Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mom Guilt

We've all felt it. We all know what it is. We all hate the moments when we feel it and hate the things we do to bring it on.

Some Mom Guilt is legit. If you beat your kids, you should feel bad about it. If you don't feed them, you should feel bad about it. If you don't change their diapers, you will end up in jail.

But, more often than not, it's the things we are not doing that cause us pain. It's like we think every second needs to be perfectly used and allocated to education and activities to sharpen the mind and give our kids the competitive edge they need to kick ass in preschool.

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.

There are some days I let my kids watch more than one show or movie. Plural. Sometimes more than that. Sometimes I don't give them organic milk and I cringe as they slurp it down. Sometimes I give them suckers to shut up for the 3 minutes it take to lick that thing down. Some days we don't practice our ABC's, sing nursery rhymes or do flash cards.

I read on the cover of a book at Barnes & Noble last week, "Einstein didn't do flashcards." That was good news around here.

In my mind, my over-critical-of-myself mind, I find that there is so much that I feel I need to do, need to be, need to give. And when I tally up the score, I lose everyday.

Don't worry, I don't have any big weapons out right now.

Like I said before, many days are just straight survival. I don't worry about Ella as much as I used to and I no longer have to hold her in tears for a majority of the day. We've come a long way, in many areas. But even on our non-eventful days where no one throws up and Ella's head doesn't tilt at all, I still worry about her shoulder blades sticking out too far and feeding tubes being pulled out and calories and calories and calories. Did you know that we worry about calories? Not mine, but hers. Every calorie counts. Guess what happens when she throws up an entire feeding? It takes a 1/2 hour off my life.

And so I don't do flash cards. I'm not always fair when it comes to the length of time out and sometimes I yell. But, I still try to love these guys the best I can and sing them silly songs and tickle them till it hurts and let them jump on the bed. And the shows they do watch all have a good message like "the thrill of stealing wears off the moment you get arrested" and "sharing is nice and it doesn't matter if you hate it."

But, other days the guilt is less laughable. In the darkest moments, it can become unbearable.

I remember a particular night in the NICU where Nick was with Ella and I was "taking a break" in the waiting room, looking up information on Pierre Robin Sequence. This was a pivotal day in my life, as I learned that too much information = not good. I was only intending to get some direction and really understand what I was dealing with here. Instead, I found out that only 30% of kids with PRS will get out of it without having multiple chromosome abnormalities, syndromes, anomalies, blah, blah, blah. I should never have clicked on the "How did this happen to your child?" link. I guess I was hoping it would say "It's not your fault, this is a freak occurrence." Instead, it listed hundreds of theories on why it happened. Many of them, putting the blame on the mother.

I felt so sick that I could have thrown up. Too think, all this trauma that my baby was going through I could have caused. I ran to Nick and fell on the floor in hysterical sobs. I had never been that emotional in my life. I kept asking for someone to help me. I wanted to see a psychiatrist. I wanted to be sedated or hugged or talked to, but it was the night shift, I guess. Apparently, the hospital only plans on you going nuts during normal business hours.

Eventually, after many months and many prayers, I began to believe that this was not my fault. That there was nothing I could have known to do or not do which would have changed this. There is peace in not knowing. When the "specialists" were insisting that we go through genetic testing to "get to the bottom of this," I declined. They accused me of being simple-minded and oblivious. I call it peace. I call it self preservation. I call it "learning to deal with my life and make it through the day in only a handful of pieces."

And so tonight, as I watched my best friend in 4th grade share with anger and regret her birth story, my heart broke. Her traumatic rush to the O.R. and the physical pain she felt, left more scars than the one along her bikini line. Our yoga instructor gave some advice that I will keep with me: Have gratitude for that experience and what you learned through it and who you became through it and then tell it you never wanted it in the first place and release it. Tell it to get the hell out of here.

