One of the three year olds in my preschool class once gave a long and lengthy lunch-time prayer that went like this: “Dear God, Dear Father, Dear Lord– thank you for the birds.”

Every day, Maren says a simple prayer before her meals. She is so used to this tradition that we have to pray at restaurants– even fast food ones. At night, we say the Lord’s Prayer together and then one of us says, “God bless…..” And Maren makes a list of every person she’s ever met in her life, the cows across the street, Ole the Bow-wow (her grandparents’ dog), and sometimes her stuffed animals. On occasion, abstract concepts get a nod as well. She’s been known to ask God to bless sunshine, dancing, and the sky.

This year I actually did something for Lent for the first time ever. I’m friends with lots of people who give things up for Lent, including one dude who typically gives up being Catholic. I’ve never participated, because I’ve never understood it, to be honest. I thought Lent was about making a painful sacrifice, to keep us humble– and I’m not saying that I’m little miss humility, but I could just never think of anything good enough to give up.

Maybe carbs.

This year, I read this great article (sadly I can’t find the link now…) that talked about really digging deep into your relationship with God, and deciding what things were getting in the way of deepening that relationship. If soda, or chocolate, or watching basketball were seriously becoming a hindrance to your spirituality, than those would be good things to ‘give up.’ In my case, however, it’s not distraction type things getting in my way– it’s more things I’m not doing, or things I’ve left undone (holla Lutheran liturgy!).

So one of the things I’m trying to focus on this Lenten season is being a little more open about my faith. I don’t feel like I’m super secretive about it or anything– but I do feel like a bit of a double agent. I’d say a good 90% of my friends are not Christians, and disagree pretty heavily with Christianity in general. So sometimes I’ll find myself just not saying anything when religion comes up– because its easier not to fight about it. To be fair, my GOOD friends know how I feel about Christ and spirituality and would never say something that makes me uncomfortable, and I try to return the favor. But…. I guess lately I’ve been feeling like I’m better at communicating then I give myself credit for. And so maybe what I have to say wouldn’t really make people so uncomfortable. Which I guess is a long-winded explanation for why I am writing about this today.

Ahem.

Maren is so used to praying before meals and at bedtimes that when Mitch is out of town, we have to call him on the phone at bedtime so he can say his prayers with us. Typically, she says a few words of the Lord’s Prayer, and then a big huge AMEN at the end. And then the God blesses, which could take twenty minutes.

When we started praying with her, it was more of a habit-forming deal. Mitch and I are religious, obviously, and– to be quite frank– it’s pretty important to us. We’re the type of people who want to do things genuinely and authentically. We spend a lot of time thinking about our faith, and a lot of time discussing it. It’s one of the things I like best about our marriage.

Even as people who have been Christians for years, there are still topics that are hard for us sometimes. Prayer is one of them.

Here is the thing. I know that a lot of Christians feel like God is up there listening to our prayers and like… I don’t know. Handing out prizes like a genie in a bottle. I don’t think I agree with that particular visual. I do think that God is listening… but I don’t think that when we pray, we are waiting for our lucky sevens to line up so that whatever we asked for comes into our waiting hands.

Some people have had some amazing experiences– myself included– and believe that it is the result of God answering prayers (for example: ask me sometime about how I knew Mitch and I would get married a few days after we met). I don’t want to take away from the idea of miracles, because I’ve seen them happen. On the other side of that, I’ve also seen terrible, horribly sad things happen to people for no good reason. People I love have experienced tragedy. How does prayer fit into that? What can I say– that some people pray more? Or harder? Or BETTER? There is no answer for that. So then, you might say, why pray at all? If it doesn’t AMOUNT to anything, what is the point?

You know…. the older I get, the more comfortable I am getting with not having the answer to everything.

But I think my answer hinges on my own relationship with God. My idea of God the Father is so very similar to an earthly father– our Dads want us to come to them with our problems, even if they can’t fix them. They want to hear about our victories. They want us to tell them what we need— but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to GIVE that to us. I know the kind of father Mitch is– his instinct is to give Maren the skin off his back if it keeps her from experiencing even one moment of pain. But he knows that giving her what she thinks she wants all the time is not always what is best for her.

One of my clearest memories from being a young girl was the first time an adult that was not my parent yelled at me (and I mean really yelled!) and when I went home and told my Dad about it, he hugged me so tight that I can still feel his fingers on my back over twenty years later. He couldn’t change what happened. So he did what he could do. I think that God is like that. One time, I was singing a solo in high school where I had to pretend to be an angel singing to men fighting in the Civil War. I sang one note and then could distinctly hear my Dad starting to cry in the audience, because he could feel what I was feeling, and because he was so proud. I think God is like that, too.

And I remember one time when we were little, and our cat Butch died. My little sister picked up his dead body and carried him into the house to my Dad, and asked him to fix him with his tools. My dad took Butch from her and shook his head. “I’m sorry honey.” He had to tell her. “I can’t fix this.”

I think that God is like that. I don’t think he is up there, keeping tallies so that he can dole out rewards to people who pray more, or to withhold happiness from people who don’t (remember the prodigal son?). But I know…. somehow I just know that he is there. I think that the praying is more for US… not for him.

This idea started to form when I would listen to Maren pray. The reason we added the “God Bless” part of our prayer time was so that she had ownership of her prayers, rather than just repeating/listening to what Mitch and I say. And when I was listening to her prayers, I realized that she’s telling us all her favorite parts of her day. All her sadnesses and jealousies and disappointments are forgotten about, and instead she focuses on the sunshine and dancing and Ole the Bow-wows of her days. And then she lies back on her pillow and sighs.

Maren has no idea that her words are being lifted to a deity. Even if we explained it to her, she wouldn’t understand (or care, probably). But it makes her feel better– you can see it on her face. Just before bed she goes back through all the reasons she has to be happy, and they are most likely the last things she thinks about before she drifts off to sleep.

