Monday, February 28, 2011

The fires...

My dad always told me as a child to stop being so "attitudinal."  When I got older and stressed over jobs or decisions, my dad told me to "quit being so pessimistic" and "lose the sarcasm."  Who knows how many times he told me to “Look on the bright side!"  Those statements (and many others) have always gotten on my nerves.  How dare someone tell me how to feel or how to act?  Who does he think he is?  My father??  … Oh, yeah.  Oops.

Well anyway, every now and then, my "sarcasmicatude" comes out, gets the better of me, and there’s no stopping it.  And the sad thing is that since becoming pregnant and having a beautiful baby girl, it seems that the pessimistic smarty pants crazy-bot in me has only gotten worse.  So, please keep in mind that I mean no harm when I shout, cry incessantly, or throw an all-out baby temper tantrum over things, especially when I'm supposed to "look on the bright side"… like with what I’m about to write.

Our home has been ransacked.  Has it been burglarized?  NO.  We did it ourselves.  We destroyed it and flipped it practically upside-down when we were digging for our most “prized, precious, priceless” possessions and memories last night.   And why did we do this?  The fires.  Fires that flared up and got a little too close to our home for comfort.

If it had just been our house, empty, I would’ve said “let the shack burn!”  Don’t get me wrong – I am thankful that we own a home.  However, it’s a fixer-upper, which we have been very slow-go to actually fix up.  So, if it burned -- well, let’s just say that losing the stress of the remodel wouldn’t break my heart.  But, it wasn’t just a shell of a house.  It’s our home, with a lifetime and a half worth of possessions (and really, I don’t need the lecture about how it’s just stuff and can be replaced.  Don’t lie -- if you lost your wallet, you’d be upset… and we’re talking about possibly losing and replacing EVERYTHING - just the thought makes me cringe).

We knew the fires were on both sides of us, and the one moving toward us was “moving fast”.  But we had no idea what that meant – did we have minutes, hours?

So, we loaded up the most important stuff.  Priceless items such as my mom's box of pictures-that I still haven't had the heart to work all the way through, btw-- and baby books went first (but not without checking first to see that my baby’s precious umbili-stump was still inside… gross, I know; but that’s a whole ‘nother story).  Next, we got all the precious gov’t paperwork that we need when we have to prove who we are… you know, so I’ll be prepared the next time someone accuses me of being Maria San Salvador because it is SO believable that this fair-skinned, blondeish haired, green-eyed American could possibly be from another country.  Maybe I could pass for Connie Souphanousinphone from Laos?? 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes… Then, as I was grabbing scrapbooks out of the basket with our old yearbooks, my husband says to just grab it all - including the yearbooks.  I looked at the hubs and thought, really??  The goal is to forget the freckled-face nerd rebellion that was my unbelievably small high school graduating class of TEN, and you wouldn’t want to just let those things burn?  What’s the matter with you?  Were you really that popular in high school?  And then I laugh.  Because I actually knew him in high school… and well… it makes me laugh.

The digital camera and computer go next – too many pictures of our darling girl are on them (and the fact that they cost hundreds of dollars to replace doesn’t hurt).  But, anyway, they get shoved in a bag and drug out to the car through the smoky air. 

And then we pack a bag with a few shirts and a pair of pants for each of us.  As my brother and mother come to help us, I try to decide what to take for Natalie.  And how do you decide what to take for a baby when you can't take it all??  We were so fortunate to be given so many awesome baby gifts – toys, clothes, crib bedding, curtains, the beautiful crib itself.  It makes me cringe to think of losing them.  As I continued to look around, I saw the changing table/dresser that her daddy painted for her, and the hand stitched wall hanging that was made for her, and then… I start to feel my eyes fill with tears.  And I’m turning round and round in circles, looking at everything and I can’t figure out which heirlooms to save (the play dishes that are some of the only things that I have from my own childhood, the clothes that were handmade for Natalie, the quilt that was handmade for her daddy but is pink because they thought he was going to be a girl).  Instead of choosing, I grab what I can and I quickly grab the clothes that were on top as I tried to hold it together.

But, yes I broke down.  I cried.  Then, I realized that I could smell smoke coming in the window of Natalie’s room.  I freaked out, and then we got in the car. 

I immediately told Taylor that I didn’t want to leave the house.  I wanted to stay.  I wanted to know what was going to happen.  The forestry service had been called in, along with lots of firefighters (lots for this area, anyway).  They were going to get it stopped.  We should stay, stand our ground.  Then, Taylor talked to our neighbors who came to check on us, and they told him that their homestead had burned to the ground.

So, we went to my parents’ house.  We could still see the flames, but we were out of the path of destruction.   Out of the horrific wind’s angry path.  All we could do was message our friends and family as we watched the flames, like angry hands grabbing at the glowing horizon.  It was getting so late that it should have been pitch black outside.  But the glow.  I’ll never forget the glow. 

