Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mommy Guilt - Just Say NO!

The mom guilt - it can start as fast as two blue lines appear on a pregnancy test!
Oh, no, I think I had caffeine last week.
Uh, oh, I think I may have eaten unpasteurized cheese.
I forgot to take my prenatal!
I despise Mom Guilt.  I rail against it.  I encourage every mom I know to not beat herself up, to do her best and leave the rest to God.  I do my best to ignore the uncivil shouters of the world who try to convince me that their way is the only right way.  But, even I, the champion in the fight against Mom Guilt is susceptible.

Today, I go pick up my girls from school, they get into the car, chattering about the lunches I had packed for them.  We get home and I work on homework with both girls.  The Engineer gets home and asks the Hedgehog about her day.  She promptly bursts into tears.  She'd had a bad day.  she doesn't like one of her teachers at school.  One of the boys that she's working with on a project isn't helping.  It all pours out, all over her Daddy, as I sit by, shocked. 
Why hadn't she told me?  Did I even ask about her day?  How could I not tell that she was having a hard time?
Sigh.  Attack of the Mom Guilt.

Time for the girls to go to bed and I'm feeling somewhat better because I've helped Hedgehog brainstorm some strategies for dealing with the situations at school.  I feel like I started late, but I finished strong.  Go Team Mom!

But then, there is screaming.  The noise is coming from the girls' bathroom and the Engineer goes to investigate.  He comes back in a few minutes holding a nightgown with monkeys on it.  "Whose is this?" he asks, waving it at me.  "I don't know," I confess, and he wades back into the fray.  He eventually determines that it probably belongs to Hedgehog, based on the size, and she puts it on, gives kisses and goes to bed.  Monkey, despondent, cries in my lap for another 30 minutes.
What kind of mommy doesn't even know which pjs belong to which kid?  For good grief's sake, there are only 2 of them!
Even more Mom Guilt.

There are too many topics that prompt guilt to count:  vaccines, co-sleeping, disposable or cloth diapers, make-your-own organic baby food or jarred, work or stay at home, breast or bottle?  And as the kids grow, the topics just change:  public or private or homeschool, how many extra-curricular activities, hairdos, piercings, attitudes, DATING!

We can drive ourselves crazy, second guessing every choice, wondering if our kids' mistakes are our own fault, and listening to every side of each and every issue.  But, all we can do is try our best.  After we've done what we hope to be right, we need to give ourselves a break.  We need to make a choice based on what we know of the situation and our child and move forward.  We need to silence the ugly voice inside our own heads that says horrible things we would never allow to be said to a friend and we need to ignore all the "advice" givers in our life.

Mommy, just say NO to Mom Guilt.  You deserve better.  So do I.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bully

I've always hated bullies.  My sense of justice just gets all offended when someone bigger, stronger, more powerful or smarter picks on someone who simply isn't equipped to fight back.  My junior year in High School, I met the worst bully I had ever know, in the person of my U.S. History Teacher.

I shouldn't have even been in her class.  It was a Freshman subject, but I had transferred from another state, and had not had it yet.  This teacher liked teaching scared, vulnerable Freshman.  But I wasn't a Freshman, not scared and not vulnerable.  She didn't pick on me.

She was a poor teacher.  U.S. History had the potential for being a great, interesting class (we wouldn't have appreciated it, we were teenagers, but she could have tried!)  Her class consisted of reading from the textbook, aloud, in turns and then answering the questions at the end of the section.  Homework was the same routine, read a section, answer the questions.

Reading aloud has never been difficult for me.  I love to read, have an extensive vocabulary and can usually muddle through pronouncing difficult words.  Not everyone was so lucky.  Several students got nervous when reading, causing them to trip over their words.  Some students couldn't pronounce all the words and some were just plain slow.

Her classroom had an odd arrangement.  There were four long rows of desks that faced her own desk, and three short rows that faced the long rows and were sitting to the side of her desk.  The slow kids, the poor readers, the ones who stumbled over their own words, or mispronounced things sat on the short rows.  These were her favorite targets.

If someone was reading slow, she'd lean on her podium and dramatically drum her fingers on it with a "we're waiting" look on her face.  She made faces when people stumbled when reading, causing the class to laugh and the poor reader to squirm.  But the worst was always if you mispronounced something.

