Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And then the eyelashes melted

A few days ago, we spent some hours cleaning out our little corner of the shop. Not little shop, just my little corner. It's the corner that my in-laws nag me about because it's loaded with our stuff. I'm not going to say anything snippy about it being OUR shop (since we bought the farm and all and nobody else makes any payments) it's just that the one corner is something I'm always getting picked on about because I have stuff there. Stuff. Just things that have traveled along on my life journey with me. Mine.

Long story short - when our shop floods in the winter (doesn't happen too often) but when it did last time, it was never completely cleaned out. We're always too busy after a flood to sweep the shop - it goes at the bottom of the list, know what I mean? Somewhere below wringing out goats, fluffing up chickens and mopping seventy times a day. So, the floors were left to dry naturally and whatever silt seeped under the doors made a nice dust covered floor that could possibly keep a sparse lawn in place. Some of the shop floor is raised and doesn't get wet - that's where my stuff was. So naturally, after I had about an 8 foot by 4 foot section all nice and decluttered, I wanted to make the floor clean too. So, I swept it. It was after dark, and I had only a little bit of light in there, but I could see dust - and when I swept there was no more dust. I felt so good to make a clean spot! Yay me!!

It felt good until the next morning anyway, when I realized all that dust went into my lungs and was sitting there like a gooey lump of mud. It's been three days now, and everytime I cough, only the equivalent to one dust particle comes up at a time. Steam helps - so I've been on a hot tea diet.

Yesterday was a little bit better, so I decided to keep up the hot tea diet and I went to put the pot on to boil. Now this newfangled, completely digital, touch pad display on my stove is great, if you like runway lights in your kitchen. I don't complain though because I picked it out. So I shoved the leftover pan from the night before aside, grumbling at one daughter or another who neglected to clean it up, and I started the burner for the water. I then went about composing a rather lengthy letter to a family member, knowing that my teapot would alert me when it was ready. All during the letter writing, I thought I heard strange noises. My dog alerts me to strange noises that I need to pay attention to, and since he kept sleeping, I just kept writing. Then I realized that the noise continued, and it sounded as if it were inside the house. We've had just enough critters running loose, that I figured it was worth checking out.

I would describe the noise as a popping and squeaking sound. For your reference, it's exactly the kind of noise you would hear if you were to put a partial pan of refried beans on the stove, use the turbo-boil setting, and just let it go. The popping noise was those little beans exploding and when their skins were torn off, the squeaking was their screams of horror. The pasty bean substance on the sides of the pan (because it wasn't a FULL pan of beans of course!) was burning, then crackling off of the stainless steel, and making a very potent billow of smoke at the same time. Too bad it wasn't Halloween... I had my own (do NOT try this at home) smoke machine! Wait till I tell the kids!

Covering my mouth and nose with my shirt (just like they taught us in elementary school) and waving my arms to clear the air so I could see, I made my way into the kitchen to grope for the handle of the pan. I forgot to think that maybe I should have grabbed a different piece of clothing than the one I was actually wearing to put on my face, because when I ran back and forth with that pan, trying to figure out how to get the door open without removing my shirt from my face, I'm pretty sure I flashed our neighbors. (Betcha I looked smokin'!) I finally put the pan back down on the stove, opened the door, and then went to relocate the pan outside onto the deck. On a hot pad, of course, because I didn't want to mar the surface of our deck. *sigh*

Windows flung open, fans going, air conditioner on high and doors wide open all day still did not remove the nasty stench of a near kitchen fire. I soon realized that smoke inhalation coupled with the gummy dust layer in my lungs was causing me quite a bit of grief. All self-inflicted grief, of course. Not to give in to defeat, I decided to help eliminate the smell on this fine rainy afternoon. I had the perfect solution. I'd make cupcakes! Dark chocolate cupcakes would counteract the burned bean smell and my family would be coming home happier today (instead of their usual gagging behavior). I was sure of it.

The meticulously prepared cupcakes were placed, ever so carefully, into the lower oven on my new range and I proceeded to wait the appropriate nineteen minutes. The instant that timer went off, I lept to my feet and (without spraining anything) hurried to the kitchen to see what glorious delights awaited my eyes. I bent down and quickly pulled the oven door open. Instead of seeing delicious little cupcakes, I was met with a face full of heat and steam that instantly loosened seven layers of the dust and smoke in my lungs while simultaneously clamping my eyes shut and melting my eyelashes together.