They were finally able to contain the fire.  And that meant that they saved a lot of homes, including ours.  So, for a brief moment last night I thanked God for saving our home.  But then my "sarcasmicatude" returned when we came home and I realized that the smoke smell was unbearable.  Airing out the house was useless.  Comforting my baby was hopeless.  I couldn’t even give her the blanket she loves to sleep with because of it’s reeky smoke smell.  So, what to do?  What’s left to do?  Lay my head on my smoky pillow and thank God that my pillow is still there to sleep on.  That my baby is still safe in the other room.  That things are okay. 

And I am.  I’m thankful.  But as I woke up this morning, I realized that one small part of me does want to be angry.  Angry that we flipped everything upside down and have to put it back.  I just know that it is the devil seeping in, and I have to fight hard to prevent that.  So, fight the hurt I did - and that led me back to the place where I remembered what’s important.

I think that this was a huge wake-up call from God.  The hubs and I have been praying for a sign that we’re doing the right things with his career and the other big changes happening in our lives.  I don’t think that for us there could be a more significant mirrored sign:   Our lives will potentially be flipped upside down by the changes that are to come.  But rather than be upset that we flipped it upside down, we need to be thankful that everything will still be here to put back into place when things do settle down.  It may feel as though there is a fire bearing down on us with all these changes, but we need to trust God with our path just as we trusted those fighting the fire to save our home.

Or something else witty and thought-provoking instead.  

Happy flippin’ February, Everybody! 
Natalie is 3 months old!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Confessions of a Sad Day

Uh-oh.  Now that I’ve written this post I look back and realize this is two totally serious posts back-to-back.  I’m thinking that something good has got to happen.  And soon!

Today hurt. 

That is the truth.  I went to pay my respects to a man who, in his own special way, made an impact on a lot of people.  He died on Saturday.  Suddenly.  Unexpectedly.  In a tragic accident.  

I couldn’t help but let the hurt wash over me.  I mean, that’s what you do at a funeral.  You allow yourself to hear the funny quips and the sad truths and you can cry without it being viewed as a weakness.  Two men (both of whom I have looked up to for a lot of years) cried today and seeing their tears made my own swollen cheeks damp again.

That’s the thing… I cried.  I never allow myself to cry, either.  My husband says that I build up this wall of grief and I tackle emotions by myself.  “Why won’t you let me help you?” is a question he often asks me.  The truth is that it’s easier to keep my million-mile-an-hour pace than it is to give in to my emotion when I am really upset.

It’s not just because of the funeral, because of this loss of such a wonderful human being.  That would be enough, I would think.  However, it is so much more.  I saw his children sitting at the front of the memorial.  I saw his daughter smile as she looked around and saw all the people who loved her father gathered in this place.  I was jealous of her.  In the face of this horrible tragedy, she has been blessed with her father's gloriously sunny disposition.  And I am SO not that person. 

I sat in my seat with my own beautiful, smiling daughter in my arms. And I got this horrible feeling as the memory of losing my mother as a child came to my mind.  Seven years old and I had already defined how to compose yourself when you lose a parent, and I was acting the same way all over again --  putting on a brave face and not crying because I didn’t want the world to see my vulnerability.  And that’s when I broke today.  I saw those older men, my mentors, with tears on their cheeks.  I saw this family that has now been broken by the loss of a great man, and … I lost it.  I actually cried.

Then, I allowed myself to feel the sadness and anger over the things that I have been pretending don’t bother me.  First, there is the fear of our entire unknown future as we embark on a possible new journey with our careers (especially Taylor).  He is hard at work on his principal certification, and that may mean moving again.  That total unknown scares me a lot. 

Then, there is the anger I feel toward the guy who installed our heating and air conditioning.  He came in August and did the installation, but didn’t install the furnace properly.  He said he’d be back in two weekends.  Three months later, the day after Natalie was born, he came to fix the furnace so our baby would have heat (but only after Taylor left him a message shaming him for leaving our house so that our newborn would come home without heat).When he fixed the furnace, he changed the air conditioner so that it now won’t work (and he also damaged our ceiling in two rooms).  So, he said he’d be back the very next weekend to fix what he had messed up and finish the work.  Because my husband and I were in the hospital with the brand new baby, my dad was with him finishing the work.  He clearly wasn’t done, but my dad trusted the guy, took his word that he'd be back, and paid him the remainder of what we’d agreed to pay him.   We did not trust him and were not planning to pay him until everything was completely finished.  And now I know us not trusting him was the right thing.  Here we are, Natalie is almost 3 months old, it’s getting hot (80’s today), and we don’t have a functional air conditioner.  (In case you weren't keeping track, it's been over 6 months now since he initially came to do the installation.)