There was one boy in the class, James, who was slow.  He wasn't with the Special Education kids, but he was probably pretty close to being eligible.  Just like many slow kids, James was unpopular.  Some of the kids called him "Booger".  But he was such a nice guy.  He was always smiling, always tried hard and I just never could be mean to him, it seemed too much like kicking a puppy.

But picking on Booger got big laughs, so our teacher did so nearly every class. Every time it was his turn to read, without fail, he would mispronounce something.

"Noooooo, James" she'd say, in a voice dripping with sarcasm.  "It's gov-er-N-ment, NOT gov-er-mint," she'd say, and roll her eyes as our classmates tittered.  He would smile, re-pronounce the word and soldier on through the drumming of her fingers and her mocking faces and the laughter of his peers.  He never acted like he disliked her, and I never was even sure if he understood that she was being awful to him, which, in my mind, made it worse.

I never did confront her about her treatment of poor James.  In truth, I'm not sure that I had any idea how to do that.  But, to this day, I get perverse pleasure from the fact that I ticked her off and still got an "A" in her class.

Homework, though unoriginal and useless, was required in her class, every night.  If completed homework was not brought to class, we had to fill in a form.  I was generally a conscientious student, but for some reason, one day, I had no homework and was required to complete her form.  And, that day, I was in no mood for her.  The question on the form read, "Why had you chosen not to complete your assigned homework?"  I thought about half a second before responding:
I had better things to do than waste my time on moronic busywork
and I passed my form to the front.

I then watched as she leaned on her podium as we read in turns, idly marking checks on completed homework and 0s on forms.  I knew when she reached my form, because she suddenly stood up straight.  Then she went scarlet and then purple with anger.  She stalked out of the classroom while a student was still reading.  I sat, as my befuddled classmates wondered what to do, and felt an odd cross of horror and elation.

She stormed back in, holding my form plus a copy of my form.  She waved them both at me while barking to me to stay after class.  Those seated near me gave me sympathetic looks, fearing for me, but strangely, I wasn't afraid.

After class, she hotly informed me that a copy of my form was going in my "permanent record".  She said that my bad attitude was going to prevent me "from going anywhere in life" and that I would be "lucky to pass her class and not have to re-take it as a Senior",  She pronounced the last bit as vengefully as any Disney villain, but I shrugged and walked out.

The next week we got progress reports.  I had a solid B in her class and promptly decided to use my marks to torture her.  Several times a week, during class, I would pull out my calculator and all my papers, averaging my grades according to the rubric in the curriculum.  She would glower at me as I cheerfully determined my grade.  I turned in only the assignments that were absolutely necessary to keep my grade rising.  My final grade in her class was a 90.  An "A" that I know it pained her to give.

It didn't solve the problem, but I felt victorious nonetheless.  I thought I had fought her and won.  I hope to teach my girls that there are all kinds of fights out there to win.  This time, I picked the wrong fight.  I should have been fighting for the underdog, the poor bullied boy, not my grades.  I hope they'll choose better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Memory Monday: Karma's a Bitch

"Whaaaa!  Whaaaaa!  You ready for 3 a.m. feedings, Joe?"  Dale teased, rubbing his eyes in an imitation of crying.  "Ready to change some diapers?"

The crew laughed, and Joe grimaced good-naturedly.  One of the perils of working for your brother-in-law was the boss knowing all your business.  He shook his head and tried to focus on the siding job in front of him.

He and Lily had thought they were done having children.  This little "surprise" would be a full 9 years younger than their son.  He really wasn't looking forward to the long nights again.  His elementary school daughter and son were at a low-maintenance age, and he enjoyed that.

Too distracted to work, he pulled his Marlboros from his pocket and walked out to the driveway before lighting up.  Dale, having finished talking with the homeowner, was headed for his truck.  Just before pulling out, he rolled down his window and said "Hey, Joe, you wanna come see the boys play tonight?"

Joe took a long drag, considering the question.  Dale's twin sons, one year younger than his daughter, were fair athletes, but one little league game is about the same as the next.