I asked my dear friend, Merriam Webster, to tell me what she thought about guilt. Here is what she said:
1: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty
a: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously
: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy

I love definition b. I mean, I hate it, but I love it that Merriam doesn't dance around the cold hard fact: guilt is often from imaginary offenses. We have made some of it up in our heads. We've blown it out of proportion. It's not all our fault.

I wish I had a story to tell to end this that would bring you all to tears and leave you inspired. I love when I watch a movie and all the loose ends get tied up in the last few minutes. Dang. Nothing. Drawing a blank.

I will tell you this: if Ella did not have this strange thing, I would have never known what a cleft palate was and would not have cared. I would never have learned of the kids in other countries who literally die and are cast off from their families because of their facial deformities. I would never have suggested that "all donations in lieu of flowers" be used to repair cleft lips and palates. We would never have received a letter from Ella's surgeons organization saying "Thank you, Sharon Sloan!" I would never have known about Pinki and I would never have known it only took $250 to save her life. Maybe you would have never known, either.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Birthology

Because she can't do what anyone else is doing, my best friend refused to post birthday wishes on my Facebook wall. She knew that everyone and their mom would do that and thus, the birthology was born.

It's probably the coolest thing I've ever read - I had a huge smile the whole time! Please read it and please comment to Brooke about how cool she is. You would love her!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

April showers bring May flowers

It was 2 years ago this week that we prayed for God to heal our sweet baby's eyes. Weeks before I was told she was blind in her right eye, God had whispered into my ear, "I will heal her eyes." I've heard God several times in my life, in that kind of communication that is somewhere between audible and internal. People who don't believe think you're schizophrenic, but those who do, can tell the difference.

And so we gathered all together on my 26th birthday, with no one knowing what day it was, to pray and lay hands on our sweet girl. She put on quite the dramatic show with knocking the feeding tube out of my hands, spraying milk all over the room. Everything about Ella had stressed me out to that point. No one knew what we were going through and how bad it hurt. Until they came and sat on our milk-stained couch.

We prayed. We prayed and prayed. We talked and cried. I was so thankful for all the love that was gathered in our too-small living room to pray for a baby that most of them had never held, had never touched, had not yet known. We prayed until there was nothing else to pray. And with grateful and yearning hearts, we left it up to God.

If you want to know what He did, you should read this. (There may be a good ending!)We had no idea what we were in store for when we brought her home from the NICU. They stocked us with feeding tubes, extra leads, syringes, like that would be what we needed. What our care package should have included was wine, espresso and unlimited counseling sessions.

Nothing can prepare you for having a baby. Nothing on your registry. Nothing in a book. And then to have a special needs baby- oh how I hate that term!! The State of Indiana is LUCKY that they changed their "Crippled Children's Insurance" to "Special Health Needs" something or other. They were about to have an exhausted-over-caffeinated-hyper-emotional freak on their hands. It could have got very ugly, very fast.
This picture was taken the day Ella got her first pair of glasses. She was 4 months old. Before this day, she never held her head up and looked around the room. Some kids with vision problems don't look around because their blurry vision makes for a very scary world. This day, she sat up straight, and enjoyed her world, squishy book and all.
You may not see from my face how painful our life was, but that's just because I've become a great hider, not one of my proudest accomplishments. If you allow your emotions and all the chaos running around in your head to be seen, it's hard to function and no one wants to hang out with you.

We didn't even know what a cleft palate was, nor Pierre Robin Sequence. No disrespect to Mr. Robin (pronounced row-ban), but I have little admiration for a doctor that names a serious disorder after himself. What an ass.

