Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Learning to Knit Socks: Seasons 1-4 and Season 5, Days 1-7 AKA I'm glad nobody has a time lapse video of the process

Season one:  Last fall

I started noticing all the cool sock yarns in the fabric stores.  Most of the patterns were for knitting.  I rarely knit, due to the higher risk of losing my work if the needles get jostled by little ones. 

"Oh, well," thought I, "I guess I won't be using any of those cool yarns any time soon."

Season two:  Early Last winter

I bought some cool yarn for Louisa to make some socks for a friend.  I found out she wanted to make obnoxious socks, not nice ones.  She therefore didn't want my nice sock yarn. 

"Oh, dear,"  thought I, "I will have to figure out something to do with it."

I found some crocheted sock patterns, and didn't like them. 

In a weak moment, I gave into temptation.  I not only bought double pointed knitting needles, I also bought a second variety of sock yarn. 

Season three:  Late last winter and into spring

I kicked around and tripped over all my piles of yarn.  I growled at the kids when they got into it and strewed it all over my bedroom.

"Grrrrrr,"  thought I.  Actually that's probably what I said out loud.  Sadly, my thoughts might have been a bit more colorful.

Season four:  Last summer

I took the yarn out several times to look at it.

"Hmm?"  thought I.  "Nope, probably not going to happen any time soon."

Season five:  This fall

"It's time," thought I, "to learn how to knit socks."

Days one through four: 

I got out my knitting needles and some regular yarn to refresh my memory.  Nothing I did worked right. 

"Grrrrr,"  thought I.

I crocheted two scarves and a baby afghan instead.

Day five:

I opened my double pointed needles and read the pattern. 

"Oh, dear,"  thought I.  "Not today."

I put the sock knitting stuff back in the bag and tied it shut.

Day six:

I watched some videos on using double pointed needles.

I also cast on the correct number of stitches onto one needle and divided them onto the others as the beginner videos recommended. 

I knit and purled the first needle, according to instructions for the k2p2 ribbing.

"I see," thought I, "why Haleigh suggested learning the Hold the thread in your left hand method."

All that switching the yarn back and forth between the teeny tiny needles, with the teeny tiny yarn, and all eight points of the dpns hanging all over the place, takes way to much time.  Very annoying. 

"I'm glad"  thought I further, "I only have to do 1 1/2" of this k2p2 ribbing."

A little while later, I pulled everything out and put away the yarn and the dpns.  I tied the bag shut once again.

Day seven:

I cast on all three of my needles.  It went much better this time.  I even managed to cast on the three needles separately, rather than casting on all of the stitches onto one, and then dividing them onto the others.  (This is apparently a more advanced method.  See, I'm improving.)

I stitched the first needle with the k2p2 pattern.  When I got to the end of my needle, the pattern was off. 

"Oh, well," thought I.  "Keep plugging along.  Your pattern's off, but at least you're learning."

I got to the end of the second needle.  The pattern was further afield.

I got to the end of the third needle.  Yes, even further off yet.

I put my work in the bag, but I did not take it off the needles or tie shut the bag.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Mental Gymnastics: and other forays into the dark and cobweb strewn recesses of my mind

I've been going through a season of personal growth.  Strange but true.  I feel like a teenager in some ways.  But unlike when I was a "teen turning adult," this similar stage of "adult turning into older adult," has plenty of responsibilities to keep me from obsessing about all this personal growth and stretching through which God is leading me.  Mostly it's in the back of my mind, but sometimes some revelation comes to me that causes me to think a little bit more intently on this process.

Maybe I've written a little bit about it before.  I've been thinking along these lines, a little bit at a time, for two or three years. 

The first revelation that came to me, is that I am not my mom.  I am also not Naomi Peterson (the dear wife of the ELS Seminary President during Joe's years there, and who became in our young "wife minds," the gold standard of good pastor's wife, to which we all held ourselves).  I am not Olivia Walton.  Or Ma Ingalls.  Or my Grandma Hinderer. 

I am Mary.  I am my own unique blend of genetics and nurture and experience and faith.  I have my own unique mix of struggles and gifts.  And in order to best fulfill the vocational callings God has set before me, I have to use ME.  The ME God has made me, and not the THEM that I see in all these other women and mistakenly think I ought to be. 

