Rampant Anxiety

So I guess you can tell when you’re unwinding out of ‘crisis mode’ when once again things that don’t matter take up most of the space in your brain and most of the anxious molecules of your body.

Or not…  since I can stress out about finding a parking spot even in the very worst of circumstances….

Anyway, we leave tomorrow to visit Husband’s family in Texas.  We’re very excited about seeing family–especially since this will be about the longest Husband has gotten to spend with his family since the whole Navy game began.  I’m excited about the trip as well–about seeing people, and watching Little Miss play with her cousins, and doing the sight-seeing that is tentatively planned.

BUT….  We have to GET THERE first. 

We’ve got a 4+hour flight with Little Miss as a lap infant.  A large part of my brain is demanding, “What in the world were you thinking?!”  The rest of my brain says, “Oh get a life!  We didn’t have the money for the TWO tickets we did buy!”

I’m working throuch melt-down contigencies.  Trying to figure out how to avoid meltdowns.  Considering buying earplugs for others on the plane….  Thinking about what  small, packable, noiseless toys might be the most entertaining. 

And that’s not even even mentioning the worry that I have about whether or not this kid is going to sleep once we actually get there.

I’m anxious about what to pack–Pack-n-play….  Booster Seat….  Car Seat….  Sippie Cups…  Snacks….  Toys…..  Diapers….  So many things to forget.  So many things to lose.

I’m anxious about getting to the airport.  I’m anxious about paying for parking.  I’m anxious about putting our first payment on the credit card to pay for this trip, Husband’s car repairs, and Christmas–even with the hugely generous help that we’ve been given from our family to even make this trip possible.

Husband wakes up for work before 6 a.m.  I usually stay warmly tucked in bed until Little Miss needs me.  This morning I was up with husband shaking with anxiety about packing, cleaning, shopping for dollar items to entertain Little Miss, doing banking, and getting the rest of the laundry done.

The stupid thing is, I know it’s small potatoes.  I know one way or another we will get there and back.  I know that there are hundreds of little things that I’m not even thinking of that could make this trip more than interesting and really give me reason for anxiety.  I know that even with most of those little things, we’ll still get there and get back and see our family and that is what is most important.  But still I stew over these minor details. 

It’s frustrating to know what’s really important in life….  What is really worth stressing over.

And to stress out anyway.

Here we go, though.  I’m off to organize and pack and clean and worry several times over, get through the plane ride with a squirmle on our laps, and enjoy Husband’s wonderful family. 

And when I come back maybe I’ll tell you all about it.  Unless I’ve found something else to stress over in the meantime. 

Enjoying Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve Eve and I am just delighted.  It’s really pretty disgusting how delighted I am.  I’m like some caricature of Christmas Cheer.  I think I’m frightening Husband.

The thing is…  This is the happiest Christmas I’ve had since we’ve been married.  The first year we were married, Husband left for Basic Training the beginning of December.  I was experience my very first newlywed Christmas…..  without my husband.  And it was very hard and  sad.

Our second Christmas, Mom was sick, baby was coming, husband was deploying.  I was scared out of my brain.

Last Christmas, Mom was gone, and……  Husband was deployed, and well…….  yeah, there were about a bazillion other crises that happened.

And this Christmas….  Well, I miss my Mommy awfully bad….  But….  That’s ONE thing to hurt over.  And it’s becoming a ‘normalish’ kind of hurt (which actually hurts in and of itself, but I’m accentuating the positive here, so back to that).  Husband is home.  I am growing large with child, and I have the cutest little toddler that I have ever seen.  Little Miss has stolen my heart away complete.  I mean….  You should see how beautiful she is with powdered sugar caked onto her face and in her hair and all over her clothes, waving a rolling pin around and getting nowhere near any dough.  It’s amazing! 

So no, it’s not perfect…..  But it’s just so good.  And it feels so very good to relish it, to be happy, to smile and sing carols at the top of my lungs.  To do old traditions, to make new traditions, to make mess after mess after mess in the kitchen….  And to experience it all in wonder as Little Miss drinks it in at a level of some sort of understanding for the first time (Let’s be serious–last year it was really just big people acting weird again, right?).

