Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Not luck.

"God only knows the times my life was threatened just today;
A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.
Near misses all around me, accidents unknown,
Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home."

That was one of my favorite Amy Grant songs when I was a kid--"Angels Watching Over Me." I'm not really sure what I think about the whole angels thing--I think popular culture has probably overemphasized their role in our lives, but hey, there are worse ways to warp your spirituality. Anyway, I digress. The reason I've been thinking about that song so much tonight is because I had one of those guardian angel moments this evening when some kid in a fancy car took a turn at who knows how fast, jumped a median, and slammed into my van while I waited for a red light to change.

It's really weird to see a car coming at you and to know there's nothing you can do about it. The only thing I thought before he hit me was, "Oh boy, he just lost control. And now he's gonna hit me." I'll admit it, I didn't think about the fact that Abby was in the backseat. Does this make me a bad mom? Maybe that would have been the next thought, had there been time for me to have another thought. Or maybe it was part of that guardian angel thing--I wasn't scared at all. My life didn't flash before my eyes--and I've had that happen, the last time I was in an accident, though that time there was a lot of careening around on the road and slamming into stuff and airbags popping, so there was a lot more time to panic and think about what was going to happen next. But this time...I don't know, it was more like the feeling you get when you realize that, say, you're water heater burst and there's going to be a lot of mess to clean up: "Aw crap, there goes my afternoon."

We weren't hurt. The airbags didn't even go off. He wasn't coming at us at full speed, and he hit us at an angle, and on the side of the end of the car, so we didn't even get the full brunt of the impact. Abby had been crying already, annoyed that I turned off her VeggieTales music, and when we got hit she went silent for a second and then started to wail, but it was obvious it was just the shock of the impact and not from pain. When I got her into my lap and gave her my phone she was content. Given the fact that she was tired (I'd just left the house to take her out for her afternoon nap) and hungry, she was a real trooper for the hour that we were dealing with things. It's amazing how long a 17-month-old can be entertained with a cellphone and a wallet.

So now we have all sorts of fun ahead of us with our insurance and the other driver's insurance and car repairs and rentals and buying a new careseat for Abby (which just figures: that one was brand new--but California law requires that you replace a carseat that has been in a crash). Blah. And as the night's gone on my neck and back and shoulder and wrist have been aching more and more, so I'm probably in for some chiropractic visits too. But given what it could have been, this is no big deal. No big deal at all. My baby is okay, I'm okay, the car is driveable, we have insurance and so did the other guy.

Thanks, angels.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Circle of Life

Nana died last night. It was one of those things where she was breathing one second, and then she wasn't. She was sleeping at the time, too, so it was even more peaceful. We just found out Sunday that she had advanced cancer--bone, lymph nodes, liver, and lung--though the fractured vertebrae she's been dealing with since October turned out to actually be the beginning of the bone cancer, which most likely fed into the development of the others. Between then and yesterday she'd been doing sort of alright--heck, yesterday morning she had oatmeal for breakfast and was conversing with Mom--and at 5:45, when Mom was about to wake her up to introduce her to the new 24/7 hospice nurse that had just arrived, she decided enough was enough and went to Jesus.

Dad, Dan, my brother Kyle, and I had just gotten our salads at a local steakhouse when Dad's cell rang and Mom told us what had happened. We ditched dinner and went straight to Nana's house, and for the next two hours we all just hung out on the front step, waiting for the hoospice social worker to come, and then for him to do his thing. It was incredibly pleasant. Having Abby there was the perfect distraction, but no one shied away from speaking about Nana. We talked about how obvious it was that God had orchestrated things this way: Kyle and Kelli just returned Monday from Scotland, my dad had blocked off June so he doesn't have any speaking or traveling scheduled (minus a wedding he and Mom will go to in Chicago, during which he'll speak at Willow Creek's Chicago campus). It was a really lovely way to process what had happened and spend some quiet family time together.

Nana was 86. She lost a fiance in WWII, and married my grandfather, who she'd met when he was stationed in her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of the war. Her wedding cake was cobbled together from rations borrowed from various Navy officials with whom she worked--she was a "WREN", which was the women's arm of Great Britain's Royal Navy. She came to America on the Queen Mary, lived awhile with her in-laws (picture Marie and Frank Barone minus the comic relief), and after many years, at 32, was finally able to conceive a baby girl. They raised her on a gracery cashier's and a barber's incomes in the suburbs of Chicago, which got increasingly more difficult in the long-haired 60's and 70's.