This realization hit me about two or three years ago.  Since that time, I've been thinking, as time allows, of what this means.  What does it mean to be MARY?  Who is MARY?  What are the traits and gifts that make me unique, and how can I best use them?  What are some of the habits I've developed that hide these gifts or bury them?

Within this same period of time our family life has changed in some major ways.  Instead of continuing to homeschool, we put our kids into public school.  Our oldest son graduated.  We went from all elementary children, all at home; to having several high school aged kids who drive, and work away from home, and join the Marines, and go to Italy for foreign exchange. 

I stopped having babies.  At least for now.  At this time God has said, "No more."  No more of the constant pregnancies, constant newborn stage, constant nursing of infants, constant diaper bags and etc.  All that goes along with a woman at the stage in which her primary vocation is the bearing and nurturing of babies and young children.  All of that is set aside.

And related to that last is the fact that I am entering that stage of life often called peri-menopause.  The years during which a woman's hormones go stark raving mad, and which will lead eventually to full menopause.  The best description I've seen of this time of life was in the title of a blog I found a while back, Peri-menopause: Yes, it is real; and No, you are not crazy.  All the women I know who are about my age are experiencing their own unique brand of crazy.

For me, the primary example of my unique brand of crazy is this depression in which I find myself.  Through it I've seen sides of myself I hope to never meet again.  Through it, I've come to feel more empathy, understanding, and patience toward others who struggle similarly. 

And this whole depression thing also relates directly to one angle of this most recent exploration of my mind, heart, and soul.  This will be hard to describe, so please bear with me.  The reason I here draw a connection with the depression is because of the prozac I'm on.  One of my fears in going on prozac is losing my inhibitions.  I have a friend who behaved and spoke in a very uncharacteristic fashion after she went on prozac.  It was almost as though every sinful thought and deed that she had previously held in, came tumbling out in one fell swoop.  Her filters were suddenly missing.  It was a hard time for everyone close to her, until she realized what was going on and asked to be put on a different medicine.

But I'm a pastor's wife.  I can't afford to risk being irresponsible in my talk and behavior.  It is one of the things my husband and I talked about before I started taking prozac.  I can't lose my filters.  I've talked to my closest friends about these fears.  I've exhorted them to please tell me if I start talking or acting in a fashion that seems out of character.

But here's the rub.  The crux.  I'll bring it full circle later, and you'll see the full connection then.

The combination of trying to be a "good pastor's wife," and dedicating my whole self for the last 19 years to raising my children, has left me feeling like a shell.  An empty skin of person who is almost no longer ME.  Suddenly I find myself with strange new opportunities to interact with others, and have opinions, and socialize even, in ways I haven't in forever-and-a-day.  And I find that I no longer know who I am or how to behave in such situations.  How do I "put myself out there"?   And how ought I not so to do?  What parameters ought I to have?  I can no longer simply occupy myself with a fussing baby or dirty diaper in order to avoid such decisions.  I have to be.  I have to live.

Now let me be clear.  I am in no way implying that mothering children is not living or being.  It is probably the richest sense of life and being that there is.  But like anything else in this life, it will gradually come to an end.  Even now, even with almost all my children still at home, and two little ones still home all the time, even now my life has changed.  My whole entire self is not occupied in the minutiae of mothering, as it was in former times.  And those portions of myself that are now less occupied are having a little bit of a hard time figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and who they ought and ought not to be.

I used the following phrase with Joe the other day, "I'm tired of being good.  I've been good for so long I don't know how to be Mary."

Joe's response, "What part of Mary is not good?  Why do Mary and good have to be opposites?"

My instinct is to respond, "No part of Mary is good.  Every inclination of my heart is only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)

And that's the truth.  But that's not really what I meant, nor was it what Joe meant. 

Mary is an OK person.  Not perfect, but OK.  She messes up and is forgiven.  She's washed in the Bood of the Lamb. 

Mary is fun and energetic and creative and silly.  But she is also prone to sticking her foot in her mouth.  She tends to be obnoxious and annoying.  She is a huge klutz and also very prone to distraction.  She is insecure in certain social situations and behaves awkwardly. 

