Category Archives: Family Life

Ruth’s face, 2012 edition

When last we saw our fair heroine, she was bent in half from the blow to her gut leveled by Hurricane Sandy . . .

After dragging myself through November, I finally gathered the wherewithal to make it through my finals and my final papers.   I was in sight of the finish line.  It was the night before a sit-down final exam and due date for an 8-page paper for the same class (who does that to people??!!) when I received another blow.  And this one was bloody.

At 8 o’clock at night, after a lovely dinner out with dear, dear friends (celebrating the birthday of my curmudgeonly friend), Ruthie fell up the concrete steps to our third floor apartment.  When I turned to look at her, her face was dripping blood.  Dripping.  From inside her mouth and from the spot on her face where 2.5 years earlier a dog’s tooth had gone through to the inside of her mouth, a spot that had been repaired by a plastic surgeon.  I panicked.

Did she need to go to the emergency room?  Did this tear open an old wound?  WHY oh WHY?! does my poor baby have to keep suffering injuries to her face???!!

And her poor siblings!  Isaac especially, I think, continues to have some post traumatic stress from her other facial injuries: the awful dog bite when she was three and the run-in with the post when she was 17 months old.  But God bless him.  He was a trouper.  His initial response was panic and “RUN AWAY!!” but he held it together for the sake of his sister and stood firm.  Hannah, too, held it together.  Heeded my instruction to try to remain quiet and calm, to refrain from asking me too many questions as I tried to gather my own wits about me.

Have I mentioned how the Go-To Guy for all things bloody (or vomitous, or bodily-fluid-y in general) in our household is, indeed a Guy?  The Man, to be exact?  I rely more than I should on his training and experience in first aid he received as a 7-year veteran lifeguard.  Also, I do little to fight against my general response of Flight to all things stressful.  I’m the one who holds and comforts, who tends to the care of the bystanders (i.e., the siblings) and who grabs supplies like paper towels, towels, ice, and bandages on demand.  I’m like the administrative assistant in emergencies.  My husband is the calm in the storm, the level-headed, the stare-death-in-the-eye-and-declare-it-not-really-death-just-a-boo-boo Go-To Guy.

And yet, here I was.  With my youngest poor baby bleeding and scared because she’s been down this road before and it weren’t pretty.  And my oldest poor baby trying to be ever-so calm and cool and collected while his uber-empathy was trying to take him over.  And my middle poor baby who would have loved nothing more than to take charge and fix things, if only she had the answers to all her myriad questions!  And, me.  Pretending to be calm.  Pretending to know what the hell I was doing.  Pretending to be in charge and in control, reassuring everyone of things about which I had no assurance.

Finally, I concluded an emergency room was in order, but I didn’t even know where an emergency room was!  So, I left my three babies in my apartment while I went knocking on the doors of neighbors.  It only took two doors to get the information I needed (oh! how I love living in an apartment complex full of people whose vocations revolve around helping people!).  When I returned to our apartment, I found a beautiful sight.  Isaac and Hannah were in front of and along side of a sitting Ruth, rubbing her back, touching her leg, assuring her it would be OK.  They had brought out to her the big bucket of stuffed animals so she could pick out the one she wanted for comfort.  (Ruthie’s one of those stuff-animal-obsessed kids.)

My two olders.  They had set aside their own fears and anxieties enough to be present with their injured sister.  My eyes are welling up with tears now as I remember it.  I know they were scared.  I know Isaac was having flashbacks to the dog bite.  And yet, there they were:  surrounding her with their love and care.

So, off we went, just Ruthie and me.  Thankfully, Ruthie’s very lovely, wonderful, I-love-her-so-much babysitter was able to come and stay with Isaac and Hannah while I took Ruthie to the emergency room.  No stitches necessary, though as I look at the scar that remains, I still wonder if we made the right decision there.  There was so much of a scrape, I think it was hard to see what all was going on.  Her tooth had, indeed, gone right through her skin to the other side.  Her lips had begun to swell.  She was an awful mess.  But not nearly so bad as the last two facial injuries, so . . . well . . . yeah.  My poor baby.