My top lip now feels like I've just got a fresh wax, my forehead is really shiny and my nose feels like I just got back from a day at the lake without sunscreen. I'm not really sure if there's more damage, as I still can't focus through my steam-cleaned contact lenses, but I'm pretty sure my eyelashes would have just dropped off my face entirely if it wasn't for the mascara holding them firmly in place. The bad news is that neither of our smoke alarms went off. That is alarming. The good news is that the cupcakes turned out just fine. From what I can see anyway.
Yay me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Last Will & Testament

To whom it may concern,

I am a few days short of dying. It's all because of my treadmill. The last time I got on it, I felt every extra part of my body scream like never before. My hips are arguing with my every step, and now my upper back hurts as much as my lower back. Since we are all aware that my death is quickly approaching (it's a shock, I know), I would like to bequeath some of my most special belongings to those who have tortured me the most that I love and cherish. Please follow the directions or you will receive seven lashings with a wet towel.

Considering that my impending death is due only to my numerous attempts to use our stupid treadmill, I would like to make it very clear that my treadmill is to go to my husband, and only my husband. It was his stupid idea to buy the thing in the first place. I know that in all of his grief over my death, he will feel inclined to get on the treadmill to sweat away his sorrows. He might even feel inclined to use the incline feature. I don't know if the incline feature actually works, because I've never quite got the idea of attempting suicide on a treadmill, but I know that once he starts using it, he'll keel over (incline or no incline) and die too - that will be my way of getting back at him from beyond the grave.

Once he arrives in heaven with me, with our new and wonderful bodies, we will no longer need the recumbent bike that sits, in all hostility, next to the treadmill. I would like the recumbent bike to go to my children. They can fight over it, and may the biggest whiner win. All of the "it's MY turn" will not be heard by me any longer, so I really don't give a care. Hopefully when someone cleans out my exercise room/laundry room/library/storage room they will come across the dag-blasted power cord for the recumbent bike so that anyone who peddles more than a quarter of a mile won't blow out their knees like I have.

Among my other prized possessions is my exercise ball. The big, giant formerly-inflated piece of junk goes to my youngest child. Since he's the one that insisted on bouncing around on it immediately after he broke a jar in my living room, he can have the shredded pieces of rubber as a long-term remembrance of how much his Mother's patience was stretched thin.

My daughters will receive my sweaty workout clothes. This is a special payback for all the damp, stinky, sweaty gym shorts and volleyball uniforms they have left for me to take care of every day of their middle school lives. I would also throw in all of my bath towels, except they probably already have 27 of them in their room, in a wet heap on the floor.

My elder son will be the recipient of my walking shoes. He can't ever seem to find more than one shoe at a time, so I'm hoping that by giving him a pair of shoes that have always sat side by side, he might feel inclined to follow suit and give his next set of parents a more harmonious home.

(and while gasping-for-my-last-breath)
~The girl who's dying from treadmill abuse

Friday, October 16, 2009

I am smarter than an 8th grader

Just so ya'll know, I have never been one of those people who just wanders around outside the house in my pajamas. I've never quite gotten the reason why people can't just slip on some clothes and go about their lives and leave the pj's at home - where they belong. Now on the nights I wear pajamas (shush, I know what you're thinking) I prefer to have very comfortable pajamas. Just this past year, I actually bought some pretty AND comfortable pajamas. I love them. I love them so much I could get rid of all the others and be happy with this one set. Unfortunately this kind of thinking tends to make people want to wear their pajamas outside of the home. This case is no exception.

In the mornings at our house, it is always a lazy wake up time, followed by a rushed feeling to eat breakfast and get the teeth clean, followed by a complete panic and frenzy to catch the bus. The bus stop takes forever to travel to, but only if you're late. It's at the end of our driveway. If one kid doesn't catch the bus in time (missing shoe, misplaced homework, etc...) that kid gets a free ride to school courtesy of Mom. I don't mind doing it, the school isn't that far away (and truthfully it gives me a few extra minutes to apologize and get forgiveness for yelling at whoever is in the car for not hurrying up earlier) but it does mean that I have to change out of my favorite pajamas lots sooner than I had planned (which is sometimes a really good thing, if you know what I'm saying).