I feel as though, so as not to risk annoying anyone at Joe's churches, that I've turned off any of the fun and energetic and creative and silly parts of MARY-ness; in order to avoid risking the other less desirable parts of my personality showing through.  I'm certainly not perfect.  I am nowhere near "the perfect pastor's wife."  And I don't really expect myself to be.

But instead of being a bad pastor's wife, or a good pastor's wife, I feel as though I am nothing.  I have become a bland and totally neutral nothingness, so that I don't risk bothering or annoying anyone.  (Yes, I know, I know.  I have almost certainly not avoided annoying people.  There are probably plenty of people out there who periodically just want to grab me and shake me!  But still, trust me, I've not been nearly as annoying as I might have been.  Just trust me on this, OK.)

I had opportunity this weekend to attend a social occasion.  We were invited to an anniversary dinner with a large group of people, an extended family into which we have been welcomed as part.  This family is great fun to be around.  They are all generous and loving and would give the shirt off their backs to anyone in need.   But more, they tend to give of themselves in other numerous ways when there is any kind of need.  They are an excellent example of a family that sticks together through thick and thin.

But I digress.  The dinner was at a supper club, and before it got started, we were all standing around the bar area, visiting.  I was not drinking.  I seldom do.  The practical side is that it's simply not in our budget to drink socially.  But another part of it is that, in the name of responsible behavior, I don't trust myself to drink publicly very often.  And yet a third factor is that socially awkward part of myself that freezes into stupidity when asked if I want anything to drink.  I simply cannot remember what I like to drink and how to order.  I'm very out of the habit of such things. 

So returning to the social occasion of the other night, the first few times someone asked me if I wanted anything to drink, I turned them down. 

It's easy that way.  "No thanks; I'm fine." 

But eventually I went out on a limb and ordered.  Of course I couldn't think of anything to order, so I just pointed at Kelly's drink and said, "I'll have one of those." 

(And I have to say, although it was totally a "candy" drink, it was really good.  Cake vodka and Dr. Pepper!  Can you believe there's such a thing?  Cake flavored vodka!  What will they think of next?)

But enough of that.  In the joking and trying to explain about how my brain freezes because I'm so out of the habit, I mumbled something about something...I don't even know what I said.  But Kelly's response stuck with me.  Not because it bothered me in any way.  But because it made me think again of this naggling question that's been on my mind of late, "WHO IS MARY?"

Kelly said, "Do I need to ask you each time we're together whether you are pastor's wife, Mary; or friend, Mary? I could ask you which hat you have on."

And there's the thing.  Friend Mary is Pastor's wife Mary.  I am me.  All my various facets.  I am the mom of many, Mary.  I am the formerly constantly pregnant and caring for little ones, Mary.  I am the homeschool mom, Mary.  I am the Christian, confessional Lutheran, Mary, who is able to hold her own talking theology with pastor types.

I am the awkward, geeky, curious, fun, dorky, energetic, silly, foot-in-mouth, Mary.  I am all these things. 

But for the first time in many years, I have opportunity to figure out how to assert these parts of ME-ness.

I have the leisure, so to speak, to BE rather than merely to SURVIVE.  In all the rush and adrenaline of  being a mother of many, a homeschool mom, and a pastor's wife, I never had time to even think about how to behave.  I mostly just shut up and smiled politely.  And every once in awhile I spoke my mind or let a little energy and enjoyment shine through, and usually felt bad for doing it afterwards.  Isn't that crazy?

So, now that I've realized all this, I feel as though I am on a quest to FIND MARY.  But, and here's where things get dicey again, and you'll finally get to see the whole circle...Is this a good thing?  Or is it the prozac tempting me to such indulgences?  It sounds silly to put it into words.  But there it is.  Is being myself a sinful indulgence?

And the answer, quite obviously is both yes and no.

We are certainly called to control our sinful inclinations.  God's righteousness is absolute.  The Law is unbending and unswerving.  We are called to perfection.  Be perfect as God is perfect. (Matthew 5:48). 

The disciples had to leave their nets and follow Jesus.  They were still fishermen, of course.  That was the livelihood through which they provided for their families.  But they were called to change.  To change their focus.

Jesus says to take up our cross, to deny ourselves, and flee temptation.  We are to love others more than ourselves.  St. Paul exhorts us to take every thought captive to obey God. (II Corinthians 10:5).