Yes I miss Mom….  but that is only one thing. 

Right now, I can rest into the good.

Christmas With Mom

The thought of my Mom not being a part of Christmas this year is incomprehensible to me.  I know that she herself cannot be…  But I desperately need for some part of her to be there… 

And so she shall.

In about the same place on the tree that Mom always put the sparkly egg-shaped ornament, and the photo of my Grandparent’s home, I have an ornament featuring a photo of Mom, Carolyn, and I together.  Every time I look at it I either smile or cry.  I smile to see her face right there, and cry to miss it and to see how very little Carolyn was the last time she saw her.

We had these “NOEL Angels” that Mom put up on the grandfather clock each and every year.  Daddy and I would rearrange the letters to say, “LEON” each Christmas season, and Mom would switch them back.  We’d have this silent little war with the cherubs without saying a word all season long.  When we left to come back to Washington last year, I packed them up to bring back with me.  Stupid me, I wrapped them in socks and I could only find the ‘O’ and the ‘E.’  I could not have Christmas without the NOEL angels so we found some on Ebay and paid to have them sent here.  They’re sitting on our bookshelf.

Last night our church had a ‘service of light and rememberence.’  Husband and I went and lit candles for my Mom and his Dad.  It was important for me to go because I needed somehow to affirm in a public way that my Mom had been.  That she WAS.  That somewhere she still IS.  It was a strange service.  I was amazed at how quickly I transformed from, “I’m fine.  It’s been 17 months now,” to, “God….   I miss my Mommy…..”  I cried so much more than I wanted to.  I couldn’t stand the silences, and I couldn’t stand reading the words of the litany we read…  But they read her name out loud.  Her candle was there.  And I honored her.  At the end of the service, my pastors wife asked me who I’d been most honoring.  And I said, “My Mom….  And Husband’s Dad.” And someone knew that they both had been.  And that we still hurt.

Christmas Eve we will watch her movies.  There will be Miracle on 34th St. during the day, and White Christmas as we fall asleep.  Last year I wasn’t up for that…  well, and didn’t have time for it since we were on the road to Kansas, and then Misourri, and then home.  But this year…  with Husband beside me, I can do it.  I can watch them.  And smile at Natalie Wood, and fall asleep to “You’ll Fall Asleep Counting Your Blessings,” and think of Mom.  And of course I’ll laugh when I think about Mom telling the story about her friend Diane quoting Christmas Vacation and saying, “I wanted to watch White Christmas with Bing Crosby, and Danny F—ing Kaye!!!”   I can do it.  I will do it.  I can’t wait to do it.

Christmas morning we will wake up and we will eat Mom’s coffee cake.  I couldn’t eat anything else for Christmas morning.  I’ll smell it baking, and I’ll read the recipe, and I’ll see her making it at the kitchen of their house. 

She’s everywhere….  And it helps so much that this is true.  But it hurts so much that at the same time, I can’t just run into her somewhere….  Call her on the phone, or be home…  with her and Daddy watching their delight in Carolyn, and in my growing belly.

It won’t be enough.  Nothing short of me waking up Christmas Morning and finding out that Lung Cancer was just a bad dream could be enough.   But at least it’ll be something. 

“Someday soon, we all will be together, If the fates allow….  Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow….  So have yourself, a Merry Little Christmas now.”

Turkey Angst and God’s Red Tape

I’ve already mostly processed through this elsewhere, but….  it’s a story to tell…

Husband is using up a couple of special liberty days that he had to use or loose by the end of the year.  He got a call from his supervisor yesterday saying, “There’s a turkey here for you.  Come get it.”  Well…  we were rather surprised and curious about the origin of the turkey.  Where was it from, why were we getting it?

Husband took off on an adventure to mail our holiday packages (brave man), and bring home the bird.  He came back with a box full of frozen turkey, 20 lbs. of potatoes, stuffing, and all the canned versions of holiday meal type foods that you can think of.  All this was in a box that indicated that it had come from our local food pantry. 

