A Brief Ode to Little Miss

Today as I was responding to the challenge over at Motherhood Is Not For Wimps to list those things that keep us afloat, I was reminded again of just what a gift Little Miss is.

The timing of her appearance in this world was both miraculous and heart-breaking.  I wish with everything in me that she had been able to have more than four months with her Gramma Caro.  But if she hadn’t shown up when she did, I don’t know where I’d be now.

The truth is, when you’re a Mom, you know for certain that life isn’t just about you.  You have this little person to take care of.  They are depending on you and you can’t screw it up.  This little person made me get up each and every morning and face the day even when I wanted to crawl under a rock.

There were many days in which, if given the choice, I would have much rather crawled under a rock, but when awoken by those insistent cries, I knew that I couldn’t.  I got out of bed, I picked up my baby and I did what needed to be done for both of us. 

Little Miss made me smile on days that I didn’t want to smile.  She made me laugh when I didn’t think there could be reason for laughter.  She made me see past myself and the hurt I was going through to provide for her needs.  A Mom who was falling a part wouldn’t serve her highest good.  So…  I couldn’t be that. 

We’ve walked through a lot together.  I think her and I could handle just about anything hand-in-hand.

And now she is teaching me to see the present.  To live in the moment.  To walk forward.  To keep moving.

My little girl is amazing.  I love her so much.

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Ok, so Somebody Slap Me!

Today on a walk with Little Miss my mind began meandering a bit and I found myself thinking, “It’s been a while since I’ve been on a longish road trip…  Wouldn’t it be fun to hop in the van and go somewhere with Husband and Little Miss?  Drive a while…  Stay in a hotel?”

As if doing that five or six times (and that’s not counting any trips where I flew) in the last 18 months isn’t enough–with most of those trips being about 2000 miles one way? 

Did I forget the ‘screaming infant’ phenomenon?

Or the “aching butt” syndrome?

Or the “I’m so sick of generic looking rooms!  When can I just get somewhere with real food and real furniture where I can *stay* for a little bit,” issue.

Yes my friends, we can chock this up to a brief moment of insanity.

Another Year Ago Milestone

A year ago today, Little Miss, Husband, and I climbed into a vehicle and drove to base.

A year ago today, only Little Miss and I returned home.

We arrived early, and spent a few minutes sitting in a picnic area near a beach that we like there.  We were quiet.  I was shell-shocked.  A little over a month before my Mom had died…  And this was the day that I would say good-bye to my husband for six, long months. 

As a Navy family, we weep with our friends in the Army and National Guard community who leave for much longer stretches.  We know that six months of separation is short in comparison to the 13 and 18 months stretches that these soldiers and their families have to endure.  We try to keep that in perspective.

But even perspective doesn’t stop six months from being an agonizingly long time to be away from one’s spouse.  Especially on the heels of five months of on-again, off-again (mostly on-again) separations for shorter “boat trips.”

We held one another…  Little Miss cooed.  I tried very hard not to cry, and succeeded for the most part.

And then it was time to go to the Air Terminal for Husband to board his plane…  and for the “See you later” to really happen.

I couldn’t bring myself to go inside…  so we said good-bye in the parking lot.

That was the gateway to…  the continued remaking of me. 

I drove home and was suprised that the day was easier than expected.  I don’t think I cried much at all.  Losing your Mom can put a six-month deployment into perspective in a hurry.  But still it hurt.  I had no idea how I was going to make it through six months without two of the pillars that held me tall.  Mom was gone, and she wasn’t coming back…  and before I could learn how to stand without her, my husband had to leave too.  I found myself going about the business of coping.  That would be my job for the next six months…  To cope.  To survive.  To continue to handle the blows that came while also handling the raising of our daughter, the bills, and my side of the marriage by myself.

It was the gateway to days of quiet anguish.  The grief over the loss of my Mom was still fresh enough that I related to it only in a state of numbness.  I had really, really cried only a couple of times since the funeral, and when I did, I cried as much over Husband leaving as I did Mom dying.  I cried over the meaning that “alone” would have for the next six months. 

Without my husband I had only my pillow to soak when I cried for Mom…  And I had only my pillow to soak when I cried for him.  Missing Mom led to missing Husband–I couldn’t tell him about it and find refuge in his arms.  Missing Husband led to missing Mom–I couldn’t talk through it with her, hear her perspective, hear her say something to make me laugh, or watch West Wing with her to forget about it for a while.

Those six months and the months that came before and after helped me to realize what I’m made of.  I am not a paper-doll threatened by the smallest breeze.  I am able to stand some pretty stiff storms. 

I went back to ‘first’ home to try to be a help to my Dad and to have some semblance of support during the deployment…  I’m not entirely sure that Dad needed me, but I was there, and I know Little Miss brought him great joy.

One of the hardest things, was knowing how much Husband was missing with Little Miss.  He missed so many of her milestones.  So many precious moments–her first Christmas, her first snow, sitting up, crawling, her first tooth.  In the months that Husband was gone, Little Miss went from being a wiggly immobile infant, to a walking, independent mini-force to be reckoned with.