Whether or not you believe in God…. doesn’t that sound nice?

As a mom, my prayers these days are focused on the health and safety of my family. I can tell you honestly that each night as I drift off to sleep, the last things I think about are my husband’s breathing, my daughter’s smile, my unborn son’s strong and steady heartbeat. And I picture a bearded, flannel shirt wearing old man listening to me, blue eyes twinkling, and either saying, “I’m so sorry, honey,” Or “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” Or something like that. Because that’s what my Dad would say.

I’m not much of a theologian, as I’m sure you have noticed. My opinions and ideas on religion have been based mostly on my life, and not on learning Greek and researching the original text. I know that praying makes me feel better– whether or not God is actually going to give me that brand new Honda CRV I’ve been asking about for the last few years. For me it’s not really about what God is going to GIVE me… or, put in other terms, how God is going to answer the prayer. For me, praying is more about being mindful of the things I should be happy about, and letting go of the things that I have no control over.

I don’t know if I’ve explained all of this very well. But I guess the point is– I want my prayers to be like Maren’s. Because there are soooo many miracles…. like dancing, and sunshine, and the sky.

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Filed under Let's Be Besties, Occasionally, I Am Just Me

After this, everything changes….

So last week I had my first OB/GYN appointment– technically, the first one I’ve ever had in my life, because the gal who delivered Maren was actually a family practice doctor, and then she was actually a first year resident (nothing against residents, but you should really tell your high-risk first time moms that you may or may not be able to actually be present at the BIG EVENT because of a very nasty rotation schedule. Just sayin).

Anyway– I’ve been having lots of anxiety about this whole process because of my terrible labor and birth experience last time. Usually, in this kind of situation I armor myself with research and get my book-learnin’ on and walk in guns blazing. But, for some reason, this time I’ve chosen the head-in-the-sand approach. I don’t even want to think about what’s about to happen to my body– and probably it’s because last time I did all the research and had the birth plan typed up, and my doctors were all “Oh, now isn’t that just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” While reaching for the epidural, forceps, and scalpel.

So at this first appointment, I told my doctor all of this. I told her that I was absolutely terrified for many reasons— my terrible experience last time, PLUS the fact that I have no idea when I got pregnant this time… so who knows what I could have been exposing the little nugget too. Those mistletoe martinis I greatly enjoyed over Christmas will now always be tainted by green shades of guilt.

She was very nice, very understanding, and did all kinds of checking and clucking and reassuring. She asked me about my tattoos, which is always nice from a doctor, and was interested in hearing Maren’s entire birth story start to finish– which is great because I like telling it and it’s four days long.

Then we did the exam, and I did a lot of staring at the ceiling and pretending that the lower half of my body belonged to someone else and the top half of my body was reclining on a beach. The ‘little pinch’ always makes me wonder if these doctors have ever had these exams themselves. Because if I pinched my husband like that, like, say, because he wasn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day– especially DOWN THERE– I’m pretty sure I’d be in time out for a long time. And St. Patrick’s Day would be banished from our household. And possibly also the month of March.

Anyway– as she was feeling around down there, she told me that everything looked great, but that she was thinking I was probably only about eight weeks along.

I stared at her like she was speaking Klingon.

“But I had a positive pregnancy test more than eight weeks ago.” I said.

“Well, there’s a couple options here– and the most likely one is that I’m wrong.” She said straight out, which I really, really liked– there is no type of person on the planet that I detest more than someone who can’t admit that they have the propensity for wrongness.

We scheduled an ultrasound for the next week, and I went home to stew.

I figured that there were three real possibilities here. One, as she said, was that she was wrong. Second, maybe I WAS pregnant, miscarried, and then immediately got pregnant again– because that is TOTALLY something that would happen to me.

OR….. of course….. maybe this baby had stopped growing. So maybe I was about to get very bad news.

Part of Minnesota Adrienne’s new job is to be brave. I just read a book where the mom told the little boy that “Scared is what you’re feeling, but brave is what you’re doing.” And so the little boy started trying to be ‘scave.’ That is my new job now, because Mitch’s new job is a lot more demanding than his old one. It’s harder for him to come to appointments then it used to be, and it’s not as easy for him to come home early if I need him too. So I went to this appointment alone, trying to stay calm, and knowing that I might have to go home to my toddler and hide my sad and scaredness for the rest of the night till Mitch got home.

I laid down on the table and the Chatty Cathy ultrasound tech put the wand on me and pressed some buttons on her machine. Then she froze the screen and said, “Okay, you can get up and pee.”

I couldn’t look at her. If any of you have had an ultrasound before, you know how awful that sounded to me– I thought the ultrasound was over, they were letting me excuse myself for a moment and calling my doctor, and that was it.

I looked back at the screen and said, shakily, “Is….. is that heartbeat?” And pointed at the little flicker of beautiful in the middle of my baby’s chest.

“Oh, God, yes, I’m sorry!” She said. “Yes, their heart is beating just fine, beautifully! I just see that your bladder is very full, and you’re far enough along that we don’t need it to be that full, if you want to be more comfortable.”

I wonder sometimes what it is like to have this kind of job– where you have to deal with emotional crazy women all day long. Women who know that if it’s BAD news, you can’t say anything. I’ll bet that if that was my job, all I would do is find happy good things to say and I would chatter away the whole time.

And I cried, just like with Maren. The heartbeat was winking at me, a little miracle that biology has never been able to make plain to me. Mitch and I had a good night a few months ago and now there is a HEART BEATING.

I went to the bathroom, fought the urge to call Mitch, and went back and laid down. She put her wand on my tummy and I knew that I was looking at legs. And parts.