We have no idea how we were chosen to receive this box.  Apparently the superiors in Husband’s command gave away several.  My only guess is that they looked at pay-grade, and family size and thought as such that we were good candidates for Christmas Dinner.

But the thing is…  We have all that we need.  We are struggling a bit this year–but that is with ‘extra’ things.  And we’ve managed those extras in such a way (with plenty of help from family) that we certainly aren’t feeling all that uncomfortable.  We have a couple pennies to rub together.  We have presents under the tree.  We have the option of buying ‘name brand’ groceries and not just the stuff in the colorless packages.  We have enough food to eat *WAY TOO MUCH* right now.  When I think of folks who *need* a turkey dinner, we don’t come close to being on the list.

So I’m looking at this turkey…  wondering why we got it…  Feeling embarrassed that we did.  Feeling ashamed for being embarrassed.  Feeling guilty for being ungrateful and not just saying, “Thank you,” and eating the thing.  Wondering if this was part of a plan to teach us to be ‘grateful receivers…..’  Hating that this was probably exposing my pride….

And above all having this nagging feeling that here we were sitting with a full turkey dinner that we didn’t need in our kitchen while out there somewhere might be some family who *did* need it and *wasn’t* getting it.

Husband would tell you I obsessed over it.  He’s probably right.  I had so many confused feelings about the thing, I didnt’ know what to do.  Above all I couldn’t stop thinking–a TURKEY shouldn’t cause anyone this much angst.

By the time I’d left for Bible Study, I had decided that maybe the thing to do would be to be grateful…  and try to find a way to share the serendipitous bird-gift with others.  So…  We discussed having some of the single guys from Husband’s shop over to eat the thing and eat a home-cooked holiday meal….  saying thank you, and going on.  But, you see…  I still had these feelings.

I went to Bible Study and mentioned the situation and my feelings and one of the ladies immediately perked up and said, “I know someone who might really need that food.”  You see–she works with a mental health facility that sees a good many people who are down on their luck.  One of their clients that day had come in unable to provide food for her family.  It was an immediate need.  They had no food, and no way of buying it.  They visited the Food Pantry and were told that they could provide only the perishable food that they keep in bins for people to come get from day to day…..that the baskets that they had to give away were going to military families that day….. that there was protocol, and another day might work out better…..

Well–taking the grateful road or not, I could not hear of a very real need that hadn’t been met knowing that I had plenty–whether I had a free food basket sitting in front of me or not.  I called Husband and ran the situation by him and we made arrangements to get the turkey to my friend at her workplace today so that she could help get it to this family that desperately needs it.

The only thing I can figure is…  Maybe God has to get creative about working around red tape too….  So he utilized the good folks at the food pantry–through us who would hear of this need–to get these folks some help.

I still have feelings.  I still wonder if I am reacting this way because I’m puffed up with pride.  I still feel like I’m being ungrateful and a little confused and embarrassed that we got Mr. Turkey in the first place….

But.  The bird has a home.   And that makes me happy.

My Holiday Diatribe

It’s been building for a few weeks now, and I didn’t even realize it.  I have this intolerance for…..  a common holiday attitude, and suddenly the intolerance is smacking me in the face and begging to be shouted.  And so…  well, I’m going to blog it.

The Pet Peeve that I’ve suddenly discovered is the constant obsession–on the radio, in ads, by folks that we talk to–about the “stress” of the holidays.  The “hustle-bustle.”  The “Millions of things that have to get done.”  Rather than a celebration of the holiday season I have encountered again and again a huge collective, “O Poor Me!” factor regarding all that must get done.

Holidays are hard when you’ve lost someone that you love.  Remembering all the special things that the person did when preparing for the holidays…  Reflecting on the holiday memories…  The thoughts that come rushing in, uninvited, about missing that person.  It’s all bitter sweet.  It’s wonderful, because it keeps your loved one close, but it’s terrible because it causes the ache to swell again and again and again.  Yes, I am missing my Mom this Christmas, even as I gleefully gear up for the festivities.  Even as I we do our holiday projects.  And it is this missing, and the experience of the past few years of my world being turned on it’s head that gives me this intolerance.  This I know.