They retired to Sun City, Arizona before I was born, and came to visit every fall--September to me as a child always meant the beginning of school and two weeks with Nana and Papa at our house. Nana smoked from the time she was 15; one of my fondest memories will always be sitting on the back porch of our house, doing my homework at the table there while she had a cigarette. To this day, the smell of Marlboros instantly conjures Nana's face in my mind.

She and Papa moved here to California, just 5 minutes from where Dan and I now live, in 2001. Papa had a stroke quite soon after their move, and Nana was widowed that April. (Another one of God's provision: moving her out here before that happened.) In 2002 she and I took a cruise to Alaska, something she'd always wanted to do and never thought she'd get the chance to try. I'm so grateful to have been able to set that up for her; she was still talking about that trip a couple months ago. That autumn she suffered a fall that seemed to trigger a series of problems that eventually led to her losing the sight in one eye and being unable to lie down flat because of the vertigo that would always strike. The last five years have been progressinvely more and more frustrating for her as her health seemed to slowly slip away from her. Two events took her mind off those things: a trip back to Scotland in 2004, when Dan and I were her escorts, and the birth of Abigail, who brought her constant joy and entertainment.

She was an avid reader, a crossword puzzle expert, and, in her younger years, a skilled bowler--she still has a small trophy from who-knows-when sitting on her bookshelf. She loved rummage sales when social security provided most of their retired income, and in her later years, when an inheritance from her husband's sister brought her more money than she'd ever had in her entire life, she discovered the joys of retail therapy; Chico's, Talbot's, and Coldwater Creek can thank her for keeping them afloat for the last 5 years. (Oh, and how could I forget: QVC jewelry!) After fifty years in this country her voice still had a Scottish lilt.

Life goes on. Abby's whining at my feet, my stomach is growling, and there's a load of laundry that needs to be folded. But between demands on my brainpower I will think of cups of tea shared in the evenings after supper, sitting on the porch with wisps of smoke curling through the air above my history notebook, and hands of contract rummy between Nana, Mom, and me after holiday meals.

Bye, Nana. See you in heaven.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Snitch by Rene Gutteridge

I just put up a post on my other blog about Snitch, the newest release from Rene Gutteridge in her "Occupational Hazards" series. I read the first book in this series a while back and LOVED it. Anyway, check it out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

8 Things

Okay, so I was tagged for this meme, like, three weeks ago, and I've just been so busy I haven't had time to post it. So here goes: 8 Things You Don't Know About Me. (I don't think, anyway.)

1. I was a roleplaying game addict in college. True! I had a character on Shadowrun, a jazz-singing elf who managed to befriend the head of the Yakuza AND the Ancients. (Trust me, that's impressive.) The writer in me loved it because it was like writing a story where all the characters wrote their own part of the plot, and the shy-in-real-life, lousy-at-conversationalist in me loved that I could type everything instead of having to talk--I'm so much wittier and eloquent when I'm behind a keyboard. I'd log on as soon as I got home from class and stay on until I went to bed; my roommate actually got to the point where she had trouble falling asleep if I wasn't typing. :)

2. Dan and I not only met on eHarmony.com, but we're in some of their commercials, both on TV and the radio. When they first started doing commercials, we were on all the time, but now you don't see them as much.

3. I wrote my first novel in junior high. I used to write during my other classes, two lines of text per line on the notebook paper so I could squeeze more in and not go through paper so fast, and at lunch my friends would pass around the pages I'd completed and keep up with the story. It was really melodramatic--surprise, surprise, given I was in seventh grade--and until 2002 it was the longest piece of writing I'd ever done (and the only book I'd ever finished).

4. I sang in the Black Choir in college. That's what it was actually called, the Black Choir, which tells you just how much I stuck out.

5. I've seen the musical Les Miserables 7 times.

6. In 2002 I went on an Alaskan cruise, and the ship had a piano bar where you could do karaoke with live accompaniment. The piano guy could play pretty much anything, and he'd play whatever he felt like until someone made a request, and when you requested something he'd let you sing it if you wanted, microphone and everything. So one night I went and requested a song and sang along, and then people started giving me requests. I ended up singing for two hours, and at the end of it we'd packed the bar. I sang every night for the rest of the cruise, and one night someone asked if I knew anything from Les Miz. Ha! I can sing practically the entire libretto! So we did, like, four songs from that, and the next day I had two people ask me who I'd been when I'd toured with the musical!

