Category Archives: Spirit

Not really down for the count

2012-10-10_13-31-40_108I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and it feels like it might be helpful to someone, so I'm going to post it.

A friend of mine found this excellent icon to the left a few months ago at this store, and I knew I had to have it. The image is of Jonah and the Whale. If you don't know the story of Jonah and the Whale, it's a story from the book of Jonah (surprise) in the Bible. In the story God asks Jonah to do something for him, and Jonah doesn't, and instead runs away from God. He hides out on a boat, but God sends a crazy storm that overwhelms the boat, and the crew of the boat end up tossing Jonah into the water to try to save themselves. Jonah is swallowed by a whale, and sits in the whale's stomach for three days praying to be given a second chance. The whale vomits him up, and Jonah does what God asks him to.

I was never particularly interested in this story before (although I did have the lead role in the musical "Jonah-man Jazz" in fourth grade in Lutheran school), but when I saw this icon I was struck. First of all because of how scary the whale is. Look at those teeth! It looks more like a sea monster than a plain old whale to me. And look at the malice in its eye. I'm pretty sure that's a misrepresentation of Jonah's mood as he was swallowed by the creature.

What I was really struck by, though, is the idea that you can think everything is seriously over, and God (or the universe or whatever you envision is happening behind the scenes) will still bail you out of it. It wasn't that Jonah was afraid of being eaten by a sea monster–Jonah WAS EATEN by a sea monster. And God still got him out of it. When I think of the number of times I was actually IN the belly of the whale and still had my scared, sorry ass saved, it made me realize that I need to have a whole different perspective on worst-case scenarios.

There's a song by one of my favorites, Fred Hammond*, that has the lyric "Late in the midnight hour/God's going to work in your favor" and that "late in the midnight hour" part means a lot to me. (It's here at 2:55 in this video.)  I don't usually want things to get as bad as they do, but God still pulls it out at the last minute.

It's not over 'til it's really over. And sometimes, even if it's over, there's another way out. Even when the sea monster has some scary teeth.




* Fred Hammond's album "Free to Worship" pulled me through my divorce. If you're a Christian or Christian-curious going through a divorce I highly, highly recommed the whole album for some perspective and grace. It was the only thing I could listen to some days, and a year later I found out that it was the album Hammond was working on while he went through a divorce himself.

And again, sadly

I hate this post. I hate that I wrote it last year, and two years before that. We just passed the one-year mark of my friend's husband's suicide, a few weeks after the anniversary of my other friend's sister's suicide. Almost three years since Ray went.

And then two more, just in the last few weeks. Friends of friends.

Is it something about this time of year? One of my friends said it was the change of seasons and change of light that is tough on people. There might be some truth to that. I was going through a low period myself, of feeling on unstable footing here near the always-slippery edge, and this light hasn't been helping. Too beautiful during the day, and then too dark too early.

And it's the end of the summer, too. Too much fun for other people, too many days not making progress, not getting what we want. It is so easy to forget what you have accomplished, or to relegate it to, "Oh, that." It is so difficult to face what you know you could do, if you could only do it well and not screw it up. Too much to gear up for now that Labor Day Weekend is over. Who has the courage to face all that? Tasks. Expectations. Potential.

But, and here is the but inside the why, today feels like shit and tomorrow may feel like shit and even next month may feel like shit, but if you leave then nothing ever doesn't feel like shit again.

There is one thing–one thing–that you can look forward to. Even if that one thing is months and achy, burned-out months from now. Think about that thing. Tell us in the comments what that thing is, so you can come back and see what you wrote and know it's still there.



Still, always for Ray. And for Jess and for Maryanne. Who else is it for?

Snap out of it

I have been feeling overlooked lately. Overlooked and underutilized, as if I am not invited to the party, and it's making me feel small and petulant and uncool.

And then I hurt my foot.

To back up, I will tell you that just over a year ago I started running with my older son. I wrote about it here, about how we started doing Couch to 5K.I kept running all winter and joined the rec center near me to run on the track, and I've done a few 5Ks by myself this year. Along with the weight I've lost, running has helped me feel healthy and strong. It has changed the way I feel about getting older. It is something I can do, and I feel good about doing it, and working at it, and not quitting. (I almost wish I could have another baby so I could experience labor and delivery now that I've learned how to keep going even when I don't want to.)

In this post I figured out that another reason I need to run is that running is the only time I let myself feel raw, painful emotions these days. It's also a safety valve. When I do start to feel bad–rejected, angry, less than, even just unsettled–I go for a run and I get the exercise and challenge but I also get that physical stimulation of the raw place (what I'm beginning to think is the key for us tension increasers) in safety, so the feelings don't tip me over.