I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t felt some anxiety and tension over the ‘gotta get it done’ factor of Christmas.  I have.  We’ve worried that the humble offerings we’re giving to our friends and extended family won’t seem like enough to them, since we’ve tried to scale back spending by focusing mainly (and as cost-efficiently as possible) on our small family unit.  I’ve fussed over recipes, and worried over presents getting here in time.  I have.  I am not immune, despite the words I am about to write.

But the “stress” of this Christmas is nothing like the “Stress” of the last two.  The last two Christmases were the hardest, darkest, scariest that I have known….  The last two Christmases the stress that I felt was real–and beyond my control.  It was so much more than being exhausted by my choice to take part in ‘the hustle and bustle.’

Two years ago, my Mother had just been diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer.  We were still trying to wrap our brains around the diagnosis.  I was scared to death.  I wasn’t sure where to be.  It was my first Christmas to have my husband home with me, and it was the Christmas sitting in front of a year when my husband would be gone on short detachments the majority of the time before his eventual deployment.  We weren’t sure if he would be home for the birth of Little Miss.  We also weren’t sure if Mom would be around for the birth of Little Miss, and then if she was how much time they (and we)  might have together.  There was uncertainty everywhere.  And at times the world seemed like a very dark place.

Last Christmas was the first after my Mom died.  It was very, very hard.  I hurt over the things that we ‘always did’ that we couldn’t do that year.  I didn’t know how I would get through Christmas Eve without doing the special things I always did with her.  I couldn’t imagine Christmas morning without her at the table of her and Dad’s house.  My husband was in Iraq and I missed him so terribly–especially while in the midst of the grief stuff–that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  And just when we thought that things couldn’t get any worse, Husband’s grandfather became very, very ill and the words, “They’re going to make him comfortable,” were used.  Husband’s family and I quickly mobilized and I found myself visiting again at the deathbed of a family member that we loved very, very much.  I put in the Red Cross call to my husband, and while we had decent communication so I was assured he knew what was going on, the official message took nearly a week to reach my husband’s superiors.  There was talk of him taking a whirl-wind trip home to hopefully be with his grandpa, but he didn’t have the leave time to cover it.  Working through those logistics in the midst of the situation–the grieving, the aching, the hurting….   That was stress.  Husband wasn’t able to come home, and wouldn’t have been back in time anyway.  Grandpa died three days before Christmas.  His funeral was on Christmas Eve.  My heart was as heavy as a rock.  The grief and the pain and the hurt and the missing seemed to consume me.  There didn’t seem to be any light anywhere.

But….  I knew better.  Because you see–that Christmas after Mom got sick I heard the message over and over and over again that Christmas isn’t about hype.  It’s about a light in the darkness (faithful blog-readers….  you knew it was coming sometime, didn’t you?).  And I have to tell you…  I grabbed onto the hope of that light with everything in me and didn’t let go and I’m convinced that’s the reason I made it through both years.  And I DID find light.  I found it in the strength that wasn’t my own that allowed me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I found it in the smile and giggle of my beautiful daughter.  I found it in the courage and strength and shared hurt of my husband’s voice on a phone-line connecting us while a world apart.  I found it in the comfort and love that I found in being with Husband’s family on that whirlwind trip to be with Grandpa and to attend his services.  I found it in my Daddy graciously ‘pushing back’ Christmas so that we could celebrate it together after we’d returned back to his home.  And, I found it where it was found 2000 years ago–In the squatty, dark light of a stable….  In the form of a baby that was born to save the world….  including me.

And so….  Well….  When I hear about the stress.  About the hustle and bustle….  About how terrible it is that people have to spend time buying presents and writing cards and baking things and visiting people, I just want to SCREAM:  “Don’t you get it?!!!  This isn’t what this season is about!!!  This is about time with our families!  This is about taking time to be together!  To hold hands!  To take joy in the presence of our loved ones…  Because not a single one of us is guaranteed another Christmas!” 