I didn't know CPR or how loud an apnea monitor could sound. I didn't know how to change a feeding tube, in public, with no supplies. I didn't know the difference between a CC and a mL. To be honest, I never wanted to know. Some days I still wish I didn't. But, deep in my heart, way past all the present-day stress from this situation and way past all the old trauma that lingers, I know that someday this will all be worth it. That this story will mean something to someone. That I'll change a G-tube in public for a mom who doesn't know how. That I'll find a family with no health insurance to bless with the thousands of dollars worth of unused medical supplies we have. That I'll hold someones hand, maybe dragging them a bit, pulling them out of the muck of their childs own health problems. Someday, I will thank God for this experience and it will be worth it.
It's not like we haven't already been blessed. We watched a miracle take place with the healing of Ella's eyes-most people never get to experience anything like that. We were shown an overwhelming amount of love through time, food, cards, hugs. God put people in our life that we never imagined would be the people who stepped up and loved us. We have become a resource for others who don't know where to go, what to do. God has provided for all of our needs.

As for me personally, I've found great friends in the 4 therapists that grace my life every week. They don't judge me for wearing sweatpants at 2pm, for having dishes in the sink, for breaking down, for needing a hug. I've had my faith tested, stretched, stepped on, renewed - only to stand up straighter at the end. I have seen the strength that I didn't know I had. I have experienced the power of prayer. I have taken a messy house to a whole new level. I have learned to drink black coffee!Some things just take time. The picture on the left is Ella when she was around 6 months old. The picture on the right is Ella at 2 years old. After you get over the shock of her hair color change, notice how her chin has grown dramatically; they said it would. Like most things that are significant and lasting, it took time. Lately, I have been catching myself as I talk about Ella in front of Ella. Weight gains, weight losses, g-tubes, speech delays, torticollis, therapy, allergies, sinus infections, blah, blah, blah. I notice how when I talk about these things, she stops and listens. It scared me the first time I told the girl in the nursery at church that she had a g-tube and Ella pulled up her shirt and showed her. She's listening. They are all listening. The power is in our hands to speak goodness and peace in to our children's lives.

I never got in to all those "parent help" websites. Yes, they contain valuable information, yes, there may be people who have been through what I am going through, yes, I know. But, what bugs me is that those parents are defining their children by their diagnoses, their meds, their problems. Over time, they also start defining themselves by their childs problems. "Lori, Mom of Jack (Downs Syndrome, GERD, speech delays, motor planning issues, Lactose intolerant, circumcised, hyperactive. On Reglan, Prevacid, Claritin. Has G-tube, inhaler, etc)" I made Lori up, but if you have been on any of those sites, you know what I'm talking about. If we define Jack that way for long enough, he will believe that is all that he is. If he ever gets better, Lori won't know who she is.

Some days I see an end in sight- a finishing point for all the madness. Some days, I can't see till dinner. Maybe I won't make it. Maybe I'll die of a coffee overdose before naptime. Maybe I'll never see how it all turns out. Or maybe I'll live till tomorrow and with coffee in hand, I'll watch her run and play and see her as she really is, Ella (sassy, snuggly, always laughing, gourmet food loving, pink nail polish-wearing, pro-bare foot, loved beyond measure, healed, hilarious, grateful, lover of life).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Go shorty, it's your birthday.

I am 28.

I was hoping this day would come and go and no one would remember. No such luck. We were almost in the clear 2 days ago and not a word had been spoken about it. But then, my Mom said she wanted to make me birthday dinner. Some could make is Sunday. Some could make it Monday. No one day would allow everyone to make it. Let's just wait till next weekend, I said, hoping that would be enough time to forget about my birthday and move on to the other birthdays that are taking place on the weekend. How about tonight, she asked. Shit. I had no where to go, no plans I couldn't break, no reason it couldn't work. That is how I was tricked in to a birthday party.

I woke up this morning, on the 18th of May, and felt like a truck ran over me in the night. You should have seen my hair! Nick has gotten quite good and unfortunately, quite used to seeing me look like a Gremlin in the morning. We made coffee, he hugged me, I cleaned up (barely) and sat down to check my Facebook wall posts because I knew there would be some. It's days like this when we HATE Facebook because we don't real presents and cards in the mail anymore; we get Facebook messages if we are lucky and free gifts, like Lil' Green Patch babies with flowers strapped to their heads.