Six months and two weeks went by, and Husband came home…  And was back in our arms.

The last five and a half months have been full of recalibrations.  We have been learning how to be together once more, and how to lean on one another.  Husband came back to thoughts of, “I went through all of that only to be treated this way?” with crazy-long hours and many weekends worked in an environment where morale was very low.  A welcomed change of command has begun to change some things for the better. 

With husband home, I was finally able to really feel my grief in the safe embrace of his arms.  I began to cry, really cry without holding back, for the first time since losing Mom.  Maybe for the first time ever.  We’ve lost 2 friends to cancer since husband has been back.  We’ve been through two seasons.  We’ve purchased a new vehicle.  And most importantly, we’ve watched our baby blossom into a beautiful little girl….  together.

And now we are learning to navigate life in relative calm…  for the first time in a long time.  It feels good.  As I’ve said elsewhere it produces some anxiety as it is hard not to wonder when the other (or next) shoe is going to drop, but it is good.

A lot has happened in twelve months.  I’m a different person than I was a year ago.  A year ago I was only beginning to learn about my own grit and strength.  A year ago I was only beginning to learn about grief.  A year ago, I didn’t know how I could survive for that long without my husband (or Mom).

And I stand here a year later, standing taller, feeling deeper, and loving more fiercely than ever before.

A Prophetic Word of Doubt and Confidence

It’s amazing how the words of one person can cause such doubt, and inspire such confidence all at once.

There is an amazing woman in my life who has, since the first time I met her, had the uncanny ability to speak prophetically into the very moment of my life with a few simple words.

I’ve been corresponding with her recently, and filling her in on ‘the chaplain direction,’ and I recently received an email from her that gave me pause.  Quite a long pause in fact.  You see…  As usual, she summed up the crux of my personality in one sentence.  That sentence was then the set-up for, “I’m not sure you will be happy with this path.”

Her concerns were basically that I’m not your typical Christian.  I get squirmy in many worship services.  I have doubts and am vocal about them.  I ask lots and lots of questions.  Most of all–if you present me with a point of view–a Christian point of view or otherwise–it’ll take me a while to decide if I want to adopt it.  It takes me a while to find out if a thing resonates with my spirit, and also to decide if I am able to bend my will to it.

I read her words over and over again.  I mulled them over.  I took them seriously because of the special place she holds in my life, and because of her history of speaking un-ignorable truth.  I stewed about it for days.  And finally, before bed last night, I showed the note to my husband, and we hashed some things out.

Finally, I was able to realize and articulate that I agree with my friend on all counts of her letter.  And I have since this ‘direction’ first presented itself to me.  What I realized is, as is frequently the case, these things that may be weaknesses, I hope can be transformed by God’s goodness into strengths.

As a chaplain, it will be my privilege to interact with people of many faiths.  It will be my responsibility to respect all faiths, and my job to point people in the direction of peace with their understanding of God.  It will be my job not to convert any one to my way of thinking, but to bring an awareness of the work of the spirit in the lives of the people with whom I interact.  They may not recognize ‘the work of the spirit’ in the same way that I would.  They may use entirely different terms framed in entirely different world-views.  So, what I feel, is this ‘atypical Christian’ aspect of me could really come in handy.  It has, for some time now, allowed me to try to look at the world through the eyes of others.  It will likely also cause me frustration–especially during my schooling.  I have already had the fear that I will have to ‘learn to speak a new language’ namely, Christianese or Churchspeak….  and I’m just not sure that is who I am.  But…  that’s ok. I hope to find that the language I speak fluently may indeed contain the vocabulary that can speak peace to individuals facing their own death, or the death of someone they love.

Furthermore, this quality of me that does not easily bend is the reason that I am rarely appeased with easy answers.  In a career working with the dying and their families I can’t think of a better quality.  If someone had sat across the room from me when my Mom was dying and tried to offer me easy answers, platitudes, or shiny-happy-Christian talk, I would have, frankly, slapped them.  Those things ring empty in the face of dire circumstances. 

In the end, I may find that my friend is right on all counts.  I may discover that I can’t be happy walking this path.  But I think that’s something I will have to discover on my own.  And if I do, somehow it will be a worthwhile lesson, and one that will bring me to a new part of my journey.

I think there is a good chance though, that these words were used prophetically in my life–but in a different way than usual.  They helped me to search out and articulate the reasons that my quirky attributes, and even my weaknesses could theoretically serve the higher purpose of this path.

My plan is still to walk on and see what happens.

Overdeveloped Guilt-complex

Am I the only one with an overdeveloped guilt-complex? 

It might be aftershocks of grief compounded with the difficult months that went along with Mom’s illness and death, but I find that now that things are going ok–really, really ok–I still can’t just relax and be happy.

