Monday, May 1, 2017

My Second Dad

Someday, I will have lost my dad three times. The first time was when he suffered a head injury in 1986, the second time was when he started having seizures in 2004, and the third time is yet to come.

Isaac's second birthday party was on Saturday and this was the first time I realized that I missed my second dad, the one I knew growing up. After his car accident, but before his seizures began, the fear of a "tantrum," or a violent outburst, always lurked in the shadows. However, Dad was the best dad he could be. And I miss him. As we got ready to leave for the party at Heritage Park, for the first time I realized how much I ache for the dad I had growing up.

Dad was active and DID stuff with me and my sister: swimming, mall trips, ice skating (he couldn't skate because of his knee injury from the car accident, but watched and waved to us behind the railing), driving to volleyball games, volunteering for school fundraisers, putt-putting, etc. At any hour of the day, Dad was just a phone call and 10-minute car ride away; he came to kill spiders, play Uno, or drink Root Beer floats in the garage while it rained. I'll always remember the sounds of dripping rain in the dark garage, sipping at our floats in lawn chairs.

Now, after the 2004 seizures (and recurring ones), Dad can't do much. I am thankful he remembers me and his grandchildren, but I miss his joy in doing things. He spends most days in his "office," a rental apartment that his brother owns, reading Greek translation books. It's almost funny that while Dad can't keep up with a Nancy Drew book, he still manages his Greek. He does two half-hour sessions on his exercise bike, reads those books, makes lunch, takes a shower, watches TV...and that's about it. Remembering his life before, this routine depresses me, but I have to remember that he is content with the routine. He clearly knows his life is supposed to be more than this, but he needs the repetition, the stability.

On Saturday, I thought how much pre-2004 Dad would have loved to come to the party. I can just picture him walking to the playground, carrying a tower of wrapped presents for Isaac.

Like most people, I didn't realize how great of a Dad I had. His love and generosity were too often overshadowed by his head injury and the possible "tantrums." He no longer enjoys large parties, but used to. I'll always remember him coming to Pizza Hut after volleyball games, surprising the large table by paying the whole bill. He loved people and loved being generous. I wish he could be here, playing with Isaac and holding Esther. If that same Dad were here today, I could see him packing up his apartment and moving down to Greenville in a U-haul truck, spending every day with his grandchildren and treating us all to frozen yogurt.

I can't bring "either" Dad back. But I can pass on his legacy by enjoying doing things with my own children and giving all of my heart to them. My sister and I were Dad's world; Isaac and Esther are now mine.

Currently, we don't have a garage, but when it rains, maybe we'll set up lawn chairs in front of the window and drink Root Beer floats.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Checking IN

Dissociating. To separate or disconnect.

This is a concept ingrained into my psyche. It's more than just daydreaming or not paying attention. "Checking out" is probably the best description. For as long as I can remember, I've checked out as a coping mechanism. Basically, if my mind is somewhere else, somewhere "safe," then nothing can hurt me. Of course, this is all subconscious and appears in many ways.

Reading. YouTube binges. Doodling. Staring at a wall.

Normally, it's fairly harmless, but when you have two children, one of whom is a very energetic and loving little boy, you need to be present and you need to PLAY. Why is this so difficult at times? Because it requires my mind to be engaged constantly with another mind. There's little time to "check out" and be in my "safe place" when there's such a constant demand for my mental presence.

When two little hands are grabbing for me and a little voice demanding my attention, I hate it when I feel myself withdrawing into myself. I hate that I want those little hands and that little voice to let me check out. How can a loving mother want that? That's why I'm glad I've recognized this fault of mine.

And it's gotten better over the last two years. Sure, it's easy when your babies are tiny and don't notice whether your mind is present or not. All they need is cuddles, milk, and de-pooping. But, slowly, they develop and need deeper attention. They need someone to build blocks with them, someone to chase them in the yard, someone to pretend that the Tickle Monster is out for vengeance. Really, these things require little to no effort, but when you're used to decades of having the mental freedom to check out, it becomes yet another brick wall to break down.