"Nah,"  he shook his head, "Lily's been tired.  Better stay home."

"Better get ready", Dale grinned, miming rocking a baby.

Joe half-waved at him and crushed out his cigarette as Dale drove off.

Later that night, on the ball field, Dale mentally patted himself of the back, it had not been easy to get all 3 of the kids ready and there on time, but he'd done it.  He'd be glad when Susie got back from the doctor, though, it was hard to coach first base and keep an eye on Jillie at the same time.

A few minutes later, he saw her walking over to the bleachers and signed in relief.  It was so much easier when they could divide and conquer the supervision duties.

He smiled and waved and immediately tried to concentrate on the game.  For second and third graders, the Blue Jays were a pretty good team.  He coached a runner to steal second and waited for the next batter.

Susie, however, had finally reached the stands and was talking with some of the other moms on the bleachers.  Her high, excited voice was carrying onto the field, in pieces.

Dale heard, "Doctor....shocked...pregnant" and whipped his head around, completely missing whatever was happening on the field.  There was a crack of a bat and wild cheering but he heard nothing but his wife say "....twins"

For the rest of the game, he was useless.  His mind whirled with thoughts of two more children, how to provide, expanding the house and, annoyingly, "What will Joe say?".

This is a true story of Belle Mère and Big Poppa.  Joe and Lily has a son, and not long later, my in-laws, Susie and Dale, had their second set of twins, Elizabeth and David.  Joe graciously didn't tease Dale too badly.

Memory Mondays

I've had so much fun posting about my Grammy and my Mimi, that I've decided to make it a regular feature.  Memory Mondays will feature a treasured family story.  Some will be funny, others scary and all of them precious to me.  Hope you enjoy them like I do!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Making Changes

I've just finished reading the September/October issue of MomSense magazine and a great article called "Changing Directions" by Sharon A. Hersh (  She writes all about how to parent differently than you were raised.  She says:
"Researchers have discovered that the single most important predictor of how we will parent is how we were parented as a child.  It's as if we have a GPS programmed in our brains that directs us in our parenting.  This can be a blessing if we learned to respond with patience and encouragement.  But it can be a curse if our internal programming directs us to yell and to criticize."
Her article is very encouraging, with helpful suggestions to those who wish to parent differently than they may have been.  One of the lovely things is that is it not one of those "bash your parents" articles, either.  Rather, it is asking us to take a long, hard look at our own parenting and make changes if needed.

I have seen first hand that this CAN be done.  The examples I have seen in my family's history lead me to believe that I can change and be the kind of mommy I choose to be.  For example:
  • My Grammy's mother was a bitter, controlling woman.  She used guilt to attempt to get her children to do what she wanted them to do.  She didn't even go to her daughter's weddings because "they were leaving her".  Grammy didn't like that side of her mother's personality and decided not to emulate it.  As a result, my Grammy was a positive person who never tried to control her family, just guide them, if they needed help. 
  • Momma Bear's mom (my Mimi) is a complainer.  If you call Mimi, pull up a chair, because she's going to tell you all about her ailments for a LONG time, in a most dramatic fashion.  And if you call her, she's going to tell you who all hasn't been calling her lately (funny phone she has, only takes incoming calls, apparently she can't call out....).  Momma Bear has some crap stuff in her life that would be complain-worthy, but she doesn't gripe.  She does what has to be done and goes on.
  • Big Poppa's mom (Engineer's Mammaw) tried to be controlling.  From her nursing home, she attempted to boss around her entire family.  The Engineer and I went to see her a few days after returning from our honeymoon and took her a chocolate pie.  Her response was "Now you can come back every week and bring more pie".  Her domineering attitude guaranteed her few visitors.  Big Poppa lets his family do what they want.  He has plenty of advice, to be sure, but bossing isn't his style.
All of this gives me hope.  When I look back at a day where I lost my temper too quick, raised my voice too often, threatened instead of taught and spanked instead of using a time out, I remember.  I remember those before me who fought to be different, and I know that someday, I will be too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tantrum Theology a.k.a Why Monkey Shouldn't Have to Clean Her Room

It started our innocently enough.  The Engineer told the girls to clean their room.  We've had a long-standing problem with Monkey playing while Hedgehog cleaned the whole room, so he divided the room in half, assigning each child a half.

