Monday, March 31, 2008

fifth floor (40.194N and -92.583W)

Where I come from, Easter marks the day before barefoot season.  I should probably change the rule this year what with the arctic timing of the holiday, but my boys have never heard of the rule at all - so I guess we'll just take it a day at a time.  

Drew started a new hobby.  Tattooing.  I think Michael actually started the game.  And you know why?  Because when you're relaxing after a long day of real world stressors, nothing feels better than your small child's hands running matchbox cars up and down your blue jeans and your back or letting them spritz your hair with the water bottle and brush it into place just as you do for them in the mornings, or feeling their small fingers tracing flowers and dragons and You Rock's with washable markers up and down your arms.  It's almost as good as a massage - if only they wouldn't ever tire of it.  This picture is only the beginning of my session the other night because no matter what he wanted to draw, I let him.  As long as he could find another space of skin.  I had all of my children's names on this arm by the end.  I was like Angelina Jolie.  Only without the geography lesson.  Or the class.  That's right, I called her tattoos classy.  They are the longitude and latitude of the countries of her children's births, and I think it's beautiful.  I'd copy the idea if I didn't hate the thought of the pain and if they weren't all born on the exact same floor of the exact same hospital in the exact same city on the planet.  It would just look like the tattoo artist couldn't get it quite right and kept trying.  So uncool.  

I think I'll stick with our way.  It doesn't hurt.  It comes off with just a little water.  And it won't take away from my evening-wear. 

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's playing pretend . . FOR A LIVING

Let's talk about Hollywood.  It's time I lighten the mood around here.  You know what I love about Hollywood?  Well, many, many things actually.  But one thing we should all admire despite any beef we might have with the divorce rate (I don't know - is it really that much worse, or just more visible?) or the glamorizing of evil at times (GUILTY - I adore the Ocean's movies), is the gratitude.  I don't think I've ever heard an actor say, "It's so exhausting working those long hours three months out of the year when I make a movie."  I have heard them complain about the red carpet, which gets under my skin the teensiest bit, because it's not like they didn't know being the center of attention sort of came with the job.  But, the actual job, they don't ever complain.  Which I'm thankful for because it's so few people in this world who get to make a living from their art.  I appreciate that they understand this, that they even go so far as to mention it now and then, and that they are grateful for it.   

I'm afraid I complain about my job a little bit.  Sometimes a lot bit.  But, despite some geographical obstacles and some educational ones, I actually did choose it.  And I chose it for certain reasons that are still true today.  So, although it would be so much easier to be grateful if I were making enough money to own three homes, I still think I have an obligation to society to be grateful.   Well, to either be grateful or to make a change.   

So I'm working on it.  And in the meantime, I'm pursuing the arts in any little way that I can (I hope to put pictures up at some point - or a link to them - of a play I recently helped write.  That was a very proud moment) and I'm trying to be grateful for the job that pays the grocery bill and I'm extremely thankful for each and every actor who seems to be thinking of me when they say, "I'm very lucky . . . to get to do what I love, for a living."

And here is my own grateful thought for the day:  I'm here to see it when Jake decides to wear the Mr. Potato Head glasses.   

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

it's the journey

I've lost the will to scold.  I'm trying to watch American Idol.  There are little alphabet bath toys all over the floor which flew from the miniature tractor trailer as it went whizzing in and out of the living room and around the dining room table.  The driver of which is not happy unless both older brothers are chasing, blockading, and otherwise increasing the thrill of the ride.  And I don't care.  Well, it's not that I don't care.  It's that I love it.  Cancer, even the threat thereof, has a way of reminding me how much I love the chaos.  

John, the oldest and 8, likes to write notes on the notebook by my work computer so I will see them in the morning.  The other day it said, "I love you Mama, and I wish you didn't have canser."

Drew, the second one and 6, after hearing me thank John later that morning for his wonderful note, wanted to participate as well.  I received his paper just before he left for school:  "Don't forget to buy toothpaste."

Jake gets the blog spotlight most often, so I don't need to write about how he's been singing today.  SING-ing.  It's the sweetest sound I've ever heard.  

