Monday, November 22, 2010

Good Ol' WBC

I had a special treat today - a visit with my long lost friend, Maggs, and her husband Brent. We met at my sister Holly's house, adored each other's children, and the three of us recalled stories of yesteryear. We all went to college together at dear old Williams Baptist College. In the words of Charles Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.

It was the best because it was this isolated little place, full of fabulous people, and fabulous faculty who really cared about students. It's difficult to describe, but you know what? If you haven't been a student at Williams, I guess there's no way to really explain to you why attending college with only 500 other students in the entire school, which happens to sit in the middle of a bean field, which happens to be between two sleepy little towns...hard to make you understand why that's so great. But it's not the bean field or the towns that make it great, although they are a part of the flavor for sure. And it's not just the people, necessarily, because there are great people everywhere. Geez, I'm going in circles. How about this? The whole was more than the sum of its parts. There. :)

And it was the worst because, basically, life just happens. I battled depression off and on. And my parents' marriage ended during my senior year. I had a senior recital to prepare for, and was trying to make plans for after graduation, so I was basically just keeping it together there at the end. I didn't really deal with that whole thing until a couple years after college, so in a sense, it didn't really affect my life at WBC. Or I should say...the geographic distance helped to keep the home reality separate from the school reality.

We talked about that a little today. The sad stuff, it seems so long ago. But when we talked about the good stuff - the funny stories - I laughed and remembered like it was yesterday. That's a good thing, I think. Stories about snow days...when classes would be cancelled, and it seemed like practically everyone spent practically the entire day outside making snowmen and getting in snow ball fights. And stories about dorm antics...things involving toilet paper, and highlighters, and Ramen noodles, and wearing various items of clothing for purposes they were not intended for.

But upon further reflection, my favorite stories really capture the essence of who were were at the time. Listening to Maggie sing one of her hilarious original songs in chapel. (By the way, you should be so lucky.) Or when a group of us had t-shirts made that said "Williams Pickleball", and wore them all on the same day, and convinced a handful of people that there actually was a pickleball team and they could sign up. And they wanted to, some of them. In fact, the jig was up when they really wanted to sign up and wouldn't drop it and so I finally had to tell them, sorry, it was a joke. Or the day that there was a crazy hat competition in the cafeteria during supper, and I convinced Maggie to climb up on my shoulders and be my "crazy hat." And we won. Goofy stuff. Ridiculous, most of it. And recalling these stories first I felt the sharp pangs of embarrassment.

But driving home from that wonderfully sweet and too-short visit, I asked myself, "What would 2010 Rachel think of 1998 Rachel and her friends, if I encountered them today?" And folks, I gotta tell ya...

I would think you were fabulous! I would see what a rare treasure you had in being so gloriously UN-self-conscious. So fabulously and boldly yourself. Or at least, yourself-as-far-as-you-could-figure-at-the-time. Because isn't that all that we ever are? We are ourselves, to the best of our ability and with the data we have at the time. Because I still had some major questions about myself and my faith that I needed to ask. I found some answers for some of them, and the others - well, I'm just more comfortable with them now. And in the process, I got to know myself and my God in a new and better way. But back then, in 1998, I had 1998 data. And grace. Tons of grace.

Today I have 2010 data, and so I act like 2010. I'm a wife, a mama, a home owner. I am what 1998 Rachel viewed with more than a little ambivalence. I am...deep breath...a GROWN UP. Yikes. Seeing grown ups from this perspective (as one) makes it easier to be one. I know now that we're not all lame, or bitter, or half-dead. (When I was younger, I was privileged to be surrounded by lots of wonderful grown ups...but I was also afraid of becoming sour, or boring, like some of the others I knew.)

And being a grown up, thinking about myself in college...I can only pray that someday my sweet little girl will be given the opportunity to have such wonderful and like-minded friends who allow her to be herself, to the best of her ability and with the data she has at the time. If she does, then she'll be alright.

So here's your question...what would you want to tell yourself "back then"?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quick Update

Wow, it's already October! September flew by and I'm sorry to say I didn't post once on this here blog. I'm taking more hours in grad school this semester than any other semester previous, and Jelly Bean decided to start crawling three weeks ago (yes, at six months old!) and she is no longer content to sit in her baby chair while I wax philosophical on things like blogs. She's got places to GO, see?!

Speaking of the light of our lives, we took some super cute pictures of her yesterday and I'll try to post a few soon.

Also, my birthday is next Friday. I'm definitely more tired and flabby than I was last year, but you's amazing what having a baby will do to one's priorities. I mean, I'm working on the flabby thing, and I sleep when possible -- but I'm just trying to embrace this crazy season. It seems that JB does some brand-new thing every single day, and I don't want to miss it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Will Still Be Alone (And Other Thoughts On Marriage)

There are some things that married people do not tell single people. Some of those things should not be told, and you know it as soon as you are told one of them. Ooo, thanks for that disgusting detail of your life. I need to make a call now, to my THERAPIST.