It’s times like these that I question everything.  Do I have the right to be hurt?  The right to be angry?  I mean, I can’t help it but sometimes I feel so unworthy of my feelings.  Like, how can my mom’s death still hurt my heart?   It has been over 16 years.  And I pretended for so long that our miscarriages didn’t even happen.  Do I deserve to mourn them now?  Or the losses of our failed adoptions?  Or what about our little foster baby?  We know he now has a wonderful and stable home with friends of ours.  Is it wrong to look back and be sad about the day he left our home?  Am I allowed to be upset that our home is in a state of limbo when it comes to climate control?

Am I allowed to mourn the loss of this ag teacher who seems to have been taken from the earth too soon?  I don’t know.  My prayer is that God will comfort me, knowing that he is now in heaven. 

I pray that God will help me to feel better about … no actually, that leads me to realize my real prayer.  Taylor asks me why I won’t let him help me.  Why I never cry.  Why I won’t allow myself to hurt or feel.  So, my prayer is that God will help me to feel.

I am almost there.  I still feel totally unworthy of that precious baby girl I just laid in her crib to sleep.  It is my wish that my own level of self-worth will increase… because I never want her to question her own value.  She is everything.  She deserves the very best -- and that includes the very best possible version of her mother.  Lord, please hear this prayer.  I give my tears to You, and I give my fears to You.  Help me to remember that You created me, and that means that I am worthy of all that You have given me.  You created my angel baby, and she is definitely worthy of everything I can offer and more.

Today’s burial service was in the heat of the day, right at 2 pm.  I now have a sunburn (ridiculously, it is a red blotch with a fair colored outline of the huge cowhide cross necklace I was wearing now ingrained in the middle of my chest).  It’s like I have been physically branded by my hurt. 

Here’s the thing -- my swollen cheeks and puffy eyes will go down and my sunburn will fade, but the imprint left on my heart by this day will remain.  I have opened my eyes.  I see the Truth; I’m just having to take the progress one step at a time.

How do you dress an almost 3-month-old
for a funeral taking place in 80-degree heat?
Comfortably, I guess.
...And yes, that's her bath seat. 
What?  She likes it more than her bouncer. ;)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Painful Protection

1 shot in the left leg, 2 in the right...

So, yesterday my baby got her 2-month shots.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced.  To see my baby’s gorgeous smile.... turn to a frown, and then to a cry… looking into my eyes with this hurt look, like I had completely betrayed her, on her tiny precious face… I am about to cry again now just remembering the moment.

The thing is, we spent so long trying to conceive.  Then, I treated my body like a balloon for my entire pregnancy; too fragile to do too much with such an angel growing inside.  Then, she arrived - more perfect than I could have ever imagined.  And I cannot STAND to see her hurting.  I just want to keep her from any pain!

And then I realize the sad, awful truth.  This is just the first of many hurts that she will feel.  The first of many times that I will try to hug and kiss away the pain.  And I allowed it!!  I could have easily not made her have them, right?

No, WRONG.  These are to protect her from being more seriously hurt (by illness and possibly fatal diseases).  So, this was for her own good.  It got me to thinking about other times I may have to let my baby hurt so that she will be better for it in the future.  I mean, it’s true – we learn from pain.  You touch a hot frying pan once, and I’ll bet you never reach for it again without checking to make sure it isn’t hot.  That’s how we protect ourselves.  But then again, I would never allow my baby to touch a frying pan if I knew what she was doing.

Just like I won’t want her to make friends with people who can hurt her heart, and I won’t want her to have boyfriends who could break it.  Can’t she just stay this little forever??  She is completely precious, and (excluding the shots from yesterday) completely innocent of pain, in all of its forms.

This being a Mommy business is heartbreaking.  I just think of how I could possibly nurture, guide, protect, and love this little being with all my heart.  I know that I can do that much – I already am!  But, when I imagine how I am to cultivate all the values, morals, and ethics that will make her into a good person… the thought scares me to death, honestly.

But, we were blessed with this beautiful being.  It is up to us to help mold her into the best possible person she can be. And I absolutely thank God for entrusting me with such an amazing task. 

Now, I'm not a very serious person.  Most of the time when there's a serious moment, I have to ruin it with, *ahem* break the tension with a joke or something to make people laugh.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I have a totally serious series of thoughts.  Like the overall cloaking of my daughter's heart and body.  So, I'll just end with this -- does anyone know if it's legal to keep your children locked inside your home?  Hey, she would be protected.  (Please note:  I said protected, not overprotected.  Maybe I do belong in a nut house.)

Well, she is still able to put a smile on her face...
So, maybe she will survive, after all.  :)