Yesterday, I played with my son in the backyard and saw the pure joy on his face when I reached my hands through the playset slats to grab him, I heard the bubbling giggles as I chased him from one fence to the other, I saw the glow in his eyes when he figured out how to blow leaves out of his hands...these are the moments that make a childhood. Years from now, I don't want my babies remembering that they had to coerce me into playing or drag me away from a book. It's a work in progress, but there IS progress.

Friday, February 24, 2017


I'm actually a little glad that my labor and recovery with Isaac was so rough because it makes me feel less apologetic for how easily Esther came into the world. Since I was chilling at five cm. for over a week, when the doctor said, "When you feel any consistent contractions, JUST GO," we took her literally. Especially because I wanted plenty of time to get that epidural.

A friend kindly told me, during our church's small group, not to feel badly about wanting an epidural.

"I don't feel bad that I want one," I said, "but I do feel bad for how MUCH I want one."

Somehow, a truly loving mother should at least feel some reservation about getting an epidural, right? Nope. I adore the thought of going "all natural," but after Isaac and the death-torture-straight-from-the-bowels-of-hell contractions, I wanted that needle in my back, plunging my body into sweet, blissful ignorance.

So, around 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, I had two big contractions, woke up Ryan and my mom (who was staying in our guest room), and off we went to the hospital. Isaac was conveniently snoozing at our friends' house where we left him that night because I was pretty sure I was having some small contractions and, again, after the doctor's "JUST GO!", I was glad to let him stay for his first sleepover.

It was a weird feeling, driving through the dark and down a very empty I-385. So different from Isaac when we drove in the afternoon, me convinced that every other driver was looking over in horror every time I felt those death-torture-straight-from-the-bowels-of-hell contractions. Although, when I'm in that much pain, I don't show it much...I probably just looked like I needed to poop. But THIS time was actually fun. I wasn't in much pain yet, was pretty sure I'd get an epidural in time, and was actually feeling very happy.

That didn't change. The whole labor and delivery was delightful. Seriously. Who knew it could be FUN? One of the best reasons for going without an epidural is wanting to be fully alert and present to the delivery process. For me, I was able to enjoy so much more with the drugs. So. Much. More. Esther took her time in coming, but that was fine. In the hours before she came, I played Words with Friends, felt my belly as the contractions intensified which was fun because I felt nothing, joked with Ryan and the nurses, ate cherry Popsicles, and even napped.

Right before Esther was born, I felt some of the really intense contractions even through the epidural. It hurt, but it was a good hurt. I was glad to feel some of the pain. The doctor and nurses came in soon, said, "Looks like you're ready to push," and I was like, "Ok, I'll just put my phone away..." And, 10 minutes later. Esther's sweet, little (VERY little) head came poking out. Ryan brought a small mirror so I could see everything this time and I'm so glad for that. It was weird and marvelous to see Esther born into the world.

While I've felt sadder and more irritable this past week, I'm doing well. Almost suspiciously well. I say "suspiciously" because I always have this suspicion that anything good can't last. Even as I watch Isaac's precious face as he sleeps or nurse Esther and cherish that little hand curled around my finger, I sense the loss of them growing up, becoming independent, leaving the nest...I wonder if I've ever truly lived in the moment as an adult.

However, that fear of loss at least helps me enjoy these little moments while I have them. I can't freeze Esther in time or preserve her cuddly newborn-ness, but I can treasure this baby while she's a baby. Just like I couldn't (and can't) freeze Isaac, and now see a VERY active toddler who loves climbing and getting into everything, I know I've properly treasured each stage of his life so far.

But still, I so wish they could stay babies just a little longer!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Will Still...

When I was younger, I would furiously write about how I felt when I was in the middle of tumultuous emotions. My mom says that she would often walk by my room and hear a mad assault of pen on paper. Somehow, I've lost this healthy habit and am resurrecting it now. The clicking of keys isn't as satisfying as scrawling on paper, but it's much faster!

