Dec 11, 2013

On Hinky Butts and the In Between Years...

Because it's been a while since I wrote about my butt, I figured it was time for an update.

Long story short, the procedure I had (Google: prolotherapy) has been possibly life changing. For the first time in 19 years, my sacrum is stable.  I can bend or kneel or squat without fear of throwing my butt/back out of whack. Which is a big deal on its own, but bigger even so when you factor in kid-wrangling.  I'm not even sure I've taken time to process the magnitude of difference it has made.  There's something called body confidence, which in this sense is not about what you look like, but it's referring to telling your body to do something and being able to trust that it's going to do it. Over the years I trained myself to do all sorts of things asymmetrically, to avoid hinkifying my butt (highly technical terms, there), so in the past 6 months or so I've been working on undoing old habits and retraining on new, healthy, good body mechanics, trusting that my joints will hold as they should. So where sitting on the potty used to be cause for concern and anxiety, as I gain body confidence it is a celebration of my butt's alignment and stability. Yay for stability.

It would be wonderful to close the book there and say that's all there is, and Skerrib lived happily ever after with body symmetry and awesome alignment, but that's not quite the whole story. In fact, it's really only half of it.

In my last post about my back, I believe I left off with Dr Laub, which would've been around 2003 or 2004. After that time I entered several "in-between years" of fairly good results with physical therapy, followed by childbearing and breastfeeding, both of which are not good for keeping joints stable because there's this hormone (?) called relaxin which makes all of your ligaments loosen...which as my PT Mark pointed out is a very good thing for helping the baby exit the body in all the best ways  (Plus, even though my PT results seemed good, I was doing a whole lot of "favoring" my weak side, so I'll probably never know how stable I truly was--or wasn't).

The thing is, all that relaxin, as well as my propensity for extended breastfeeding, did not lend themselves well to encouraging joint stability, but I found myself in a weird state of equilibrium and peace with the whole thing. Of course I wanted my back to be all fixed, but we were pretty adamant about the children, and I'm a hippie about the breastfeeding, so it won out as a priority. In the meantime I did what I could to build some strength while understanding that as long as I insisted on having more babies I likely wouldn't be able to get a long-term fix on this thing.  The upside was having a fantastic PT in Wyoming whom I could see periodically, and just kind of letting my sacrum off the hook for a while. I mean, I was still frustrated with it, but not quite as adamant or crusade-y as before.  I gave myself a fuzzy deadline of "after the last kid," but beyond that tried to relax a little and keep perspective.  

Like I said before, even though my back pain seemed to take up a lot of space in my mind, there was a whole lot of life going on at the same time, and the upside of all that relaxin was that while it wouldn't let my SI stay stable, it also relaxed it enough to take away a lot of the pain, so other than knowing I was walking weird (to me), it really wasn't so bad for the most part.  I could keep running, and even noticed an improvement when I changed my running form and took out the heel strike. They say that it is less pound-y on the joints, and it sure seems that way for me.  

And finally, with the birth of our third kiddo, we declared ourselves DONE with great emphasis and glee, and three months later had all our stuff packed up for our relocation to the greater DC-area.  All of that followed by getting settled, and acquainted, and other such necessities.  

For a while I did that thing that happens to a lot of moms, where I got so caught up in caring for the kids, particularly the new baby, that I put my own issues aside. But after a few months (and my maybe-Lyme-Disease scare) I began to feel situated and pursued my own little health overhaul, which was less about doing lots of things differently and more about catching up on preventive stuff. Dentist, eye doc, and the like. And as I got to thinking about it, I realized that the greater DC-area is a veritable haven for doctors of all types. Seriously, there are a gazillion of them here, for anything you could possibly think of. So I figured I'd see if I could find one who was knowledgeable about spinal things, and see if (s)he knew about this procedure I'd been thinking about/avoiding for several years, and see if I might be a candidate for it...later on, of course. I don't know why I kept thinking "later on," but there you have it.

Well. It turns out in the 10 years or so since my diagnosis, there has been great advancement in the medical community's overall knowledge and acceptance of SI joint dysfunction and the treatment options available.  I did some serious digging on the internet (like 10 minutes) and found an entire medical GROUP dedicated to spine stuff, who takes my insurance. I made the appointment and prepared a big long speech. After years of explaining and re-explaining my issues and maladies, I was ready to self-advocate in a big way, only to have the doc go "Oh, here's this one move you can do. Go get some X-rays and an MRI, and come back in a month and I'll do the prolotherapy on you." And I did some huge mental prep work, because prolotherapy involves needles and I kind of hate needles, and it truly wasn't very much fun, but it was over within 20 minutes. 

I've decided that's how life is a lot of the time. When you're lucky you see the significance of the bigger moments ("Markers," if you will). I certainly saw the significance of getting a 19 year injury corrected.  But on the other hand, there is often a certain nonchalance about it. I was ready for a fight. I was ready for the profound struggle, many visits if necessary, the motivational montage, and possibly my own segment on 20/20 about overcoming adversity, but in the end it was 20 minutes of unpleasantness followed by a weekend of bed rest and then back to real life for the most part. 

Now of course it still doesn't end there, but this is where I'll have to pick up the next time. Dinnertime, and all...

Nov 20, 2013

A Little Jesus on Hump Day...

My friend, the Good Reverend, posted this on his Facebook page today:

Whenever I speak at a Christian college I can see the blank, anesthetized expressions of students who've already checked out. Bad religion has already vacated their hope and innocent trust. They are just complying through the motions of their faith. But each evening on this trip to Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, I spoke to an assembly of students who are risking the Original Good News is true. They showed up because they wanted to, enexorably drawn to the hope of a Jesus without the moralistic filter, like moths to a porch light. We laughed, cried and spoke life back and forth, each visibly verbalizing emerging confidence. And God met overwhelmingly with us. It was like we were saying to each other, "You believe this too? All my life I've secretly thought this was who Jesus was. I just didn't know anyone else did!" And we found each other. The Original Good news of grace and trusting our identity in Christ, it is finding footing again. Students like these, all over the world are finding each other. They will not be quiet. They will carry this freedom wherever God sends them. They know too much and cannot return to vapid, stifling religion of ought, pretending, control and shame. They've seen Narnia and will not return to anything less. It is beautiful to witness. One more chapel this morning, then home to my world where I learned this life. Reporting from Bolivar, Missouri, this is John Lynch, filled with stunning hope. I'm out.

I felt compelled to speak out in support. This is the kind of Christianity I've come to believe in. There are so many OPINIONS out there, even about what Jesus thinks and wants of us, and over time I am more & more convinced that this is the root of it. 

Some will say "Wait a sec, what about doing good and helping the poor and all that?"  And to that I say, absolutely he wants us to do that. But I think as much as the uptight Christians get it backwards and say "Hey, you'd better get your stuff together so God will be pleased with you," other folks get it backwards with different words: "Hey, as long as you care for others and do nice things, that secures your position with Jesus." 

Here's what I think: all of us are born broken in a broken world. Some call it sin nature, some simply call it humanity. But when it comes down to it, the standard is perfection and none of us can reach it. So Jesus died, blah blah blah, and now we can be saved from our sin, ourselves, sin done to us, etc.  It's available to anyone who wants it.  And if you want God, you get him.  And if you trust in him to save you, it's a done deal. You're his.

After that of course, we are still left with nice people and jerks. Yes, jerks can be Christians. And Christians can be jerks. A lot are, in fact; it's kind of sad. The working out of who we are in Jesus is messy business--just take a look at all the Christian religions, denominations, sects, and all that.  

But when we trust Jesus, not just to save us from our sin in the big-picture-sense, but to mature us into the new creations he says we are, things can get really beautiful (and NOT hateful, rude, and intolerant like we so often see in the outrageous media stories). And I'll be the first to say hey, I'm proof of that (And also I'm still a jerk sometimes, but I'm getting humility and he is always maturing me, so there's hope).

So maybe I'll start a series of posts talking about the Original Good News and all it has come to mean to me. There's a lot there to talk about--how to act toward others with different beliefs, how to maintain healthy boundaries and self-care, how to care for others without being co-dependent. And these are just my own personal issues--there are a ga-jillion things to talk about.  

Then again, maybe I'll lose focus and forget; so just in case, go here:

Truefaced (this is where the Good Reverend works)

or here: Truefaced Youtube channel

or here: Another Truefaced Youtube channel

Also, for those who know me in real life, I'm not going to sit you down and try to convert you or anything. Unless you want me to. Then of course I would be glad to.