Monkey exploded.

By the time I arrived, the full force of her five year old fury was on display.  She was crying, kicking and screaming about the unfairness of the system.

"Her half is smaller and has less stuff," Monkey shrieked, loudly enough to be heard by the entire tri-state area.*

The phone rang.  It was Belle-Mère.  The Engineer left the room to talk with his mother as I tried to reason with Monkey while Hedgehog swiftly and steadily cleaned her half of the room.

After completing her half of the room, Hedgehog got on the phone with Belle-Mère.  Seeing this, Monkey screeched that she wanted to talk on the phone, too.  I explained that she would have to stop yelling to talk on the phone.  This proclamation was answered with an ear-splitting shriek that instantly terminated her telephone privileges.

She was sent back to her room with orders to stay until it was cleaned, or she would not get to dine with the rest of us.

Defiant, she crossed her arms and shouted "I will NOT clean, I WILL eat dinner and I WILL call Belle-Mère!"  She refused to even return to her room until I counted to number two of three.

From her room, she continued to rail about unfairness, until she suddenly changed strategies.  The cries were now "I can't do it, I can't help it, I just can't do it!" in a most pained, overly-dramatic way.

She burst from her room and ran to me.  "Mommy, I can't do it, I can't help it.  My brain's not right for it!  I'm not smart for cleaning!"

I told her she was a very smart kindergartner and she certainly could clean.

I picked her up, put her in my lap, and said "Monkey, whose hands are these?", holding hers up for inspection.

"God's" she answered.

Recovering far slower than I would've liked, I said "Well, who did God give these hands to?"


"That's right.  And you can use them for fun things like playing with your toys AND for cleaning your room."

"But I don't like to do that" she whined.

"I know.  That happens sometimes.  Mommy doesn't like doing the laundry.  But these,"  I plucked at her pants, "were clean and folded and in your drawer this morning, right?"

"Yeah", she said sullenly.

"So what does that mean?"

"You really do like laundry?"

"No," I chuckled, "I still don't like laundry.  But we all have to do things sometimes that we don't like.  It's part of growing up.  Understand?"

She gave me a grudging nod.  I sent her, still sniffling, back to her room to clean it.

I smiled at the Engineer, mentally patted myself on the back and contemplated sending my story to ScreamFree Parenting.

Then Monkey screamed, "I don't know why God made me this way!"

It took another hour and a half of screaming, kicking and throwing before she finally cleaned her room.

I may need to go to seminary before her next fit.

* Obscure Phineas and Ferb reference

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blue Jeans: A Cautionary Tale

I want to tell you the story of a time when my tight-fitting jeans nearly cost me my life.  Sounds overly dramatic, I know, but the older I get, the more I realize what kind of trouble I really could have been in.

It was a gorgeous spring day during my college years and I had the day off and no plans.  I woke late, de-frizzed my natural curls as best I could, and got dressed.  An off-day meant my favorite pair of Rockies jeans, boots and a cute top.  Rocky Mountain Jeans were designed with no back pockets, so were perfect for showing off my cute, tiny little tush.

I hoped into my red Geo Metro and drove to the local Wal-Mart for a few college essentials (caffeine and junk food).  I whipped into a fairly close parking spot next to a Bondo-grey van.  I hopped out, and dug around in the back seat for my purse.  As I did, I heard appreciative comments coming from the van.  Van drivers were NOT my type, so I ignored them.  I continued to ignore lewd comments about my backside and what one could do to it as the three van occupants ambled past into the store.

I found my purse, shouldered it, and set off in the opposite direction at a quick, determined pace.

Inside the store, I gathered my few purchases and headed for a check-out lane.  From the check stand I could see that the three men had joined a fourth and they were all standing in the jewelry department.  And I was still an object of their attention.  As the cashier made small talk, I noticed the three heading for the exit and inwardly sighed with relief.  I purposely took my time going to the exit, giving the men ample time to leave so I would not encounter them again.

Just before I left the building I saw the fourth man, leaning on the counter in the jewelry department.  I looked at him and he grinned at me.  Disgusted, I looked away, took out my keys and left the building.