But some things are not gross or inappropriate or sicky-sweet-I-want-to-stick-a-fork-in-your-puppy-dog-eyes. I guess they fall into that special category of authenticity (SUCH an overused word for such an important gift) that few people achieve with someone whom, well, they're not married to. But since I really want you to know, and I think maybe no one has told you b/c they're basically just afraid to open up, I'm gonna go ahead and share something with you.

When you marry the love of your life, your soulmate, the one you waited for with baited breath, The One From the LORD Just For You (or however you want to frame it) will still, essentially, be alone.

Okay. Take a deep breath.

You may as well know this now. Some of you may feel so alone now in singleness that you hope for some respite, some greener grass just over the hill, as a way of dealing with the present moment. And it is definitely true that a healthy and blessed marriage does offer its participants the simple joys of comraderie and conversation and intimacy.

But please search your heart right now. Because when two people live together, it happens sometimes that even legitimate needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever) cannot be met by the other person. You will be tempted to believe that your partner won't help you - that if they really wanted to, they could. You will be saner and more peaceful if you believe that for whatever reason on this particular day, they just can't.

Another dynamic that happens often is that of victim/rescuer or child/parent. Let me just go ahead and tell you that every married couple at some point(s) has to figure out what they're going to do about the child/parent thing. One partner needs some "help" (either perceived or directly asked for), which seems innocent the other partner gives the "help", and ends up acting or sounding very maternal/paternal in the process. This is a complex issue, isn't it? Because married folks are supposed to help each other - we're supposed to care, listen, empathize. But hear me carefully now - we are not meant to solve each other's problems, rescue each other from the consequences of our behavior, or be amateur therapists for each other. And why? Um, because you are no longer a child!

You have to see yourself and your partner as two equals - two grown adults who are each capable of taking care of their own basic needs. Any breakdown here can cause a laundry list of problems in your relationship.

But still, a legitimate need is not being met. And you find yourself alone with something you would rather not face alone. What do you do with this?

You have some options:

1.) Call your mama and complain. He will love this.

2.) Call anyone and complain. He will be elated.

3.) Flee, ignore, or deny the aloneness. Ever known someone with revolving door relationship syndrome? I have a hunch about them.

I will now confess that I have done all of the following:

1.) Turning up the pressure. Maybe he doesn't understand how important this is.

2.) Turning up the volume. Maybe he can't hear me.

3.) Pouting, glowering, and other passive-aggressive behaviors which El Jefe either does not notice or is smart enough not to acknowledge.

4.) Increasingly, I give the brutha a break, pull up my big girl britches, and get on with life. Because I remember how many times he has done exactly the same thing for me. Except he doesn't wear girl britches.

AND...I am more and more often brave enough to face the aloneness. The Bible tells me that I am never alone; I believe this. But you know what? Sometimes, I am alone. I feel like the Psalmist who sings, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God...My soul is downcast within me." It is a mystery that I believe originates in the brokenness of my soul and my family and your family and our humanity. But it is not, it can not...and it will not be the end of the story.

Take heart, my friends. You may still feel alone at times, but you are never without your Source.


DISCLAIMER: Lest any critical minds be tempted to believe that I am unhappy in my marriage or that my husband does not sacrifice himself on a daily basis for me and our little family, please allow me to assure you that I married one of the most unconditionally giving and forgiving men on the planet. Certainly the best one I know. I love him, and he loves me, and Jesus loves us - and a cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Freezer Meal #2 -- Black Bean Soup

My fellow Little Rock residents may have experienced the fabulous restaurant that is (was?) Vermillion Water Grille. And if you were very fortunate, you may also have experienced their fabulous black bean soup. I have tried a few recipes trying to find just the right taste, and finally, with Dave Lieberman's recipe - I found it! (The only discernable difference between Dave's recipe and Vermillion's recipe is that Vermillion mashes or blends their soup to an almost smooth consistency, probably using an immersion blender, which you could definitely do if you so desire right before serving.)

Inés and I made just one recipe last weekend, which is probably enough to serve 6-8 people. We split it. As far as freezer directions, we stopped right after we added the cilantro, allowed it to cool for about 30 minutes, and then put it in our freezer bowls. Again, not a bad idea to label anything you put in the freezer.

Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, or on the countertop for 6-8 hours. Heat to boiling, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Right before serving, squeeze in a little lime juice. Serve with whatever garnishes you desire - I just had a little fresh cilantro and some sour cream on mine, but you can also do green onions, shredded jack cheese, corn chips, etc.