But I do want to put this out there because it really is important to me, and I'm always glad to share. I keep trying to boil it down to a starting point, and I guess that starting point would be the same thing you can find in the New Testament:

Jesus died and rose again, and that changes everything...

Oct 19, 2013

On Displacement and Flying With Small Children...

Before I begin, a sidenote. I recently learned there is a made-up notation for sarcasm in the written word. It looks like this: /s  

As in:

Flying with kids is the best. It is the most fun ever. Flying standby is also the best (obviously), so put the two together and you are bound to have a rip-roaring good time.  /s

Due to a series of events of varying degrees of awesome and awful, my family found ourselves traveling mostly standby this morning, and by 'mostly standby' I mean that I had a confirmed seat and the others didn't. Also, by 'standby' I do not mean 'non-paying.' Good? Good.

Since she is still under 2, Tiny E was the wild card (maybe a lap baby and maybe not), but in the end there was space and she was awarded her very own seat. In between 2 strangers, about 20 rows behind my assigned seat. In addition, immediately upon boarding I found someone in my assigned seat (20 rows up from Tiny E's, remember).

Now, in general I am no-nonsense and a big fan of workings things out myself when possible (and I feel it's worth mentioning that the Cat Daddy had the same issue with the boyz and was able to negotiate a seat next to them in like 10 seconds with no trouble), but I also like to think I know when to call in help when I need it, so I skipped everything and went to the flight attendants for backup. It took some effort but in the end they were convinced that I did indeed need their help. 

First order of business, vacate my seat up front. A coupla calls, badda boom badda bing, and the occupant was directed to her proper location across the row. Second, offer one of the two ladies next to Tiny E a nice kid-free window seat (by the bulkhead, no less--I provide the best trades) in exchange for letting me take a seat next to my 18 month old who still nurses and isn't a fan of being away from Mommy (and who, by the way, isn't allowed to sit by herself, per the airline). A no-brainer, right?


Both refused to move. One was nicer about it than the other, but neither was taking me up on the bulkhead window seat. 

Now, a moment to remind us all to be a little gentle. I have been the person who has moved to accommodate others, and I have been the meanie who wouldn't move. I truly understand both sides, and sometimes one really just wants to stay in the seat they picked out ahead of time, and got all comfy and situated, and all that. I get it.

That said, I also think they didn't fully understand the situation or the consequences of their decision, because the natural conclusion for me was to buckle my baby in and proceed peacefully to my quiet seat far away from any family members for the entire 5 hour flight. I mean really, that would've been a win, yes?? /s

I reeeeally wanted to see this all unfold, but sadly the flight attendant intervened, and we ganged up on the aisle seat lady, and she grumbled off in a huff to the bulkhead. The remaining lady apologized for not being 'able' to help us, and offered us some homemade banana chips, and we are on pretty good terms now. 

The best part though (/s), was that the displaced lady left her water, tablet, and foodie magazines in the seat pocket, forcing her to come back and ask for them several minutes later while I was nursing Tiny E (nursing in public prevents screaming babies; write that down, kids). 

I gave the lady a wry half-grin as I handed her things over and while she was not amused, I hope in that moment she understood. I mean, I forget sometimes that it is not my responsibility to make others see it my way...but I still like it when it happens.

And so I would like to ask you to keep your wits about you when asked for a favor, and make sure you understand what you are accepting or declining, because nursing toddlers on planes do best with their mamas, and there's really no getting around that. Even if you ALWAYS get the aisle and HATE being asked to move.

Also, if you have the opportunity to put your 18 month old in his/her own seat next to you instead of on your lap stuck between 2 (very patient) dudes for 5 hours like the week prior, by all means take it. Trust me on this...

Oct 8, 2013

Morningtime Concerns...

I live in a house of bossypantses.

His Highness went to bed with a very, very loose tooth. He spent the day wiggling it in our faces, showing us just how hangy-loose it was, and we spent the day going "Come on, just let me pull it," but he wouldn't let us. After he was asleep, the Cat Daddy even gave it a go, but it was just stuck enough that he couldn't get it out before His Highness would pull away and sleep-mumble "No, don't pull it..."

Well, guess what. His Highness woke up with a gappy grin and no tooth to be found anywhere.  We looked and looked and looked, but so far haven't found anything except his missing shin guard. He not only lost his tooth, he LOST his tooth.  

The Cat Daddy and I figured maybe he swallowed it. Having heard the story about how he once swallowed a penny, he said, "You'll have to check my poop, Mom."

Now I'm generally willing to help with a lot of things, but poo is where I draw the line.

I replied, "I will not. You can check your own poop, my friend, if you want your tooth so badly."

I did reconsider slightly. I said, "Look, we'll keep an eye out. If we see it on the outside of your poo, I'll help you recover it, meaning you will do the digging and I will give instructions. But I will do no actual digging or searching. If you want to do that you're on your own."

**Sidenote--I gagged a little bit, writing that last paragraph, and the thought of poo with teeth has set my brain down paths no one wants to consider, except maybe the South Park folks. End Sidenote** 

For his part, His Highness didn't seem terribly troubled. He's heard enough stories to know that if one loses one's tooth, one can write the Tooth Fairy a note and she will generally show grace and leave cash anyway. I told him to ask around at school to see if his friends and/or teachers had any other suggestions. 

It would be poetic justice if, along the way to our house, the Tooth Fairy somehow fell asleep and swallowed the dollar by mistake.

She'd better not though, because there is no way I'm digging through Tooth Fairy poo...

Oct 6, 2013

My Equilibrium Is A Little Off...

I’m touchy lately. And fragile. And I'm mad that I’m touchy and fragile. I possibly have an ear infection, and I’m mad that a stupid (possible) ear infection is enough to throw off my mojo. I was watching Glee on the DVR today (SPOILER ALERT), and Rachel Berry was in a snit because she was pretty sure she didn’t get a part in a Broadway play, and Kurt came in and told her she needed to get her mojo back, so they sang a Beatles song, resulting in the timely return of her mojo, along with an accompanying explanation along the lines of “I’m awesome, and if they don’t see that then bummer for them, but secretly of course I’m gonna be wistful and reserve a teensy glimmer of hope in the darkest corner of my soul.” (then of course at the last possible moment she found out she did in fact get the part in the big Broadway play, so double mojo for her). Also, Santana was in a TV commercial for yeast infection medication, and Kurt got a job working at the same diner as the two girls, and they all made a pinkie-swear promise about staying in New York for two years to follow their dreams and toasted with champagne, and I was all “YOU’RE ALL 19, WHAT THE HECK IS THIS SNOOTY CHAMPAGNE BUSINESS??”  But then again all these 19 year olds somehow afford a huge, industrial-looking loft in Brooklyn while two of them attend a fictional Julliard-esque college, so hey, if they want to (be underage and) pop some champagne to celebrate their dreams coming true, then who am I to argue??

On a similar note, I’ve either grounded or am considering grounding myself from nearly all media-related topics, both fictional and real-life. Having read a few too many articles and STRONG OPINIONS about the government shutdown, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of people think they know how government works, but no one really does (myself included)--or the ones who do know don’t have much to say because it’s not as sensational as the loud ones are making it out to be--so waxing eloquent about how the other party and/or the president is the cause of this mess, or how so-and-so needs to do such-and-such to fix it, is unproductive. Also, even though the government is shut down because the money for the new fiscal year hasn’t been approved, they have managed to get/keep a large portion of the government up & at least limping along until they can sort through some of the mess. How? Who knows--I got a “B” in Government class, so I’m not the one to ask. 

Furthermore, hearing all this bickering makes me think of when the Cat Daddy and I were in marriage counseling back in the day (don’t tell him I told you), and we had to learn the Fair Fighting Rules, and we also had to do some awkward role-playing exercises so we could learn to talk to each other without feeling controlled or attacked, and basically we had to learn to be on the same team instead of against each other all the time. And let me tell you, our Congress is breaking at least a few of the fair fighting rules (and probably all of them, but one of the rules is to avoid absolutes like always, never, all, or none, so I can't in good conscience claim ALL, even though it might be true).  So basically Congress needs therapy, and possibly a cookie. 

Besides all that, my children and possessions are trying to eat me alive. The following is a list of resolutions I pass in my own head in a single morning of child-rearing. Some are more reasonable than others. Most are completely nuts.