I've been on a serious roller coaster about this whole bone biopsy thing.  It's really difficult to face, and there is a permanent gnawing in the pit of my stomach to prove it.   It kind of feels like the editor of my life forgot to take this chapter out or something.  You know, like, "Oh wait, she doesn't need this kind of thing again, she so perfectly learned all the lessons the first time!  Just look at the way she enjoys all those toys on the floor!"  I was hoping that first bout with cancer was my one valley of the shadow, and it was all green pastures from here on out clear to heaven - which would be a long time from now.  So I've been thinking about another great John moment.  He was less than 5 and we had just seen The Neverending Story, the fantasy part of which begins and ends at the Ivory Tower.  "Huh," John said at the end.  "They're back at the Tower.  They should have just stayed there.  But that would have been a really short movie."

I guess I'd rather have this chapter than end the story altogether.  And don't think it's lost on me that John doesn't know how to spell canser.  That's gotta mean something.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Did the grass sing?

Easter didn't start out so great for me. I had to work, which is just wrong. I was raised by a generation that was already realizing some people have to work on Sundays. I mean, at the very least - we ate at restaurants on Sunday, thereby reveling in the fact that some people had to work. But still, I also always went to church. AL-ways. My work schedule is a long story I'm not really telling here, but suffice it to say, I didn't want to be at home working yesterday. I wanted to be in a church building singing resurrection songs. Then, on top of this, there was the Easter bunny saga.

Who knew my children even believed in the Easter bunny? I thought it was one of those things you play along with but don't actually believe. Like the tooth fairy. Although don't get me started on the last time I spewed hatred at that poor mythical character. But remembering to trade out a bloody tooth under your child's pillow and replace it with money is just too much to ask of us poor exhausted parents. So anyway, they do still believe apparently and they talked all about it with each other only TWO days ago, describing in detail the two things they expected from him, which I don't think can even be found in this town. So in the morning they found their baskets and candy and replacement gift with appropriate delight. But they can't stop talking about the things they had wished for and how perhaps they can save up for them. I haven't yet heard any theories as to why the bunny robbed them, and they never actually fussed, but still. This is why I hate the Easter bunny. On a normal day, like say, a Tuesday or something, there's all kinds of magic surrounding them. Every time I have remembered to buy their favorite snack. The time Drew asked me to pray that he would find his digital pirates clock from McDonalds, and then after kissing him goodnight, I DID find it and brought it to him, and heard John say, "Mama's great isn't she?" Oh for Tuesdays! When ordinary miracles are so easy to find. But believing the Easter bunny will somehow know that you wanted the Lord of the Rings video game in time to actually find it and buy it and that somehow he's going to get it into your house only two days after you said this out loud to your mother? I can't produce that kind of magic!

And as long as I'm complaining, who moved Easter up this year? It was snowing here. SNOWING. Little girls in white dresses froze to death. It was ridiculous.

Fortunately, Michael's mother totally came through for us, as she always does. She is so good at holidays. She had the huge hunt, the actual vinegar in water egg-coloring, gifts and candy, a hot, delicious meal, and to top it off - she had church. The grandchildren each read portions of the bible and she talked with them about the real reason we celebrate. If only Sandi Patti had been there to sing "Was it a morning like this?", I think I would have come full circle from grouchy to glorious.

As it is, I came half circle, and a good night's sleep got me the rest of the way. I'm glad it's Monday now, that I'm two days into my work week, that He's risen, and that it's no longer snowing. I'm glad there are endless possibilities for magic again and that nobody is expecting them to come from an omnicient rabbit with candy and eggs. And the sun is actually shining, so I do wonder if it was a morning like this. Did it sing? Did the earth rejoice to feel you again? Man, I love that line.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

she's up, she's down, she's hanging in there

I am almost three years cancer-free now, and I had gotten used to good news.  Yesterday, I had to face unpleasant news again.  I'm going to have a bone biopsy in a couple weeks.  I think . . . I think I'll stop having "worst fears", because I'm really tired of their coming true.   Cancer was a big one.  And somewhere alongside of that was a deathly fear of the bone being involved.  I blame this fear on an episode of Highway to Heaven I saw once.  But then, that is also the episode in which I learned the song Boom-Chicka-Boom, so it wasn't all bad.  

Of course, this isn't necessarily cancer.   In fact, it's really likely, that it's not.  But facing the fact that it might be has sort of cleared away the monotony fog that was covering the blue skies feeling that I've had ever since getting free of cancer the first time.  For me, there has been nothing like that happiness.  Permeating everything was the thrill that at least I was there to see it - whatever it was.  This feeling hadn't faded much.  Hardly at all, I had thought.  