Have I mentioned my love of Jiffy corn muffin mix? Or of quick breads in general? Ok, briefly -- quick breads are breads that require no kneading and usually (but not always) get their rising power from baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast. If you can make pancakes, you can make a quick bread. And don'tcha know I have a few ridiculously easy recipes for these as well? El Jefe loves homemade bread, but since I rarely have the hours required to make yeast bread, this is an excellent alternative for us.'s the cornbread I served with the soup:

Jiffy Cheddar Green Chile Cornbread

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 c milk
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 oz shredded cheddar
Half of 1 (7oz) can diced green chiles, mostly drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you have an 8" round cast iron skillet, or even a cake pan, grease it with a little shortening or oil by applying with a paper towel. This will also make about six muffins; grease the muffin cups in the same manner.

Mix together the Jiffy mix, egg, milk, and pepper JUST until combined. It will be lumpy. This is totally okay and even desired. Dump in your cheddar and green chiles and stir just until mixed in; 5-10 stirs TOPS.

Dump the batter into your skillet or muffin cups. Muffins will take about 15 minutes, and the skillet will take about 20.

I will post some more quick bread recipes soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Freezer Meal #1

Mi hermana, Inés McBryde, and I have been cooking together on the weekends when both of our schedules allow it. We will make stuff that we can stash in the fridge or freezer for the coming week. As you can imagine, this cuts down on the last minute trips to the grocery store and slaving in the kitchen in the evenings when we'd rather be relaxing with our families. This past Saturday we cooked three meals and two loaves of homemade bread in four hours! We were pretty proud of ourselves considering it was only our second attempt.

As I imagine this freezer meal thing would be an attractive concept to my homegirls, I will start sharing tips and tricks and recipes as I have the time. The first recipe I want to share with you is for a ridiculously easy, and oh-so-good ham potato bake. I found a recipe on that was close to what I wanted, and then I gussied it up a little. So, without further ado...

Ham Potato Bake

2 (32oz) bags Potatoes O'Brien, frozen (cubed potatoes w/onions and peppers)
2 lb ham, diced or cubed (you could certainly use turkey or chicken here)
1 (16oz) bag frozen green beans (or broccoli, or peas)
3 cans cream soup (whatever you have on hand - we used 2 cans of cream of potato and 1 can of cream of celery)
1 (16oz) container sour cream
4 c shredded cheese (cheddar or colby is probably best - but again, use whatever. This isn't rocket surgery.)
1 c shredded parmesan
1 tsp black pepper (probably won't need salt b/c of the cream soups)
1 c milk (more or less)

Find the most gigantic mixing bowl you have (like 6qt to 8qt). Then grease your cooking dishes. Here are the possible combinations of cooking dishes:

- Two 9x13s
- One 9x13 and two 9x9s
- Four 9x9s

Dump all of the ingredients, except the milk, into your gigantic (seriously, it needs to be BIG) mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Add milk as you go if you feel like it is needed. The mixture needs to have a slightly thicker consistency than what you will want the finished product to have.Divide the mixture among your cooking dishes. To freeze, cover tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of heavy duty foil. It's probably not a bad idea to use a Sharpie to write the contents and preparation date on top, either. Then just stash it in your freezer.

To defrost, put in the fridge for 24 hours. Or set out on the countertop for 4-6 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and re-cover with the foil. Cook 30 mins covered, and then 10-15 mins uncovered.

Cost per serving :: approximately $1

-- To make this healthier, use chicken instead of ham, and all of the low fat/low sodium options you can find in the dairy products; and add another 16oz bag of frozen veggies.

-- This is a huge recipe. You can halve it and it'll just make one 9x13 or two 9x9s. But you know, even if you're cooking by yourself - if you have the room in your freezer, go ahead and make the full recipe. It'll keep for at least a couple months, and you certainly don't have to keep it all for yourself. You can help out a family in need by taking a frozen meal to them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

These Hands

I remember as a child laying with my head on my mother's lap and staring at her hands. They were much bigger than mine, and the skin was different. And they were soft when she rubbed my face and combed her fingers through my hair. I loved those nurturing times, and when I would stare at her hands, my thoughts would turn to wondering how many dishes she had washed and how many pairs of socks she had her entire life. In her entire, long life. A million? A million billion??

For a little dose of perspective, my mother was younger at that time - when she had four daughters in elementary school - than I am now with my first baby girl. To me her hands symbolized nurturance and kindness. And adult-ness. Adults can't be kids anymore. They have to have their act together and know about the world and have answers for kids' questions, etc.

Three days ago I was driving and Jelly Bean was in her carseat. I looked back to check on her during a stoplight, and she was sitting there with both of her hands raised, palms up, and she had the most contemplative look on her tiny face. Most people would say that she was probably thinking, What are these things? or How long have I had these and didn't know it? And she probably was. But you didn't see that facial expression. It seemed more like, What can I do with these? The potential! I wonder if they'll get bigger, or stronger. I wonder if someday I'll be able to do everything Mama does. After all, that's the stuff I wondered when I was a kid - but, I know, that's me and not her.