Because I’ve had a daughter, and because I’m an avid reader of STFU, Parents, I am familiar with ultrasounds– not that I’m an expert– but I can kind of reason things out. I must have had a look of dawning comprehension on my face, because the ultrasound tech said, very quickly,

“Um… if we can determine the gender, do you want to know?”

And I knew.

“Is that…. that’s a boy.” I said, and she laughed, and said:

“Your little girl is going to have a brother.”

And he moved, and turned his little face so it was facing the wand, and I could see the mask of my husband’s face staring back at me. Maren had it too, and when she was born she looked so much like her Dad that I used to put them next to each other all the time just so I could look at them. I wanted to put my hands around my belly and tell him– I see you….

Mitch is thrilled. I’m thrilled. Maren’s thrilled, even though we’re pretty sure she doesn’t know what it really means. Every other thought I have these days contains the words, “My son” in them. I close my eyes and picture my husband as a little boy– bright blond hair, huge rosy cheeks, and a huge gap toothed grin. So, basically how he looks now. Only slightly smaller. I keep thinking about my own brother, who was my best friend growing up, and my hero today. I am building that for Maren right now.

Obviously, what ended up being was that my doctor and I were both wrong. As it turns out, I’m more like 15-16 weeks along, further than either my doctor or I thought. I’m trying not to worry about any sushi or alcohol consumed before I knew I was pregnant, and trying instead to focus on the fact that almost half my second pregnancy is over. This is real life.

My official due date is August 25th.

Giddyup.

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March 8, 2012 · 9:44 am

Minnesota Nice

One of the best things about moving to a new place is that you kind of get to reinvent yourself. No one up here knows what am embarrassing mess of a teenager I was, for example. No one here knows (or cares, for that matter) how many times Mitch and I fought and broke up and got back together before we decided that we were MADE FOR EACH OTHER FOR REALZ. It’s kind of liberating to only have to share the things about yourself that you choose to share, and if you have a few habits or grating personality traits that you’d like to work on– perfect opportunity! None of your friends will look at you funny if you say something like, “We don’t allow high fructose corn syrup in our house.” Because they don’t know that you personally put at least three Krispy Kreme employees through college and medical school.

In the weeks leading up to our move, I thought a lot about what things I could work on when we moved. For instance– do I REALLY need to give my opinion about every single topic? Does my voice need to be part of every discussion? Do I need to take a stand on EVERYTHING, or can Minnesota Adrienne just be one of those women that everyone says is KIND before they think of any other adjective to describe her?

But I’ll admit– at first… all I was working on was adjusting. When we moved up here, we thought I was going to start working within a few weeks– I had a job offer within a week of my arrival. But the logistics just didn’t work out and I had to turn it down. Then came the issue of getting a Minnesota teaching license– with a waiting period of 8-12 weeks. So I have been settling into being a stay at home mom again. I told Mitch that I was giving myself six weeks to mope and adjust and ‘begin again.’ Not that I don’t love being with Maren– but let’s be honest– it’s not so easy to go from working full time to being at home 24/7, in a new place, where I don’t know anyone or where anything is. When I stayed at home with Maren in Omaha, it was literally the best few months of my life– but we had a zoo, a children’s museum, beautiful parks, and a gazillion friends who were happy to have us over if we were having “one of those days.” I have met a few people here, and Mitch’s brother’s family is a few hours away, so it’s not like it’s all bad…. but it’s very, very different.

Well, the adjustment wasn’t going so well at first. Six weeks came and went, and I was still crying every night, wanting to sleep constantly, and eating EVERYTHING THAT WASN’T NAILED DOWN. Mitch was beside himself, and I was getting a little worried about myself, too– I was trying to be patient with myself and give myself some time to let life happen… but man alive. It seemed like my life was getting worse and worse, not better and brighter. I’m not saying that I’ve always been super good at moving on with my life when things aren’t going great, but I’m not generally the type to just sit and mope for months on end.

And then the stomach cramps started, and I really started to get sad. I’ve been depressed before, but never to the point of getting physically ill.

And then something clicked in my head and I thought, “Oh. Ooooooooh.

That’s right, folks. As it turns out, Minnesota Adrienne is pregnant.

2 Comments

February 21, 2012 · 10:00 am

I was poor, way too smart, outspoken, and a tomboy. So yes– I know what bullying is like.

I was walking home from school one day in fourth grade– because, back in my day, kids did things like that. It was just under a mile, and it was spring. I know this because I had holes in my tennis shoes, where my toes were peeking out. As I walked, my too-big socks started working their merry way out of the holes, slogging into puddles and weighing me down. The biggest problem here was by the time I noticed what was happening, there was nothing I could do to fix it– I couldn’t very well pull my socks back up, because then my feet would be soaked. And I also couldn’t stop and take my shoes off, because then my big toes would be exposed to the puddles without ANYTHING acting as a barrier. So I just kept walking. 

Plus, there was a gang of boys behind me calling me names. Couldn’t very well stop and let them catch up. So I just kept walking. 

They were big boys– sixth graders– and I have no idea why they decided to pick on me. I guess, because we walked the same route home, I was littler than them, and there was no one around to stop it. 

This went on for weeks. Me walking home, trying to ignore my falling apart shoes or too-thin jacket, and the boys calling me names– offering up judgments on my house, my clothing, my hair (really?), my parents, my dog– probably whatever they could think of– and all things were completely out of my control. My very presence on their walk home offended them. 

One day, after months of this, one of them picked up a chunk of snow from the curb and threw it at me. It didn’t hit me, but this act of violence sent me into a whole new realm of disbelief and just plain pissed off. 

I turned around and took off my backpack. 

“Okay.” I said, and put up my fists. “Let’s do this then.” 