--I need to keep a closer eye on all the children all the time.
--I need to quit Facebook altogether.
--I need to check Facebook RIGHT NOW.
--I'm going to get serious about being on time for preschool.
--No more snacks that produce crumbs of any sort.
--No more food or drinks outside the kitchen, EVER.
--The children need to drink plain water more.
--The children need to reuse one cup each throughout the day.
--I need to go through and organize the toys. Again.
--We need to cut WAY back on the toys.
--The children need to keep the toys within a three-foot radius of the toy bins at all times, and they need to put one toy away before moving on to the next toy.
--The children need to learn to amuse themselves without toys. Or screens. Or anything.
--The children need to stay out of the junk drawer and/or closets.
--I need to get rid of ALL the things.
--I need to teach these ruffians how to treat me.
--I need to find a family that will listen when I speak, and make them adopt me.
--Everyone needs to poop before we leave each morning.
--I'm gonna get up at 5:30 tomorrow.
--I'm gonna go to bed EARLY tonight.
--I'm gonna spend time writing/reading/etc tonight.
--Starting tomorrow, I'm gonna be awesome and productive.
--I need a jog.

That last one I can do...

Sep 1, 2013

On Kitty Curfew and Doomed Best Intentions...

Here's the deal: school starts in two days. We have had a glorious summer.  I have gotten up early (but not always early enough) and improved my fitness and back/butt health, the boys have made great strides--or strokes--in swimming lessons, and now we are tired of being in each others' faces and need some structure. They are looking forward to school, I am looking forward to school, we are all looking forward to school.

Except Nipples. He's in a bit of denial, walking around like he owns the place, but in a matter of days his kitty-curfew will be reinstated, restricting his roaming to non-school hours.

Actually, I'm in a bit of denial too. In reality kitty-curfew will be in effect only as long as Nipples consents to enter the house sometime in the vicinity of school hours. Otherwise he will just live outside indefinitely, being fed BBQ from a restaurant by generous and loving neighbors.

The thing about Kitty Curfew is that it originated as the weather was cooling off for the winter, so while it wasn't always easy to enforce, it was at least somewhat doable, as Nipples felt compelled to come into the warm house.  The downside, of course, is that Kitty Curfew is precisely during the warmest and most pleasant hours of the day in wintertime, so my wandering through the house with small children yowling and hanging on me added an element of the cat yowling and clawing my pants in an effort to help me understand the urgency of his need to go outside.  

On good days I responded just as I might with the kiddos--kindly unyielding to his demands, maintaining the boundary. On some days my perspective was skewed though, and in weaker moments I trudged up the stairs thinking, "Everyone is yelling at me, even the cat. There is no way I can be expected to abide such hardship." 

Another lesson learned is that it is entirely possible to speak with the principal, understand where he is coming from, agree to be on board with Kitty Curfew (KC), and subsequently have ZERO buy-in from anyone else in the household. Certain children would listen intently to the whys and wherefores behind KC, and agree that we must be good helpers by keeping Nipples inside until after school (write that down, kids), only to gaze blankly as he bolted outside when they opened the door to greet the day. Certain other household members may or may not have thought the whole thing was funny and refused to enforce KC because they are instigators and like to see Skerrib become nervous about breaking the rules.

Outside of school hours, life was grand. One afternoon we all--cat included--went to the playground to work off some sillies for a while. We took the long way home, which involves using the crosswalk where our neighborhood lets out onto the main road. We were a motley parade, what with me carrying the squirmy baby ala sack o' potatoes, His Highness motoring across with a sense of purpose, and the Littler One, for whom it took a little more effort to keep up.  We crossed mostly single-file in front of patiently-waiting drivers, and had very nearly cleared the crosswalk when Nipples decided to join us, sauntering at his own pace thank-you-very-much, and clearly impressing both the principal and assistant principal, who were in line at the intersection, waiting for the cat to cross the street.

As the school year began to wane, so did my resolve. It was springtime. Flowers bloomed, the weather warmed, a new batch of young birds and rodents was born, and suddenly Nipples ramped up his escape efforts.  Being watchful and stealthy, he began to succeed more often, and I trod the line between "I don't care," and "Dangit, now we're gonna be in trouble."

The thing about Nipples is that he is clever. He watches and waits, and he is opportunistic. On days when he had either escaped or hadn't come home to begin with, I carried a spray bottle in order to dissuade him from trouble areas, but never used it. He knew enough to keep a certain distance from us when out & about, lest he be caught. He knew to bide his time until the stars aligned and conditions were just right to accomplish his objectives, and he saved his best efforts--his piece de resistance--until the end of the year.

To be continued...

Aug 26, 2013

Running Deep...

I've come to the conclusion that there are a few themes that keep popping up in my life, and that one of the major themes in my life that God is showing me is this: Relax.

There's a whole lot I could say about that. Posts I could write. Speeches I could give. Amazing connections and wisdom pouring forth from my brain. Maybe even a book deal; I dunno (that would make me nervous). But another thing that's true about me is that I hear Him speak big truths in ordinary places, so I'll offer this thought from one of my jogs last week...

I felt a little antsy that morning, so I ran in a completely different direction from my normal route. It was refreshing. The terrain was fairly similar to my usual, and the scenery not exactly profoundly different, but enough to keep things interesting.

About halfway through I realized I was really dragging. My feet felt a little like lead boots, and I was all hunched over. Not at all tall and commanding as I've been taught to visualize.

Once I realized it, I was able to straighten up a bit and pick up the pace some, but it really got me to thinking things over and kind of evaluating.  I've been working on increasing my pace lately, so I'll do some loosey-goosey intervals sometimes.  But I was really tired now, and it made me worry a little.  What was my problem? Was it a bad run? I'd started out really well--why was my stamina suddenly down? Maybe I'd estimated the distance wrong and I was going waaaaay farther than I thought, and I was just that tired out.  Maybe I needed to work on drinking a little more water before starting out, or eat a banana or something and get some fuel into my body. Maybe I needed to work on my foot mechanics, or overall running form, or have my stride or foot-strike analyzed.  Maybe I needed to run with people to develop more of a community feel and get feedback and stuff. Maybe I just needed to suck it up and run harder more.

Then--and only then--did it occur to me to look around and realize that I was on a very long, very slight, very subtle incline. In other words, I was running uphill.  Which, you know, is at least a little hard most of the time, particularly when compared with the easier flats or downhills.

And God said, "Relax." (He also may have chuckled at me a little; this was not my first time getting all worked up over things.)

When you're on an uphill, there are things you can do to help. You can lean a little to let gravity help propel you forward. You can swing your arms to help move your legs better. You can get up on your toes more. Being conscious of where you are lets you be more intentional about dealing with it.

But no matter what you do, you can't make an uphill feel like a downhill (which, by the way, has its own dangers and difficulties, but that's another post). It's okay that it's hard--an uphill is difficult by its very nature, but other than turning back toward where you were, the only way to get out of it is to reach the top so you can head down again. Can't go around it, have to go through it.

So guess what I did? I swung my arms and leaned forward just a touch. I went on to get past the hill and finish in a reasonable time, feeling very good indeed. When I went back later to drive the route, I found that it was in fact a little longer than my norm (3.6 miles total). All told it was a good run.

So the next time you're plodding along with your feet dragging and your shoulders hunched over, and you're thinking about freaking out, remember to take a moment and look around. It's entirely possible you're running uphill...

Aug 19, 2013

If You Get Up Early...

If you get up early in the morning to exercise, it will be glorious.

You will get your workout done first thing each day, and you will feel the good sort of tired that comes from knowing you're working hard and getting stronger.

You will start out getting up at 6, but over time you will slip a little each day and before you know it you're starting at 6:40. You will realize that you seriously need to get back to an earlier start time because school starts in 2 weeks, and earlier is just the way it will have to be (remember--working hard, getting stronger).

You will think about this each day as you don't get up in time for your 6 o'clock start. You will remind yourself that starting earlier will give you a better chance of evading your children for just one more hour before they wake up and need you for all. the. things.

And then one day you will finally heave yourself out of bed in the dark, and get your butt downstairs because it's Yoga day, and Yoga is the longest of the workouts, and seriously, you're going to do it this time.

You will get the DVD in and push play by 6:05 and call a victory for yourself because you are serious and mean business. (nevermind the fact that you really need to push it back to 5:30, because school starts eeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrllllyyyyyyy. That will come in time. Hopefully.)