Before I started writing this blog post, I was nursing JB. Sometimes she does this thing while she's nursing where she quietly lays her little hand on her cheekbone, or over her eyes. Her little hand, that is barely big enough yet to completely cover her temple. And sometimes when she lays her hand there, it's more than I can bear, and I will lay my hand over hers and pray with all of my wrenching heart that I can protect her and guide her and love her the way she needs.

So, I am conflicted. Half of the time I want to be her adventurous/unpredictable Tour Guide For Life, a la Willy Wonka...and the other half of the time I want to hold her close to my chest and just stay home and scream out the front door, "You can all just stay away! Nobody here has anything for you, and definitely nobody will ever be interested in leaving to adventure into the broken world in which you operate and which you continue to make worse, by the way!" Okay, that's a lot to scream. And the sweet, retired ladies who live across the street are probably the only ones who would hear me and I don't think they're making anything worse. They mostly just keep their lawns immaculate and make small talk with me and each other during the long summer evenings. So, anyway...

I do realize that, if we do our job, JB will actually someday leave for her big adventure and we will not be invited. I will not be invited. And then probably years later...on some regular old day she will look down, as I have, during an unprotected moment and realize, These hands look just like my mother's.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Know The Plans

Written by Lori Chaffer

You talk of hating war
But where's your own peacetime?
You don't love anymore
All my children
You linger in your mind, "Everyone's so unkind"
But you forget about the mines you laid on your land

I know the plans I have for you
I know the things that I want for you to do
I know the plans I have for you
And it hurts sometimes to see you blind

You read up on the lies
And keep them in motion
So clever the disguise of devotion
You say that there's no time
But there you stand joking
But you forgot that I'm the one
Who weighs the words you've spoken

I know the plans I have for you
I know the things that I want for you to do
I know the plans I have for you
And it hurts sometimes to see you cry


Words from the heart of a prophet, I believe. May my fellow believers be encouraged by these lyrics to remember your responsibility to others, and your responsibility for the words you speak. For those words betray what you are so desperately trying to hide in your (black) heart. "So clever the disguise of devotion", indeed.

ELEVATE, my friends, beyond the petty concerns of temporary drama. There is a bigger story here, and you're missing it! Do you think you were made for more? Then, guess what? You were!

Get desperate. Get on your face in front of your Master.

There's not enough time!

Get off the sidelines today!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Upside the Head

I love it when two areas of personal interest intersect. It's kind of like discovering a mutual friend with someone you really enjoy.

Last evening I was reading my group therapy text and, of all things, discovered an intersection between group therapy dynamics (area of interest #1) and church structure (area of interest #2). I'd like to share a quote from The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom, but first let me explain a couple of terms so that the impact of the text will be total for my kind readers.

In any group (which would include community groups, Bible study groups, etc., in addition to group therapy), there are always two things going on: content, and process. Content refers to what is said and done. But process refers to the "how" and "why" of the comments and actions. For example, if one group member is a single, young professional and another group member is a middle-aged homemaker...and the young person looks at the homemaker and says, "Parenthood is demeaning!"...the content is obviously very provocative and will probably start an argument.

But even more provocative and potentially life-changing can be the questions asked about the content, i.e. the process. Such as, "I wonder what is going on between these two individuals that he would attack her like this," or "Why did he set himself up for an attack with such a provocative statement?" These questions are referred to as process commentary.'s the quote:

"Process commentary undermines arbitrary authority structure. Industrial organizational development consultants have long known that an organization's open investigation of its own structure and process leads to power equalization -- that is, a flattening of the hierarchical pyramid. Generally, individuals high on the pyramid not only are more technically informed but also possess organizational information that permits them to influence and manipulate: that is, they not only have skills that have allowed them to obtain a position of power but, once there, have such a central place in the flow of information that they are able to reinforce their position. The more rigid the authority structure of an organization, the more stringent are the precautions against open commentary about process (as in, for example, the military or the church). The individual who wishes to maintain a position of arbitrary authority is wise to inhibit the development of any rules permitting reciprocal process observation and commentary."

If any paragraph in all of literature can sum up the problems I have experienced with the church, I think this would be it. Don't let the layperson ask how we did something, or why we made this decision. And if they do ask, give them confusing, defensive, or deflective answers. Because we have to hold this thing together! Right? Isn't that the church leader's job?!

Actually, no.

As I read the Scripture, it's Jesus at the top and then the rest of us. Variously gifted, but equal. And just because someone is gifted to be a teacher or visionary (is that word even in the Scriptures?) doesn't mean they automatically make better decisions than one who is gifted to be hospitable, for example, and therefore should restrict the flow of information or the give-and-take of an equal relationship.

