totally a word)? Do they decorate or just throw random shit on the walls? How big is their house? Whose faces are in their picture frames? And on and on and on. I stop myself from going through bathroom cabinets when I need to use the restroom, but in all honesty, sometimes it’s hard not to peek.

I don’t know what this says about me. I’d like to think it says something profound about my nature – that I’m deeply interested in the human condition, and what makes us who we are. I think it simply means I’m nosy curious.

So, in light of this (possibly disturbing) information about me, I would like to ask you some questions, Internet, in the hopes that you will answer honestly and satisfy my disturbing endearing curiosity:

How often do you change your sheets?

I heard on the radio recently that the average is once every three weeks. I don’t want to offend anyone, so I’m going to withhold my commentary about that, but I religiously change mine once a week. When I get rich (ha, ha) the first thing I’m going to do is hire someone to change my sheets DAILY.

How often do you clean your house, as in dust, vacuum, sweep, clean kitchen, clean bathroom?

I do this once a week too and feel so … yucky … if I don’t get to it. Am I totally OCD?

Do you use plug-in air fresheners?

(You have to be thinking I’m totally crazy right now, right?) I ask this because my house never smells like an air freshener. Ok, that sounds weird. Here is where I’m going with this – some people’s houses smell so delicious all the time. Mine … does not, unless I have my Scentsy plugged in or just sprayed air freshener or something. I don’t think it smells bad, but it doesn’t smell obviously good either. Is there a secret? Is it all about the plug-ins that are continuously providing delicious smells? And here is something to FURTHER illustrate my crazy (as if you weren’t already convinced) but I once saw a picture online (and the internet NEVER lies, right?) of a plug-in air freshener that had caused a house to burn down entirely. Ever since then I have been leery of them.

Sometimes I see people with personalized license plates that say things like “BLSSD X4″ or “LF S GOOD” or “LUCKY” and I think “Oh, how nice that they appreciate their life.” But most days I think “Yeah, right. Show-off.” Am I just a bitch or do you roll your eyes too?

I have no justification for asking this question other than I’m worried that my disdain for these types of license plates is an indication that I’m not very nice. Also, why do people get personalized license plates that say things like “YLW STANG” on their yellow Mustang? Now, again, I don’t want to offend anyone, but CLEARLY you are driving a yellow Mustang. CLEARLY.

Ok, back to my questions about your home. How small does a home have to be for you to consider it small? How big is your house?

I live in the Midwest, where I know a typical home is much, much larger than a home in, say, Manhattan. My house is 1250 sq. feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, and I get a lot of comments about how small our house is. And it is, in comparison to  average home sizes in our area, but we wanted to be on the lake and had to buy what we could afford and have plans to add on and yada yada yada.

Ok, I think that will satisfy my curiosity for a little while. Bonus points if you send me a link to a post with pictures of your house!

Is Anybody Out There?

17 May

Right. I have a blog. People used to read it. Then I disappeared. I don’t really have excuses, per se. Just a lot going on – the normal stuff, like kids and a house and all that business. Throw in the rental property Hubs and I just finished building plus trying to build my business, and I just had to step away from the computer. And as it turns out, when you work for yourself, and your ability to make money depends solely on the amount of time you work/effort you put in, well, let’s just say that you’re A LOT less likely to spend normal working hours messing around on Twitter or blogging. Ahem.

I spend all day writing and sitting in front of a computer and that doesn’t bode well for writing for fun. But oh, how I miss it. And I have a lot to say. I’ve been working hard on me, and there has been a lot of navel gazing up in here and if anyone is still out there reading, well, lucky for you, you get to hear about it.

So let’s just jump right in, shall we? Let’s talk about all the things I want to change about myself.

No, seriously. I’ve written before about coming to terms with the fact that no one is going to change my life for me. Which is, of course, blatantly obvious for normal people, but it was a lesson I had to learn, and continue to learn. But 2012 has, so far, been the year of working hard to be the person I want to be, and I’m kind of proud of myself.

It’s an odd feeling for me, to be proud of myself. I still find myself constantly putting  down my accomplishments and minimizing the work I’ve done. But I am a person who responds to lists, so even though my fingers are attempting to type all of the ways in which I’ve failed and all the things I have yet to change, I’m going to talk about the things I’ve been doing.

Health

When I started working from home, I swore I wasn’t going to sit on the couch and gain weight. But did you know that yoga pants are very forgiving? They are. And it wasn’t until I put jeans for the first time in … well, let’s just say it was a significant period of time … that I realized that those days of yoga pants were hiding the fact that I had gained a lot of weight. I did not feel good. So I started doing something about it:

- I got a partner. Since the end of February, my sister in law and I text each other EVERYTHING we eat. Everything. If I have three chips, I tell her. That accountability is an AMAZING deterrent for dipping my hand back into the bag of chips.

- I stopped drinking soda. I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m still mourning and it’s been 2 and a half months.

- I changed my diet. I cut out carbs and right now I’m on the 17 day diet, which has worked really well for me.