I had never been in a fight before, unless you count small tussles with my older brother, which I don’t, and had no idea how to throw a punch or defend myself. But it’s not like me to run away, and I knew that if I had kept walking then, the next day the snowball would have been a rock. The next day would have been me getting tripped. The next day would have been a shove towards the busy street. 

These days, I would probably never advocate violence. But my understanding of bullying is that there is an exchange of social power from victim to attacker– and for what? Because they were bigger than me? Because there were four of them? Because they were boys? 

No. I was taking my power back. 

This weekend, I read this article. And it broke my heart.

It’s five pages long, so I will gloss over some of the highlights for you: in Anoka, Minnesota (Michelle Bachmann’s district), there has been a rash of suicides due to bullying. Most of the suicides are attributed to students who have been bullied for being– or for being assumed to be– gay. Many students have sought help from teachers or administrators, but there is a district policy that keeps school faculty from being able to discuss sexual orientation in any context or situation. They aren’t allowed to indicate their personal opinions on sexual orientation– so, for example, if a student is called a Fag, a teacher can’t necessarily say that it’s wrong. Because that would be offering an opinion

Oh, oh internet. The anger leaping out of me right now. 

A few things:

1) The article doesn’t discuss many teacher complaints to this policy. I’m sure that the faculty is scared of losing their jobs, and as an out of work teacher myself I can certainly feel their pain. However– I cannot believe that no one went to a principal or superintendent, or their union director, or someone– and mentioned how this policy was tying their hands when it came to bullying and defending students who were being victimized.

2) Where the hell are these people’s parents? 

I love my daughter more than life, but if she ever started a facebook group about how much she ‘hated’ someone, I would be so, so ashamed of her. In fact, even if she COMMENTED on that facebook page about hating someone for being gay, or black, or because they weren’t dressed the right way, or whatever– I would be making it rain in this house.

I asked this question on facebook, and a lot of my friends commented that the bully’s parents probably tend to be bullies themselves. I wondered if that was true– and then realized that of course it was. I’ve been bullied MUCH more often as an adult than as a child, but it’s a different kind of bullying. It’s more covert, it’s *generally* not violent– but it’s still there. The exchange of power from victim to attacker– the difference is, of course, at least for me, is that I don’t really put up with that kind of thing. I tried to pinpoint why– why as adults when we are bullied or confronted we’re so much more likely to stand up for ourselves, and I realized that it’s not necessarily a question of physical strength or size, but more the feeling that we have our own power, and we don’t need to let other people take it in order to keep ourselves safe. 

Look, this isn’t really an argument about gay rights– even though I think we all know how I feel about that particular issue. I don’t care if you agree with a homosexual lifestyle or not– these are little kids. They are literally ending their lives because OTHER kids are allowed to humiliate and degrade them until they don’t feel like people anymore. And what’s going to happen to those other kids– the bullies? What happens when they grow up and look around and realize that they contributed to someone shooting themselves in the head? 

That day on my walk home, when I turned around to put up a fight, the boys backed down. Three of them looked at their ring leader, and he stood there, dumbfounded. There was a long awkward pause until he finally said, “Forget it.” And walked away. They never picked on me again. And, in fact, in high school I worked at the same telemarketing company as two of those same boys. When one of the other workers said something mean about me– I believe it was a comment about my army jacket– the ringleader looked at him and shook his head. 

“You don’t want to mess with her.” He said simply, and we all went on with our lives. 

Like I said– I don’t necessarily advocate violence. Sometimes I think it only worked for me that day because of a total fluke. But it’s not really about the threat of violence– obviously they could have mopped the floor with me– it was the realization that they weren’t getting anywhere. I was shocked by their violence– but not scared. 

If these kids– ALL kids– felt powerful, I don’t think there would be bullying. The kids getting bullied at home wouldn’t turn into bullies, and the kids being bullied at school would feel like they could stop it– or, at least, find a way to get through it.

Once when I was going through a hard time in college, I sought help from one of my favorite professors. Because all the students were adults, there wasn’t really much he could do. So he told me, essentially, to fake it.

“Tomorrow is going to be pretty bad.” He said, “And the next day won’t be much better. Keep your head high, and ignore them– even if you can’t think of a single thing to be happy about. The days will pass, they turn to weeks, to months, to years– you won’t know any of these people in five years. Don’t let these few days dictate what you become.” 

I don’t know if I’ve said anything helpful. I think I hate waste more than anything– and suicide is waste, pure and simple. We can’t let the bullies win, guys. Make it through, find a way. 

And parents. Wake up. Open your eyes, and get involved. If a kid says your kid is a bully, they probably are, and even if they aren’t it won’t hurt you to find out for sure. PUNISH YOUR CHILD. MANAGE THEIR BEHAVIOR. If your kid says they’re being bullied, for God sake, do something about it. Do something drastic. Take the power back for your child, who will call you their hero for the rest of their life. 

And don’t anyone come near my daughter. You don’t want to mess with me.

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My daughter, the starfish.

I have been waiting several months to write this entry because I wanted to be able to begin it this way: Maren made a full recovery and is completely fine. Mitch and I, on the other hand, are a little traumatized.

In November, I was teaching math in my second grade classroom when the classroom phone rang. I glanced down and recognized my husband’s phone number, and I’ll admit that I felt a wave of annoyance, not that sudden drop of the stomach that everyone always talks about when they just ‘knew’ that something was wrong. Instead, I was just mad that Mitch was calling me in the middle of a math class.

I picked up and he said, “You need to meet me at Maren’s daycare immediately.”

NOW my stomach dropped. I cleared my throat and said, “Is everything okay?”

And my husband– my rock– said, “Leave right now.” And hung up.

I turned to my cooperating teacher and said, very shakily, “Something happened to Maren. Mitch says I need to meet him right now.”

She waved me out the door. “Go, go go go. Call me later.”