7. I've only read three of my dad's books--and none of them was The Case for Christ.

8. I hate being outside.

Upon reviewing this list, I have to say I am probably one of them most uninteresting people on the Internet.

I know I'm supposed to tag 8 other people or something like that, but I think everyone I'd usually tag for this kind of thing has already done it in the last month or so. Sorry I'm breaking the chain--I'm not gonna have bad luck for the next 8 years or anything, am I?

Wean-y, whiny, woe!

Hell hath no fury like Abby when she's told she can't nurse. WOW. Last night was the first night I didn't nurse her at all once she fell asleep. Up until now, I've been cutting her off after 30 seconds and making her go back to sleep wit her paci and not, um, me. She was doing pretty well, with just the occasional crying bout that was more plaintive and tired than actually mad, and I could usually get her back to sleep with some gentle shushing and back-rubbing. The last two nights I've gotten her to bed in the first place by nursing her for a few minutes and then giving her the paci; she hasn't gone straight to sleep but she hasn't been as roly-poly and crazy as she used to be, either, so last night I decided to take the leap and cut her off after that initial nurse. She slept for about 2.5 hours and then woke up, which is par for her, and I went in and cuddled her and shushed her and told her that the milk went night-night.

Enter screaming banshee.

I've never seen Abby that kind of upset before. She was screaming a new kind of scream, and kicking me, and alternately slapping and grabbing at my chest. I'd try to pick her up and she'd throw herself out of my arms. I couldn't help but laugh, which I know sounds totally heartless and cruel, but honestly, it was like she was possessed or something, and all I could think was, "Holy overreaction, Batman! It's just thirty seconds of milk!"

This lasted for about 10 minutes before she managed to worm her hand under my shirt and, um, grab me. And then--silence. I'd been stopping her from putting her hands up my shirt because I was afraid she'd be like, "Hey, they're here, let me at 'em!" But apparently the skin contact was the only comfort she needed. She was pretty worked up, so it took her awhile to fall asleep, but other than the hiccuppy leftovers from crying, she was quiet. The rest of the times she woke up she'd start getting upset, but I'd just shove her hand up my shirt and she's calm down pretty quickly. Go figure. Whatever works, eh?

We have our tickets for our flight to Dallas in July, so I've been pretty motivated to make sure she's fully weaned and used to not nursing anymore to sleep so that when my parents take her for that weekend she'll be okay. After we get the nights down pat (or close) we'll start working on the daytime naps. With the price of gas going the way it is, it's getting awfully expensive to drive her around twice a day...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Putting one foot in front of the other

Metamorpha Chapter 2 Blogmap: Talk about what it might look like to climb toward what you wish were true (but isn't yet) about your life.

I think that I knew in my head that I needed to change, that I was not the person God wanted me to be, but it wasn't clear exactly how I needed to change until I got married and became a mom. Marriage was a mirror for me; suddenly I could see, quite clearly, just how selfish and independent (to a fault, that is--independence in and of itself isn't a bad thing) I was. I think that over the last three (four in August!) years I've improved in those areas. But then I had Abby and realized that, yes, I had improved, but I'd not gotten anywhere near where I needed to be. If marriage was a mirror, then motherhood was a big booming voice from heaven.

Who do I wish I was? Well, all sorts of things, but for practicality's sake, I'll limit my desires to those I can actually attain. I wish I was more selfless. I tend to keep score in my head, though I never actually voice that score to the person against whom I'm counting. I wish I could be more generous and sacrificial and not think, "Score one for me--now how are you going to repay me?" I've been really convicted lately by some of my friends--not that they know they were being convicting. They're just being, well, generous and sacrificial and selfless. Compared to them I live with an embarrassment of riches, and yet they give of their time and goods and energy without a second though.

I wish I was more disciplined. I'm getting better, but it's like my brain can only handle so many "must-do's" before it shuts down. I look at my mom and see how disciplined she is, how every single day she's doing things she definitely doesn't want to do, but does them faithfully anyway. I wouldn't last for a week living as she does. I'm such a marshmallow.

I wish I had a more intimate relationship with God. I'm trying, I really am, but I feel like I've been trying my whole life and haven't gotten any closer--like living on a hamster wheel. I think changing my entire approach and perception of what it means to live the Christian life is going to help, and Metamorpha is key in that change. When I think about Abby and what I want to model for her, I realize that at this point the whole lesson would be "Don't do it this way." And that's wrong.