A few days ago, my firstborn asked the question. You know, the one question you've been asking yourself inside your own brain for weeks, that when someone else finally verbalizes the question, it seems to makes things completely legitimate just because someone else spoke the words? "Mom, why don't you just wear your pajamas instead of getting dressed?"

The girl is a genius. Why I had never thought of that I'll never know! I gave her some lame reason like, "Well, you really just never know when you need to be dressed in clothes when you go outside." I then proceeded to explain how one of my favorite speakers at our recent Women of Faith conference talked about wearing "Flu" pants outside to take care of a dead goat. We've all got Flu pants, she stated. The kind you wear when you're sick, and you may or may not be wearing underwear under them? The kind that, in her story, tend to fall down when your hands are occupied and you can't pull them up - but only when you're in your own field in full view of a busy highway, and it's either drop the dead goat or drop your pants? Yeah - I gave my daughter that excuse, and she just rolled her eyes. "Like stuff like that actually ever happens! And who doesn't ever wear underwear??" Ahem... carrying on...

So yesterday, we had one of those days where the kids scurry around like just-discovered-barn-rats, and as luck would have it, one of them needed a ride. Either that or I forgot to wake them up in time, I just don't recall. (Hey, it's hard to make sure four kids are actually out of bed before I've even had coffee, ok?? I see kids moving about, I just assume there are four of them.) So I don't exactly recall which school I had to visit that morning (seeing as how if three of them miss the bus, I literally have to travel to three different schools) but it was one of them, and it was a short drive, and I was really, REALLY tired. I had all intentions of going straight back to bed as soon as I heard the bus drive away. But here I was thinking of how to expend the least amount of energy possible.

So - I put the good advice of my thirteen year old daughter to use. I put my coat on, shoved my feet into my Nike's and grabbed my car keys. I gingerly stepped out the door into the carport, noticed there were no other parents driving by and proceeded to thank the good Lord that I always park with my drivers side to the field and not the road. I made a mad dash for the car before anyone, including our early riser neighbors, could spot my really loud pajama pants. There was no mistaking they were pajamas. If you saw someone who normally only wears some shade of denim on her legs wearing a flashy white and black scroll motif instead, you'd know they were pajamas from three acres away - in the fog.

I was home free. I drove my kid to school (still don't recall which one) and I watched every stop sign, left turn signal and speed limit too, just to make sure I didn't have any reason to get pulled over by one of our town's finest. I just knew it would be my luck that if I got pulled over the apple juice sitting in the furthest seat back in our suburban would have become fermented, leading to a search of my vehicle, and an arrest for open container, all in my pajamas while all the other parents who always wear clothes and underwear drove by and laughed at me. I had to make myself scarce. Fear gripped my heart.

The drive home was pretty slow - because apparently on all other mornings I don't see speed limit signs? Either that or I was just paranoid. I was so relieved to pull back into our driveway and release all that pent up paranoia when what did I see? No less than 13 farm workers had descended on my field and were busily picking lettuce. Oh good gravy, who on earth scheduled that? So carefully, I pulled into the driveway, made a big display as if I had something that burndoned me to unload from the back of the Suburban, and I backed up as close to the carport as I could get. Nobody would see me now! Of course all of my maneuvering made every one of those 13 farmer guys watch to see what I was up to, when in all reality they might never have noticed me in the first place, seeing as how they were knee deep in lettuce, kale, chard and all sorts of other things green.

My plan appeared to be working though, because there was only about two feet of space that they might catch a glimpse of me zipping by in my brilliant black and white get-up. They'd probably think I was wearing a lovely flowing skirt - or perhaps dress pants - yes, they'd think that. What with my flurry of fuzzy hair sticking out all over the place and my raccoon eyes from the makeup I'd been too tired to wash off the night before. Yeah, they'd totally go for that.

So, blissfully unaware of my surroundings, I stepped out of the car. I proceeded to gather my purse and other things I evidently left in the vehicle overnight - all while gleefully smiling at the fact that none of the farmers could see me, and I was wearing my pajamas! Neener neener! I'd done it!

Boy had I done it all right. It suddenly occurred to me that the one child I had taken to school was the one who had to arrive EARLY and that the strange noise I was hearing behind me was the brakes of the school bus pulling up, and all the cars before and behind it coming to a stop. How, in the name of all things rational, could I have let THIS happen? My raccoon eyes were WIDE open and the grin still plastered on my face as the bus driver waved at me, and I frantically waved her on by. She probably thought I was sure a friendly sort, with all the smiling and waving and such. Little did she know that right there, in that very spot, I was making new committments. I was committing to never wearing my pajamas outside the house ever again, and I was committing to never doubt the fact that I AM smarter than an 8th grader.