I don’t remember grabbing my keys, or getting to the parking lot, or even starting the drive. My phone rang again, jarring me out of the sea, and Mitch’s voice was on the other end.

Maren’s left hand had been caught in a door at daycare. Two of her fingertips had been amputated. Mitch was with her now, and the ambulance was on its way.

I think that Moms have a little bit of a mental ticker going on constantly, and every time we have a new experience we check it off our list, and tuck it away so that we know what it’s going to be like next time we have another moment like it. Like the first time your baby has a high fever, or the first time they have diarrhea up to their shoulders at a restaraunt, or the first time they put a pea up their nose.

This was one of those experiences for me. The first time something really, truly awful happened to my precious baby, and my first thought was, “Thank God. It’s terrible, but she’s alive. Thank you God.” For parents, the business of economizing our fears in emergencies is very commonplace.

“Do you have her?” I demanded—my adrenaline turning to anger now.

“Yes, she’s right here in my lap.” He said, and I felt like cold air was creeping into my body, starting in my stomach and radiating out.

“Why isn’t she crying?” I asked, and there was a long pause.

“I think she’s in shock.”

By then, the ambulance had arrived and Mitch told me to meet them at the ER instead of daycare. We pulled into the parking lot at about the same time, and then I was running, running, and running. The distance across the parking lot seemed insurmountable to me, as if every inch of air separating me from my daughter was a steel cable holding me back.

An EMT held his hand out to stop me, but then he looked at my face and called to the others, “Mom’s here.”

Mitch was holding Maren to his chest, his hand clamped tightly around a wash cloth that was on her hand. She had tear tracks down her round cheeks, but no tears. When she saw me, she held out her other hand and whimpered, “Mama.” And then laid her head back down on Mitch’s chest and took a deep breath.

We were ushered immediately into a room, and were swarmed with nurses and aides. While they brought in lights and tables and clean gauze, I realized with dread how much blood was soaking my little family.

The doctor came in and said, “Okay—let’s see what we’re dealing with here.” And Mitch took the wash cloth away.

I can’t really describe what I saw—not only do I really not want to, I physically can’t. Because if I hadn’t seen it in real life, I would have thought it wasn’t real. I stared at my daughter’s hand and thought that I was looking at some awful Hollywood trick with make-up and plaster. And then, when Maren’s heart beat, blood gushed out. And then she started screaming.

I don’t want to diminish the relationship between a Dad and his daughter—obviously I don’t know anything about it—but I do want to address what it feels like to see your daughter in that kind of pain from a mom’s perspective. At that moment, I was acutely aware of my own fingers. I flexed them, and they burned—it felt wrong and horrible, treasonous, that I had fingers on my hand at all.

I also felt a tug in my center, as if my womb was reaching out for my baby, wanting to keep her safe and sound, protected from the ugliness in the world like she was when she was in my tummy. When you build a baby inside you, you have a very beautiful–but visceral—understanding that all of her body parts were once a part of you. It’s the reason that mom’s will sometimes be in the next room and miss their baby, or have a sudden fear that they forgot her somewhere even when she’s in the backseat. There is no other relationship on earth like this one—she and I used to be just I.

When she was injured, I didn’t just feel scared and hurt. I felt personally offended in a way that I’m not sure I can verbalize. I was seeing red as I looked around the room—how dare the universe let this happen to my baby.

They re-wrapped her hand and let us know that applying pressure was keeping the pain at bay, but they were going to bring her something for the pain shortly. We asked if she could have something to drink (it was just before lunch time) and they said no, in case she needed to go into surgery. The two of us did our best to soothe her—balancing the line between validating her fears and pain while also distracting her from them—and waited.

I called my cooperating teacher and told her I wouldn’t be back for the day. She was awesome and gracious, and I promised to call her later.

Then I made the much more difficult phone calls to our moms.

I made both phone calls, and so got the full benefit of hearing our Mom’s voices struggle through sheer panic, trying to find strength. I thought (not for the first time) about how awful it must feel to be the parent of an adult child. I will always be my mother’s baby, and I’m sure that there will always be a part of her that wants to shield me from all the bad things in the world. But I’m a mother myself, now, and so all my Mom could do was tell me it would be all right, and to call her later.

When they came in with the pain meds, I made a decision that I don’t think I will ever forgive myself for—even though I know Maren will never remember it. I was feeling very sick and didn’t know if I could stomach seeing her hand again, and asked if I could leave the room while they gave the injections. They let me out, and the door locked behind me—and so I stood useless in the hallway and listened while they put needles in Maren’s open wounds. She screamed for me the whole time.

When the door opened again, I ran back in and resolved not to leave her side again. The medicine took over, and she fell asleep, cradled on Mitch’s chest. Finally, he and I could talk.

He told me that he didn’t know how it happened, he had been so angry when he got to daycare that he didn’t want anyone to talk to him (now that it’s all over, I sometimes think with some dry amusement about this exchange—and I’ll admit that I feel a little sorry for whoever had to make the phone call to Mitch. I’ll bet they were puking in their mouths when he showed up). With Maren asleep, Mitch and I let our guards down a little bit and cried. Mitch said he wanted her to just stay asleep so that she wouldn’t remember anything, and I assured him that she wouldn’t remember anything, she was way too young to carry a memory of this with her (but sometimes I don’t know. Just last week I asked her if she remembered where she got her owie, and she said, very solemnly, “Door.”).

While she was sleeping, doctors and a plastic surgeon came to look at her fingers again. The surgeon recommended that she have an X-ray, but that regardless of the outcome she should simply have the tips re-attached. At her age, he told us, surgery was very risky because of the anesthesia, and in any case, it may not work much better than just re-stitching in the first place. We nodded our heads. Mitch’s eyes were worried, but as Maren started to wake up for her X-ray we smiled at her and talked to her about Sesame Street.