Finally, at 10:30 PM, we returned from the hospital.  I tucked my baby into bed and went back to the table to finish up my paper that was due the next day and to try to study for the exam that was covering church and state relations from around the 8th through the 15th centuries.  No prob, bob.  ::sigh::

I skidded into the end of my semester, handing in work I can’t even read again (neither my writing nor the graders’ comments), getting grades I hadn’t seen since 10th grade, and feeling overall completely defeated, out of my league, and like a dingbat for ever considering coming back to school in the first place.  January found me in near fetal position and sucking down the entire Friday Night Lights series in the course of three weeks between semesters.

I wanted to quit.  I wanted to pack up my kids and our stuff and my books and head back home to the safety of our house.

Next up:  the apocalypse continues . . .

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Filed under academics, Family Life, Hannah, Isaac, Ruth, seminary

widow and orphans. not really. part two.

It has been interesting in these last two years, while Ry has been wearing The Uniform full-time, to hear what people think about military folk, both the soldiers and their families.  The word that sticks out to me most is “hero.”  And I’ve heard it applied both to the one in uniform and the supportive spouse.  But here’s the thing:  I am not a hero.  My husband is not a hero.  We are 100% human.  Just as human as you are.  And just as needy for our spouses as you are.  You know how in love with and in desperate need of your spouse’s presence you are?  Yeah.  me too.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not whining here.  I just have a strong desire to stop the “hero” narrative.  Because I think it pushes soldiers into this supra-human category–this echelon above reality, where all the magical creatures live, like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and Spiderman.  And my husband ain’t no Tooth Fairy.  Well, actually he is the Tooth Fairy, but that just means that he’s more willing to stub his toes in the dark messy kids’ bedroom than I am and I hardly think that qualifies him as on the same par as Spiderman.

My point is, I think by calling soldiers and airmen and corpsmen (and those guys who float on and under the water) heroes, rather than demonstrating your great reverence for what they’re doing, you are actually diminishing their sacrifices by attributing their willingness and capacity to do what it takes to some sort of Super Power, or other-than-human characteristic.  What I hear is “You have something I don’t that makes it possible for you to do this.”  Embedded in that, whether you know it or not, is the implication that it’s easier for my husband and me to do this thing because we’ve been gifted with some . . . well, something, that makes it easier for us to do this than it would be for you.  So in some weird, backdoor way, it lessens the weight and cost of our sacrifice.

Now, I realize that people who use these words are trying to say the exact opposite.  I do.  You’re struggling to put into words your appreciation and your admiration.  And I so appreciate it!  So, please don’t misunderstand.  I’m trying to help you in the struggle and tell you about language that isn’t so helpful.  And, maybe it’s just not helpful for me.  So, maybe I’m just helping you help me.  But maybe I’m also inspiring you to ask the soldiers and soldiers’ families you know how they feel about the “hero” talk.  Ask them if it helps them feel better about what they’re doing.  And if it does, by all means! continue to tell them that.  Because I know that more than anything, you’d like to help and support and express your appreciation for soldiers and for their families.

For me?  What I find most helpful?  Words like this:  “Wow, you must be dying a little bit inside every second your husband is far, far away.  I know that’s how I would feel.”

Actually, I have a real-life demonstration of what has been most helpful.  A very kind woman came to me, looked me straight in the eye, asked me how I was doing, and affirmed that “Yes.  This is so hard.”  And then she proceeded to equate my struggles and challenges with those that she faced when she was widowed.  She didn’t say, “Well, at least your husband is alive.  [Mine is dead.]”  She in no way tried to point my attention to the bright side.  She stood with me.  Eye-to-eye.  And said, “This is like being widowed.  Even if it’s temporary.  He’s gone.  And you’re here trying to do everything on your own.  And you’re trying to hold it all together for your children, be mother and father to them, while your beloved is gone.  It is so very difficult.”  I could have kissed this woman.  If that wouldn’t have totally violated my rules about strict boundaries of my personal space.