Now where did I leave my wagon?

Weight loss isn't easy. It sometimes gets in the way of other things, like dessert, and free time! Weight loss has to be something you really want, or you're going to get exactly what you put into it. Nothing, equals nothing. That's exactly what I've gotten these past few miserable weeks. Nothing!

I check my scale from time to time, just to see how bad things are, and thankfully it hasn't gotten much WORSE, but knowing that I won't ever move forward towards my goals unless I actually PARTICIPATE has gotten me to get back on the wagon again. I'm picking up where I left off. I'm doing it today.

Over the past few weeks we buried a family member, I suffered a really deep and sudden bout of depression, I had terrible back pain, we ran out of groceries and money at the same time, my marriage took a nosedive, and I lived to tell about it. I'm refocusing. I'm directing my gaze towards what I can accomplish instead of what I feel helpless about. (And I still haven't had hardly ANY soda since August 1st - a goal that has far exceeded my expectations and become a habit!) I'm grateful for every day that I get a chance to wake up and breathe clean air. I'm happy that my husband insists on sticking by my side no matter how obnoxious I can be, and I'm glad I am learning how to put up food for when the finances get lean. I know I can do this, it's just going to take more effort for me than most. But let me tell ya, I have a God on my side that is far bigger than any problem or pain I could ever have.

Time for breakfast... where's my wagon?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Can I get a side of Peaceful with that?

I did it again.

With full intentions to sit down and blog more, I have realized that intentions only go so far. Not a day passes that I don't have thoughts that I'd like to put into words. Unfortunately my thoughts lately are not the type that I prefer to share with many people. Particularly the thoughts of pulling myself out of this funk that I've been lounging around in for a couple months or so. I've probably spent more time thinking about how to make myself comfortable while I'm IN the funk, than how to actually get out of it. I suffer annually from S.A.D. It feels like this problem has made a grand entrance months too early this year. When I really think about it, I have to realize that my series of life events is probably the only reason I feel blue, and it has not a thing to do with S.A.D. (until today, it's our first real fog of the year, while my brain, on the other hand, has been in a real fog for months.)

My day is pretty much the same every day. I get up, kiss my husband goodbye, I get my kids going, I fuss about the condition of the kitchen, I do errands and chores all day, I spend a few days a week at the middle school helping out, I taxi kids to practices, games and events all evening, I try to make dinner (haha!), I help with homework, I read bedtime stories, I fuss about the kitchen again, I go to bed. Somewhere in there, I make occasional retreats to my husband's computer to read a blog, or play a game or respond to a lengthy email or look at our budget with wondering eyes. (Wondering how on earth we're going to make it this month, that is.)

My days are full, but in my mind, not full enough. Nowhere in there do I have actual scheduled time to sit and read, or pray, or spend time with my husband, or just do something for myself anymore. I think that I'm afraid that if I do, the floodgates will open and all my feelings of grief and loss over the past few months will come pouring out.

In January, when I lost my Grandpa, I don't think I could have imagined anything more painful or heartbreaking. People say to be happy because he's in heaven - well I AM happy about that, but it doesn't lessen the pain of just plain MISSING him. The hurt of wishing I'd been able to spend more time with him doesn't go away very easily, and knowing my kids won't be growing up with him isn't ever going to feel good.

Then in March, I lost my Grandma and all those fresh, raw feelings from my Grandpa's death never really had time to be dealt with and sorted out in my mind. My Grandmother's death was different... different feelings, different emotions and different side of the family involved. Still - heartbreaking. I can't believe how much missing someone forever feels like. I hate it. I think that if my heart was broken in half with the first death, that it got quartered the next time around. I loved her phone calls and her cheery voice. Memories I will treasure forever.

In May, my Great Aunt Mary passed away. She didn't live near to us during my life, but whenever she entered our presence (from the far off land of Virginia), it was like a grand parade. She was lively, exciting and most of all, she loved us like we were all hers. My most vivid memory of Aunt Mary was when we all attended the funeral of my Great Grandfather Ash. Her own father had died, yet here she was, hugging my younger cousin and I as my cousin wailed and I cried because she was crying. I think we were about 7 and 8 years old at the time. I don't remember Aunt Mary's tears, I just remember her making ours all better. Her death left a hole in my heart, and although it felt like a small hole compared to the other two deaths, it still leaked the same brand of grief.