Your baby, however, adjusts to your schedule no matter what you do. She will wake up and realize you are more than an arm's reach away, which will rouse her brain. At 6:15 she will toddle downstairs and begin making all sorts of unreasonable demands that sound like, "Yeeeeaaaaahhh! Mweeeaaaaaah! Aaaaaaaaah!"

You will sigh and hit pause, change her diaper, nurse her, and get her some breakfast, hoping that will fend her off for 80 more minutes. You will set her down gently on the couch, to which she will fuss and complain before she realizes she's dry and full and really kind comfortable, so she'll calm down a little bit.

When she's ready she'll slide off the couch and toddle around.  As you're holding Warrior 2 she'll walk in with a Dog Stuffie slung over her shoulder, carrying the kid-keychains and puffing on that infernal whistle-keychain.  She'll plop herself down right under your Vinyasa. It will be spectacular.

During Half Moon you'll be striving and straining to get your back foot off the ground, and she'll wander by with a tennis ball, telling you all about it and sticking it in your face insistently, until you say "Yes, that's a ball!" with enthusiasm.

During Royal Dancer she'll fling herself at you, knocking you off balance and totally messing with your chi. And during Bridge she'll sit on you, giving you extra resistance to hold the position and build your core.

During Cobbler Pose she'll sit down and let you pose her legs to match yours, and she'll laugh when you do This Little Piggy to both of her feet at once. And during Yoga Belly Seven she'll again sit on your Yoga Belly, telling you all about the health benefits of core strengthening.

While the others on the DVD are stretching, your baby will require a banana. And during the ohm's she will look from you, to Tony Horton, to you, and back to Tony Horton before joining in with her own personal riff on "Twinkle Twinkle." Then Tony will wink, and you'll put away your mat, and kiss your baby, and you'll be on with your day.

You'll feel a little klutzy and disorganized about having squeezed in your workout amid the kids and Dog Stuffies and such. The hour-and-thirty-five-minute session took closer to two hours, and you now have to figure eating and showering into the morning's activities. It's never easy, and sometimes it's even a little (or a lot) unpleasant. But you'll also remember that you got up early and made the effort, and part of your fatigue is the good kind of tired that tells you you're getting stronger.

And it will be glorious...

Aug 16, 2013

New Shades of the Same Old Things...

Remember a while back, when I said there was so much I wanted to do? This is still true. And new opportunities open up every day, and I still have a tendency to take on too much, because I have a Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, which I just found out is a Real and Actual Thing (RaAT). And now I'm beginning to think that in our information age we are so excited about discovering RaAT's, that we don't realize that a lot of the time these RaAT's are "just" real life, so to speak, and we should probably all calm down a few notches and go with it.

Or maybe that's just me.

All to say I'm still here, working hard at all the things and thinking way too much about a lot of the things. So I present you with the thought I had this morning:

They say that real life is what happens in all the in-betweens. True, we each have several moments throughout that we would call defining, but in between the biggies there is a lot of ordinary and/or mundane, and if we are smart we recognize that a whole bunch of our growth and development happens in the spaces of tending to those weeds.

My favorite job to date was my co-op job back at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.  I basically got paid to learn how to build stuff and work power tools (and also do research, and math, and technical writing), and there was a group of us college students who had a blast doing our nerd work together. (And we also got to fly on the NASA KC-135 Vomit Comet as part of our research, and if I were offered a job doing that today it would seriously challenge my commitment to my family because it. was. awesome. But again--moments of glory amid lots of days of difficult, weedy work.)

We worked in a couple different buildings on base. Our office space was in a corner of a big hangar-looking building called H-Bay. There was a bunch of equipment out there, but we also had lab space in the basement of a nearby building, and there was a technician there named John who did a lot of the fabricating for our branch. And we spent a lot of time learning stuff from John, so therefore we spent a lot of time in the basement lab.

One of the things I first noticed about John was that he would quit working 20 minutes or so before the end of the day.  To certain smart-but-not-wise grad school students this might first appear as slacking off (ahem!), but certain students quickly learned that John used this time to clean up. He secured whatever project he was working on, in whatever way it needed to be secured. He put tools back in their boxes, parts and pieces back in their cabinets, and washed up, wiped down, and swept wherever needed. John kept everything, but he also kept a tight & tidy lab, and I learned that the reason he was able to keep a tidy lab was that he built the time in for keeping it that way.

It's not rocket science, but it really made an impression on me. It has been said that I despise chores, which is mostly true. I like the results of having done the chores, but I really don't like the chores themselves. I'm not sure I would use the word "despise" every time, but when I would use other words they would be along the lines of "hate," "abhor," or at best "am annoyed by." So, you know, they really aren't my favorite.  Consequently, I tend to think of my daily tasks and to-do's in terms of "anything but chores," with chores sprinkled in between, when I have a moment.  Amid the weeds, if you will.

Well guess what. That method doesn't work so well for me. In this season of young childhood, along with my FOMO, I have to be deliberate about the things that are important to me. And it turns out I'm better and more efficient when I make plans for even the weedy tasks. As much as it pains me to put them on my to-do list and count them as equal with fun stuff like errands and running and writing, that's the only way that I get them done on a consistent basis. And the reality is that even though I don't like them and consider them to be mere punctuation to my day, they are more like a predicate, or at least a prepositional phrase, because they take up actual time.

Also, I just want to point out that the curiouser my kids get, the more time I seem to spend finding random objects and returning them to their homes.

So, if you want to clean up, it's OK that it takes a little time. And if you decide to leave it and do something else you enjoy more, I understand completely.  We all have weeds to be managed, and some of us hear crashes and need to go see what broke...

Jul 17, 2013

On Fashion Sunglasses and Hobo-Chic...

I'm the more frugal one in the family to begin with, and then I do that parent-thing, where I put off buying stuff for myself in favor of saving money for something the family or kids need. I think a lot of us do it, and I think overall it's a noble (and/or necessary) pursuit, because these kids keep eating and growing, and in our Western culture boys don't wear capris, so I keep having to buy them pants that fit, but then before you know it I'm wearing frayed, holey shirts and cracked sunglasses, and I haven't been over to the haircut place in three months (or five), and I'm walking around like some kind of ruffian or something. Then I vent at the Cat Daddy about how Hobo-Chic is not my best look, but he raises his eyebrows at me like, "Geez Skerrib, you need to take care of yourself, stop waiting for permission," and I'm all "IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN!" and he's all, "Seriously. Go groom."**

I have had my brown Ironman sunglasses for several years now, which is a record for me to begin with, but when you factor in my children, it's dang near miraculous. I LOVE them for many reasons, so I've held onto them longer than I should (the sunglasses, not the children). They've been scratched up for too long, and Tiny E loves to grab them and try them on. And everyone knows there are no guarantees when a one-year-old touches anything.

In my defense, I've been saying "I should probably replace these..." and have kept an eye out for suitable replacements for quite some time now. I just haven't found any suitable replacements (I am surprisingly picky for my frugal tastes and have a list of must-haves for my bargain athletic sunglasses). I knew things were getting serious this week when I found a tiny crack in the frame. I even had a talk with myself about actively looking for new sunglasses, but kind of blew myself off in favor of other pressing matters (THE CHILDREN! AND ALL THEIR NEEDS!).

Well, today I was confronted with the truth. Tiny E deftly popped out the lens on the cracked side. For a moment I thought I would grab them and glue them back together just until I could find a new pair, but then she threw both pieces on the ground, and I came to terms with the fact that I was beyond Hobo-Chic, and I needed to suck it up and find a new pair of non-scratched, unbroken sunglasses. I've got to have standards somewhere.

They were in even worse shape than the photo lets on. It was time for them to go. Like 6 months ago.

I was pretty sure I wouldn't find anything to meet my standards, but as happens fairly often I was wrong (I forget that my standards are often embarrassingly low). I didn't find a zillion options, but 20 minutes of research gave me a reasonable selection and led me to Amazon, where I found a brand a notch up from where I was, but with a decent enough discount to put me close to my previous price range. Less than $40 and I've got a pair that other actual athletes wear, scratch-free, and intact.

How about you? Where do you sit on the issue of sunglasses? Fashion? Hobo-Chic?

**I'm paraphrasing here, but not by much

Jul 14, 2013

The BACKground of my Butt--Part I...