- I started running. I can now run a 10:50 mile, which I realize is laughable to some, but those three miles I run every other day make me feel like a rockstar.

- I started hot yoga. Let me tell you, Internet, I do not like to sweat. I would rather be cold than hot. I am not good at yoga. I thought for sure this would be a disaster. But I am completely, totally in love with hot yoga. The studio I go to uses a sequence very similar to Bikram yoga and it kicks my ass every time, but every time I leave there feeling like I can do ANYTHING. It also helps that I sweat out 1.5 – 2 pounds every time.

- I’ve lost 15 pounds. 15 more to go!

Work

I’ve got a few new, steady clients, which is awesome. I’m feeling more comfortable with putting myself out there and asking for what I’m worth. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I feel so lucky that I had the support of my husband and the guts to do this.

Kids

I’ve tried really hard to be present with my kids. To play more, to plan fun activities, to try to have activities planned. I need to do better, but I have improved and I’m so glad I get to spend this extra time with them.

My Style

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, as in the past 2 weeks. I am not a very stylish person. I know what I like when I see it, but putting it together is hard for me. If you read the internet at all, you’ve probably heard about Elizabeth’s “Wear Fewer T-Shirts” project. I cannot even express how much I looooove this idea. The aforementioned yoga pants are wonderfully comfortable, but they don’t really make me feel good.

Caleb’s BFF at daycare has one of those moms who always looks great. You know the ones – skinny, perfect hair, great outfit, etc. She just looks good. And she works full time and has two kids and she’s super nice and I basically have a mom crush. I don’t think I’m ever going to be like that, but I do want to try to look like I didn’t just roll out of bed. I don’t know how it’s going to go, but it’s going to start tomorrow when I take a hatchet to my closet. Goodwill is going to get a large delivery of Old Navy t-shirts that are never going to look right on me and clothes that I refuse to let go of because I’m convinced that someday it will work, even though it has never worked.

So that’s where I am. There are things I want to change, and I’m heading in the right direction. I’m proud of myself. And I promise this time, I really intend to write here again. I miss it.

What is going on with you, Internet?

Defense Mechanisms

22 Mar

There is this show that plays over and over again on Discovery Health called Trauma: Life in the ER. The show features doctors and nurses from some of the biggest trauma centers around the country as they treat severely injured patients. The show does not shy away from anything – burn victims, bullet wounds, people dying on the table, organ transplants … car accident victims whose bodies have been broken and battered and bruised and brought to the brink of death. They show it all and block out nothing.

I can’t get enough of the show. I watch it whenever I can. I don’t know why.

Some days I think I watch to convince myself that if it did happen again to someone I love that there is a chance they might be saved. That what no one could do for my brother might be done for someone else. That someday someone I love is going to have an accident or get sick. And it is possible that they will be okay.

Some days I think I watch because I want to know what happened to him. And I want to imagine that he was rolled into a hospital on a stretcher instead of loaded into the back of a coroner’s van in a body bag. Maybe he would have been in pain and bleeding and badly injured, but he would have been alive.

But most days I think I watch to stare my biggest fear – losing someone else I love to a tragic accident – in the face. To dare the world to do it to me again. I think my mind believes that if I can be prepared – that if I can look at broken bones and blood and brain matter that it won’t be so overwhelming if it happens again.

And this is what it all comes down to. Me trying to be prepared for it to happen again. The root of all my anxiety and fear comes from the unpredictability and the inherently uncontrollable nature of life – that no amount of love or hope can keep those we love safe.

Even now, six years later, my mind spends hours trying to barricade me from the pain.

So I don’t allow myself to remember much about my brother. I don’t talk about his death. I spend hours in my own mind, planning exactly what I will do and say if I should receive a call that something happened to Hubs or my other brother or my parents or someone else I love. I research the diseases that my children have ever shown even the mildest symptom of. I stare at my children every night before I go to sleep. I can’t go to sleep myself until I’m sure they are breathing and safe.

I know none of this helps, or even makes sense. It probably makes it worse. There is nothing I can do now that will prepare me if someone else I love dies suddenly. Nothing will make it easier. But when I received that phone call at 3:19 am on March 24th, any sense of safety and peace I had was shattered. I haven’t been able to put it back together again and my mind tries desperately to hang on to something, anything, that gives me back some of the control I lost that day. But I know I’ll ever get that safety and peace back.

Today marks six years since I’ve spoken to my brother. Saturday marks six years since he died. These six years have been exhausting. I’ll never live a day in which I don’t panic about something – a day in which I don’t have that ice-in-my-veins terror take over if I have multiple missed phone calls or if I hear about an accident in the vicinity of where someone I love travels or if my phone rings after 10 pm.

I am tired of hurting and tired of worrying. And it’s only been six years.

Only six years. Today it feels like forever. As though I’ve lived ten lifetimes without him. But when I think about all the years I have left ahead of me that don’t include him, I realize I have a long, lonely way to go.

Days 8 – 15

15 Mar

Day 8 – Window

This is my front porch and the huge window in our living room.

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Day 9 – Red

These are my favorite pillows. I don’t really know why I love them so much, but I do.