Throughout all these months, things had been changing a lot at our church. My husband had been asked to discontinue one area of our ministry, which he did with a heavy heart. And then the other area of our ministry, which he enjoyed the most came to an end for both of us as well. This opened up a whole new category of grief that neither of us had really ever had to experience before. Our hearts hurt from the abrupt, and business-like loss of our passions, and our spiritual health suffered from the loss of those people who used to mentor us and care about things like that. It's really sad to learn that people are really interested in your spiritual health and hold you accountable when you are on stage, but they could care less if you're sitting in the back row. Feeling unliked, unloved and unwanted, we trudged on, trying to heal things with only our heavily damaged hearts and just the spark of faith we still carried. Our marriage then began to take hits, which is common in the middle of spiritual war. Spending time together as a couple wasn't something to look forward to anymore, because each one of us had such a large quantity of emotions to work through that we frequently dumped those feelings out on each other. I am so grateful for that spark of faith that we hauled along with us, because without it, we'd be living in separate homes right now and that's a fact.

We worked through small things and big things or we ignored issues and then we yelled and then shared tears of misery and tears of forgiveness. Then we hugged. Then we did that all over again. For weeks. Months. I'm exhausted just writing this.

Somewhere in all of this, I lost a friend or two. Or three.
I gained a new one. A few are still hanging there on the fringes waiting for me to pull my head out and come back to the party. I am grateful for those friends. I am sorry for those friends too - because they have to put up with me. Those are the ones I know are genuine, because they are still there. Maybe not as much as before, but they are still there. My husband also forced a Couple's Retreat on me, and I actually liked it. I'm really glad he's hanging in there, because I'd be so completely lost otherwise.

A few weeks ago, my cousin Alice got really sick. She's actually my Mother's cousin, but we all call her "Cousin Alice" because my Grandma's name is Alice and that can get confusing real quick. Cousin Alice has an Aunt Alice and that's my Grandma. Get it? Good. So Cousin Alice got really sick. The doctors couldn't fix her. She died on September 20th. This past Friday we had her Memorial Service, and on Thursday night - the day before - I had finally allowed myself to process some of the grief. It was very difficult. Again - I know without a shadow of a doubt that she's in the arms of Jesus right now, but sorting all the feelings out has been really hard with all those OTHER feelings still real and raw and just hanging out in my little bitty brain. I think about something, and my brain flashes to something else, and then to something completely unrelated and then people wonder why I can't ever find my car keys.

This weekend, I absolutely refused to let anything land on our schedule. The kids slept in (or maybe it was just me) the sun shone, and peace threatened to begin to take over the land of the Back Acher. I told people at our church not to expect us there, and all was well. On Saturday, the love of my life installed the new stove and dishwasher that have been waiting patiently in our carport for a week. A new sense of excitement came in with them. Where else do you hear kids fighting over who GETS to do the dishes? My daughters have already tried out the new oven and so far the brownies and cookies brought more than a few smiles (hooray for a stove that doesn't take an hour to preheat!!). Three new baby chicks hatched (2 right in the kitchen while the appliances were being installed!) and a fourth was lost on his way out. I briefly played with the idea of feeling very sad, but I knew that if I really dwelled on my thoughts, that someone would find me slumped on the floor in the kitchen, appearing to cry hysterically over an egg with a little dead chick in it, and send me straight to the hospital with the tight white jackets. I buttoned up my emotions for another time. Again.

Sunday I awoke to a sick husband. His headache was so bad that even the kids running through the house made him grumble. I showered and headed the kids out the door while whispering to my baby chicks that we'd be right back and I told them not to make too much noise. We went to church here in town - about a one minute drive away. At this church we were free from the questions and the wondering and all the unspoken feelings that we can feel even when people don't say them. We were free to just relax and let the words and the songs speak.

Peaceful. That's the word I'm looking for, and that's what I need. My prayer is that I get a good dose of that this weekend at the Women of Faith Conference (thank you to my few remaining friends for dragging me there, and to the angel who made sure my room was paid for - thanks for making me cry AGAIN).

Anyone else going to a Women of Faith Conference?

(Photo taken for my Mom - only she didn't know it)