And this widow is not an anomaly!  Some of the most helpful and supportive encounters I have are with yet another (relatively young) widow in my life.  She checks in with how I’m doing.  She talks as if we have something in common, as if we speak the same language.  I’m humbled by her, because I am very cognizant that my situation is not exactly the same.  My husband is alive.  And he will be coming back to me.  And I still get to talk to him on the phone and see his face via Facetime.  I am in better shape than either of these women.  And yet, and here’s what’s most important, I think, neither one of them for a second suggests that my situation could be worse.  Neither one of them lifts up before my mind the things about this deployment business for which I should be grateful. Not a single, “Buck up!” or “Suck it up!” Nor, “Look on the bright side!”  No.  They look me in the eye.  They know and respect that I’m suffering here (on my own scale) and they neither minimize nor deny it.  They do not hide from my pain.

And maybe that is the real key.  We humans have a tendency to run the opposite way from pain.  I know I do.  When I can.  Even when we see pain in others, our first reaction is to “RUN AWAAYYYY!! RUN AWAAAYY!!”  And maybe widows have gained the capacity to stare pain and suffering full-on, to stand in the midst of it, to feel and experience the full weight of it.  They know there’s no escaping it; that there is no way around it, only through it.

I know I’m not really a widow.  That’s why I stand humbled by the care of these two bona fide widows.  I am fully aware, and fully grateful that my husband will, indeed return to me in the not-so-distant future.  I’m even aware that on the Grand Scale of Suffering, this really is barely a blip.  (Though I would refer you to this post for my feelings about comparing pain and suffering.)  But I am struggling.  And hurting. And, yeah, suffering through these long days and months.

So, am I a hero, then?  No.  No.  Good grief I barely know what time of day it is and generally forget to eat and I use run-on sentences like someone’s paying me based on how many words I can cram between periods.  I am completely human.  As is my husband.  And I love my husband.  And he loves me.  And our day-to-day lives depend upon teamwork, mutual up-lifting and mutual dragging-along, upon laughter together and the sharing of household tasks like cooking/cleaning/laundrying/grocerying/garbage-taking-out-ing/etc. etc. etc.  Our day-to-day lives depend on these things.  Every day.  So, yeah.  For a year (more or less, give or take) apart?  It feels exactly how you would expect it to feel.  Difficult.  Painful.  Sad.  Lonely. Interminable. And all around pretty darned lousy.

Why do we do it then?  Well, because it’s his job.  It’s the vocation to which God has called him.  It’s the work for which he is most gifted and about which he is the most passionate.  Because he loves soldiers.  And he loves to care for them and to be there for them and to support them and to challenge them and to play football with them (and pretend he’s as young as they are) and to be with them. and for them.  To be walking, talking, breathing grace to them.  Right where they are.  That’s why we do it.

Because once our savior stared pain and suffering full-on in the face and did not turn away from it.  Because living the life to which he’s called us requires us to do the same.  May he take our little efforts and bless them and multiply them to be a witness—for as many who see—to the One who truly sacrificed, who suffered willingly and graciously, for true Life, and Life abundant.

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Filed under Army stuff, Family Life, Gospel living, marriage, my husband

Widow and orphans. not really.

When last I posted.  yesterday?  the day before?  three days before?  last week?  I have no idea . . .

When last I posted I mentioned something about batten down the hatches, get your life in order, my life’s gone all Apocalyptic on me.  I mentioned several signs of impending doom.  I thought I’d lay them out one by one.  Giving a good glimpse of my whiny life over the last several months.

So.  To begin:  widow and orphans.  So, I used to have a husband who lived with me.  And he was very nice.  He was super incredible (I-think-she’s-just-making-it-all-up-to-make-us-jealous) nice.  He still is.  He’s just not living with me right now.  He’s in a land far, far away.  Sent there by the military powers that be.  Serving about a mega-church’s worth of soldiers as crises arise in their lives.  He’s working hard, working well.  Completely safe, really.  The biggest threat to his life is that he’s an introvert surrounded by people all. the. time.  But it’s his job and he likes it and he’s doing great at it.

That’s the shiny happy talk.  The less shiny?  the less happy?  Holy sister of fruitcake! this is haaaaaaard!  Every. single. day:  it’s hard.  It’s hard in the morning. it’s hard in the noontime.  Insanely hard at suppertime.  If you’ve read my blog before, you might have picked up on the fact that Ry does a. lot. of cooking in these here parts.  Like, a. LOT.  And now he’s gone.  And these children.  These growing children! (the boy is pushing 5’3”, 111 lbs., for those who are keeping score.) These children keep insisting on being fed every single day.  I don’t get it.  And you know what else I don’t get?  Why, after Ryan left, food stopped magically appearing on our table.  I don’t get it.