I think the most unfortunate thing in all of this is that less change happens. Less personal change, because we're all hedging and angling and hiding our true (black) hearts. I think Jesus said something about white-washed tombs that may apply here...

And isn't it everyone's job to love God first, and then love people? A tall order, no doubt, that none of us will perfect (I am so far from this that I can't imagine myself ever, in all of eternity, perfecting this) -- but one that gets so clouded by our natural fears and faults.

And, I am now even willing to say, our institutions.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery...

Ok, do any of the other mommies out there wonder about yourself sometimes??

While I was pregnant with Jelly Bean, El Jefe and I discussed the benefits of cloth diapering which included financial as well as environmental concerns. We decided we'd do it, and I asked my sister - who has done this with her three children - for her advice. She directed me to this blog post, which she authored and which is fabulous. Additionally, when she was here helping us with JB a couple months ago she brought some covers and liners with her. Awesome! I thought. Diapers for free for the first few months!

Well, somewhere along the way, I lost one small piece of information. Cloth diapering consists of three pieces: the cover (furthest from baby's bum), the prefold diaper (in the middle), and a liner of some sort (closest to baby's bum, to pull moisture away). Remember, SB brought just covers and liners, and I was supposed to supply my own diapers.

I tried several times to put cloth diapers on JB, but every single time it would turn into a big, leaky mess. When people would ask how it was going, I would say, "I guess it's just not for us. I just can't get it to work. Maybe when she's older."

I just now in this moment realized -- I was only using the cover and the liner! I never inserted the actual diaper into the cloth diaper!! Oh geez...

You know...some people in this life are gifted with an ability to consider the practical details of living such as house cleaning, bill paying, and how to properly assemble a cloth diaper. Others of us are gifted in other, less tangible, ways such as writing a piano sonata or authoring a ten page paper in an afternoon, and are almost always completely eluded by practical concerns.

Nevertheless, I will not be bested by the cloth diaper! I will overcome! We are purchasing covers, liners, and (yes, even) prefold diapers in JB's current size, and we will use them with success!

Let it be written. Let it be known.

Monday, June 7, 2010

HB's Oatmeal Squares

I got this recipe from my sister, HB, and made them this weekend. They are yummy! And, as El Jefe and I figured it up...they cost about 40 cents per square. (I have a very budget-conscious husband.) He eats two at a time, but one is enough for me.

If you want to offer something homemade to your family for breakfast, but don't have very much time in the morning, these are perfect. I just cut them into squares, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and stored them in the fridge. So without further ado...

3 c oats (either quick-cooking or regular)
1 3/4 c buttermilk or sour milk (see below for sour milk directions)
1/2 c veg oil, coconut oil, or room-temperature butter
4 eggs
1/3 c honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, or white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2 c raisins (or any other dried fruit)
2 c chopped apples (or pears, or get the idea)
1 c chopped nuts

1. In a large mixing bowl, soak the oats and buttermilk or sour milk covered on the kitchen counter overnight, or at least for a couple hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Add the oil, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla to the oats mixture. Beat for 4-5 minutes, until ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in the fruit and nuts.

3. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean.

4. When completely cool, cut into 16 squares. They'll be very, very moist, so be ginger! Or be Maryann! Be whomever! Just take care not to tear them apart. They need to be refrigerated, and you can heat them up in the microwave when you're ready to eat them.

Other Options: Try whatever add-ins you think will be good in place of the fruit and nuts. HB said dried cranberries and white chocolate chips are fabulous, and I can't wait to try that variety!

Sour Milk: In a small bowl, stir together 1 3/4 c milk (less 1.5 tsp) and 1.5 tsp white vinegar. Allow it to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes to sour. This is kind of a gross step, and you can just use regular milk if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it. There's just something about that acidity in the finished product that makes it so, so good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I HATE Cleaning...

...but then, who loves it?

Probably the main reason I avoid cleaning is that I don't believe I have enough time. It's rare that I have an entire day, or even an entire morning, to spend uninterrupted on getting my house spotless. So, I devised a cleaning calendar that spreads the workload out over a four week period.

I actually came up with this when the Hunk and I were housesitting for a year at a really nice place, which happened to be much bigger than anywhere else we had lived, and I was definitely overwhelmed by the idea of keeping that house clean! Well, now we have a cute little 3BR/1.5BA that is much more manageable. I still use this calendar, though, b/c it helps me stay on top of the cleaning duties. (Also, the Hunk is very willing to help out when I ask for quick, specific tasks.)

So here it is. I basically broke down everything into single tasks, and then arranged them on this five-day/four-week calendar so that I only have to do two or three tasks per day. And weekends off! Notice the quickhand at the bottom, and that this is for a 1.5BA house, so we only have one bathtub to clean. Also I didn't put those continuous tasks on here - namely, doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen.