When they came in with the X-ray, they asked me to leave. I told them I wanted to stay, but they were very firm. If there was any chance—any chance at all—that I could be pregnant, staying for the X-ray could be the worst decision I ever made. So I stomped out of the room and watched through the window.

Maren sat in Mitch’s lap and they wrapped him in a lead vest. Mitch talked in low tones to Maren while they stretched out her hand and put it on the flat gray surface.

Does anyone remember Maren at about nine months? She had the most marvelously huge round head. She could crawl, but not walk, and she spent most of her days sitting up, with her hands always reaching for something, looking around with wide-eyes. We had her pictures taken at around this time, and one of the proofs that took my breath away was the first one the photographer took. She had that wide-eyed look; and a very serious expression on her face—plainly terrified, but trusting us that we wouldn’t leave her alone with a madman.

This was exactly how she looked right then, stretching out her hand and looking up at the camera. They took a few pictures, and then let me back in the room. The EMT’s came back into the room. They had just dropped off another patient and wanted to check on Maren—that’s the effect my beautiful baby has on people.

The short end to this story is that she lost some bone in both tips of her fingers, but because Mitch had called 911 so quickly, rather than taking her to the ER himself, most of the tissue was salvageable. The ER doctor stitched both tips back on. They wrapped her up like a taco, with only one arm out, and Maren sang songs and told jokes with us while they stitched. If she looked at her hand, she remembered she was hurt and would cry, so we sat on her right side and she just kept looking at us. Almost immediately, blood and feeling returned to the tip of her middle finger. Her ring finger was still touchy—within a few hours, the flesh was turning white. The doctor warned us that because of the way the finger was severed, it was possible that the ring finger tip might not take—and might just fall off.

They bandaged her hand and gave us instructions to keep them completely dry. We went home and bought ice cream and rented movies. I sat down with her on the couch and didn’t want to let her go.

A few days later, she was fitted with splints and given new bandages. We withdrew her from daycare, and set up babysitters for the next few weeks while I finished student teaching. In the meantime, Mitch was finishing up his career as a restaurant manager and getting ready to transition to his new job in Minnesota. We packed our apartment, and got ready to move.

Three days before we moved, Maren was fitted with new splints, and the surgeon looked again at her fingers. He was encouraged by a tiny little island of pink on the tip of her ring finger—he was sure this meant that the finger had re-vascularized and would make a full recovery. He told us that at this point, the ‘dead tip’ was working as a biological dressing, which was better than any bandage. He was absolutely amazing, answered all our questions, and was very patient with Maren—even though he did not work in pediatrics normally.

Last week, I was changing her bandages. The middle finger was all ready completely healed—it looks a little marred, but we all think that once the skin is freshened up and the nail grows out no one will even know that something happened. But we were all waiting to see what was going to happen with her ring finger, which was black, flaky, and threatened to come off every time we changed bandages. Even though our surgeon had high hopes, he had also told us that until the tip came off there were no guarantees, because there was no way to check what was going on underneath.

While Maren played with stickers, I pulled the band aids off—and stopped cold. I could absolutely not believe what I was seeing. The dead tip of Maren’s finger was in my left hand—black, shriveled, and ugly—and in its place was an entirely new tip, complete with a finger nail. Guys—it was like the thing just GREW BACK.

When I took her to a follow up a few days later, our new surgeon reached down for her hand and said, “My God, it worked!”

It’s only been a week, and all ready we are starting to see all the signs of the amputation disappearing. Our surgeon joked that if she married a hand surgeon, he might not be fooled, but otherwise, no one will probably ever know what happened. Not to give this more of a touchy-feeling ending than it all ready needed… but Maren was all ready a miracle. If she had lost both fingers, I would have been thanking God that it wasn’t worse…. And then this. I feel so…. humbled…. and grateful and like the universe is a beautiful, beautiful place, because my daughter is happy, and healthy, and whole.

 

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Because It Needs To Be Said.

Internet:

I am 28 years old, and about 5’9. I do not smoke, and am a social drinker. I have perfect blood pressure, do not have high cholesterol, and do not have a thyroid problem. I am very rarely sick, and actually went to the doctor only one time last year for strep throat. I do have a knee problem, but this is mostly due to a car accident I was in during high school. I have never had a cavity.

During my pregnancy, I did not gain any weight. I had zero complications until my third trimester, when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Even so, I was able to control my sugars through diet and exercise until the very week before my delivery, when I went on medication “just to be safe.” I then gave birth to a perfectly healthy, completely average-sized baby. The next day, my diabetes went away and my blood sugar, though slightly elevated, has not given cause for concern.

I can run a mile in about 15 minutes, and can make it through a Zumba class without stopping to rest. I’m a stay at home mom now, but in the days of yore I was a preschool teacher and spent ten hours a day keeping track of 12 two-year-olds– not for the faint of heart.

I am all of these things. And I am also almost one hundred pounds overweight.

I am writing this post in response to this post:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2085226/PLUS-Model-Magazines-Katya-Zharkova-cover-highlights-body-image-fashion-industry.html

Specifically, in response to many of the comments, which were, if I’m being honest, total bull shit.

The model in these photos wears a size 12 (remember, Marilyn Monroe was a 14). She is obviously curvy and has a tummy. GOD FORBID THE WOMAN HAS A TUMMY. It’s my guess that if she were wearing clothes, we wouldn’t at all notice a lot of the ‘flaws’ that people are so upset about.

A lot of the comments are from women who are considered ‘plus-size’ themselves, and are happy to see their body types represented in a fashion magazine. Many of these women would never be considered obese, but are not the model-skinny that is so sought after these days. These women were SO happy to see a beautiful, youthful, healthy looking girl.