So on I march, through the year.  Feeding these beautiful little people I live with, trying to finish this degree that seemed like a good idea to start (and likely was and continues to be a good idea), and trying not to think about just how desperately I miss getting to see my best friend every day.  On the bright side:  I dropped a few pounds when I stopped eating all those waffles and pancakes and chocolate cakes and cupcakes and ganache and ebelskiver and fresh bread and biscuits and . . . and . . . and.  However, as the months have dragged on, I may or may not have replaced some of those calories with some liquid beverages I bring out after the kids are in bed.

At the end of the day, I’ve decided I really like my husband, I really like being married to him, and I especially like being married to him while living in the same hemisphere  continent country time-zone house. I like to live in the same house he does.  And not just because of his passion for making magic with flour.  Although, that nearly covers it.

 

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Filed under Army stuff, Family Life, marriage, my husband

Leaving town . . .

for a whole week.  A week.  Leaving town for a week.  Just me.  Not the whole family.  Me.  Going to go to two different conferences where I plan to use my brain to its fullest, soaking up religious studies and American church history goodies.  And I will not cook.  And I will not clean.  And . . . who are we kidding? this is the real difference:  I will not feel guilty for not cooking and cleaning.  I will also spend a weekend on my own, with no conferences to attend, simply a dear friend to lunch with and other dear friends to dine with.  And I will be staying across the street from one of the bestest theological libraries in the universe.  ::happy happy sigh::

So, this seems to be a good time to talk some about what I’m going to be doing next in my life, now that we’re over the whole colon cancer thing and Ry is fully engaged in his Army National Guard thing.

We are anticipating Ry’s going on an extended journey sometime in the near-ish future.  So, what seemed like a good way to pass the time?  I’m going to go back to school.  In September, I’ll be packing up my children and (hopefully) half of the things we currently own–having thrown out/sold/or stored the other half–and moving to my seminary alma mater.  I will be pursuing a Th.M. (master of theology), which is a one-year program, while my kids are all spending their days being tended by the state in public school.

It’s a bit of a crazy adventure.  I’m looking forward to seeing if my brain is still functional, and if I’m capable of writing in a way other than rambly and conversationally and stream-of-consciousness-ly.  I’ll be working in the Church History department, primarily, including a focus on missions, ecumenics, and history of religions.  Readin’ and writin’ and talkin’ fancy ideas by day; cooking, cleaning, feeding, bathing, tending, homeworking (my own and others’), loving by morning, night and weekends.

Crazy adventure.

My kids are mostly excited.  A little anxious, of course.  But mostly excited to go somewhere new.  Well.  Somewhere kind of new.  To be more specific, in keeping with the varied personalities of the 5.5-foot and under crowd in this house, each one feels a different sort of excited.  Isaac is super excited to be going somewhere new and different, on a whole new adventure.  Hannah is excited to be moving somewhere old and familiar–not that far from our old house, nice and near two sets of beloved friends-family, and close enough to our old church that we will be jumping right into the community of faith there.  Ruth?  Well . . . Given that Ruth still talks about anything in the past as having happened “yesterday” and anything in the future as “tomorrow,” I’m not sure what sort of grasp she has on the whole thing.  She’s sad to be leaving her bestie, though.  And I’m sad for her to have to leave her, too.  Because she really has gained her bestest and sweetest friend this year in pre-K.

I’m excited to be moving near our friends-families, too.  And I’m excited to use my brain.  And I’m praying God will use these months to help me sort out what it is I’ll be doing next.

“What’s that?” you say. You don’t know what you’ll be doing next?”

Why, no, I say.  I have no real idea.

“Well, what are you going to do with this Th.M.?”

I don’t know.

“Well, why are you getting it?”

I don’t know.

“What?!”