But we are also given our own personalities.  God wants us to use ourselves to His glory.  All the aspects of our personality.  They are all good and bad.  But we dare not hide our talents in fear of our hard master. (Matthew 25, Luke 19).

We are created in God's image, but that image is soiled by sin.  How do we justify these difficulties?

And that leads me to where I am today.  And really, to where I've always been.  I live by grace.  Every day, I get up and do my thing.  I make choices; I do the work put before me.  Sometimes (most times) I will mess up.  Even when I don't mess up in any obvious ways, my accomplishments are tainted by sin.  My very life's work is blemished. 

But it's also cleansed.  The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses me from all sin. (I John 1:7).  Although my sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18).

I am given the wedding garment, the clean and pure covering of Jesus' righteousness with which to cover myself. (Matthew 22).  Through this alone is anything I do worthy.  Only through this are any of my works good.  Without it, all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6).

And because of Jesus' righteous life, because of His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection, because of these gifts of God, even my works that are most definitely not good, are made good and pure.  They are made holy.  Sanctified.  Set apart as good.

And that's who MARY is, first and foremost.  An adopted child of God.  A sister of Jesus, Himself.  A washed and new creature.  A woman who still lives in this world and will mess up.

But who is baptized into Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Simple Pleasure of Sharing in Cultural Silliness

Inge and Donna sang all through lunch today.  The Itsy-bitsy Spider, Sing a Song of Six Pence, London Bridge is Falling Down, etc.

Regarding the Itsy-bitsy Spider, however, I've never gotten them converted to the word, "itsy-bitsy," their preferred pronunciation being, "insy-binsy."  If I sing it the "right" way, they correct me.  So I've just kind of given up.  It's not really important anyway, right?  I think they can still grow up to be reasonably stable adults.

Today at lunch I asked Inge what insy-binsy meant?  She said it meant spider.  Donna laughed at that, so I asked Donna what it meant.  She giggled and shrugged her shoulders.

I explained, "The way I learned it, the words are itsy-bitsy, and that means little tiny.  But, "I continued, in kind of a puzzled sort of tone, "I'm not sure what insy-binsy means."

Hmm, that got them thinking a minute, but then they started in singing once more. 

Joe was getting his tomato sauce out of the canner in the kitchen, and he piped up from the other room, "Down came Duane and washed the spider out.  Hey, who's Duane?"

Then he continued, with his particular brand of silliness, "Knock knock."

Without missing a beat, the girls responded, "Who's there?"

I was getting ready to give what I thought was a very silly and unrelated pun. 

But Joe beat me to it, "Duane in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

I love that we have all this shared cultural literacy upon which to draw.  That little pun, which totally cracked me up, is only funny because of the movie, My Fair Lady.  It wouldn't make a whit of sense otherwise.  But becasue Joe and I share a background of that song, and that musical, he could grab onto that little pun and run with it.  And I got to enjoy it, even if I didn't get to say if first.  I probably enjoyed it more, knowing that we were thinking alike, even though it was obscure.

Shared culture, it's a beautiful thing.

I'd be curious to know whether any other readers saw it coming, too?  I have an inking that anyone who reads a blog this well,... confused, strange, unusual, obscure, random,... on a regular basis, just might share the same cultural silliness, too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thoughts on Depression: Part I

I have so many partial blog post ideas on this topic rattling around in my brain.  There's the ones about the myriad reasons I hesitated to take medication for depression; spiritual implications during depression; theories about how and why I slid my erstwhile slide into the abyss; my fears and trepidation for the future; and how I think things are going right now.  But it's hard to want to be always talking about myself.  I mean, am I really that interesting? 

And yet, as a stay at home mother of many, with a set of strong Confessional Lutheran principles, former homeschool mom, etc, I realize that there are others out there who go through similar things.  I know it's helpful to find resources that, if nothing else, comfort by showing that there are others who struggle in the same way.  I suspect that many of my blog readers probably fall loosely into the above description.  I have heard from many of you who have thanked me for my candor.  And it's with the goal of offering some kind of peace or comfort to others in need that I bring up this topic so often during this strange and powerful journey.

Today I'm going to try to focus long enough to write a little summary of where I've been and where I am now.

Focus and Fragility

Does that sound like a strange pairing?  It does to me.  In my practical brainy side.  But my heart knows that ways of the heart and mind in this sinful world are rarely easily categorized.  Our broken nature does not follow set rules.