And I need to get my thoughts out. I've never been so hurt and saddened and afraid by an election outcome. I'm overwhelmed by what I deem as ignorance, injustice, and basic foolishness in electing a man who is so clearly inept, disgusting, and ridiculous. I felt the beginnings of a panic attack last night when I realized Trump was going to win and literally forced myself to stop refreshing poll results so that I could go to sleep. I had a dream that I punched someone in the face for patting my baby bump too hard. Somehow it's related.

I don't understand how this happened. But it did. And we are all in it together, whether we voted for this crazy guy or not. I refuse to crumple and give into panic, which is so tempting to do because all I see right now is a vague future of angry shouting, blind refusal to accept facts, and a general disregard for the value of every person's life. I hate that I have to listen to that man's stupid face for at least four more years. I hate that he represents our country.

BUT, while this fear and anger swirls around my thoughts, I again refuse to let it keep me from joy. I've overcome too much in my personal life to let some arrogant billionaire who will never know my name rob me of what I've worked so hard to get: joy. I can't help but think: what if we become a modern version of Nazi Germany? Am I being extreme? Probably, but I think it's possible that we could become at least a fraction of that, at least in terms of intolerance and hatred.

Even if that happened, if all Muslims were banned from the U.S. and immigrants were rounded up like criminals, I promise to do my part in history and stand up for them. I'm not conceited enough to think that I alone would change the world, but I would change a small droplet of it. I would protest. I would house people who needed it. I would try to protect my family while also trying to protect those who need it. I'll stand up to bullies and racists and sexists and everything-ists, and teach my little babies to do the same.

I will still live my life. I will still be happy. I will still laugh. I will still be Isaac's mommy. I will still be Ryan's wife. I will still do improv and sketch comedy. I will still own at Ticket to Ride. I will still read good books and drink tea and have a beautiful baby girl. I will still teach my children to be courageous and intelligent in an impossibly stubborn and illogical world. I will still travel. I will still watch every College Humor sketch. I will still hold an everlasting internal debate whether to keep my hair long or to chop it off. I will still do Sunday LA Times crosswords.

Most importantly, I will still love God and I will still love people. And that's the power of God's Word...nothing can defeat him or his followers: no nation, no president, no dictator, no war, no legislation. Humanity has endured every form of evil and yet good still exists. That alone is a testament to God's endurance. I don't know why He doesn't just wipe out the crazy evil people, but I do know that light continues to triumph over darkness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Effort of Doing Things

In my composition class today, we talked about procrastination and a student suggested this Ted Talk, which we watched. I'm so glad she suggested it because in the short video, the speaker addressed the issue of procrastinating on things that "have no deadlines." This is one of my biggest daily struggles: doing things. Not even important things, but THINGS.

For example, I've had pounds of these apples sitting on my counter since last week. I have every intention of making applesauce, apple butter, and apple jam out of them. I even have the equipment pulled down from the cabinets...and, yet, I can't seem to get to the point of cutting the apples up and DOING all this. It's not hard. I have the time. But. I. Just. Don't. Do. It.

This is just one example of constant THINGS that I don't blogging, or exercising, or laundry, or cleaning...and I know a lot of kind people will say, "Oh, you do plenty. You're raising a toddler with one on the way. You teach. Give yourself a break. We all need to slow down."

Mostly true. I AM raising a toddler and growing a new one...but the rest, not so much. Sure, I teach, but it's for a few hours two mornings a week...and I give myself wayyyyy too many breaks. Just yesterday, I was laying down during Isaac's nap, not even wanting to lie down, but feeling like the effort of moving was too much work. It was a gross feeling. I'm thankful Isaac sleeps so well and I get more than enough sleep (if he didn't sleep well, I'd probably throw a dart at someone writing this same blog..."waaaaahhh...I get too much rest!").

However, I need to keep myself moving, even just reading or cleaning. I feel so much better when I've gotten some things done, even if no one will ever notice the effort. Who cares if I ever make applesauce? Who cares if I vacuum under the couch? Who cares if I go for a walk? None of these things will change the world, but they'll change my day. They'll break away the cobwebs in my brain. They'll give my body a need for rest at the end of the day.