Well, it seems that God is once again telling Ry and Lee to pack up and move out, with no clear vision for what will come next.  We’re feeling a bit Abrahamic at the moment.  Packing up, leaving Ur, knowing we’re promised something really good “out there,” knowing that God has something specific in mind, but not knowing what exactly it will look like.  In keeping with the way God has spoken to us throughout our time together, God has us on a “need to know” status, leading us one step at a time.  And we’re following him.  One step at a time.  And, right now, the first step is move from this town we love, from 1/3 of a mile from the sister I love, from the school district and friends we love, to school for me.  And so we’re going.

Over these three years of being in the stirrings zone, of feeling an unsettling, of knowing some changes were coming, God has been kindly and gently preparing us for this next step.  He has gently, step by step, moved us from feeling content where we are, convinced we’d be staying forever, to where we are now:  standing on the edge of what comes next.  It’s not all been easy, it’s not all been completely neat and tidy.  But it has been slow and gentle.   Bit by bit over the course of the past two years, things have been broken down–like a camp being broken down, piece by piece, folded up, put away, until now I feel like I’m looking over the blank campsite.  With just our tent–our house–left to pack up and move on to the next encampment.

I was talking to Ryan about it several weeks ago.  Saying, “Really?  This is our life?  Just crazy?  not knowing where we’re going to be in 6 months’ time?  just moving from here to there?”  And he said, “Yeah.  Haven’t you ever read Genesis?  I think that’s just how it goes.”  And it landed right for me.  It landed right.  We’re nomads.  We’re being called to go places before we even know where those places are.  To move from place to place, serving God in each new place, in each new way he’s set before us.  And that’s not without precedent.

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Filed under 2011, Family Life, Gospel living, milestones

Snow Day!

Snow days are exciting.

But they throw a wrench into my routine.

Of course, I barely have a routine, and what little routine I have is really just a couple of weeks old, so you’d think I could deal with it.  But this is what happens to me:  I struggle to create a routine, I struggle to follow the routine, and then something unexpected comes up–like a snow day, for instance–and it throws me all in a tizzy and I throw the whole routine out the window, and not just for that day, but for all time.  Because, you know, if you can’t do it today, you might as well never do it ever ever again.

That’s called “all or nothing.”  And that’s my middle name.

So, today’s a snow day and I very nearly didn’t blog today.  Since my usual blogging time has become right after I put Ruth on the van to head off to school, and Ruth didn’t go to school today, I almost said, “Forget it.  I’ll blog tomorrow.”  But then I though, No! Don’t do that!  You have to blog.  Just label it Snow Day and post a picture of Isaac’s snowman.  But then all these thoughts came rushing in, about how it might be worthwhile to reflect for a minute or two or ten on how I tend to just throw up my hands and quit in response to the smallest disruptions.  That’s no good.

Especially not now.

In six months’ time I’ll be about to move out of my home and attempt to go to school while living, effectively, as a single mom.  If I can’t find a way to “roll with it,” a way not to be “all or nothing,” a way to take the blow of an interruption, respond, and keep on going along my path, I won’t make it through the first week.  So.  In these six months of preparation I have now, I’d like to focus on rolling with it.  I’d like to focus on being able to lose focus momentarily and get right back into focus.  Yes, I used the word ‘focus’ three times in one sentence.  And I did so very, very intentionally.  I need focus, yes.  And I generally have focus.  What I lack is flexible focus.  Focus that can turn off and then turn back on again.  Wish me luck.  Or Pray me God’s help.  Because this is quite the task I’ve set for myself:  Don’t Let a Snow Day Stop You!

And, here.  For your viewing pleasure, Isaac’s snowman:

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Just warming up . . .

So, I’m wondering if I’m the only one who noticed that I said there were 18 months between August 25th, 2010 and January 30th, 2012 . . . good to know I still can’t add . . .

I’d like to write every day, just to get back in the habit, but I can’t make any promises on content.  I’m going quantity over quality at this point, in the hopes to just get some words on . . . screen?!  really?  that’s what we do now?  We get words on screen?  That just doesn’t sound as good as words on paper.  I like paper.

Today’s my father’s birthday and on a whim, this morning I invited him and my mom to my house for dinner and birthday cake, welcoming them to arrive around 3 o’clock, when the kids get home from school.  It all sounded so nice and lovely and kind and fun when I came up with the idea at 11:45 last night.  But at 11:40 by the light of day, it’s sounding a little crazy as I’m looking around at my messy house–I won’t even mention the dirtiness!–and dinnerless, cakeless kitchen.