And then there were the negative Nancy’s. The women who, I can only assume, are so evil and bitter because they haven’t let themselves eat in twenty years.

One woman, in response to one of the aforementioned happy, normal-sized women commenters, responded, “Ok, go ahead and pretend like everything is fine and you are happy with how you are. We know the truth.”

Oh you do, do you? I wonder if she imagines that overweight women cried into our pillows when we heard that Hostess was going bankrupt, or that after a full day of audacity– how dare we walk around with normal people as if nothing is wrong– we stare at ourselves in our mirrors and feel sick.

I suppose that may be true of some overweight women. Not this one, though. Not by a long shot. I can’t even remember the last time I gave more than two seconds thought on whether or not I looked ‘good’– really, lets THINK about that for a moment– what have we become, as a society, when we are spending so much time grooming ourselves? What other awesome amazing things could we be doing with our time?

Another said, “That girl’s fat rolls are disgusting. If I saw her in a swim suit, I would tell her to cover up.”

Which means, I guess, that when you see those girls at the pool with their flat bellies and perky boobs that we should be HONORED to see them in their bikinis. That when the young coeds walk by with cut-offs so short that their POCKETS ARE LONGER THAN THEIR SHORTS, instead of being shocked and bewildered, I should be groveling at her feet and congratulating her on winning the ‘you’re so skinny’ award.

Friends, here’s the truth. I will just bottom line it for you.

Do I wish I was healthier? Of course. Who doesn’t?

Do I wish I was skinny? …. Not really.

In fact, the only time that I wish I was skinny is when other people tell me that I should. It gets into your brain and sits there, and you start to think, you know, maybe I SHOULD do something…. even though I’m perfectly happy, very healthy, and all ready feel that I’m living my life the way I want to and imagined that I would.

When you’re skinny, no one cares what you eat. No one cares if you’re a binge drinker, if you put all kinds of chemicals and additives into your body, if you smoke or go to a tanning booth. No one cares. But when you’re fat– when the WHOLE WORLD CAN SEE YOU IN YOUR INFAMY– it’s like everyone starts counting how many calories you’re consuming for you. And everyone has an opinion. Oh, EVERYONE has an opinion.

Everyone wants to tell an overweight girl how she should dress, what she definitely shouldn’t wear, and whether or not she should be allowed out in public. And also, my opinions on fashion suddenly do not matter, as if by being fat I am now also blind. No one seems to want to listen to ME when I want to stand at the mall and scream through a bull-horn, “LADIES. THERE ARE ONLY PROBABLY SIX OF YOU THAT CAN REALLY PULL OF SKINNY JEANS. THANK YOU.”

And everyone wants to tell us how we should be eating, too. I’ve had all kinds of advice– from not eating at all during the day to only consuming liquids, to only eating cereal to only eating meat. But when I want to talk about food? Oh boy. Man does THAT open up a can of worms.

And that is one thing that just doesn’t make any sense. If you want to talk about cars, do you go to a guy who rides a bike everywhere? So if you want to talk about food– why wouldn’t you want to talk to someone who LOVES food?

And friends– I LOVE food. And I’m SO tired of being ashamed of it.

My mom taught me when I was little that one way you can show people how much you love them is by cooking for them– carefully choosing the best quality ingredients and then carefully combining them into a dish. Choosing other dishes that are complimentary. Finding new ways to make old things, and spending time getting to know what the people around you like so that you can learn how to cook for them.

That sure doesn’t sound like popping open a Slim Fast, now does it?

Now don’t misunderstand me. I know that cooking and eating well does NOT necessarily mean that you have to also eat unhealthy foods– trust me– I know this. Ask anyone who knows me what kind of food I make for my child– I even handmade her BABY FOOD because I didn’t want her eating additives  and chemicals. Someone asked me once how Maren likes her hot dogs cooked– boiled or grilled, I guess– and I blinked at them for a second and responded, “I don’t know. Maren’s never had a hot dog.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it is not a crime to be overweight. I’m not hurting anyone. That model is not hurting anyone. She is not stealing jobs from a size 4 model, nor is her very image going to climb off the paper and eat you.

I’m healthier, stronger, and more active than many skinny women I know. I’m happy, I’m comfortable, and I am enjoying my life, thank you very much. I walked down the aisle in a size 18 dress, and my husband loved me then and loves me now.

Speaking of which– before I was married I would often get THE SPEECH. The Speech about how I wouldn’t ever find a man if I didn’t lose weight. That is just so stupid it almost makes me laugh. I have NEVER had a hard time dating– NEVER. Mitch is NOT the only guy who ever proposed to me, either. I sometimes would turn my phone off on the weekends to get some damn alone time.

And I know that people say this, and it sounds so empty and stupid, but I am so serious when I say that if there was ever a guy who looked me over and said “Ick” and walked away, that guy had just done me the best favor that anyone ever did. Think about that. If you wear a size six and a guy tells you that he would never date, say, a size ten, what does that really mean about that guy? And are you planning on EVER gaining weight? Better hope your thyroid stays in check and your pregnancies all go smoothly. Personally, I’d rather have a man who saw me and said wow right away. And that’s what I have.

No, I’ve never run a marathon or walked down a cat walk. But this body has carried a child, gone through three days of labor, vaginal delivery for three hours (!), and then finally a C-section. I’ve done boot camps. I’ve tried running. I go on walks and hikes and bike rides. My daughter and I dance every day. When I go out, no one can keep me off the dance floor. I am fun, funny, and daring.

I’m sick of people pitying overweight women– and I’m beginning to think that its something else. I’m beginning to wonder if the issue is really resentment– women who were unhappy being heavier, lost weight or work very hard to maintain their weight, wondering WHY OH WHY these other women just walk around HAPPY, as if NO ONE has ever told them that they are overweight? I mean– hello– hasn’t ANYONE EVER TOLD THEM THAT THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES???? Because they can’t picture being overweight and happy, they don’t think that anyone else ever could, either. So they paint with a broad brush and figure that we must be kidding ourselves.