I don't want you to think that I'm an ungrateful snot for not wanting to have my birthday acknowledged by the woman who birthed me and all of her other loud relatives (my siblings, etc.) But I knew it would turn in to a clone of what Grandma would have done, if she hadn't of died earlier this year, and I didn't want that.

My Grandma never skipped a birthday, a holiday, a reason to party. My aunt told a story at her wake of how they used to celebrate Washington's birthday with a cherry pie. She never skipped spoiling me for Halloween or Valentine's Day or any day to make cookies and eat Crunch. In college, my roommate and I would eagerly await our care packages of homemade diabetic coma cookies. Yum.

And this year, being the first year she was gone, I didn't want to have a cheap imitation of what she would have done. Not yet. I'd rather have started a new tradition of chinese food for my birthday. Fortune cookies for everyone!

I won't lie and say that I haven't felt God's arms wrapped tightly around me in the last few days. He knows my heart, he knows my tears. It's probably His fault I'm a crier, anyway. But like Saturday, when I was given an unexpected Starbucks gift card--which always makes my brain happy. And then my favorite almost-family member came to visit and played with my kids until they passed out. Two times this weekend I played tag with my kids. We laughed so hard that we almost peed our pants and laid in the grass until ants were crawling in our hair. Yesterday I took a nap and Nick made us fancy egg sandwiches for lunch. This morning, my kids slept in till 10am, which is a miracle, for sure. And while they were sleeping, I got to read this and this and this and this and this and this - all my favorite blogs- in peace. While doing that, my mom brought me a Grande soy Latte from Starbucks and a gift certificate to our favorite restaurant on the planet, Brewsters. The kicker is that she will babysit the kids Saturday night and keep them till Sunday!

On a normal year, I would be picked up by Grandma in about an hour and we would go to lunch at Lula's or one of our other regular spots. We'd go shopping and she'd let me pick out all of my own presents - something I enjoyed more and more as I got older. When we started to get worn, we'd get some coffee and reevaluate to see if we had one more store in us. Except for the few years we were in California, I never missed a birthday date with my Grandma.

She always bought funny cards. She thought aging was humorous and something to be laughed at. When Papa gave me a card on Saturday night, it started off by saying "It's not a year for a funny card." But maybe that is exactly what it is.

Maybe we should watch funny movies till our cheeks hurt and dance around till our old creeky legs give out. Maybe we should play tag and stand on our heads until we pass out. Maybe we should fake laugh until the real laughs manage to break through.

Maybe I should do another sommersault- so my kids can laugh at my flailing legs as they hit the air. Maybe I should watch all my favorited youtube videos until I cry. Maybe I should pee my pants. (Due to extreme laughing, of course!)

I must go. I'm meeting Papa for lunch in 45 minutes and I've still got the Medusa hair-do. If I cry in front of him, who the hell cares? Life's too short to hold in so many tears -- it'll just give me wrinkles too fast!

Enjoy some of my favorite videos today.

Paul Potts
Dream Big
Spinach or Spanish?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A beautiful bride

I saw this on a friend's blog today. Read the story, then click on the story. Go through the pictures. Try to breathe. Try not to let tears drip in to your keyboard. Appreciate the time you've got.

A Beautiful Bride

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Wednesday

This post is inspired by my BFF, Brooke Fuller. She's a stud. Along with being a Mom to 2 very small children, she is a great writer, an awesome financier, a successful baby carrier creator and duh, my BFF. We were college roommates. You often hear of roommate nightmares, where your roommate didn't shower, shave, ate all your food without permission, had a kinky obsession with dogs, etc. You don't often hear the story that we share: a perfect match. You think I'm kidding? Well, fine. Don't believe me. But, believe that on our first night in Shupe hall, I was still modest and changed into my PJ's in the bathroom. When I came out, we were wearing MATCHING PAJAMAS. That is no coincidence. I love her to death. I dedicate this Why Wednesday, the first of many, to my Twin B.