Hmmm.  I guess this post is going the way of my old Ministry of Reality posts . . .

So.  Here are the things I must prioritize:

1.  It would be awesome if I fit a shower in here somewhere.  I won’t tell you how long it’s been . . .

2.  I promised dinner, therefore I must provide dinner.  To do so, I must
A.  Go procure the ingredients for said dinner.  I’m planning on a little chicken strip/mushroom/garlic/saucy/over rice thing.
B.  Cook the dinner.

3.  I promised cake, therefore I must provide cake.  To do so, I must
A.  Go procure the ingredients for said cake.  Chocolate.  Ganache.  The RyLee Special.  Except the Lee part of RyLee hasn’t baked  a cake in for. ever.  Note to self:  in the future, come up with brilliant plan to have people for birthday cake with enough notice for Ry to make the cake.
B.  Bake the cake.

4.  Dining room table is nearly cleared of crap.  Miracle of Miracles!  Yet I still must clear it of the bitty bits or who-knows-what-kinds-of-documents-on-paper.  I hate paper.*  And must clear off all six of our dining room chairs plus one more, so that everyone can sit down to dinner simultaneously.  Crazy standard, that.

5.  There’s some kind of pile of crumble on the living room floor.  Must vacuum it.  Must shovel clear a path from back door to living room so that my parents don’t trip and fall along the way.  Because it would suck to break my dad’s hip on his 66th birthday.  Probably would take away some of the charm of the whole birthday dinner and cake thing.

6.  Gee I’m hungry, I might like to actually partake of some lunch at some point this afternoon.

7.  And the shower.  Did I mention the shower?  I optimistically listed it as number one, but I really think it belongs here at number 7, which means it probably won’t happen till after the kids go to bed except then I’m going to be too tired to shower and will just want to collapse on the couch with my husband and my friends Mr. Goose and Mr. Mind-Numbing Box, which will mean the shower gets put off until tomorrow’s list of priorities, which could include a visit from you, if you call ahead.  I just recommend that you not sit too close to me.

See how nicely I outlined that?  (weird WordPress format notwithstanding)  And how well I procrastinated the task at hand by spending all sorts of time outlining it?  Yes.  That, my friends, is a demonstration of the mad skillz of the English major there.

 

 

*The irony is not lost on me.

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Filed under blogging, Family Life, homekeeping, Ministry of Reality, SAHM

Ministry of Reality M – – er Tuesday

So, I can never seem to post on Monday.  It’s our Saturday.  Or Sunday.  Or Saturday and Sunday all tied up together, the day we collapse into a heap.

So, Tuesday it is.  This week at least.

We just had some of the busiest funnest craziest days.  County fair, electronic wonderland mouse-hosted play space, two amusement parks, an overnight trip to family/friends house (a sermon written and delivered), all between Wednesday afternoon and Monday night.  I don’t live like this.  This is more than my kids do in any given year.  This is more than my kids did in one three-year stretch between 2004 and 2007.  Oh.  And except for the final day, which included the second amusement park, my husband was out of town for these days.

What better chance than this for a Ministry of Reality blog post?

I thought I’d focus on today’s nutrition, continuing to bury my head in the sand over the who-could-count-that-high? number of hours of TV today.

As an indication of the depths of my exhaustion, the extent of the depletion of my energy and enthusiasm, and the heights of my apathy, I share the following:

Our lunch today is brought to you by the color white. In various configurations, my children have eaten white cheese puffs, white popcorn, and white macaroni and cheese (both the cheese and the macaroni are white).  And Hannah kept the white theme going by drinking about a quart of milk today.

You know what is the craziest part of all?  I feel compelled to justify the healthfulness of it all by sharing that the cheese puffs are all natural, the popcorn is homemade using organic, raw coconut oil, and the mac ‘n’ cheese is organic.

Puh-leeeeese!

My kids are now happily, contentedly ensconced on the couch, watching the day’s zillionth minute of TV, entranced in a white-induced stupor.

It’s a good day.  🙂

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Filed under being The Mommy, Family Life, Ministry of Reality