I offer this in hopes that you can use it at least as a starting point if you don't already have a plan of attack for cleaning your house. Because, after all, having a plan for something like this is almost always better.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"I would never do anything to hurt you"...and other lies

"I would never do anything to hurt you."

I've said it before. I think maybe I said it a couple weeks ago to Jelly Bean, our infant daughter, in one of the several outpoourings of motherly emotion I've been experiencing since she turned our lives upside down two months ago. I didn't mean to lie. Really, I didn't. But today I realized that's exactly what I had done.

You see, she had her first round of vaccinations today.

(Disclaimer: If my gentle readers happen to have views on the hot button topic of vaccination that are contrary to my own, they may be better served by inserting some other medical procedure in its place. Or at least, the point of my blog post will be better served. I have done my due diligence in research and we're getting the shots. That's not what this post is about.)

So she had her first round of vaccinations today, and just two weeks ago I told her that I would never do anything to hurt her. If she weren't still happily oblivious to much of what we call reality, she'd be one confused baby girl. As it is, she has spent 90% of the day since we got home in bed and the remaining 10% in my arms, looking into my eyes and - no other word describes it - whimpering. Thank God for baby tylenol. Seriously. Or I'd be a basket case.

And while I was holding her, looking into her eyes as she looked into mine, I realized something. I can't explain this to her in a way that she'll understand. I mean, I still tried. "Honey, I know those shots hurt really bad when you got them, and you're probably still very sore. But they are good for you, and they'll keep you from getting sick." She just stared. All she knows right now is the hurt. All she knows is that she was laid out on that hospital table, and that lady with the cold hands grabbed her leg, and did something...and after 1.5 breathless seconds (because her Mama felt it, too), she cried like she's never cried before. And then her mother, the one who had delivered her to this small room for this maltreatment, instantly scooped her up and cried with her.

Some things have happened to me, and maybe something's happened to you too, that have hurt. It hurt so bad, and happened so fast, and was so unlike anything I had ever experienced, that I was shocked into this outraged sadness. I wanted answers. I wanted to understand. And I wanted to understand so that I could see it coming next time, damn it.

Well, guess what? I saw it coming this time. It didn't make it any easier.

And when my Father scooped me up and held me close as I raged at Him about the pain, He didn't say anything. Or at least, that's how it seemed. What if He did try to explain, and I couldn't understand? He is timeless; I am bound in time. He is Creator; I am the created. He holds the universe in a delicate balance; sometimes I can't even make a good spaghetti sauce.

So. I tried to explain to my girl what had happened. She just whimpered in response, and then nuzzled her face into the crook of my arm as she fell asleep.

"O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever."

Psalm 131

Oh for faith, to trust Him more.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Birth Story

Well, here goes nothing.

I had a relatively uneventful pregnancy until the very end. Some mild morning sickness in the first trimester slowed me down a little. But then the awesomest second trimester ever (or at least I assume, since I've only had one) followed it. I felt fabulous physically, mentally, in every way. I don't think I have ever felt more "on top of the world" in my life than I did during this time. The third trimester brought with it more fatigue and some dramatic emotions (bless my husband's heart), and some pretty remarkable swelling. I felt like a big ol' tomato, and more than one stranger in the grocery store asked about my due date and informed me that they thought I could go at any moment. Thank you. Thank you so much.

But all in all, I still felt okay - at least not out of the ordinary for a full-term pregnant woman - and I began preparing for natural childbirth. Some people (interestingly, most had never been pregnant) told me I was crazy, but I remained confident that my body was made to do this and I could manage the pain. My husband, who is a registered nurse, and my obstetrician both cautioned me to stay open to other forms of childbirth just in case something happened or I had a change of heart during labor. I agreed to this, and learned what I could about natural childbirth while keeping a caveat in my mind for the special situation.

My due date was Friday, Feb. 19, and when I went for my weekly check-up on the previous Tuesday I had not progressed at all. The doctor noticed my swelling, but my blood pressure and other tests were fine. He scheduled me for the next Monday, Feb. 22, to see my regular OB who had been on vacation. If I had not progressed by the 22nd, I planned to ask my doc to wait another week to induce. I wanted to give my body as much time as I safely could to go into labor on its own.

I showed up at 8:50am on the 22nd, and thus began the roller coaster ride. My blood pressure was very high, and they found protein in my urine - both signs of preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that a small percentage of pregnant women can develop late in pregnancy. I also told the doctor for the first time that I had experienced blurry vision (another sign) for the last couple of weeks. I just happened to mention it, as I didn't realize it was related to preeclampsia. Given all of this data, he was noticeably concerned and told me he wanted to deliver my baby "sooner rather than later".