WHY did I get so lucky as to just have an addiction to coffee rather than say, crack?

WHY does Owen wake up so early in the morning, no matter if he stays up late or goes to bed early, nap or no nap. When will it end?

WHY do I care so much what people think of me?

WHY can I never live in the same location as my BFF?

WHY does bread not mold when you put it in brown sugar?

WHY do I waste so much time?

WHY do I always want a sugar cookie at 11pm?

WHY don't we appreciate how good we look when we are young? Why does it take aging and looking worse to say "Oh my gosh. What wasted energy!"

WHY would anyone want to market themselves under "Exotic Services" anyway?

WHY don't you send me a nice birthday present in the mail?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ham of God

In the days before my Grandma died, she never wanted to be alone.

She started off the 6 day hospital stay leading up to her death with confidence and peace. But then there was a procedure that failed and an anesthesiologist that failed. Just a simple procedure we were told and told her, but one that she ended up feeling every second of. The pain meds didn't work. She said it felt like she was being kicked in the stomach repeatedly and she was screaming for help, but no words came out. It was like a bad dream.

And so, my sweet Grandmother who loved more than everyone I ever knew, didn't want to be alone.

Sometimes we sat in shifts, one at a time. Other times, there were 10 of us in the room, watching movies, typing on laptops, reading books.

On the morning before she entered the semi-coma that she never woke for long from, my Mom took her turn with her Mom - sitting with her quietly, holding her hand, never leaving. She had the book that I had brought for Grandma to read during her stay-- assuming there was more time--Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne LaMott.

Anne LaMott is my favorite author. I first read Traveling Mercies while sitting next to Ella in our old NICU days. Like Grandma, we took turns sitting by her side, holding her hand, letting her not feel alone. When my Mom and Nick would take their shifts, they read Traveling Mercies too. It was healing for our souls. It made us laugh and let us cry. Grandma wanted to read it after our five-star reviews and so we passed it along. It's been passed to many of my friends and family and is out on loan to Ella's O.T. right now. I was hesitant to let Grandma read it because Anne talks a lot about cancer and dying from cancer. I thought it would make her sad, but instead it made her happy. It discussed raw-ly (is that a word?) what she was going through. There is no sugar coating with Anne LaMott. That's why we love her so.

Anyway, on this particular day, as my Mom was reading the first chapter of Plan B, she started laughing out loud. My Grandma, who had been in and out of sleep, looked at my Mom and said "Well, what is so funny?" She told. "Well, I want to hear it too."

And so with tears and hysterical laughter, my Mom read her Mom a story for the first time in her life. The woman who made her children love books because of the thousands she read to them, was hearing her first born read to her. Laura, my Mom, is not a crier. But, the whole scenario - Anne LaMott, cancer, hospital, reading to her Mom, death - brought her to tears.

Her Mom turned back in to the mom and then started holding her hand and saying "It's OK. Everything will be OK. " A true Mom never takes a break.

And so, on this beautiful May day, as I try to forgive May for overflowing with celebration, I share the last story my Grandma ever heard by my dear friend, Anne LaMott. (If you know her, let her know I want to be her friend, please.) Yes, she gets political. Yes, you may not agree. Just promise you'll read it all the way through.

"Ham of God" by Anne LaMott from Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

On my forty-ninth birthday, I decided that all of life was hopeless, and I would eat myself to death. These are desert days. Better to go out by our own hands than to endure slow death by scolding at the hands of the Bush administration. However, after a second cup of coffee, I realized that I couldn't kill myself that morning-not because it was my birthday but because I'd promised to get arrested the next day. I had been arrested three weeks earlier with an ecumenical bunch of religious peaceniks, people who still believe in Dr. King and Gandhi. Also, my back was out. I didn't want to die in crone mode. Plus, there was no food in the house. So I took a long, hot shower instead and began another day of being gloated to death.