Yes, I am going to use words like broken and sinful in these writings.  Because this is a sinful and broken world.  When talking of depression, there is overt sin, actions against God's laws.  When we are wallowing in the darkness of depression, we fail to love as we should, we neglect our responsibilities, and while not exactly self-absorbed, we are certainly not focused on the needs of others. 

But also, simply, this world is broken.  Things in this world don't work right.  Our bodies, our minds, nature, physics, biology.  All these things, all of nature, groan with the brokenness of sin.  (See Romans 8.)  Sin effects everything whether the overt and quantifiable sins of omission and commission; or whether simply the way the sinful brokenness of this life effects our hearts, minds, and bodies. 

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ His Son, that we are healed from all these different aspects of sin.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus' righteousness, not all the muck through which we're wallowing.  Even in the darkest hours we know, deep down inside, that this world is not the end.  We are God's children and our name is written in heaven through faith in Jesus' righteousness.  We know that even in the depths of despair and emptiness, our Heavenly Father will never leave us.  No matter how alone and forsaken our sinful nature feels, we can depend upon the promises of God.  And finally, we know that in spite of our weaknesses and failings, God will make everything turn out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  We can't "wreck" our family so badly that God can't fix it.  I don't mean we ought to be cavalier and stop trying, of course.  I just find it a great comfort to know that He can compensate for all the ways we fail our families.

When I started healing from depression, the first thing I noticed was a feeling of once again being alive.  That, for me, was the first healing.  And it was a biggy.  Huge!  It was a glorious sensation of feeling once again.  Living.  Breathing.  Being.  All those things that had gotten lost somewhere.  In little snippets, little moments, I could feel again.  "I am alive!"  I had forgotten what it was like.

Gradually I also got my energy back.  I could keep moving, at least a little bit.  For short times, I could stay motivated on household tasks.  This energy was slower to come.  I almost despaired at times.  But when I considered that first part of healing, the feeling, I was able to hang onto hope that progress was being made, even if it was not obvious in any energy for household responsibilities.  And it did eventually come.  It's not 100%, even yet now.  But it is so much better than it had been. 

I can remember how I felt when this aspect of my recovery first started to become apparent.  I did several loads of wash a day, folded and put away, up and down the stairs several times a day.  It was astounding to me.  Really!  I was amazed at how easy those trips up and down the stairs felt.  Sometimes it was almost a sensation of flying.  I could remember how hard it had been, just a short time before, to make my feet take a trip up and down the stairs.  I'd maybe manage it only once or twice a week!  It had been nearly impossible many times.  And finally, now, here I was seeming to fly up and down all day long.  It was so freeing to not have to force myself to move.

Another aspect of healing that I noticed was in ability to focus.  This probably was the longest to come, and is the most tenuous.  I have always had trouble focusing, staying on task, keeping my mind to one thing at a time.  And in a family this size and household this busy, there are always plenty of things to distract me.  But even in this aspect, I notice gradual change.  I can read a book again.  For many months I could not.  I can plan and follow a schedule many days.  Progress is being made.  And I'm confident it will continue to improve.  I don't expect perfection.  I know my limits in this regard.  But I am hopeful I will eventually get back to what is normal for me.

But the fragile part.  This is an aspect that is still coming.  This is a strange thing that I will try to quantify for you.  Although I notice all these aspects of healing, these great and amazing improvements, they are all still tenuous.  Illusive.  My emotional strength does not have the staying power it ought to have.  Any little bit of overly busy-ness, or things that are emotionally more taxing.  Anything like this will set me back in all the other aspects of healing.  Not all the way back, mind you.  But I find I have to baby myself for a few days after any bigger emotional or physical draws. 

Or maybe I should say withdrawals.  It's as though I have a bank account of wellness.  And in times past, I could withdraw from that reserve, in terms of physical, mental, or emotional exertion.  In times past, the reserves could easily be built back up by my natural faculties.  But that building up of the reserves is not as quick for me now.  It takes a couple of days where maybe it used to only take an hour.  Where it used to take a couple of days, it's now a week or more.

It's good for me to know that.  To be aware of my limits.  I can tailor my days to cater to those withdrawals.  I can schedule things so that I allow easier days after the more taxing times. 