Instantly, alarm bells were going off in my head.  To my left, near the pay phone, was one of the three, on my right the second, and I could see the third man standing in the parking lot facing me.  If I walked a few feet more, I would be surrounded.

I froze.  I stopped mid-step, looked at my watch and turned on my heel to go back into the building.

Just two steps inside the building, I saw the fourth man again.  He was grinning again.  He walked past me, getting so close that there were mere molecules between us.  I could feel his body heat on my skin.

I stopped at the nearest employee and asked for an escort to my car.  It took several minutes to find someone, and I'd almost convinced myself that I'd overreacted until we walked back outside.

The grey van was stopped right behind my car, completely bocking it in.  I pointed at the van, and it sped off.

I believe that if I had not heeded my inner alarm, I would not be here today.  I would've been in the back of that van, unspeakable things would've been done and I would have been gone.

Blue jeans designed to highlight a woman's backside aren't really dangerous.  But some men are.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If I Were a Hoarder

OK, so, in my head, the title goes just like "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof", so I have to get it out of my system.

There, now I feel better, and a little Russian.

I needed that, because the subject of hoarding hits just a bit too close to home with me.  My Mimi is a hoarder.  She can barely move around in her house, despite living by herself in a three bedroom home.  The Momma Bear is quickly following in her shoes.  It wasn't that way when I was a child, but recently, it's getting bad.  The boys coming back to live with them was one factor, now the detritus of two little guys is everywhere, their backbacks and laundry stacked in various places.  But after Grammy died, it got worse.  They brought back boxes and boxes and furniture that they have no room for.  So, I worry that one day, my home will be too cluttered for the people who live there too.

Currently, the clutter isn't winning any battles.  Things are mostly put away and I have a place for most things.  I've even cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and the hall closet since the kids went back to school, and my trunk is full of things to donate.  But, with that said, there are a number of large totes in the hall closet, filled with craft supplies and unfinished projects.  There is one whole corner of my bedroom dedicated to "crafting" that currently looks like a crime scene.

I don't know that I really "hoard" craft things, but I sure do have a BUNCH of unfinished projects around.  I've been working on cross-stitching Christmas stockings for all of us since before Hedgehog was born (yeah, she's seven, I know) and the stitching still isn't completed on the Engineer's.  I'm YEARS behind on my scrapbooking, and the sewing projects are in a tote under the bed.  And don't even get me started on the two unfinished furniture projects in the garage.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I AM a hoarder.

Don't be surprised if I don't post for a while, I have some things to do, apparently!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Plastic Cows

They are among some of my favorite things.  To someone outside of my family, the attraction to these little black plastic cattle might seem odd.  But I love them.

Grampy used to work out of the country.  They lived out of the country, in fact, until my dad was in high school.  When Grampy retired and planned to move back to the States, there was a party for him.  Since the family was haded to a state with lots of livestock, the tables were decorated with plastic horses and cows and tractors.  It was a lovely party, and when it was over, Grammy had the cows.

I have no idea why she kept them.  My dad was in high school and his siblings were already out of the house.  Maybe she planned to give them to nieces and nephews.  Perhaps the hostess insisted on her keeping them.  Maybe because she lived through the Depression, she couldn't stand to throw them out.  I really don't know.

At Grammy and Grampy's house, the toys were kept in a laundry basket in the middle bedroom closet.  The cows were in that basket all my life.  We drug them out time after time, and despite other choices, the cows were among the favorites.  The adults would usually remark on our choice and Grammy would remind us all that those had been on the table at Grampy's retirement party in 1964.

After Grammy died and we all gathered to clean out the house, we pulled out the laundry basked to entertain the kids (I'd brought all 4) and paid them little mind as we wrapped up and packed up the treasures of our departed's lives.

Hearing a commotion in the other room, I went to see  why the children were being so rowdy.  They were fighting over the cows.  The 40+ year old playthings were still a favorite.  I laugh-sobbed as I took them from the kids and carefully packed them away with Grammy's china.

The cows live in my house now, my kids enjoy playing with them.  I hope one day my grand kids will enjoy them too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Miss My Childhood

I miss my childhood.