I said, "Well, I was going to ask for another week..." He just looked at me; he obviously did not like that idea. So I said, "...but you're the doctor, so you tell me."

"I'm on call tomorrow," he said, "so I would like for you to check in to the hospital tonight." Right then, I realized that we were going down a different path than natural childbirth and I started to get a little emotional (which was honestly not rare at all during this time), but I held it in. He explained the basic schedule of what was going to happen at the hospital, and then he had to go and ask me how I was feeling! Well, I pretty much lost it then. If my sweet sister, Holly, wouldn't have been there with me, I would have felt even crazier than I already did. I was disappointed, and I was starting to get scared, and she really helped me feel normal. My doc did, too, and he assured me everything was going to be okay. They put me on the baby monitor for a little while, and the baby's heart rate and activity were stable, so he sent me home and told me to get some rest.

Side note :: It is still quite ironic to me that I was tasked with getting some rest on the day before the birth of my daughter.

I did get some rest physically, but mentally it was not even possible. My mom and grandma came over to help me pack my hospital bag (I know, I know...) and do other last minute things, so I could just lay around and wait to go to the hospital. Jeff got home from work around 6pm, and we were out the door at 7:30pm. I checked into the hospital that night, and they started pitocin at 7am the next morning.

I still tried to deliver without an epidural at first, because I was afraid it would slow down my labor. The contractions were manageable at this point - definitely the first stage - and sometimes I wasn't even aware I was having one until I looked at the monitor. At 1pm, my doctor came in and broke my water, and suddenly the contractions were really, really intense. There was almost no down time between contractions, either, and I wasn't mentally prepared for this huge increase in the pain level.

Around 3pm, I asked the nurse to check my progress. I told myself (no one else at this point) that if I was 5cm or less, I would ask for the epidural. She checked, and I was 3cm. Additionally, when she finished she said, "You know, I think that was a booty I just felt. It wasn't hard. It was soft." I felt a wave of fright come over me, and I whispered, "C-section." No one had said anything about that to that point; we weren't even 100% sure that she was breech. I believe it was the Holy Spirit who put those words in my mouth so I wouldn't be totally freaked later.

My nurse went to get the charge nurse, who check me as well and did an ultrasound and confirmed that Ava was breech. Then they called my doctor, who was there in 30 min, and he checked me AGAIN (3 times in less than an hour) and did another ultrasound. Oh, and at some point in there, they inserted the epidural. It's hard for me to remember the order of everything during that time. This definitely helped take the edge off the contractions, though, for which I was grateful. My doctor told me that my baby was frank breech and wasn't descending at all, so he wanted to just do a C-section. He led us in a prayer, then said he would be back in a couple hours to perform the surgery. I was so anxious for him and the nurses to leave the room so I could just be alone with Jeff and my mom, and as soon as they were out the door, I just lost it. I don't think I have ever cried that hard; I just needed some way to let it all out.

And I don't remember much of the next couple of hours. I may have slept some. The doctor got back to the hospital at 5pm, but we had to wait for the surgery room until 6pm due to another C-section. Finally they wheeled me in there. I do remember feeling good at this point...much less pain, and I knew I would see my little girl very soon. The doctor told me that he was going to pinch me, and if I feel anything I must tell him. Well, I really felt it. So they dosed the epidural again. Five minutes later, another pinch, and I still felt it. They did this two more times and it still didn't take completely, so they decided to do a spinal block. After everything else, this was the final straw for me mentally and emotionally, and I consciously decided to just shut down.

I didn't feel the insertion of the spinal block at all (thank God), and while it caused some nausea, it worked. Five minutes later, our baby was born. And while I was so far from the natural childbirth that I wanted, I did feel it when the doctor pulled her out; it felt like someone was pushing down on my chest. When I heard her cry, I cried from joy and relief. I have never praised the Lord like I did in those moments.

One very cool thing was that Jeff was the first one to see her and talk to her. The doctor had to give her to the NICU nurses to make sure she was breathing properly and had all the meconium cleaned out of her airways. I sent Jeff over to the warming table because I wanted her to at least hear someone she could recognize. I remember him saying, "Hey, baby girl. This is your daddy. Everything is going to be okay." He just said it over and over. What a wonderful moment for them to share! He was so calm and reassuring to her, and to me. The first time I held her was special, too. I couldn't believe how much I already loved her, and as soon as I saw her! My heart just ached, like it does when you fall in fact, I was falling in love. I remember thinking, "Nothing will ever be the same."

And it hasn't.

[Here's a pic of our little Jelly Bean just moments after her birth. They had just taken her foot prints. Jeff is holding her hand. Also, the position of her legs will give you some indication of how she was arranged in the womb.]

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mothering In Community

New season of life. New blog title. Why not?