Well I think it’s time for society to move on. I don’t think that there are any overweight people in the nation who don’t know that they’re overweight. I don’t think that anyone needs a reminder, a nudge, or heightened awareness. We are all grown-ups, and we can decide on our own if we need to do something new or try a new path. Our doctors will tell us if we’re being stupid. THAT’S THEIR JOB.

And another thing. If I am wearing my swimsuit, swimming with my daughter, and someone comes and tells me that I better cover up, I will pound your ass into the sand. It shall come to pass. I will do this thing that I have decreed.

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Stranger in a Strange Land

When I was young, my siblings and I used to visit a farm outside of town every weekend. My parents referred to this as “Forced Family Fun Day” because there was literally nothing else for us to do but play together.

Once, another family (from THE BIG CITY) was there, visiting the owner of the farm. They had two boys and a girl, and the six of us looked at each other warily. I was never as conscious of my tangled hair and dirty knees as when I was looking at kids like this—freshly pressed, coordinating outfits, and not a spot of dirt on their shoe laces.

It didn’t take long before my brother dared one of the other kids to touch the electric fence—just wait, don’t stop reading, or you might miss the utter genius that is my brother. He knew that the kid would refuse—DUH—it’s an electric fence! My brother started talking him through the process—so tell me why you won’t touch it? He asked. “Because I’ll get shocked.” The kid replied, staring at Vinnie like he was short a few points in the ole IQ department.

So Vinnie kept goading him, and threw up his hands and said (with a twinkle in his eye)—“Fine, then I dare you to PEE on it. You won’t even be TOUCHING it then. I touch it ALL THE TIME—but I guess that YOU can just PEE on it.” To prove he wasn’t a chicken, the kid immediately dropped his trousers and took aim. My sister’s and my jaws dropped—this kid’s nether regions were about to be introduced to 6000 volts of current, carried straight to his jollies by the salt in his own piss.

My brother was shocked (no pun intended), too, and stopped him by knocking into him with his shoulder and directing his steady stream into the grass. While he explained what was about to happen, I remember looking at this kid with total pity and thinking, “Man, but you are a city kid.

Fast forward to last week, as I was standing in line at the grocery store, seriously aggravated. The clerk and the bagger kept asking me questions—“paper or plastic? Do you want your milk in a bag? Would you like your meat separate from your vegetables? Shall we put your cleaning products in a different bag?”

I stared at them with clenched teeth, and could almost hear myself snarl: Just. Put. My stuff. In a bag.

AND THEN the clerk leaned over and touched Maren. She touched her head and said, “Oh she is so precious—can she have a sucker?”

Um, hello? NO she cannot have a sucker! You, lady, are a stranger! They may not send babies with instruction manuals, but even I know that one! Just because you’re wearing a nametag does NOT mean that I KNOW YOU.

And then I realized—Holy shit. Ho. Ly. Shit.

I’m a city kid.

My backyard is a lake. Every day when Maren and I go for our walk, she has to stop by to wave at THE COWS that are across the street from us. Cows. Real ones. Today for lunch, I had DEER SAUSAGE—made out of deer that someone I know shot.  WITH A GUN. UNTIL IT WAS DEAD AND NOW I AM EATING IT.

The nearest big town is about 20 minutes away, and I find myself tapping the steering wheel impatiently at stop lights. WHY is no one running through the yellow lights? WHY has no one created a third turning lane out of sheer frustration when they just want to turn right and everyone else is stopped nice and neat behind the cross walk? I implore this to the Gods of Traffic, but I have found that they are entirely different here than the Gods of Traffic back in Omaha, who usually just laughed at my complaints and threw more freezing rain down to keep things interesting. In small towns, the Gods of Traffic speak only in soft, soothing voices and keep spritzing the air with lavender and eucalyptus. It’s very disorienting.

At the grocery store, people want to stop and talk to me CONSTANTLY. Well– that’s not really fair. What they really want to do is stare at Maren—because—really– have you ever seen a kid this cute? However, in all honesty, I have been stopped by at least three men wearing coveralls, clutching crinkled up lists in their hands, asking me to please help them find some elusive ingredient that they’ve never heard of before (most justifiable: cream of tartar. Least justifiable: brussel sprouts).

Today I made a hair appointment and when the gal asked me for my address, I gave her the zip code. Then I shook my head and apologized—“Obviously you know the zip code.” I said. “I just moved from a big city, and I think there were at least a dozen different zip codes there.”

“Oh heavens no,” She replied, “I really appreciate it. People sometimes assume that we know, and you know, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.”

Oh yeah, also, in small towns? EVERYONE IS SUPER DUPER NICE. I have a feeling that the next time I get stuck in a ditch, the people in this town aren’t even going to let me feel good and sorry for myself. Before I can even stomp my foot or ANYTHING, I bet that someone is going to all ready be towing me out. And probably while I’m still wishing that I could at least shake my fist at the skies at least ONE TIME, their wife or mom will have baked me an apple pie and placed it lovingly on my passenger seat. And before I can eat it, they’ll warn me that it just came out of the oven and it’s so hot, and they’ll just never forgive themselves if I burn myself eating it.

I’ve been thinking about this—about how strange it is to be the at least the most unfriendly person I’ve ever met in my life, and then to be thrown in with all of these smiley, happy people—and I have come to the conclusion that I must be on the Truman Show, and that audiences at home are being asked to vote me off and send me back to the big city, where I could just wallow in self-pity and emo-ness and no one would know the difference—OR maybe I will rise to the challenge and become one of these Minnesota-nice folks that are running RAMPANT up here.

Patience, grasshopper.

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