In my childhood, family loved each other. Period. It didn’t seem complicated. As an adult, I sometimes don’t EVEN like the people I’m related too. My mom made a cross stitch from my Grammy that said Grammy was “not just his mother, but also my friend”, so I thought being in-laws was simple. But as an adult, I’ve discovered that sometimes his family’s brand of crazy and mine don’t mesh. Sometimes we butt heads. Sometimes love is hard and complicated.

In my childhood, death and disease were not everyday realities. The people I knew and loved were generally safe and secure. I did not even know anyone who died until my cousin’s suicide when I was 10. As an adult, I have lost three of my four grandparents, and the Engineer has lost all of his. Our parents are growing older. Mine seem older than their years, no doubt due to the strain of raising my sister’s children.

In my childhood, I had no ideas of wills and trusts and guardian ships. Despite having an active duty military father, the thought of what “could” happen never occurred to me. As an adult, what would happen to my children if something were to happen to my husband and I actively bothers me. Our will had always appointed the Engineer’s parents as guardians if something were to happen to us. But, as I watch my parents aging before their time, I know that isn’t the right choice anymore. There doesn’t seem to be a right choice now, and I don’t know what to do.

In my childhood, there were no such things as mortgages. Seriously. We always lived In the military base provided housing, so I had no idea about house payments and premium mortgage insurance and property taxes. As an adult, I know about these things all too well. They are a source of consternation more frequently than I could’ve imagined as a child.

In my childhood, reading and imagination were daily, constant companions. My mother would pry books out of my hands to convince me to eat, bathe and sleep. When I wasn’t reading, I was frequently daydreaming. I was off in my own little world most of the time. As an adult, mundane things occupy such a large part of my brain that it usually takes a lot of time to break free of the cobwebs enough to write a few paragraphs. Reading takes time, which is all too often, in short supply.

Since I know that I won’t be magically transported back to my childhood anytime soon, I try to spend my time creating a wonderful childhood for my children, and for my nephews. It’s tough sometimes to create a safe bubble for them, without lying or keeping them too sheltered from the realities of the world. But, I know it’s worth it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Don't Call Me Grace

I fell off the stage at my high school graduation.  And not like "We started that party before the ceremony, so I was drunk" kind of a fall.  No, this was a regulation "I am so very clumsy" type of fall.  I heard my name called, got my diploma, shook some hands, caught my heel on who-knows-what and fell down the stairs onto our school's football coach.

My mother used to say "There's a reason I didn't name you Grace".

It was a life of near constant humiliation.  I once tripped over the air at the roller rink.  I wound up spread out like a bearskin rug on the floor for the entire church youth group to see.

Unfortunately, my poor girls are just like me.  Monkey has literally walked right into walls.  Just this week, getting out of the car, she fell out on her face.  If Hedgehog runs faster than a trot, she inevitably winds up sprawled out, face down.

I guess it is a good thing I didn't name them Grace.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


"Catherine!  Catherine we MUST go to the storm cellar!"  Miss Medders said firmly, and a bit desperately.

Catherine crossed her arms and continued to huddle under the teacher's desk.  The cellar was dark, dank, and scary and she didn't want to go.  She scooted further from her teacher's hands and listened as the blowing wind caused the whole building to creak.

"Honey, it'll be safer down there, this storm sounds bad."  Even as Miss Medders spoke, the wind howled and hail began pelting the building.  Obstinately, Catherine shook her head again.  Miss Medders tried crawling in after her, but the drawers of her desk were too low.

"Catherine, please!"  Miss Medders half-shouted, sounding fearful.  "Oh thank God!  Ray, can you help me please?"  Before Catherine could react, one of the older boys had tipped Miss Medders' desk on its side, exposing her to her teacher's hands.

Miss Medders took her by the hand, but Catherine pulled back and dug in her heels.  Miss Medders responded by grabbing her around the middle, tucking her under her arm and racing for the back door of the schoolhouse.  Ray held the door open and soon all three of them were outside in the eerie midday darkness.  The rain and hail were coming sideways and the wind gusting so hard that Ray and Miss Medders had to hold on to each other to go the few feet to the cellar.