The URL will remain the same as I don't want to lose or forget about what I've already written here, so come here for my new thoughts - and hopefully some new discussions - about this thing that I've been doing for thirteen days called BEING A MOTHER.

(Holy crap.)

Still feeling quite overwhelmed by that title as, naturally, it's something my mother would do and not me. But I can now state with a modest amount of force that I am not as overwhelmed as I was a week ago. A week ago, when I would be rocking our little Jelly Bean to sleep and trying to sing Brahms' Lullaby to her...and couldn't make it through ten notes without bursting into tears from joy and terror. Yes, both. Simultaneously.

"Oh my, I have a baby! Oh my...I have a baby?!"

Now would be a good time to say that I'm going to be as unfiltered as is possible in this public forum.

Because apparently this mothering thing is not for the faint of heart.

No, not exactly right, for I have "fainted" plenty over the last couple of weeks. More than I have in any two weeks of my life to date. But as my wonderful pastor said in church this morning (we watched it online), many times when God asks you to do something, He knows you can't do it. He's asking you to do it so that you can learn more about relying on Him.

So I hereby declare for the first of what will be countless times...I am, naturally, pretty self-focused. I have been childless for all of these thirty-two years, after all. I want to sleep when I want, and eat when I want, and shower when I want. I mean, a girl's got to have her dignity after all, right? Right?! Why isn't anyone saying anything?!!

Dignity is not adaptive to current conditions, and I can either hold fast to it and sink this ship, or I can release it and get about the business of surviving. (For me, just having this baby did a good job of loosening lots of that dignity, but that's another story for another time.)

So. I'm trying to eat when I can, and sleep and shower when I can. And maybe someday I'll start cleaning the kitchen again. But for now, this is enough for me.

Actually, in terms of responsibility and blessing, it's more than enough for me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Month And Counting

Exactly one month from my due date, I am feeling...honestly, pretty tired. And achy. But that's just physical stuff. Emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, I feel like I am just primed and ready to go! Ready to have our little girl with us and start the adventure of parenthood with her daddy. I am marveling today at the amazing timing of our Father. Throughout my life, His timing has remained to me the most mysterious and, ultimately, most praise-inducing aspect of His workings in my life.

Great is His faithfulness. His faithfulness is great.

When the Hunk and I met, nearly five years ago, it was a normal Sunday at church and we exchanged just a few words. We were attracted to each other, but that was about it for a couple months. I was kind-of-dating someone else at the time, and he wasn't interested in pursuing a relationship. The kind-of-dating relationship fizzled, as they often do. And then suddenly, here was this guy. And the more time we spent together, the felt. For both of us. And I remember thinking, "If we would have met a year ago, we might have completely passed each other over." I had learned some things and matured in some ways that, if I had met him earlier, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. His story is the same, by the way. And as it turns out, we are amazingly well-suited for each other. So...TIMING. Providence.

One of the ways in which we are well-suited is regarding our decision-making process. I tend to make quick, gut-level decisions, and he likes to consider each decision very carefully before he makes up his mind. So, yeah, we can really freak each other out sometimes. :) But we're learning, as you must do in marriage if you're going to have a peaceful and positive experience, to accept and even appreciate what your spouse brings to the table. You gotta learn how to work with what you've got. So when we (finally, from my perspective) decided to try to have kids, I was ready.

A year ago tomorrow, I was sitting in my doctor's office awaiting the results of a pregnancy test. I had taken one at home which had given an ambiguous result. It had the one line it was supposed to have, and a little sliver of the other line. Drove me crazy! :) So I went to the doctor. It was President Obama's Inauguration Day, and the cutest pictures of some multi-racial children (who turned out to be my PCP's grandkids) hung on the walls of the exam room. Let's just say my anticipation level was at an all-time high. After about ten minutes alone, the nurse stuck her head in, gave me the thumbs up, and said..."You're not pregnant!" Yes, the thumbs up. Apparently she had misread my anticipation as ambivalence, perhaps, and thought that would have been good news to me. Basically, it was not. I held it together until I saw the Hunk that night and told him what had happened.

Each month after that was a roller coaster of emotion. Is this the one? Will it happen this month? Please know that I gave it the good ol' college try to not be so excited...but I couldn't help it. I really was.

Then it finally happened! On Father's Day nonetheless, I got to tell the Hunk that he was going to be a daddy. Timing. Providence.

And today, as I sat down at my desk to start working, and saw the date...I was struck again at how perfect the Lord's timing has been in my life. I can honestly say that, even considering developments as recent as a week ago, I have never been more prepared to have a child. Is the nursery completely put together? No. Do we have any clue what awaits us? Heck no. On some level we know this is impossible. So I know I'm not "ready". But I'm ready. I'm peaceful, and as the old gospel song says...

Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand,
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.