**Updated to include the following basic anatomy lesson: The sacrum is one of the pelvic bones, and is also the bottom part of the spine, slightly above and descending toward the butt. It attaches on each side to the ilia, which are what we feel as our "hip bones," and which attach at the hip to our femurs. The joint between the sacrum and the ilium is called the SI joint. Since we have an ilium on each side--making a total of two ilia--we have two SI joints. My left one is the hinky one.  And now for the story...**

On Friday I had a procedure I've been avoiding for a long time. Years, in fact. It involved my back and needles. These are two things which bring me great annoyance, anxiety, and/or pain, but I'm hoping that by combining them I can alleviate some or all of said annoyance, anxiety, and pain.

I've been looking back through my blog history, and I'm a little surprised that I haven't blogged in more detail about my back/butt issues, as it has been a fairly major part of my life for over 19 years now. Frankly I didn't think I was even old enough to have something to have kept track of for 19 years. Furthermore, it amazes me to think about who has known me since before my back issues, and who has only known me since back issues, because you know how many people have known me since before I had back issues? Not very many. And of course there are those who are thinking "Huh? Back issues? What are you even talking about Skerrib?" This should clear things up a bit, and make the needles make a lot more sense.

It all started in high school. In the spring of 1994 I was playing softball and finishing up my junior year, and had just adopted Murphy, the greatest dog in the universe (a story for another post).  I was dividing my time between the JV and varsity teams, meaning that on JV days I played, and when the varsity coach needed an extra base runner or some depth on the bench, I was called up to fill the slot. On the one hand it was an honor to be included when the varsity team needed me. On the other hand, there are lots of situations in life that are billed as honorable, and I don't want to discount doing honorable and/or difficult things, but these honorable things often amount to bench-sitting for the Greater Good, and maybe it's OK to recognize that aspect of it as well. Trust me on this, I've done a lot of Honorable Bench Sitting in my day. (Reason #247 that Skerrib settled on running: No bench to warm...)

Anyway, one day in practice we were shagging fly balls, and I jumped a little too far back for one and I fell, landing on my butt and back. I remember feeling like I was walking a little funny as I got up, but since I could move and didn't have any sharp pain I didn't think too much of it. I continued with practice and continued with life, and pretty much ignored and covered up the fact that things weren't right.

Until a month or two later, where I was helping out in summer softball practice and was sent to pick up second base, and realized that I couldn't lift it. It wasn't stuck or anything; I was simply in enough pain that I couldn't give the yank needed to jar it loose from its post in the ground. I mumbled something charming and self-deprecating enough that another teammate helped me out, and moved on, but that was enough for me to wonder if I needed to see a doctor.

Luckily, I came out of my teenage angst enough to ask my dad about it, and he suggested I see his doctor, who was a DO and could do spinal adjustments. Thus began the part of my journey I have entitled "Things That Didn't Work." I saw doctors, physical therapists, and maybe a chiropractor or two. I had physical therapy, electrical stimulation, and other conventional and alternative treatments (stopping just shy of acupuncture, because, needles). For the most part I loved my docs and PT's--they really wanted to help me, and they tried everything they knew. Things that should've worked, didn't work, which was frustrating for all of us. I had X-rays, bone scans, MRI's and so on. And every time the answer came back that while I had some not-uncommon-quirks about my anatomy, they couldn't find signs of injury, or anything else that would cause the level of pain I had. Or the more annoying version from the docs I didn't appreciate so much: "There's nothing wrong with you."

Through all of this my pain sort of evolved over time--the lower back stuff eased some, but I began having headaches and tension in my upper back, and eventually my body just decided that my left side from head to butt was wonky. I settled into a pattern of seeing someone every so often for an adjustment, and hoping it would hold, and being really discouraged when it didn't, and still knowing deep inside that something wasn't quite right.

Through all of this I also decided that as much as I could, I would keep living my life. Resting a back injury gets old really quick, and in my case resting didn't help it. On the other hand, doing my regular activities didn't make it worse, so I went with regular activities. I kept doing sports. I finished high school, did college, met & married the Cat Daddy, taught for two years, and did that whole thing where he went into the Air Force and I went through an entire life overhaul, resulting in grad school. There's a lot of living that goes on in a nine year period, after all, and even with annoying, ridiculous, stupid back pain, I did it.

Which brought me to a military PT in Ohio because that's where the Cat Daddy was stationed. I started seeing him, and he gave me the regular laundry list of suggestions to help my pain before gently suggesting that I could be one of the rare ones who just might need adjustments forever. That was so discouraging. I'd like to take credit for thinking in my heart "No, I really think there's something wrong still." I'm not sure if it was that, or just that I wasn't to the point of accepting that it could be the case that there really was nothing wrong with me. Either way, he said, "You know, there's another doc I'd like to take a look at you. He doesn't see a lot of patients, but I'd be interested to get his take."

And this is one of the events in life where the Cat Daddy likes to say "See? If I didn't go into the Air Force you'd have never..." which is TRUE, but sorry Cat Daddy, God gets the credit for finagling this one.

You see, Dr. Laub didn't work out of the regular clinics at our medical center there. He was a Colonel, on his way out of the Air Force, with his own 'office' in an obscure corner of the building. In a giant storage room, half of which was still used for storage. His work area contained a treatment table, hanging skeleton, and a computer on a little stand, where he made his own appointments. In the other half of the room were folding tables, assorted doors and equipment, and I'm almost certain it all sat atop an unused parquet dance floor. I'll call it Air Force Chic.

There was a reception desk where Dr. Laub's patients signed in, but he would come out to get us in person. None of the vital signs or other perfuctory little bits that, in my opinion, eat up time before the 'real' appointment. I think there was an actual human receptionist, but I'm not entirely sure. 

So pretty much the end of the line for my back lay in the hands of a man and his skeleton in a storage closet.

I liked Dr. Laub nearly immediately. The first thing he did was have me tell my then-nine-year saga. He let me drone on through all the details, asking a few questions along the way, but mostly just listening and taking notes. He had me walk with and without shoes. He did muscle testing, where he would push and pull my arms & legs, and I had to resist as best I could.

Finally he said, "I think you have something called a sacral shear. It's an injury so it wouldn't likely go back into place on its own, and it wouldn't be fixed by regular manipulation techniques. It's tiny, so a doctor wouldn't find it on any X-ray or scans unless they were looking for it, and even then it might not even show up. But I'm going to try this move on you and see if it works, and then we'll know more." So he did the new move on me--basically he used my leg as a lever to make my sacrum settle where it should. He said to rest for a week (I even had to drop out of a softball tournament) and he would see me again after that.

I didn't feel anything at first, but within a couple hours I realized I was walking normally. The feeling of something being "off" had been with me for so long that I had become accustomed to it as my new normal, until I felt my old normal again. I caught my breath and sort of looked up a bit and dared to feel hope about my back.

The thing about spines is that everything is connected. While my injury was in my butt, all of my muscles and whatnot had to compensate for it. Mere millimeters--in my butt--caused all sorts of spasms and tension headaches along my left side as a result of all the walking, standing, sitting, and living I did; it was unavoidable. While it made sense for all the other docs to be looking at my neck & upper back, Dr. Laub had the big-picture understanding to look elsewhere for the source. 

I continued to see him every week or two for a few months. He used a process called Kinesiology, which got into something called innervation to help my various parts & pieces communicate with each other and heal better after so many years of being out of whack. From what I understand about it, the science is sound, but it still seemed a little freaky-deaky at times. We would start with him telling me not to let him push my left leg toward the ground, but my leg being unable to stop him. Then he'd poke me in the ribs for a few seconds or give my leg a good yank, and we'd try again, and suddenly my leg would be more than strong enough to keep his arm at bay.  He also got me on a regimen at the gym to build muscle strength and overall stability.

Lucky Dr. Laub also got to hear some of my musings and processing about this whole thing. With long-term pain, one ends up digging into other aspects of life as well, especially if one is a nervous-type who has been around people that tend to over-spiritualize things. We talked about how there's a world of difference between "There's nothing wrong with you," and "I can't find anything wrong with you," and the damage we can do to each other when we take condescending postures. We talked about how God likes to use everyday circumstances to teach us things all the time, but sometimes a sore back is just a sore back. When I got bogged down in all the parts of me that still hurt, he would remind me of the huge improvements I'd seen already.