Once they arrived at the cellar, the wind practically threw the door open for them and Miss Medders dumped Catherine unceremoniously onto the steps.  She, Ray and two of the other bigger boys were fighting against the wind to close the cellar door.  They got it shut and the cellar was pitch black.  Catherine heard her teacher say, "The latch doesn't seem very strong, we'll need to hold the door closed."

Catherine shook on the steps.  In the darkness, she could hear her classmates breathing, but could not see any of them.  The cellar door was rattling hard on its hinges as the furious wind outside shook it and loud, unidentifiable thumps and bangs were sounding all around outside as the storm raged on.  Catherine screamed.  There were no words, just volume as she gave vent to her terror.  She screamed and screamed until several classmates clapped hands over her mouth.  Then, she cried.

Suddenly, it was quiet.  The thumping and banging had stopped.  The door was no longer rattling, and although she could still hear rain falling, Catherine didn't think it sounded dangerous.  A few minutes later, cautiously, Miss Medders opened the door to the cellar.

"Oh, my word.  Oh, my God!"  Miss Medders said, and Catherine knew her teacher was crying.  Running out of the cellar with the other student, Catherine gasped.  Their school was gone.  All that remained was some scattered bricks from the piers of the foundation.  The huge oak tree from in front of the school was twisted in half and crumbled on the ground.

"We could've all died." Miss Medders said in a hoarse whisper.  Catherine surveyed the remains of what had once been their school and silently vowed to never go to school again.

This is a story from my Mimi's childhood.  She was either in first grade or kindergarten.  Even today, in her mid 80's, she hates storms with a passion.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oxygen Mask

I'm working my way slowly, with exercise and St. John's wort, out of a funk.  Something that I have been doing during the process of funk-busing is trying to evaluate whether I could've done some things differently to prevent winding up here in the first place.   As much as it hurts, I have realized that I probably should've done some things differently.

Now, I'm not saying I could've prevented school starting, or my family's particular type of dysfunction from sucking, but I could've been in better shape to deal with it.

I had NO social life this summer (outside of the 4 kids).  My schedule with my Bunco buddies worked out that I only went and played once this summer.  Additionally, my best friend has moved away and I only made the trip to see her once.

Spiritually, I didn't take good care of my soul.  The Bible study that I had been in ended in early June, and I didn't sign up for another.  I thought "I don't have time".  Additionally, due to family obligations and our family vacation, I missed three Sundays in a row at church.

Physically, I was tired.  Vacations are always fun but exhausting for adults, especially mommies.  I also hadn't been exercising.  The Engineer and I had been working out together (sporadically) before school ended, but it got back-burnered once summer arrived.

All in all, it was the "perfect storm" of factors that kept me from dealing well with my situation.  I should have taken better care of myself.  I matter too.  I've always hated that thing the flight attendants tell you about putting on your own oxygen masks first, and THEN helping your child, but I know it's true.

So, my oxygen mask is this:  I'm trying to write every day, I've joined a Zumba class and I going to start a Bible study on the 12th.  What about you?  What's your personal "oxygen mask"?

Friday, September 2, 2011

God Winks

I've been reading  When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence and whole-heartedly recommend it.  (Not being paid for the opinion, wish I was...)  It is all about how God uses circumstances in our lives to point us in the right direction.  Often times, those who don't share my faith will call these events coincidence.  The stories in the book are very compelling, so I wanted to tell one of my own.

Before the end of the last school year, I was struggling with a decision.  Earlier that year, my younger sister has asked our parents to raise her two sons for an unspecified amount of time, "while she got herself together".  She said she had an addiction to prescription pain medicine.  My parents had raised her sons previously when she had struggled with an addiction with illegal drugs.  So my parents had taken in her sons again.  But both had full-time jobs, and as summer approached, what they would do with the boys for the summer was a problem.

They were thinking of putting them in the local YMCA's summer program but the boys had both been bullied there.  "They can come stay with us,"  I had said.  "I'm home with the girls anyhow, so it's no big deal."

But my parents worried that it was too big for a "burden" for us.  And, deep down, I wondered if I could really handle 4 kids. Plus, our guest room only had a full-sized bed.