I have been stuck at 5K, but decided to spend this fall training up to 10K, and to run a 10K at the end of October. Last Wednesday I ran 4 miles and felt really good about it, except that my heel and toe felt a little weird when I was done. And then later that night they, and the rest of my foot connecting them, were killing me. On Thursday I decided to skip Friday's run to rest. And then by Sunday morning I realized I'd re-sprained the same foot I'd sprained in December 2010, and was going to need to give it another week plus a lot of fish oil and ibuprofen.

So I'm feeling at a loss, and I don't have my coping technique. (I've been swimming, too, but swimming doesn't hit my emotional center the way running does. T-Tapp keeps me energized and sleeping well. Pilates is fun. But they're not running.) And the "oh, poor me"ness I've been feeling about this is making me even more annoyed.

How do I get the patience to let myself heal, when I'm short on patience in the first place and that's why I need to run?

I feel a lot like Veruca Salt right now. Maybe with a side of super-dramatic Anne Shirley.

Who wants to tell me to snap out of it?



How do you pick yourself up when something knocks down your parenting confidence?

How do you recover when something you read or watch or hear knocks down your confidence as a parent, especially when your baby is little?

I've been thinking about this since I found out that a friend is feeling like she's doing things wrong and has lost her nerve ever since she read a Very Famous Sleep Book. I'm not going to say which one, since any of the sleep books can make you feel inadequate and incompetent if the book doesn't happen to correspond to what your child needs*. Any book that's more about pushing the author's agenda than it is about helping you track and pay attention to your own child has the potential to make you feel pretty worthless.

Unsolicited advice: Don't read any sleep books while your child is in the 4-month sleep regression. Please. If you want to read a book during this crucible of a time, read The Wonder Weeks, which will explain why the 4-month sleep regression happens and how it's totally not your fault. Or read the comments in any one of my posts about the 4-month sleep regression and feel the collective exhaustion of the universe of parents of 4-month-olds.

But now back to the topic of getting your confidence back. I kept my confidence because of my mom. I'd call her and she'd tell me I was doing ok and it would all be ok. I believed her because a) she'd always told me the truth, even when it hurt, and b) she'd let me see that parenting wasn't always easy for her but that it was worth it, so I knew she knew how hard it was and wasn't taking my asking for help lightly.

(This makes me feel better even now. Because I know that no matter what else, I tell my kids the truth. And they certainly see that I actively work at parenting well and sometimes fail. That's not just about their development now, it turns out, but also about being able to be there for them when they need me as adults. This is something that we can all do, is tell our kids the truth and let them see that we're real people working on things. And it's way easier than faking it.)

(My mom says she knew I would be ok when I stopped calling her three times a day and got down to twice a day.)

If you do not have a mom like mine to call, let me tell it to you here and now:

You are doing a great job. Not just an ok job, but a great job. You're making the right decisions, and when something doesn't work you're regrouping and figuring out why and trying something else. You're paying attention to your baby, and your baby is lucky to be yours. You're the best parent for your child.

I wish I could give you a few minutes to see it in hindsight, so that you'd know that three years from now you won't even remember whatever** it was that's making you feel so defeated today. That your child is turning into the person they're supposed to be. That a bad feeding or a bad naptime or six months in a row of waking up too many times at night hasn't impeded their emotional development one bit. That your child is going to start hugging you more and crying less. That you're doing really, really well at this.

Who's got something to say?



* I've been pissed about this for almost seven years now–it was the topic of my very first post ever.

** I initially typo'd this as "shatever." Hahahahaha. Truth.

Annual school fear post

My kids are actually still gone until Thursday (and I'm not doing well, and wrote about it here: but school starts for us in three weeks, and I'm seeing people across the US posting pictures of their kids who are going back to school already this week!

I've finally accepted that the beginning of school is going to bring a lot of fear for me. The kindergarten teacher my older one had, and then his teacher last year, both created so much stress and sadness for us that I can't get past my dread and feelings of helplessness as the new school year approaches.

I know he has a new teacher this year. I don't know anything about her, but I'm assuming she's a rational, good-hearted person. There's still a knot in my stomach, though.

My younger son, thankfully, has only had great teachers, and he's going to have the same teacher this year as last year. He likes her, she likes him, she's got a handle on his speccific academic and social personality, and we've worked out all the two-household-but-parents-are-both-involved kinks. So I'm thinking effortlessly good thoughts about her and the coming year for him.

I know that my missing the kids is making me even more worried about the school year for my older one. And that I'm going to be triggered by the beginning of the school year until he's out of school, probably.

I can't imagine I'm the only one.

So tell me what you're afraid of school-wise. Or what you're happy about school-wise. Or what you're mildly annoyed by school-wise (bus schedules, anyone?). Homeschoolers may gloat and/or lament.

BlogHer Recap

I'm back from BlogHer, I've snuggled with Alex and Blossom, and now I'm getting back into things.

(AND. Done with finals. I feel like I should write a post about school soon. But done for a whole month.)

I think this was the transition year for me. I'd been in a weird place with BlogHer, but then I got there and found out that EVERYONE was in a weird place. Maybe next year I'll just be able to go and not have all kinds of weird (and not normal-for-me) emotions about it kowing that it really isn't just me.