But this weakness is very frustrating.  I don't want to be fragile.  I don't want to have to be so focused on my own ease and health. 

That fragility worries me a little bit, too.  Especially with the shorter winter days coming.  My doctor explained that a normal course of medication for this type of depression is a six month stint.  But he also said he never recommends going off antidepressants in the fall or winter.  Since I started in the spring, I would, therefore, be using the medication for a whole year.  At the time, this bothered me.  But now that I've seen and felt real healing, I understand better.  And as of this writing, I would certainly not consider changing anything right now. 

I had felt well enough a month ago that I started wondering about going off my meds.  But I have had several very taxing weeks.  Many, many withdrawals, in the physical exertions of some very busy days, the mental exertions of keeping track of many things, and several big emotional draws. 

I feel totally depleted today.  I still feel alive, mind you.  I'm not nearly back to where I was when I started my course of medication.  Not back that far, nor that depleted.  But I do feel as though I am back to the stage at which I am just barely hanging on to any energy.  And no focus whatsoever.  None.  My brain is a big confused fog. 

I know in a few days I will be rejuvenated once again.  I'm going to baby myself for a couple of days.  But I get tired of this babying. 

I pray that by the time spring comes again, I can be independent of the medication.  I pray that my healing is complete, in the sense that my stamina is back to normal for me.  I've never been a high energy person in the sense of being able to go, go, go.  I've always had to limit my activities to accommodate my personality.  But those limits did not feel debilitating, as they do now.  I still felt competent to handle the responsibilities God had given me. 

At this time, I thank God for my very patient husband, who must be so entirely sick of this whole thing.  I love you, Joe.  I am sorry this happened.  I am sorry you have to pick up so much of the slack.  I thank you for loving me in spite of this dreary path over which I am currently traveling.

I thank God for the healing I have experienced.  I thank Him for the righteousness that I have, in spite of my sin and brokenness.  I praise Him for His eternal presence and providential care.

And I pray for rejuvenation after this recent taxing time, and for continued healing throughout the dark winter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dare I Post a Couple of Strange but Delicious Food Combinations?

I made myself a salad for lunch that I did not anticipate enjoying as much as I did. I enjoyed it so much, I'm going to tell you all about it. But I also treated myself to a bowl of ice cream mid-morning, since I am dealing with the stressful situation of having my oldest daughter traveling to Italy. I find that a little ice cream makes many things better.
Spicy Tuna and Polenta Salad

Heap your plate with
  • a bed of torn lettuce or greens of your choice
  • a spoonful of crumbled polenta (this is really left over corn meal mush, but in a fancy-pants recipe, I have to call it polenta)
  • several ounces of canned tuna
Top this with
  • a hearty blop of hummus
  • a drizzle of vinegar and oil
  • a handful of crumbled Lays Hot and Spicy Barbeque Stacks chips
It was an amazing combination of textures and flavors.  The flavors all complimented each other well, but I especially grooved on the textures.  I liked the cold of the refrigerated hummus with the spice of the chips.  The cream of the hummus with the slightly chewy bits of polenta.  The crunch of the chips and lettuce, and the wetness of the tuna.  This culinary adventure was a very stimulating tactile experience.

As an interesting spellcheck tidbit, my blogger spellcheck can only recommend one alternative for what they think is wrong with the word polenta: tadpole.  Please do not put tadpoles on your salad.  I can't be held responsible.
Hot and Sweet Icecream Combo
Top your favorite vanilla ice cream with a generous sprinkling of chocolate chips and peanuts, but don't forget to include a spoonful of spicy pepper jelly.  Mmmmm.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Feeling Maudlin; aka my Fledglings are Learning to Fly and will Gradually be Leaving the Nest

If you don't like mushy, sentimental stuff, better not read any further.  I'm going to try to put into words how I'm feeling right now.  It's personal, and parts of it might be somewhat poetic, because that's how things are aligned in my brain right now.  Not poetic, as in rhythmic and rhyming.  But poetic, as in nature and words and sounds and feelings all coming together, into something that seems to be forcing itself out of my brain and heart, and onto my blog.