So, one Friday morning, after the Engineer left for work, dropping Hedgehog off at school on his way, I got Monkey and I ready to go garage-saling.  In my bathroom that morning, I prayed.  I told God about how uncertain I was, and wondered if I was getting in over my head.  I told Him I would really love some bunk beds, preferably twin over full, to use the mattress I already had.  And I distinctly remember telling Him that the bed was a want, not a need, but it sure would be nice.

So Monkey and I set out.  We went to several disappointing garage sales before time for my annual eye exam.  Once I was finally done with the eye doctor, it was nearly lunch time.  I almost decided to go on home.  I figured all the good stuff would be sold from the remaining sales, but decided to go to one more sale.

As soon as I walked into the barn of the last sale, I saw them.  Wooden twin over full bunk beds, standing in the corner.  I saw a piece of paper on them, and sighed, assuming they were already sold, but looked 'just in case".  The paper was the price, which was in our price range!  I bought them immediately.

Doubters will say that it was coincidence that the DAY I prayed specifically about twin over full bunk beds I "happened" to find them at a late garage sale in our price range.  But I believe that it was God telling me that taking the boys in for the summer was the right thing to do.  And that He would provide the strength and patience, just like He had provided the bed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


"Addie, they're coming!"

Addie glanced at her sister.  Deborah looked panicky.  Addie looked past her sister up the dirt road to assess the reason for her sister's dismay.  Pounding up the road, lunch pails clanking, ran the Maddox boys.

"We'll get switched for sure if they get our dresses dirty again!" Deborah wailed.

Addie sighed.  Every day so far this week the boys had splashed much from the road onto the girls' faded, worn dresses.  They liked to pull their braids and tease, too, but the mud was the big problem.  No amount of pleading had been able to convince Momma and Poppa that it wasn't their fault.  A hickory switch would surely be in their future if they couldn't stop the boys.

Running wasn't an option.  The boys were bigger and faster than Addie herself, and little Deborah was much slower than Addie.  They needed a plan.

Addie looked around.  There were plenty of puddles in the road, due to the chilly drizzle they'd been having lately.  There was no escaping, the barbed wire fences on either side of the road would snag and tear their dresses, insuring a switching.  But there, in a fence row to the right, stood a big patch of stinging nettles!

"C'mon", she said to her younger sister and marched over to the patch of painful plants.  Her first thought was to try to push the boys into the nettles, but she quickly rejected that plan, fearing she would end up in the itchy, burning leaves.

Handing her books to her sister, Addie fumbled in her jacket and got out a handkerchief.  "Remind me NOT to use this later," she said as she wrapped the handkerchief carefully around the stem of the biggest nettle of the bunch.  Grunting with effort, she broke the plant off from the ground, and held it behind her back.

The boys, Jesse and Kenneth were close enough now to begin taunting.
      "Hello, widdle girls!"
      "All ready for school, children?"

Their sing-songy chants grated on Addie's nerves.  "Go on up the road," she ordered Deborah.  She watched as, laden with their books, Deborah hurried on down the road.

Seeing her sister mostly out of the way, Addie began stepping determinedly around puddles toward the boys.

As she neared, Kenneth, seeing her deliberate tread, got quiet and stepped behind his older brother.  Kenneth was a little scared of Addie.  Everyone around knew she could shoot as well as any man.  Jesse, however, didn't have enough good sense to be scared.  He grinned at Addie and sneered, "Gonna get the soaking for the both of ya?"

Addie glared and shouted, "You leave us alone!"

Jesse's reply was to pull up his foot and hold it threateningly over the nearest puddle.

"You'd better not!" she hollered.

He laughed and stepped around the puddle but reached out and pulled on her braid, hard.

Addie yelped in pain and pulled the nettle from behind her back to slap Jesse clear across the face with the plant.

"YEOOOOW!"  He screamed, letting go of her hair to grab his own face, which was already showing signs of a nasty rash in reaction to the plant's sting.

Addie waved the plant in front of him, and then his brother.  "Now, you leave us along," she stated again, firmly.

And without a backward glance, she marched past, nettle still in hand, and walked on with her sister, in clean dresses, to school.

(This was one of my favorite stories my Grammy used to tell, about her childhood, in response to Mama Kat's writing post)