I want to shout, “Get your priorities straight!  If the ribbons and bows and cookies and candy recipes that don’t get to ‘soft ball’ stage are going to give you such an ulcer, throw them out the window and find the real joy of the season–Of being with people that you love, and realizing what the point of the holidays really are:  Light in a dark world!”

I would take the ‘stress’ of this holiday season–the financial worries, the putting together of our holiday offerings, the worrying over getting everything done–five times over before I would want to relive the past two Christmases….  And yet those Christmases contained light too.  And I look back to that light and find strength in it.

So that is my holiday diatribe….  And the bottom line….  The point that I’m trying to make is:  Don’t get so caught up in the hustle that you miss the miracles.  Don’t get so caught up in the bustle that you forget about people who are suffering through their hardest Christmases ever….  And feeling so alone in that. 

Remember the light in the darkness.  Hold onto it, and offer it to someone who might feel that the darkness is winning this year.  And…  Look around at the people that you love.  Drink them in.  Make the memories.  Cherish them.

Make the choice to slow down and refuse to become part of the rush.  It *IS* a choice.  When the world stops because of something awful those things fade into the background and you find out how unnecessary they really can be.

Remember the point of Christmas and the Holidays.  Look for the light and love one another.

****Ending Diatribe****

Sometimes I Take Him for Granted

I really should be working on holiday stuff.  But…  I’m not.  I’m here blogging. 

I’m thinking today about what an ungrateful wretch I really can be.

You see–my husband is home.  He is here in the flesh.  He has been for quite a few months in a row now.  And it’s wonderful.  I love it.  It delights me.  It especially delights me that he is going to be here this holiday.  He’s here to see the wonder in Carolyn’s eyes and help with preparations.  This year we get to just be together as a family.  And I really just love that.

But sometimes….  Sometimes I forget how lucky I am for all of that.  And sometimes….  Sometimes I get irritated with him.  Or sometimes I have the tail end of a cold and can’t hear anything because my ears are blocked and my kid is sick and I’m grumpy in general and then I get extra grumbly at him.

And I hate that.  I hate that because I of all people know what an incredible blessing it is to have him at home.  To have him at all.  I know I shouldn’t take him for granted.  I know that I shouldn’t let minor irritations cause me to blow up and be the Hormone Queen of Antagonism.  I shouldn’t.  I know how limited our time is together.  I know that a deployment could be and is just around the corner.  I know that even outside of deployments, I’m lucky to have him here on this earth.  I am a Navy wife and the friend of many who’ve lost their beloveds.  I *know* these things.

But some days, I forget.  And sometimes I am antagonistic, and grouchy, and irritated and irritating.

And I hate myself for it.

How quickly it seems I can go back to taking it for granted that he’s next to me.  And how ridiculous that is.  Because when the months drag on and on and on when I would give anything to feel his hand brush mine or see his eyes lock onto mine, I’m haunted by these moments of shortness and grouchiness.

In the midst of my off and on grumbles today, I found two letters that he’d sent me from Iraq.  I have no idea how they ended up in the middle of the floor in the kitchen–I don’t have a clue what book they might have been tucked into to cause them to land there, but I picked them up and I read them….

And they were two of my favorite letters that he’s ever written.  Real, love letters.  Solid love letters–all about how when the long, weary days and his job and the distance get the better of him, it’s thoughts of me and Little Miss that pull him out of that and help him to keep going until he can be in our arms again.

And I stood there in the kitchen and whispered, “Oh….” and wished that we could remember all that as we work through our Christmas projects, and deal with our sick kid, and the long hours he’s working, and watches til midnight.  I wish that we could hold those feelings between us always and not so easily forget what we mean to one another.

And it convicts me to get past the grumbles.

I am encouraged because I know….  that even with the grumbles that crop up now and again…  All of the love is still there, and some part of us will always resonate with those letters and find refuge in those words.

Now I remember.  I love being my husband’s wife.