Everyone I know has been devastated by Bush's presidency and, in particular, our country's heroic military activities overseas. I can usually manage a crabby hope that there is meaning in mess and pain, that more will be revealed, ant that truth and beauty will somehow win out in the end. But I'd been struggling as my birthday approached. So much had been stolen from us by Bush, from the very beginning of his reign, and especially since he went to war in Iraq. I wake up some mornings pinned to the bed by centrifugal sadness and frustration. A friend called to wish me Happy Birthday, and I remembered something she'd said many years ago, while reading a Vanity Fair article about Hitler's affair with his niece. "I have had it with Hitler," Peggy said vehemently, throwing the magazine to the floor. And I'd had it with Bush.

Hadn't the men in the White House ever heard of the word karma? They lied their way into taking our country to war, crossing another country's borders with ferocious military might, trying to impose our form of government on a sovereign nation, without any international agreement or legal justification, and set about killing the desperately poor on behalf of the obscenely rich. Then we're instructed, like naughty teenagers, to refrain from saying that it was an immoral war that set a disastrous precedent--because to do so is to offer aid and comfort to the enemy.

While I was thinking about all this, my Jesuit friend Father Tom called. He is one of my closest friends, a few years older that I, a scruffy aging Birkenstock type, like me, who gives lectures and leads retreats on spirituality. Usually he calls to report on the latest rumors of my mental deterioration, drunkenness, or promiscuity, how sick it makes everyone to know that I am showing all of my lady parts to the neighbors. But this time he called to wish me Happy Birthday.

"How are we going to get through this craziness?" I asked. There was silence for a moment.

"Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe," he said.

Father Tom loves the desert. A number of my friends do. They love the skies that pull you into infinity, like the ocean. They love the silence, and how, if you listen long enough, the pulse of the desert begins to sound like the noise your finger makes when you run it around the rim of a crystal glass. They love the scary beauty-snakes, lizards, scorpions, the kestrels and hawks. They love the mosaics of water-washed pebbles on the desert floor, small rocks that cast huge shadows, a shoot of vegetation here, a wildflower there.

I like the desert for short periods of time, from inside a car, with the windows rolled up and the doors locked. I prefer beach resorts with room service. But liberals have been in the desert for several years now, and I'm worn out. Some days I hardly know what to pray for. Peace? Well, whatever.

So the morning of my birthday, because I couldn't pray, I did what Matisse once said to do: "I don't know if I believe in God or not...But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer." I closed my eyes, and got quiet. I tried to look like Mother Mary, with dreadlocks and a bad back.

But within seconds, I was frantic to turn on the T.V. I was in withdrawal-I needed more scolding from Donald Rumsfeld, and more malignant celebration of what everyone agrees, in April 2003, was a great victory for George W. Bush. So we couldn't find those stupid weapons of mass destruction--pick, pick,pick. I didn't turn on the T.V. I kept my eyes closed, and breathed. I started to feel crazy, and knew that all I needed was five minutes of CNN. I listened to the birds sing outside, and it was like Chinese water torture, which I am sure we don't say anymore.

Then I remembered the weekend when 11 million people win the world marched for peace, how joyful it was to be part of the stirrings of a great movement. My pastor, Veronica, says that peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet, I felt both that weekend.

I lay on the floor with my eyes closed for so long that my dog, Lily, came over and worriedly licked me back to life. That cheered me up. "What did you get me for my birthday?" I asked. She started to chew on my head. That helped.

Maybe the old left is dead, but after we've rested awhile we can prepare for something new. I don't know who on the left can lead us away from the craziness and barbarity: I'm very confused now. But I know that in the desert, you stay out of the blistering sun. You go out during the early morning, and in the cool evening. You seek oasis, shade, safety, refreshment. There's every hue of green, and of gold. But, I'm only pretending to think it's beautiful; I find it terribly scary. I walk on eggshells, and hold my breath.