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Day 10 – Loud

This is my daughter, wearing nothing but boots and a diaper, wrestling with my husband and my son. It’s a zoo around here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11 – Someone you talked to today.

My beautiful boy. Who talks. A lot.

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Day 12 – Fork

Edamame. Yum!

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Day 13 -A sign.

This may just look like a teeny ice skate to you. But to me, it’s a sign that not only does my daughter want to be exactly like my son, but that I need a second job to start saving for all the ice fees.

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Day 14 – Clouds

It had just started raining big, fat raindrops.

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Day 15 – Car

Hubs and I have started researching cars, as mine is almost 8 years old and we need more room. This is the one I want.

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Day 7 – Something You Wore

7 Mar

I had to take Nolan to the doctor so I actually got dressed up today. And by “dressed up,” I mean I didn’t wear yoga pants and wore the tennis shoes that I have to tie. This working from home stuff rocks.

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Days 3 – 6

6 Mar

Well that was a big fat fail, huh? I have no good excuses for failing to post consistently AGAIN. Well, actually, I do. Last week was crazy insane and unfortunately not in a good way. I’ll give you the recap that I sent to Mrs. D today.

Sunday – My mother in law comes over to watch kids so Chip and I can work on building a 6 ft. high retaining wall that spans across the entire back half of the property, using 60 POUND BLOCKS.
Sunday night – I got sick with this nasty, nasty flu.
Monday – Tuesday – I am deathly ill and Hubs is over at the duplex every night trying to finish the wall. He finishes late Tuesday evening.
Wednesday – I am still near death and we get a huge wind storm so Hubs calls at 3 and says he’ll be working all night (he’s an electrical lineman so when the power goes out, he works.)
Wednesday, 4pm – I get a call from the lady who lives next door to the duplex who tells me that 1/2 the retaining wall has fallen down. I call Hubs and we both cry. I worry that my husband has finally been pushed over the edge.
Thursday – Hubs gets home from work about 5 am, sleeps for 2 hours and spends the rest of the day trying to clear all the blocks out from under the massive pile of dirt. My lungs feel like they are going to collapse at any minute and every time I cough I nearly cry.
Friday – Hubs has taken the day off to fix the wall. He leaves about 7 am to pick something up at the store and returns home with my brother in law who has TAKEN A VACATION DAY FROM WORK and surprised us to come over and help Hubs fix the wall. I cry.
Friday evening – THEY FINISH THE F*&%ING WALL OMFG. I am finally feeling a little better.
Friday late evening – Nolan wakes up with 104 degree fever.
Saturday – My parents come out and my dad helps Hubs at the duplex and my mom stays home with me, allowing me to take a nap, grocery shop ALONE while she corrals my heathen children.
Saturday night – Nolan still has a fever.
Sunday – My parents come BACK OUT TO OUR HOUSE, which is a 45 minute drive, where my dad helps Hubs again and my mom stays home with me again and I GOT TO TAKE ANOTHER NAP.
Monday – Nolan is still sick and is home with me today, although he is being super cute and super good.
Today – Nolan was home sick again today, but seems to be better. I finally feel normal, so no complaints today!

Moral of the story – I love my family and I hate the duplex.

So. THAT is why I gave up so easily. I’ve been trying to catch up on work and laundry and just plain trying to get my bearings back.

And since I know everyone is SO excited to see my pictures (ha ha!) here are days 3 – 6. And really, I’m finding this kind of fun, capturing these little snapshots of my life. I also enjoy seeing other people’s photos. I’m kind of a Nosy Nelly so catching glimpses of what someone else’s days look like is fascinating to me.

Day 3: Your neighborhood

If you look real close, you can see the lake.

Day 4: Bedside

Book, TV remote, water – the essentials. Normally that would also include my phone, but I was using the phone to take the picture.

Day 5: A smile

I usually don’t post pictures of my kids, but this was Tessa at less than a year old and goodness, just look at that face.

Day 6: 5 pm

Starting dinner

Fruit

2 Mar

Day 2 – Fruit

Appropriate, since I’ve recently started focusing on losing weight.

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Leaping Late

1 Mar

Internet, last night I wrote an actual blog post for you. It was about how I’ve written enough lately about leaping and how I would spare you more and how I’ve been sick for FOUR days now and how this has been, of course, a horribly busy week and a horrible week in general and then I told you about how I miss blogging and how I was going to try this that picture a day thing that everyone did in February as a way to get me back to posting here consistently and then when I hit publish, the page was blank. Everything was gone. I uttered many curse words and am leaving you with this post that is really just little more than one run on sentence. Anyway, I’m going to do the March photo a day challenge so I’ll be back daily to post, at the least, a picture, but hopefully will be inspired to write too.

March 1st – Up

I call this “Sometimes things that go up that are NOT meant to come down but do anyway, in spite of your husband busting his ass on it for months and when it falls you both just cry.”

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P.S WordPress almost did it again, but I salvaged this post. However it won’t let me post the picture of the photo challenges for March and I’m much too frustrated to try.

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