He told me about starting out in a completely different career, and then seeing a few doctors, deciding he could do a better job, and going to medical school to become a DO (most of my favorite doctors have been DO's and to this day I am biased toward them)--all while in the Air Force. He told me about steak and lobster night at his house, and I was impressed that regular people bought and prepared lobster in their own homes. I'd have liked to meet his wife, because I have a feeling she has quite a story of her own to tell.

Finally whatever he was waiting for came through, and it was time for him to retire from the Air Force and start up his own practice in town. I was holding back tears in his storage-room-office at my last appointment, wondering what would happen, and he said, "You're going to be alright. Remember, the body wants to heal itself." And he gave me his email address and said I could keep in touch. 

Anytime I venture out into a new and independent thing I get scared, and this was no exception. Even if Dr. Laub hadn't been retiring, we moved from the area not too terribly long after that, so the parting was inevitable. I remember emerging from the medical center that day both nervous and hopeful for the future of my back and butt.

Dr. Laub retains hero-status in my book to this day, and I send him a grateful email every few years to remind him of that. He was both compassionate and competent (which I am finding can be an elusive combination, especially in military medicine), and I don't think he'd have been as effective without both of those traits.

Next up: the rest of the story. Maybe...

Jul 1, 2013

Monday Snippets...

--As Tiny E is over a year and I am breathing that sigh of relief I always do when my babies reach a year, and knowing that there are no more babies on our horizon of plans (Done, we are!), I am sticking my head up and looking around, surveying my surroundings, and wondering what I want to do as time goes on. Not to say that I'm bored by any stretch of the imagination, but as my baby gets less dependent in the baby sorts of ways, it does free me up a bit as far as scheduling and structuring my time and our family time in ways that weren't as practical during the infant-times, and which I didn't want to put the energy into with the knowledge and hope of more kids. At the time.

And there is SO MUCH I want to do. It's hard to narrow it down.  I've always felt I'm sort of laid-back in the way of taking opportunities as they come at me, rather than going out and conjuring up my own opportunities, but I think that's because I am incredibly fortunate to have never been in want of opportunities.

Frankly, I wonder if little babies have been a good barrier to my taking on too much, because now I see all the things I could do, and it's a little difficult to discern what to take on and what to skip. I just don't want to miss out.  I'm still just over halfway through Making Manifest, and this month I'm also taking a phone photography class.  If I made a list of what I'm NOT doing this month because it's just too much or not yet time for it, you would a) laugh, b) roll your eyes, and/or c) call me a dork.  And all would be OK because really I am pretty much a big dork (and enjoy dork-company)...

--I saw a new back doctor a couple weeks ago, which really needs its own post or entire series, but the short version is that medical science has made great strides in the 10 years since my diagnosis of SI Joint dysfunction, and I get the feeling I'm well on my way to (surgery-free) healing in the SI area.  At least part of it is being done having kids, and taking more time to devote to a higher baseline of core strength (thank you, Tony Horton).  Plus, you know, God providing this doctor who, when I summoned up tear-filled courage and whispered, "I'd really like to run marathon(s)" said, "Totally. We treat people like you all the time. You'll be able to run marathons, no problem."

After 9 years of hearing "We can't find anything wrong with you," and "Well maybe you just shouldn't run anymore," followed by 10 years of knowing what the problem was (thank God), but being on the losing side of the battle due to various factors--yes, 19 years total since the original injury--I cannot stress the importance of hearing such an affirmation.

More on this as things develop.  It's not time to start marathon training just yet, but I have begun researching programs and schedules...

--As part of my first point, and because of the summertime schedule shift, I've been gradually reworking our household routines. I put myself on a regular schedule for two chores, and also built in writing practice for myself each day.  Because I enjoy it, and if I don't do it, it won't get done.  So each day I get up and work out, and for 15 minutes after that I write. It's not long (even what I've written so far here has taken longer), and it's not profound, or even post-able for the most part, but it gets all those annoying half-thoughts out of my head, some of which may become blog posts, and the rest of which have a nice home out in the country where they won't make anyone go cross-eyed.

It's made a nice balance between all the things so far.  We are busy enough to stay out of trouble for the most part, and everyone has some things that they get to do.  Certain babies could do a better job of letting Mommy have Mommy-space, but certain babies are also cute and fun, and Mommy sort of likes it when they try to sit on her belly during Ab Ripper...

How about you?

What are you changing up in your life?

What things are you doing, or waiting until the right time to take on?

Jun 23, 2013

On Flatulence and Judging Others...

While I was out jogging one morning recently I came to the construction site along my route.  I usually run by before anyone arrives to work for the day. However, on this particular day I got a late start, so my normal times got moved about 20 minutes to the right (or left? I can never remember which direction means later), and by the time I got there, several folks were already readying equipment, moving road barriers, and so on.

One of the great things about morning workouts is that they are good for clearing the body of excess, um, things that accumulate overnight.  Bits of soreness, funky little muscle twinges, air (gas), and so on.  Also, while there are many advantages to working out with friends, some things are best experienced solo, and I can never do yoga in a group, because yoga is probably the best ever for clearing the body of excess things.

Bringing me back to my running path, 20 minutes later than normal, while my body is still going through the clearing of the things. I have made a habit of waving or acknowledging anyone I encounter along a jog, regardless of their demeanor or mode of transportation.  I try to vary my method according to how I feel it will be best received.  Stern-looking folks with earbuds get a solemn nod. Moms pushing jogging strollers get a wave and a "good job!" and sometimes even a high-five. And so on.

I actually have a reason for this, and it's not (necessarily) to spread cheer or be super-annoying before 7 am.  I read somewhere that waving is good because it humanizes the other person, and over time they are likely to respond more favorably.  Meaning, if I wave to the bus drivers as they are pulling out for their morning runs, they are more likely to see me as that-friendly-running-lady, rather than one-of-those-annoying-joggers, and not run over me when it all hits the fan.

That said, spreading a little cheer isn't bad either.  We can all use an acknowledgement of our humanity, at the very least.

So of COURSE at the exact moment I was debating when and how to greet the worker, some air decided that it needed to exit my body.  And of COURSE I am working on my core strength to be able to control these exits better, but like many women after having one or several children, my core strength has a long way to go.  So I was jogging past the guy setting out cones, willing myself to make it just a little further because, seriously. While I would love to think I don't give a rip, "Good morning! >toot<" is not good for my public persona.

A couple things happened at once.  First, several cars passed, greatly increasing the background noise, especially in the worker's vicinity, thank God.  Also, I was concentrating so intently on being as quiet as possible in all regards, that before I knew it I had passed the danger zone and was back to solo status.

So then of COURSE Contrary Kerri made an appearance, reminding me how unfriendly and selfish I had been to not wave at the guy, and how he probably now thought I was incredibly standoffish, and probably a snob. I told Contrary Kerri to dial it back one or ten notches, because good grief it was first thing in the morning, and maybe the guy was worried more about his work than about joggers passing by, and oh my goodness, are we this worried about what people think of us while we're trying to hold in toots?

Well. That made me think about how I perceive other people.  Living in the area I do, there is a perception about people's affluence, and friendliness (or lack thereof), and emphasis on appearances. When someone doesn't greet me, or seems preoccupied when I attempt a conversation, it's easy to assume they are being mean, or snobbish, or whatever. But when I put myself in their place, suddenly I can see about 23 other reasons they might not be gazing intently into my eyes, thanking the Lord Himself for this gift of conversation with Skerrib. And the interesting thing is that I'll never know exactly what's going through people's heads when they are talking to me (or not), but the assumptions I make definitely affect how I view the world.  And that makes me want to give people the benefit of the doubt more often. Maybe not always, but usually.

So the next time you are tempted to think bad things about someone for ignoring you or blowing you off, just remember: maybe they were trying desperately not to fart loudly in front of you.  Then you can thank them silently for preventing an awkward situation.

You're welcome...

Jun 17, 2013

Making Manifest Giveaway Winner...

The competition was stiff, but the nifty random number generator came up with number 9, and by my calculations that means Andrea is the winner--congratulations!

So Andrea, please send me an email at skerri_bATyahooDOTcom, and I'll get your mailing info and so on.

Thank you everyone for participating, and if you are so inclined, I hope you will check out Making Manifest and let me know what you think.

But even if you don't, God still loves you. Write that down, kids...

Jun 10, 2013

Making Manifest (Giveaway)...

The truth is, I let myself off the hook of "daily devotionals" years ago.