 I want Isaac and Danfrieda to see me as an "active mommy," someone who plays and creates. There's nothing to do about all this, but to keep working on doing things. Of course, it's unhelpful to beat myself up over it, but I should at least keep myself motivated by reminding myself why I want to be active.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bucket List

What I want to do before I die, in no particular order:

- Visit Antarctica, Ireland, Machu Picchu, Greece, and Turkey
- Go hang-gliding
- Win one of those restaurant hamburger challenges
- Have a legitimate reason to see an old friend and say, "I thought you were dead!"
- Have an old friend see ME and have a legitimate reason to say, "I thought you were dead!"
- Run with the bulls in Spain
- Go on a cross-country bicycle trip
- Sit in an SNL audience...or be ON the show
- Go to a ball in a fancy gown
- Teach a creative writing class
- Catch a fish
- Do the ghost pepper challenge
- Celebrate a 75th wedding anniversary with Ryan
- Hear Isaac call me "my ladyship" without prompting
- Go snow skiing
- Parasail with grandkids

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ridding Myself of THIS

The love Ryan and I have for each other is completely unlike what I expected when I was younger. Up until the end of college, I had some pretty ridiculous expectations for love...basically, I expected love to be a never-ending thrill ride of daring adventures and emotional thrills. I wanted passion and drama. I wanted mummies and pirates and whatever other obstacles that would end in some climactic kiss at the end. Basically, never-ending excitement.

Now, I'm so glad I don't have that Hollywood version of love. How exhausting would it be to constantly be thrown into near-death experiences? We would be racking up so much debt in therapy bills. Real life has turned out to be much better.

For example, this past year I confessed something to Ryan I had hid from him for our entire relationship. For the sake of this blog (and my pride, honestly), it's not important what this thing was. We'll just call it "THIS." THIS was yet another way in which I sabotaged myself to try and pacify my ever-present anxieties. Basically, I'm an anxious person and have a history of relieving that anxiety in less than great ways.

THIS was something that I struggled with on and off for a long time. Each time I did THIS, I would think, "Ok, that was stupid, but now I'm done with THIS. That's the last time. I'm done and no one has to know about it." I've done that before, convinced myself that I don't need to tell anyone about self-destructive behavior because "this was the last time."

Well, when THIS happened again, I knew it wasn't going away without accountability. I think I've always known that, but finally decided THIS needed to die. And, as I've learned from admitting previous dumb things I've done, I knew the only way for THIS to die was to tell Ryan. I reached this conviction during a church meeting, of all cliche places. Throughout the meeting, I slowly felt the terrorizing peace that only God's convictions can bring. During a break, I told Ryan I needed to talk with him. He clearly wanted to stay for the rest of the meeting, but I said it was important. Because he's better than any Hollywood man, he immediately grabbed his stuff and we picked up Isaac and left. In the car, with Isaac making adorable cooing noises in the backseat, I told Ryan about THIS. Guh, it sucked, but even as I was saying it all, I knew I was shattering the last remaining division between us. Ok, maybe not the last, because no marriage is perfect, but it was definitely the last LARGE remaining division.

And, without questioning why I did THIS or why I hadn't told him sooner, Ryan kissed me on the forehead and said he was proud of me for being so brave.

While we were still dating, I had confessed another big mistake I had consistently made. My counselor at the time said that by bringing this secret out into the light, I had robbed it of its power. And now I've robbed THIS of its power. The frustrating thing, though, is there's always something I have to keep bringing into the light, something I keep having to force from my secret, evil dungeons. I know that's just part of the importance of God's grace, that we're never "good enough" on our own, but it seems like at a certain point I should be able to get rid of all the "really bad" stuff.

But God's healed me in so many ways that I have hope there's a place where this junk will finally be refused entrance into my mind and body. I can't say I have pure, unshakable faith that this place actually exists or that it's always a comfort to think of such a place, but the hope is there and that's something.