My oldest son graduated a year ago.  At that time, he moved home with no definite plans.  Then he moved to a nearby town.  After a several month stint of living on his own and providing for himself, he is living at home again.  It was not terribly traumatic for me to let go of him.  He didn't go far, and now he's back.  Probably he will leave again.  Perhaps he will go further afield this time. 

As a mother, I know I must be prepared for the fledgelings to leave the nest.  My brain knows this.  My heart is in denial.

Tomorrow Louisa leaves home for her trip to Italy.  She will be there for just over nine months.  We will still be with her tomorrow; we are leaving after church for the Twin Cities to stay the night.  Her plane leaves early Monday morning.

By the time she returns, Matt will be graduated from high school, and will be in San Diego, CA, at his Marine Corps basic training.  We took family pictures recently with the idea in our minds, "Only God knows when we will all be together again."

My brain and my heart of faith reminds me that this is not our real home.  We are all strangers and wanderers in this vale of tears.  We walk the paths along which God leads us.  We accomplish the tasks He lays before us.  We fall.  We get up again.  We bask in the love and forgiveness of our heavenly Father.  We rejoice.  We cry.  We tell others of the reason for the Hope the lies within us.

But through it all, we know that this is a transient world.  We live for God, and in Him, through Jesus, we will rise again to live together in eternity. 

But my heart of flesh loves this world.  I love my family.  I love the people and things God has given into my stewardship.  I don't want to let go of them.  I really don't.

The weather outside is perfect today.  Perfect for my melancholy.  I am fighting a little bit of a chest cold, so I'm spending the day mostly in my room.  I read awhile, nap awhile, and cough awhile, play a little computer solitaire, and check my facebook and e-mail. 

But directly behind my head is the great outdoors.  I have the bedroom window open.  It's a very blustery fall day.  The sound of the wind as it fights its way through the tall poplars is that of a rushing and mighty blast.  The gusts come wave upon wave.  Loud and robust, and then quieting until only a trace of white noise remains.  The merest whisper.  But before the sound disappears completely, it starts up again into a raging vengeance.  The sound conjures up images of autumn.  Of drippy days and falling leaves.  All the greens and reds and oranges and yellows of summer are fading.  They will be replaced soon with the grays and tans and whites of a Minnesota winter.  Already some of the leaves are turning.  These last few windy days have already brought many leaves scurrying through the sky and across the lawn. 

Yes, this is a perfect day for my grief.  My heart is crying.  It is heavy with sadness.  It's not an unexpected sadness.  But the weight and mass of it has surprised me.

I have snippets of songs running through my head.  In their entirety, the songs don't match our situation.  But different lines of different songs flit continually through my subconscious mind, and when I stop and peer into the dark recesses, I can grasp the little edges of these songs for a brief look.

"It's like walking in the rain and the snow, and there's no place to go.  And you're feeling like a part of you is dying."

"And the wind will whisper your name to me."

"Sunshine, on my shoulder makes me happy.  Sunshine in my eyes, can make me cry."

"All the leaves are gone, and the sky is gray."

And this last.  It's probably the least fitting, but somehow, there it is, wrapping itself around the corners of my heart and mind, along with all the others. 

I think that perhaps it's the optimism expressed with, "I wake up to a sunny day!"  So with that in mind, Mary, get on with it. 

You've had your little cry, now on to the sunny day.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Sweet and Slightly Tragic Tale of Two Small Girls and a Couple of Very Tiny Mice

I have a friend who has encouraged me repetitively to post my family stories on my blog rather than only on facebook.  There are many of you facebook friends, therefore who may have seen this story.  So if you don't want to read the extended play version, just don't click on the link, OK?  And from now on, you may see more and more of such facebook stories repeated here.  And perhaps even an old one or two excavated from the deep, dark depths of facebook history.

As I was sitting around today doing nothing (as most moms do all day, you know) Inge and Donna came running inside. Inge's little hands were cupped closed together as if they held an exotic treasure.

Donna yelled, "We found a baby mouse.  Inge caught it!"

Joe happened to also be sitting around doing nothing.  In all truth just prior to this episode, he and I had been engaged in a rare adult conversation.  It turned out to be short-lived, to be co-opted by a more interesting adventure.

Joe called Inge over and peeked into her little cupped hands.  Yes, within was indeed a baby mouse.  Joe got Inge a small bucket into which she gently and carefully set her tiny friend.