When I got the call about the bone biopsy, I cried.  And my heart dropped directly into my stomach, which is a total cliche, but it became a cliche because it fits the feeling SO WELL.  And I felt scared and horrified.  

But since the bad news, in between the moments of despair, I feel intensely, deeply happy.  It's like - I remember this feeling.  The feeling that every single moment of every single day is an amazing gift.  Plus, all the lessons I learned the first time?  They won't leave me alone.  It's like my children are screaming them as they run through the house blissfully unaware that cancer is anything to fear.  The loudest one is this:  No matter what they tell me that day about the biopsy, that news can't have today.  No matter how difficult the recovery is, it doesn't have today either.  Cancer doesn't have today.   Whatever trouble is ahead, it doesn't have today, unless I let it.  

Of course, I may need reminded of this later.  In the meantime - there's always today.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

what i learned on vacation

Remember high school?  When your whole world basically existed within the walls of that building?  Foreign affairs were pretty much reduced to the bus trips to opposing schools during sporting events.  And being somebody was determined by how many semicolons you needed in the yearbook index.   I hated traveling back then.   I disliked the feeling of going outside of my universe.  And my universe stayed small for a long time after high school actually.  Maybe it does for lots of small town kids.   It wasn't until a few years into college that I started caring how many cool things existed outside of my universe and whether or not I would ever see any of them.  

Now I love to go places.  I love the feeling I get when I am in an unfamiliar town and there are people simply everywhere living their own small-universe lives.  It's so freeing to let my own problems melt into the bigness of humanity.  And so inspiring to see the endless possibilities of life - where to live, where to work, what to drive.  And so powerful to understand - I guess - how little I matter.  

I never feel more important than when I stand aware, smack dab in the middle of my insignificance.  I think that's the first step to being able to matter at all.

(P.S.  The cancer checkup went well too.  I'm still free of it!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

in which I use a tag to write whatever I want

Well, I forgot to yell, "No tag-backs", so I'm it again. But I'm not going to totally play by the rules. See this post for the last tag I did. This one is the same only I have to use three of the books I am currently reading. That's not difficult since there usually is an entire stack. I'm reading Wuthering Heights, in which on page 123 Mr. Lockwood is demanding of Nelly (the nurse) that she tell him more of Heathcliff, thereby officially setting the stage for the entire book - which is convenient for this little game. But the actual sentences are short and completely confusing out of context. My InStyle magazine for March has a Revlon commercial on page 123, what with its having commercials in probably one entire third of its hugeness. I get that magazing in the mail now, but I used to love to buy it at the store because it's the size of a catalogue and it smells good, and the clerks always commented on it. Not like the People magazines which make me feel I am playing out every bathrobe-and-bon-bons sort of stereotype about stay-at-home moms who watch Oprah at 3 and can't resist the celebrity gossip in the checkout aisle. But anyway. I'm also reading The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and it's only about 100 pages.

So that's a glimpse into my reading. For a further glimpse into my day, I am sitting at my desk unable to work because the system is down, and my feet rest on a toasty space heater because even on these almost-spring days, it stays winter in my office area for a very long time. Jake is asleep, having surrendered to naptime in the toddler bed without incident two days running, Drew can't find anything to do that's not too loud for naptime, and John just asked me if we "have ever been to Kansas City before". But you can't do anything with a fellow like that once he's got a thing in his head. And that is the fifth sentence on page 123 of Doctor Zhivago, which is sitting by my desk, ties in uncannily well, and brings me full circle.

No more 123's now. It's freaking me out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cheesecake Factory and the Holiday Inn

It's Kansas City time again. It's been about four months this time, and this week I go back to the big city for my cancer check-up. In the memoir I write this about my first trip there:

As we neared the city I flinched at the sight of every brick building on either side of me, certain that was probably the one. The terrible cancer building that was full of sick and dying people and the machines and needles and the shelves of medicine that would try to keep us alive. I wanted to turn the car around. I wanted to run. Whatever answers they had for me could not be better than not knowing. And not knowing was by itself awfully bad.

The trips there did not get much easier. In my journal later I wrote this:

Every trip to and from Kansas City to doctors we drive by Worlds of Fun, and I always so wish we were just going there. Life right now is such an unpredictable thing. I'm up, I'm down, I'm brave, I'm terrified. This doctor comforts me, that one scares me to pieces . . . . I do feel less scared of chemo now. But more scared of death. I don't want this. I want to live. And I want this baby. I want to live to see all my babies grow up. Please let that be my story. I promise to be grateful.