I called Tom back.

He listened quietly. I asked him for some good news.

He thought.
"Well," he said finally. "My cactuses are blooming. Last week they were ugly and reptilian, and now they are busting with red and pink blossoms. They don't bloom every year, so you have to love them while they're here."

"I hate cactuses," I said. "I want to know what to do. Where we even start."

"We start by being kind to ourselves. We breathe, we eat. We remember that God is present wherever people suffer. God's here with us when we're miserable, and God is there in Iraq. The suffering of innocent people draws God close to them. Kids hit by U.S. bombs are not abandoned by God."

"Well, it sure looks like they were," I said. "It sure looks that way to their parents."

"It also looked like Christ had been abandoned on the cross. It looked like a win for the Romans."

"How do we help? How do we not lose our minds?"

"You take care of the suffering."

"I can't get to Iraq."

"There are folks who are miserable here."

After we got off the phone, I ate a few birthday chocolates. Then I asked God to help me be helpful. It as the first time that day that I felt my prayers were sent, and then received- like e-mail. I tried to cooperate with grace, which is to say, I did not turn on the TV. I asked God to help me again. The problem with God- or at any rate, one of the top five most annoying things about God- is that He or She rarely answers right away. It can take days, weeks. Some people understand this-that life and change take time. Chou En-lai, when asked, "What do you think of the French Revolution?" paused for a minute-smoked incessantly-then replied, "Too soon to tell." I, on the other hand, am an instant-message type. It took decades for Bust to destroy the Iraqi army in three weeks.

But I prayed: Help me. And then I drove to the market in silence, to buy my birthday dinner.

I flirted with everyone in the store, especially the old people, and I lightened up. When the checker finished ringing up my items, she looked at my receipt and cried, "Hey! You've won a ham!"

I felt blindsided by the news. I had asked for help, not a ham. This was very disturbing. What on earth was I going to do with ten pounds of salty pink eraser? I rarely eat it. It makes you bloat.

"Wow," I said. The checker was so excited about giving it to me that I pretended I was, too.

How great!

A bagger was dispatched to the back of the store to fetch my ham. I stood waiting anxiously. I wanted to go home, so I could start caring for suffering people, or turn on CNN. I almost suggested that the checker award the ham to the next family who paid with food stamps. But for some reason, I waited. If God was going to give me a ham, I'd be crazy not to receive it. Maybe it was the ham of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

I waited ten minutes for what I began to think of as "that fucking ham." Finally the bag boy handed me a parcel the size of a cat. I put it in with feigned cheer into my grocery cart, and walked to the car, trying to figure out who might need it. I thought about chucking the parcel out the window near a field. I was so distracted that I crashed my cart smack into a slow-moving car in the parking lot.

I started to apologize, when I noticed that the car was a rusty wreck, and that an old friend was at the wheel. We got sober together a long time ago, and each of us had a son at the same time. She has dark black skin and processed hair the color of cooled tar.

She opened her window. "Hey," I said. "How are you--it's my birthday!"

"Happy Birthday," she said, and started crying. She looked drained and pinched, and after a moment, she pointed to her gas gauge. "I don't have money for gas, or food. I've never asked for help from a friend since I got sober, but I'm asking you to help me."

"I've got money," I said.

"No, no, I just need gas," she said. "I've never asked someone for a handout."

"It's not a handout," I told her. "It's my birthday present." I thrust a bunch of money into her hand, everything I had. Then I reached into my shopping cart and held out the ham to her like a clown offering flowers. "Hey!" I said. "Do you and your kids like ham?"

"We love it," she said. "We love it for every meal."

She put it in the seat beside her, firmly, lovingly, as if she were about to strap it in. And she cried some more.

Later, thinking about her, I remembered the seasonal showers in the desert, how potholes in the rocks fill up with rain. When you look later, there are already frogs in the water, and brine and shrimp reproducing, like commas doing the macarena; and it seems, but only seems, that you went from parched to overflow in the blink of an eye.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Angie needs a hobby.