"Will it get away?" she asked her dad.

"No, I don't think it will be able to climb the sides of the bucket.  They are too slippery, and he is too little."

They watched if for awhile. 

"Do you want to see it, Mama?"

"Mmmm.  I'd like nothing more," is the sarcastic response that flitted briefly through my mind.  But since I'm such a good mom, what came out of my mouth sounded more like, "Oh, sure.  Cute!  That is so cool."

And it was cool.  It was a very little mouse, about an inch around and perhaps just a tad longer.  Just a little round bundle of gray fur, really.  With two sparkly eyes and two teeny round ears.  And a little slip of a black tail, also about an inch long.  I have to admit, he really was quite cute.

"I can't believe you girls caught a mouse.  How did you do it."

"The cat had it first.  He was catching it in his mouth, and then throwing it, and catching it again," they explained.


Joe watched them with the baby mouse for awhile, and told them to be sure to wash with soap and water after playing with it.  Joe suspected that perhaps it had a punctured lung, since he could hear a strange clicking noise when it breathed. 

Pretty soon Joe left us to go to his church office.  A few minutes later he came back with a little covered dish in which was another baby mouse.  Funny isn't it, how the Inge can catch one with her hands, but Daddy has to use a little dish?

"Daddy, Daddy, how did you catch one?  Where did you get it?  Why did you bring another one in?"  were some of the questions cascading from the two girls, as they hopped up and down in excitement.

"The cat had this one, too," Joe explained.  "If we keep taking away any that he finds, he'll keep finding more of them, and maybe he'll eventually get the whole nest.  That's why we have a cat, you know, to kill the mice for us.  He's earned his keep today.  So you can't keep the mice, understand?  We will have to kill them.  But you can watch them for a little while longer."

As the afternoon progressed, the little girls were in and out of the living room where the mice were dwelling in the tenuous security of their bucket home.  Inge and Donna came and went, checking on and watching the baby mice.  And then whoosh, away again, off to play elsewhere for awhile.  In and out, each in its turn, as afternoon hours slipped by.

At one point, Inge was dancing with the bucket of mice, swinging it back and forth, while singing a little song.  I became a bit concerned that she'd dump them out with her antics, so I suggested she take them outside to dance with them.  Pretty soon she and Donna left the room, I assumed to go play outside.  I thought no more of the mice.

It turned out the girls did not wish to continue to look at their little friends, and dance with them, and otherwise befriend them under the watchful eye of theMom.  Unbeknownst to theMom, the girls had taken the bucket, complete with mice, into their bedroom for a more intimate interpersonal experience.

But of this further development, I remained blissfully unaware.

Eventually the older kids got home from school, with the typical rush and bustle of three kids getting off a school bus.  Each had tales of the day to relate.  They get home hungry and clamoring for a snack.  The younger ones are always eager to show me their papers and any notes from their teachers.  And the school kids, in turn, get to hear all about our day from Inge, Donna, and I.  It really gets to be quite a commotion. 

Since I was a little under the weather today, I still sat in the living room doing nothing.  When everyone got home, I tried to stay on the sidelines of the fray, keeping mostly to myself until the initial excitement quieted down. 

I heard from the other room, one of the little ones telling about the mice.

"There used to be two, but one of them kept biting us, so we smashed him."

! ? ! ? !

Of course, this is not the kind of talk I prefer to hear from my little girls.  Parents walk a fine line raising kids these days.  "Be kind to animals," and, "No bullying," etc.  But yet at the same time, we want strong and independent kids.  We want kids who know the difference between people and animals, and who if necessary, can kill their own food to provide for their families. Or kill a threatening or dangerous animal to protect themselves or others.

Yes, I realize the mice had to die.  But I must admit I was a bit chagrined to hear such a calloused explanation of the demise of one of those cute little creatures.

Sentimental, yes.  But, where to draw the line?  I struggle with this as a mom.  Where does practical end and unwonted cruelty begin?  Sigh.

The final chapter in my tale occurred a short time later.  The rush of the daily homecoming had subsided.  The snacks were eaten.  Activity had once again diminished to include only the normal hubbub of a houseful of children.

Suddenly the calm was broken by the shrill hollering of one of the bigger girls, "GROSS MOM!  There's dead mouse in the hallway!"