It's been close to three years since I wrote those. This weekend the boys are on spring break, and they are so excited about our weekend trip to Kansas City they can hardly sit through supper each night without squealing. My work day went smoothly on Sunday, and I called out to Michael, "It went fast today, I wonder what's different." Drew, though, is the one who answered from his perch on the couch in the living room, "It's probably because we're going to Kansas City this weekend, and you're so excited!" They are so ecstatic that I began to worry they had bigger plans for the trip than we did. So I asked them what it was they were expecting. "Well," John answered, "Swimming in the hotel pool . . . and don't they have some good restaurants there?"

So I think we're good. They don't yet know what the big water tower means with the Worlds of Fun logo on it. Just give 'em a hotel swimming pool and a meal or two.

I think the 2005 Serenity would be really happy if she could see this week.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Toddler Bed - Day 45ish

This is just the best part of my day.
I took this picture last night after I had put him in bed, returned to the hallway, and saw the hand sticking out from under the door. I got the camera and sat it on the carpet on my side, knowing full well that even though I couldn't see it, there was one very guiltless face grinning somewhere on the other side - which as you can see, the picture confirmed. During the third picture, I even heard an audacious, though whispered, "Cheeeeese."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

good thing it's not published yet

Actual paragraph from my memoir:

Michael told me the other day that he thinks I am happier now than I have ever been.  And I know he is right.  I keep thinking maybe it's just the adrenaline from having survived a brush with death and that one day the balloon will pop and I will cry over lost keys again.  Bur for now those mundane details of life have no power over me except to be kissed and laughed over and applauded as the annoyances I'm so thrilled I still get to suffer through.

Actual moment from our evening:

Me:  Where is Jake's cup?  Why, why, WHY is it missing so often?  And why is it never in the same place twice?  I've looked for it everywhere.  EVERYwhere.  And why does it upset me so much?  It's just a cup!  (although, a ticking time bomb of stink what with its containing milk and all).

Michael:  Serenity now.

Wise guy.

Later, Jake found the cup himself.  And it actually was in a place it had been before.  And suddenly, all was right with the world.  Maybe I should change that paragraph in the book . . . .

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

name that Judy Blume book

The new look is kind of serious, huh? The InStyle magazine helps things a little, but I really need a picture of a giant toddler head with Play-Do smeared on his mouth. Then all the sides of me would be covered I think.

I love that book in my header, though, Finding God in the Questions. I love the whole concept. I knew I wanted to read it as soon as I heard Dr. Johnson speak about it. He had been a very public, and respected, physician for a long time and now wanted to write about his faith. (Ah, the delicate balance between science and faith, Jack versus Locke, anyone?) I'm always intrigued when someone older than The Brady Brunch wants to tell us what they believe and why. And I wasn't disappointed. I loved his broad approach to the topic of God. He didn't assume he was writing to people who already believed.

I like questions. I think so many, many times, the answer is found within them. Humans are amazingly intelligent beings - and I marvel at all the things we have learned and invented and discovered and explained. But, and I think this is an actual scientific theorem sort of thing, there are many things we simply can't explain. Even about ourselves. And for me, that's where God is.

So, seriously, Play-Do, right? Or maybe spaghetti. I have the famous spaghetti-head shot for two of the three so far. The third one won't eat it. Play-Do and cat food? Absolutely. Warm pasta smothered in tomato sauce? Don't even try it, Mom.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

shake it out

It was almost 70 degrees in our part of Missouri today.  Tomorrow we will celebrate every joke ever told about Missouri weather, because it returns to the 30s.  But today, it was in like a Lamb.

The first days of spring in my house are like turning on the lights in a room previously muted and glorified by dusk, i.e., yikes, Did I dust this winter EVER?  So Michael ran around throwing the windows open like a mad man released from the prison that was this unending season, while I grimaced and cringed and squinted my eyes to the illuminating of our winter clutter.   
We were so cozy this winter.  I like winter for its coziness, the right to turn in and cover up and shut out.  It takes me a few days of shaking-out before I can truly appreciate spring.  

I guess that's partly what the new look is about.  If it returns to the original in the next few days you will know that either Michael, Felicity, or my mother didn't like the change.  Or that the return of winter weather made me want to revert to the old like the fetal position under three blankets to which I will want to crawl on the return of nippy mornings.

Sigh.  I have such a love-hate relationship with change.