I remember clearly a conversation I had with one of my youth pastors back at good ol' Grace Community Church.  I was feeling bad, and couldn't quite articulate why or even what it was about, but eventually I launched into some pious self-flagellation--Contrary Kerri was well-developed even then--assuming that my inner angst was probably due to something I wasn't doing enough of--not praying enough, not being consistent about my daily quiet time, and so on. And the pastor interrupted me, saying "Who said you have to do a daily quiet time?"

I was a little dumbstruck, which is in itself a little remarkable.  I still am today, as I search for where or from whom I got some of my silliest, most burdensome ideas about what is required of me to grow and mature when it comes to the things of God.  Occasionally I can point to a particular conversation or sermon that might have pointed me toward a direction of legalism or triggered my neuroses to form some sort of thing, but more often than not I'm left with fuzzy memories and overall performance-based, "sin-management" cultures, rather than concrete words from specific people. Mostly, anyway.

Besides, my point in this story is that in this instance, my pastor communicated freedom to me in that simple interruption.  He didn't downplay the importance of talking with God and reading His words (i.e. the Bible); he just challenged my superstitious idea that I could manage my own life and/or God Himself by checking a little box marked "Quiet Time" each day.

Since then I've gone through lots of seasons and phases regarding Bible-reading and overall spiritual development, including books, book studies (Romans has pretty much everything, and we could probably get rid of everything else, except that would be heresy so I'm NOT recommending that), devotionals (lots of legalistic life-suckers out there), workbooks (some better than others), spiritual gifts inventories (maddening), and a One-Year Bible, which took me about 14 months. And it's true, I have gone through periods where I barely crack the Bible open, if at all.  But I've also been through periods of profound awe and joy, re-discovering scriptures I learned back in Christian school, seeing them in a new and more mature light. And I have never (ever, ever again) let myself be re-imprisoned by that stupid notion that I had to finagle my devotions in just the right way to get God to bless me, or make me feel good.

And by the way, lots of people do quiet times (daily!) without the neuroses I manage to inject into them.  And lots of people can go to Cornerstone or Berean or Lifeway or any other Christian bookstore without feeling either browbeaten or a sense of sarcastic superiority, and can pick from a variety of devotionals and learn something from it without getting all jaded about boiling God himself down to fill-in-the-blank answers.  But one of the cool things about God is that he made all of us so unique, and He can minister to each of us regardless of our personality, season in life, literacy level, or insolent refusal to go along with the status quo (ahem).  He knows our hearts, and he knows how to speak to us in just the right way when even Beth Moore can't, God bless her*.

**Random aside: the Cat Daddy just asked what I was blogging about. I said "Oh, this devotional I'm going thru." He said, "You're going through a devotional?" and I said "Yep" and he said, "I'm sorry." This is how well daily quiet times and prepackaged devotionals are generally received in my household.**

Having said all of the above, when I read this post about a Making Manifest book giveaway, I was immediately hooked.  Then I had a moment of panic, and a talk with myself about not getting my hopes up too high that I would win it.  Then I read someone else's comment that she was ordering the book right then & there and if she won it she would give away her extra copy to someone else.  And I thought "Hey, great idea" and did the same.  And I received the book before the drawing was even complete, which turned out to be just fine since I didn't end up winning it.

I was worried that it might be too artsy-fartsy for me.  The whole point of the book is drawing out one's creative expressions, and I'm sort of creative, but I'm also a whole lot of engineer and literal thinker, so I got a little nervous at the mention of poetry.  I was worried about a lot of things really, which maybe speaks more to the expectations I place on things like devotionals and other things, but in the end even the hopes I cautioned myself against have been surpassed. Which is saying a lot.

And the great thing about Making Manifest is that it's OK with my concerns.  The book's author, Dave Harrity, invests quite a bit of energy quelling worries along the way.  The introduction alone devotes considerable space to mentioning potential fears and hangups with a creativity-based devotional, and calming them with words of comfort, like a gentle pat on the shoulder.  From a book.  If books had gentle, comforting hands.

I've been at it for about a month now and am on approximately Day 10 of the 28-day study. There are several reasons behind this.  First, I find myself not wanting to rush through it--I really want to take my time with the readings and responses, and savor the contemplation time. Second, it turns out sleep really is important to my overall sanity and functioning, so if it is too late on a given night I just scrap it and pick up the next day.  Also, the Littler One needs to stop falling asleep right at dinner time, sleeping for two hours, and then staying up until ungodly (un. godly.) hours of the night.

But here's a first for me--I enjoy and look forward to this devotional so much that I find myself planning my daily time better so I'll have the energy to spend on it each night.  Seriously, people.  I usually think devotions are dumb (not the concept, but most actual devotional thingies), but this one is not dumb.

I think one of the things Making Manifest does well is to gently yet skillfully ease into heart-depths.  Within the first week I had gone from describing myself in a nutshell to exploring my own deepest fears and doubts--the topics that are usually too scary and vulnerable to allow out--to learning about and writing actual poetry to/about God.  I have been pleasantly amazed.  And while at first glance some of the writing exercises may feel awkward for some, they are usually followed by a sentence or two explaining that it's perfectly OK if they feel awkward, along with helpful suggestions for dealing with/re-framing the awkwardness.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is not a Bible study, per se.  Scripture is definitely a part of the devotions, but the approach focuses more on prayer, exploring scripture, and relationship with God through creative means, rather than scholarship and gaining Biblical knowledge.  Not a bad thing by any stretch; just something to be aware of going into it.

All told, even though I'm less than halfway through, I would recommend this devotional to the following people:
  • Creative and/or poetry-types
  • Those who enjoy writing for work or fun
  • Those whose questions are outside the box and/or don't necessarily have clear-cut answers
  • Those who have a toe outside the mainstream or are interested in a different approach to devotions
  • Those in a place where fill-in-the-blank studies aren't cutting the mustard
  • Those who are introspective and like to process life
  • Those who like to cut the chit-chat and dig a little deeper
  • Those willing to take a risk and see what happens
  • Those feeling a little fragile and/or needing a safe place to think things through

You can find more info about the book or order it here.

And guess what? I am loving it so much I'm gonna give away a fresh copy, just because I can. At least I think I can. I guess if I'm violating some sort of law or tradition we'll find out together.

Just leave a comment on this post by 1159 pm EDT this Saturday, June 15.  No pressure to be brilliant unless you want to--"yes please" is sufficient.  I'll pick a winner via random number generator and announce it on Monday June 17.

Good? Good. It's my first-ever giveaway; should be fun...

*I have nothing against Beth Moore.  Zero.  I think she's smart, credible, stylish, and a good speaker, and I bet if I met her in real life we would have a lovely time.  Just not necessarily my, um, cup of tea when it comes to Bible studies.

Jun 6, 2013

A Grand Send-Off...

I get cynical, and too often I use humor and sarcasm to create a crispy shell and hide my feelings. Sometimes it's to hide fears and pain, and other times it's a (misguided) attempt to be cool, but the truth of the matter is that on the inside I'm a big ball of mush.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not all flowery rainbows and pink butterflies or anything, but certain things catch me just the right way and make me break out into a dumb goofy grin. 

Such was the case today, His Highness's last day of kindergarten. I started the day wanting to take photographs of His Highness entering the school as a kindergartener and coming out a first-grader, but he put the kibosh on my whole idea. He actually had the nerve to say "Don't even think about taking my picture, Mom" (he's in an entirely aggravating anti-paparazzi phase). So I didn't get the photos I was hoping for.

The younger two and I spent a whirlwind afternoon running errands (ie, hunting down a nifty pair of aqua-colored shorts I really wanted) and buying groceries, and made it to the school with what would normally have been 10 minutes to spare.  But as we drove into the parking lot, I saw bunches of kids heading for the buses and I thought, "Hmmm, I guess they let out a little early on the last day."

Now usually when I drive over for dismissal, I wait in the (parked) car until the buses leave, so that it's a quick and clear shot over to the doors to pick up His Highness as he exits with what I call the Parade of walkers.  The Parade moves in an orderly fashion toward the crossing guard, which is in the opposite direction of our house, so I have to pick him out of line if I don't want to hike all the way over there and back.

Today however, as the buses cleared I saw the above scene--the entire front curb lined with children and teachers and school staff, waving to the kids on the buses as they pulled away.  If you click the pic to enlarge, you can see on the left the orange signs held up--the media staff spelled out "R-E-A-D" as a reminder for the summer, and there was music playing as everyone waved and, back by the doors, teachers danced.  I assume that more would have been dancing had they not been holding umbrellas and wrangling littles and whatnot, but there you have it.