I have nothing to say. I've been sitting here for quite sometime, staring off in to nothing, waiting to be inspired. For weeks, I've been wanting to write and needing to write, but haven't done it. All posts in my mind eventually come around to my dead Grandmother. I've been thinking you would judge me and tell me to get over it. That you would say it was enough time already and read the first sentence and then quickly click to another blog- a funny blog or a blog where they give away free stuff. But, then I remembered that only a few people read this anyway and they like me AND that it is my blog. I started it. I can write whatever the hell I want.

And then I heard Nick say something that twisted the knife: We are all still a little bit "8th grade." Damn! I hated 8th grade, but yet, it is so true. I still always think that everyone notices my zits and when I gain or lose weight or change my hair or by a new shirt. NEWSFLASH: no one cares. I'm glad that no one cares, I really am. I haven't worn make-up for 2 weeks and the people that liked me with make-up appear to still like me without. Don't worry: I'm not going to grow braidable arm pit hair and stop showering. But sometimes, when life feels like a lot, somethings don't seem as important.

Anyway, I'm glad you didn't notice.

Like I was saying, I'm glad no one cares what I say or do or wear....but I still don't believe it. Hmmm. Maybe I need counseling.

Here are some pics from last May:

Normally, May is my favorite month. The flowers are blooming and the tree buds have broken free. The whole month smells like lilacs and fresh-cut grass. The temperature is perfect and I can officially where flip-flops without frozen toes. And it's my birthday. Well, not just mine, but mine is one of them and I love birthdays. I believe in not just a birthday, but a "birthday week" of fun things to do and presents. Oh, how I have come to love presents! I share the spotlight with Nick, who had a birthday last week. Then there is mother's day and my parents anniversary and Memorial Day then both of my Grandma's celebrate a birthday in the same week.

See, it always come back to the Grandma.

I said normally, May is my favorite month. This year though, I'd rather just skip to June. June is a nice month. We can go to the beach in June. I'm hoping that my birthday is forgotten this year. I don't want to celebrate it or have in acknowledged in public. I don't want anyone to sing or ask me what I want to do. I'm hoping that May 18 gets lost somewhere between the baby shower for my new nephew and my cousins wedding. It's on a Monday. No one remembers birthdays on Mondays.

I'm racking my brain to remember what we did last year on May 18. I remember hiding my aunt Kathy for most of the day, while we prepared to surprise my Grandma for her upcoming birthday on the 22nd. We had dinner at her house. I'm not completely positive, but I think we celebrated our birthdays together that night. I can't remember what we ate, or even who was there. I can't remember one present or if we had ice cream or not. It was one of those moments that I tried hard to soak in because I knew it was one of our last. But, it's all a blur.

And so this year, I just want to skip right to June, where the sun is hot and out everyday. Where I won't have to have a birthday without her till next year and where I won't have to remember hers. I yearn for June, where Memorial Day is past and I won't be forced to walk in to a cemetery and put flowers on a plot of settled dirt where they believe she still is and say something nice.

I'm so ready for June.

No, not me...

I did NOT encourage Owen to have a slumber party last night with my parents so I could have a night with NO SHORT PEOPLE in my bed. No, not me.

I certainly did NOT inform my husband via text message that I think we should adopt an African orphan next year. I wouldn't be caught dead telling my husband something THAT important over a phone. No, not me.

And I did NOT tell my 3 year old about his new African brother and how we will go get him together, before my husband even responded to that text message. No, not me.

And I would NOT EVER go in to public this morning with an old stained gray sweatsuit and dirty hair that was sticking up in every direction. And more importantly, I would NOT include my 2-year old daughter in my "dirty charade" and take her out in an equally ugly pink sweatsuit with purple marker all over her body and no shoes. No, not even me.

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.