The actual conference itself is overwhelming, and seems to have veered a little out of control. I didn't sign up for sessions for the actual conference, just the expo hall and parties. But walking around the hotel to get to the expo hall I was shocked at how big and corporate it is now, and heard so many of the women there talking about how big and out of control it is. The expo hall was overwhelming, and there are products I never really needed to know about. (A lot of precooked foods that don't really beneffit from being precooked.) And some great things I hadn't seen before but am glad I saw. I ran into CecilyK and DEHausFrau (both IRL friends) at the expo hall, and then a very funny reader named Diane from Jackson Heights who recognized me and said Hi, and then we drank some EmergenC together at the EmergenC booth.

I went to one on-site party and one offsite party, but mostly just met with people I know and some new friends. I had dinner with Punky Mama and After_Words. I met Phd in Parenting (finally!) and Mochamomma (finally!) and a bunch of other Babble bloggers and staffers. The surprise of the weekend was meeting WoogsWorld and GoodGoogs from Australia. I wish I'd had more time and presence of mind to talk to them, but I'd managed to give myself heat exhaustion (zillion degrees, too much sun, subway madness that left me walking way too far in the blaring sun) so I kind of wasn't all there.

But pretty much all of us were freaked out by how big and weird and unwieldy the whole thing was. So what does this mean? Maybe I'm not the outlier?

Once again, the "No one cares what shoes you're wearing because they're too busy worrying about what shoes they're wearing" adage proves true.

UPDATE: Right after I hit Publish, I went and read Cecily's recap of BlogHer in which she had the same feeligns I did but wrote about them way way better. So go read hers, too.

Next year in Chicago. Who's coming?

Janet Evans on doing what’s in your soul

Am I the only person getting completely pumped for the Olympics? I have always been more of a Winter Olympics fan, but since I've become a runner and have started swimming I'm getting excited about the Summer Olympics, too.

I was watching the US team time trials a few weeks ago, and was amazed to see that Janet Evans, who is 40 years old and a mother of two little kids, was there competing for the first time in 16 years. She swam really well, even against swimmers less than half her age. She did not earn a spot on the team, but the fact that she showed up and was good enough to be there was amazing to me. After one of the trials, they interviewed her, and this is what she said about it (transcription mine):

"I think swimming was always in my soul, and it was who I was, and I got to a point in my life where my kids were good, and were sleeping through the night, and I thought "I want to swim again!" I don't want to swim to make the Olympic team; I want to swim to see what I can do to be a mom and a wife but also to have a little something for myself at the end of the day, and this is in my soul and what I love, so here I am!"

I'm taking two important (IMPORTANT) things out of that:

1. You are still you, always you, even when you're a parent and your kids are in the front of your mind. And it's ok and wonderful that whatever those things in your soul are–swimming, graphic design, music, actuarial services, etc.–are calling to you even when you can't make time for them, because eventually your kids will need you less and the things you love will be able to be a bigger part of the daily mix of your life than they are when your children are little. And even if you're older than anyone else doing those things, you can still hang, if you love it and work hard at it.

2. Everything is easier once your kids sleep through the night.

Stories, please. What is it you don't have the energy for because you're still in the weeds with little children? And those of you with older children, what have you gone back to once you came out of the long tunnel of babyhood?


Thinking about disappointment

Yesterday I wrote a post at Moxieville about asking my ex-husband to take our kids out of Boy Scouts, now that they're reaffirmed their ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

I am so disgusted by the BSA and I really do not want my kids to have anything to do with the organization.

But I realize this is a tough thing for their dad. Scouting meant a lot to him. One of the first things he told me when we started dating was that he's an Eagle Scout, and what his project was. He has stories of Scout Camp, and his nemesis at Scout Camp, and all the things he learned and experiences he had.

So it has to be truly disappointing to him that the group that gave him so much good isn't good anymore. (Not that they ever were, but when everyone was homophobic the BSA wasn't any worse than anyone else that way.)

I've taken some abuse from former Boy Scouts who have defended the BSA's right to homophobia very vociferously. While I think fighting for an organization with an indefensible position is bizarre, I understand that it has to be coming from disappointment and fear that the good that these men experienced in Boy Scouts is somehow meaningless.

It's not. What my ex-husband got from Boy Scouts was great. It's with him still. What these men who've gotten so angry at me experienced in Scouting was valuable. It was worthwhile. They are worthwhile.

But it's time for a new understanding of what they can be. What they can stand up for.

People have been talking about alternative organizations, and the alternatives sound good, but they're all co-ed. I think men's space is important. And I wish there was an organization for boys that welcomed all boys and their parents. I wish my boys had regular male role models that reflected different ways of being a man.

I wish my ex-husband didn't have to be disappointed. And that he didn't have to make a choice.

Disappointment hurts.