I got out of the car and waited, as usual, to allow the buses to clear.  They were going slower than normal, allowing everyone to really take in and enjoy this moment of triumph.  And they kept coming, and I thought "Um, how did we get this many more buses than normal?" until it dawned on me that they had done an extra lap around the bus loop. No matter where they started, every kid on every bus had the opportunity to go through that whole line of waving, cheering teachers and kids.  Everyone had the chance to say "Have a good summer!" and "See you next year!" or "Good luck in middle school!" or simply "Good bye!"

Most of the kids crowded on the side toward the curb, but a few stuck their arms out and waved toward me, and I waved back as if I'd just spotted a bus driving by with all my favorite people inside, along with celebrities and maybe Jesus himself, and before I knew it my cheeks hurt because my smile was so wide.  I stood there, in the rain with no umbrella, wondering at the moment. 

I (almost) always enjoyed school, and I loved my teaching years, and I still love most anything school-related.  And while I try to be careful to let His Highness have his own school experiences, I delight in the memories they bring back for me, and I love it when I get the chance to share them with him. 

I do get cynical sometimes about all the friggin' extras.  Parties and treats, and all the dang Oriental Trading Company bits that weasel their way into my home (and within days, my trash can), and this gift and that fundraiser, and collecting these things, signing those papers, and "Mom, we're supposed to wear mixed indigo fibers for National Hug-A-Basket-Weaver Day," and so on.  Half of me loves the care and experiences these kids get, and the other half simultaneously wants to spit from exhaustion. 

But something about this was just right to me.  They did it, every single one.  From the principal to the bus drivers, to the biggest fifth-grader to the littlest kindergartener--everyone had reason to celebrate a job well done, and what better way to congratulate each other than this?  No money spent, or trinkets handed out, or junk food wolfed down (that came after we got home). Just this year's school family, all together one last time for a grand send-off.   

Soon enough the buses pulled out of the lot and onto their routes.  I grabbed His Highness and got to thank his teacher one last time for all her work.  I got to yell a thank-you to the principal (hopefully the assistant principal didn't feel excluded, but it would've been too awkward to try and yell at them both).  And for this time, we got to say "See you next year." 

And tomorrow we will be onto summery things.  There are swimming lessons to take, and the library to visit, and summer "homework," which we'll probably do for about a week before we throw our hands up and cave to the summer regression.  But for today, he had an important lesson in feeling it all--the excitement and the sadness and all the other parts of leaving well. 

Well done, Mill Run.  Well done, indeed...

Jun 2, 2013

Nipples Crosses a Line...

We left off in the last post with Nipples having reached a baseline level of notoriety in our community. After a minor kerfuffle, he had grown familiar with the area and had been exposed to the local religious institutions and veterinary facilities.  If I could impart wisdom to creatures smaller than myself, I'd have shown him the prudence and comfort of his state in life in that exact moment.  I'd have encouraged him to press the pause button ever so slightly--not on his adventuresome spirit or killer instincts, but simply on that aspect of him that pushes the envelope of "personal boundaries" and particularly "assuming one is human and/or entitled to go all the same places as humans."

I don't know that I've adequately explained the lay of the land around our neighborhood.  Our community has a thing about appreciating and preserving nature. And I don't mean that the residents all happen to do those things (although doubtless many do); I mean the planners or HOA or whomever made it a formal and conscious theme of the community to appreciate and preserve nature. Dispersed among our neighborhoods are several little habitats and preserves where one can find an uncanny variety of wildlife.  In addition we live directly across the street from a dedicated Nature Center, where people can visit a sampling of the local wildlife (including a resident corn snake, which was not viewable when I visited because it was getting ready to shed its skin and needed solitude. Which I was fine with), and also pick up their pool passes. Surrounding the Nature Center are a decorative pond, wooded area complete with a creek, and a small grasslands. In this same area are the tennis courts and playground, all of which provide a convenient source of outdoor recreation to anyone who visits. As the Cat Daddy says, it is Nipples's own personal Shangri-la.

All of this backs up directly to the "outdoor classroom" portion of the school grounds, so if you can envision this, you can perhaps understand that as far as Nipples is concerned, the elementary school happens to occupy the northwest district of Shangri-la.

After the first public school encounter, we had a peaceful time of maybe a week or two.  Nipples turned up during recess, the teachers shooed the kids away from the cat, and all was well.  One day while walking His Highness to kindergarten (with the younger two in tow), we happened to catch Nipples at the right time and he tagged along. We were our own, personal parade.

Once we were on the school grounds, Nipples veered off toward the playground and tennis courts, and I didn't think much beyond "Perhaps he has business to attend to over by the Nature Center."  Enough of the other parents and kids had seen him that we had a few "Oh, that's your cat!" conversations, but not much else.  The afternoon passed uneventfully, and soon the Littler One, Tiny E, and I headed back to school for the end of the day pick-up.

Now, at school dismissal there are kids and teachers everywhere. Going here, going there, catching the bus, directing cars, and so on.  It is controlled, but it is busy.  As we walked onto the grounds, we heard more commotion than usual, and cries of "There's the cat!" "It's Nipples!" "The cat's going into the school!" etc.

That's right. The cat was trying to go through the big, wide-open, green doors leading inside the school.

And here's where I sighed a little on the inside.  Because while it was hilarious to me, I knew that it was a logistical nightmare to those in charge of keeping an orderly dismissal, and trying to protect individuals with cat allergies, and probably anyone else who might take offense to a certain curious kitty wondering where his oldest kid went every afternoon. I went over to talk with some of the staff members, a little worried about what sort of tones I might encounter.  But overall the conversation was pleasant, if terse.  "Yes, I will try to shoo him away from the doors,"  "Yes, I will try to get him to come home with me," and my personal favorite (with escalating intensity), "I understand your concern, but I really need to pick up my kid BEFORE I WORRY ABOUT THE CAT."

I grabbed His Highness before he headed off away from the school (and in the opposite direction of our home) with the rest of the walkers, and I shooed the cat away from the building enough that he headed down a storm drain to wait out the excitement, and we all headed home while I thought about ways to alleviate the situation. While every so often there are stories of cute little animals becoming unofficial school mascots/companions--and while I considered the possibility that Nipples was in fact auditioning for a role portraying the school's resident Mountain Lion--the non-cat-person portion of the staff had already shown that this would not be like the heartwarming circumstances I've read about.  I sent a quick email to one of the administrators, and as a gesture of goodwill offered to provide spray bottles as a deterrent to any future attempts on Nipples's part to enter the school.

The next morning the phone rang.  And I saw the school's number. And I sighed a little.

"Hi Skerrib, this is the principal."


"Don't worry, I'm not calling about anything bad."

(Secretly thinking, 'it's about the cat, isn't it') "OK..."

"I'm calling to talk about your cat..."

And here is where I have to be clear that the principal was and continues to be very cool about the whole thing. Completely understanding, and even appreciative of Nipples's forthrightness, I got the feeling that if he hadn't been busy running a school he would have let me talk his ear off about my cat. Because Nipples remains awesome, and there's very little to dispute about that.  On the other hand, the principal also shared about some of the heartburn as a result of the cat: having to comfort little girls who started to cry upon seeing him disappear down the storm drains, convinced that the kitty was gone forever, fending off the more uptight parents who really wanted him to call Animal Control and be done with it, and so on. It was apparent that the cat had crossed over from providing amusement to being truly disruptive to the educational environment.

I again offered to provide spray bottles, but he didn't seem too keen on that idea. He said, "I'm not even sure how to ask this, or how you would do it, but if you could somehow keep him at home during school hours, my problem would go away completely." I wasn't exactly sure how to go about it either, but I assured the principal I would indeed try my best to keep the cat in during the school day, and I thanked him for not contacting Animal Control, and we ended the conversation on a positive and pleasant note. 

After talking with the principal, I went to have a stern talk with Nipples, who it turns out wasn't home at the time.  So I waited until the next time he wandered in, and gave him a piece of my mind for getting into so much mischief ("I got a call from the principal, Nipples").  I told him as a consequence of his actions, I was forced to enact a Kitty Curfew, and while he could still come and go in the evening and on weekends, he would now be expected to stay in during the school day. 

Less than impressed, he looked up at me from his food with slightly narrowed eyes, licked his lips, and immediately went back to eating...