I want to be bolder. I want to be braver. I want to be less fearful of messing up and more willing to take risks. I want to be able to speak my mind--nicely, mind you, but honestly, too--and not censor myself just because someone might not agree with me--or, worse, because someone might get angry with me.

So those are the things I wish were true about my life. But the question asked what it would look like to turn those wishes into reality. I think I'm afraid to fully consider that question, because I know a major chunk of the answer is going to be: work. Another major chunk is going to be: pray. Work is hard. Work hurts. Work gives me bruises and strains my muscles and makes me sweat. I don't mind the work when it's external--working on my writing, working on the laundry, the house--but when it's working on myself....ouch. And despite the fact that I'm going on 26 years of being a Christian, I still suck at praying. And that right there is a testament to the fact that I need to do some work.

So...*deep breath*...it's going to look like:

letting go of things and giving as freely as God has given to me

letting go of my obsession with comfort in order to look back in a couple years and see that yes, I am different, but in a good way

taking one day at a time and saying that today I will do X, and Y, and Z, not because I want to but because I need to--and not thinking, "How will I ever last doing X and Y and Z every day for the rest of my life?" so that I get overwhelmed and give it all up

rooting my self-worth in my Maker and not the acceptance and love of people

opening my hands, my head, and my heart to God and praying the most dangerous prayer known to man: Father, change me.

Almost couldn't type that last one. It's too scary. Do you have any idea what God does to people who pray that earnestly? He does it! And that's what scares me. Because it's not a matter of slapping on a new coat of paint or glue-gunning some trim around the edges or rearranging the furniture. It's about dismantling the house--board by board, nail by nail--and allowing a whole new structure to be built. Lots of sweat. Lots of blood. Lots of splinters, and mis-swung hammers, and flat-out pain. But if I believe God to be who I think he is, and I believe that his Son has come that I may live life to the full, then what else can I do but take him up on the offer of a remodel?

deep breath


Change me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

My mother's day got an early start when Abby woke up vomiting at 6 this morning. Poor kid. Spent the morning watching "dee-dee" (a.k.a. TV--I am SO SAD she has a word for TV, but oh well), throwing up, and sleeping on her tummy on the floor, arms and legs cocked like a little frog. It was adorable, or would have been, anyway, if I hadn't known she was wiped out from puking. :( But she stopped throwing up just as quickly as she'd started, and by 8:30 she seemed fine, and other than being far more cuddly than she usually is, she's been fine ever since. Thank heavens!

It's been forever since I blogged--and forever since I did anything remotely connected to writing or studying. Why is it I keep thinking I'm finally going to get to start writing again and then I just don't? Grrr. Although the one day last week that I did get to write I got myself unstuck from a scene that was going nowhere, so that was encouraging. So close to finishing this chapter, and then I get to edit! I've never been excited about editing before, but this time I am. I think editing makes me feel like a Real Live Writer, even more than writing does--because anyone can write, right? It's the people who are willing to take time to comb through what they've written and redo it and analyze it and scrutinize it that are writers. Or something. I don't know, just kinda pulling that outta my imagination, really. :)

I started weaning Abby four nights ago. I'm shocked to be able to say it's actually working. Every night she's gone longer and longer without nursing--last night she slept for two four-hour stretches and only nursed once! Long may it last.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Coming out of hiding...

...at least that's what it feels like. You know how it is when everyone gets sick, and you're hunkered down at home under a pile of tissues and laundry and Alka Seltzer Cold Plus wrappers, and you only venture out for more tissues or groceries? That was us. But I'm feeling so much better (she says after a huge sneezing fit); Abby and I even walked to the park this morning. And Dan just finished his term paper tonight, which means--drumroll--I get to start writing again!

I've been sort of stuck at this one part, and the last couple times I've written I've spent most of the time staring at this one paragraph, trying to figure out what it's supposed to do. It dawned on me the other night (as I lie waiting for the Alka Seltzer to kick in--man, I love that stuff) that there was a whole avenue I'd left unexplored with this character, and it really needed to be explored before I got to this paragraph. Ah-ha! Suddenly the knot was untangled in my mind and I knew exactly what to do once I got to start writing again. I love it when that happens.

I just realized the clock on the mantel is dying again; I thought it was 10:55 PM but it's already 11:15! This little clock is coming up on 10 years old; I love it but it's getting all temperamental and stopping now and then for no reason, even when the batteries are fresh. Then one day you notice it's going again. Whatevs. Anyway, guess I better hit the sheets. Tomorrow I get to go speak to a book club that read Violette BEtween this past month--I LOVE doing that!