I feel guilty.  I feel guilty that good things are happening for me, and not for other people.  I feel guilty that things that come easy to me don’t for other people.  I feel guilty that right now we have enough to pay our bills–our bank accounts aren’t oozing with extra spending-money, but we aren’t holding our breath until payday either.  I feel guilty that my family is so healthy… 

Along with the guilt is the ‘other shoe’ complex.  Things are going along ok here….  but when is that going to change?  When will the next crushing diagnosis come down.  When will the next unexpected orders be cut?  When will the next crisis occur?  I wait for it, feeling that it could always be just around the corner.

I almost have mused at this half-expressed thought that I’ve had since life turned upside-down with Mom’s illness and things just kept going wrong, that if anything bad is going to happen it should happen to me.  I don’t understand it, but it is a niggling that I have felt at different times when I’ve heard of someone else’s bad news.  (Could this be some deep attention-seeking psychosis that I need immediate treatment for?).  It’s not that I want bad things to happen to me, it’s just that…  I feel guilty that they happen to somebody else. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy…  But when I get thinkative and my thoughts turn to the difficult things that so many have to bear right now…  the guilt-complex kicks in.

Things are going well now.  Incredibly well.  I know that I should lay back and relax in that, but the thing I can’t escape is that I now know that my family isn’t invincible.  Bad things *can* happen to us.  Bad things *do* happen to people just like us.  My heart breaks so over these bad things….  that maybe part of me just wants to be there….  so that I understand, and so that people know that they aren’t alone.  But…  that is a rather masochistic way of achieving empathy isn’t it?

A ‘ragamuffin’ friend of mine (ddw) admonished me once to trust God to work even in the good…..  To relax into Him even then.

I guess I need more practice.

Lack of String Leads to Random Ramblings

So I really wanted to come here and write something pithy today.  I really did.  I wanted to finely craft these beautiful words and wrap them up in a nice cohesive blogging bundle….

But I must be out of string or something.  So you’ll have to settle for disjointed random thoughts.

Random thoughts on Motherhood for the day:

Lets talk Toddler Warfare…  In the world of Toddler Warfare, I believe that tantrums are the equivalent of ‘shock and awe.’  They are explosive and huge and meant as a tool to get what they want right freaking now.  Whining on the other hand is the toddler equivalent of a war of attrition.  It is an attempt to wear down the will of a parent using constant, if not altogether powerful attacks.  That’s right my friends….  Just such a war is being waged in my home as of late.  (Please note:  I do not really believe that parenting is about warfare, but I found the analogy worked out eerily well).

In other Little Miss news, my daughter has officially chosen her security items.  That’s right, I said items.  When she wakes up each morning she simply *must* have her blanket from Gramma K, the blanket that my Gramma W made for me when I was a baby, AND “Bear,” the stuffed fellow whom Daddy sent Little Miss for Christmas from a port call to Italy (so maybe we should call him ‘orso.’).  She drags them around everywhere.  She wraps Bear-orso in the blankets.  She plays peek-a-boo with Bear-orso.  She waves around her blankets while dancing.  So far it is acceptable to leave the house without the blankets, but not without Bear-orso. 

Sometimes I wish I could find a sense of security in a way so easy as holding two blankets and a bear.  But, alas, I am an adult.

Random action of the day: 

I went to a restaurant with my World Religions class today with the intent of us all trying Indian Curry.  I ate a Grilled-Cheese Sandwich.

Random sadness of the day: 

I sat across the room from a woman today who had a look on her face that I knew too well.  It was the, “One of my loved ones has just been diagnosed with incurable cancer and while I’m really trying to care about what is being said to me, I just can’t right now,” look.  I know the feelings that accompany that look so well, that I wanted to hide under the table.  I didn’t, though, because I know she needs people who don’t want to hide from her and her family right now more than anything.

Random flaw of the day:

When am I going to stop analyzing to the minutiae the facial expressions that people have when I am speaking to them?  Will I ever rid myself of my insecurity enough to not always be looking to others to be my mirror? 

Random annoying thing happening right now:

One of the planes of the same variety that Husband works on is flying over and causing the walls to shake.  Oh, the joys of living near a military base.

Random good memory of the day:

I used VO5 Shampoo today…  It smelled JUST LIKE the greasy stuff Mom used to smear in my hair to make it shiny or have volume or not be stringy or something when I was a little girl.  Yay for VO5.  Also Yay for the part of our brain which registers smell working so well with the pleasure center to retain memories. 

Random revelation of the day:

I have been repressing bad feelings about Elmo.  Yesterday, because of a satirical column written recently about Elmo raising a generation of idiots I had the chance to air these repressed feelings, and sounded like a flaming idiot myself for taking such satire so seriously.  The good news is, I have come out of the closet.  I am now a confessed disliker of Elmo.

Random irony of the day:  WordPress’s spell check function apparently doesn’t recognize the word “blog” or any of it’s suffix-given variants.

Random concluding remark of the day:

I’ll try to find my string soon.  Farewell until then!