Thursday, December 23, 2010

With Wonder and Awe

I listen to the birds outside my window.  It is almost Christmas, there are several inches of snow on the ground, and those birds are still here.  Still chirping away.  And I wonder.  What kind are they?  What keeps them here?  How do they survive?

As I've gotten older I'm afraid I've lost much of my ability to wonder.  Things just don't amaze me like they have in the past.  Is it age?  Is it depression?  Who knows.

But there are still moments.  Moments when time stands still. 

When I hold a sleeping newborn.  I look at this being.  I behold this creature.  And I am filled with awe.  I gaze lovingly.  I glory in its magnificence.  I am overwhelmed by its very being.

I sit on my porch at midnight on a summer evening.  All is quiet.  Except for nature.  Nature composes the most incredible symphonies.  And she plays them in the dark of night.  The crickets.  The wind.  Leaves rustling.  An owl.  And the stillness.  The stillness is a player in the orchestra.  The stars play their chords.  It is breathtaking.

A moment of clarity.  In a room full of people.  During a busy day.  All has been rushed.  Then something clicks.  A look.  A word.  A phrase.  A thought.  All is made clear in my mind in that moment and I am awash in peace.  Clarity.  Calm.

These are the moments when I know I am more.  We are more.  More than we can possibly understand.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Being a Video Game Character, Smartly

My Envy of Video Game Characters is up over at Smartly.  It's one of my earlier posts, so many of you probably haven't read it yet.  Plus I tweaked it a little, so you should definitely go check it out.

Then come back and tell me which video game charater you would be.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Depression as a Part of the Family

Sometimes it feels like Depression is another member of our family.  I've seen him walk with various other members.  He has been around for so long, he doesn't seem like a visitor anymore.

At times he will hang out in the background, examining things, taking it all in.  Other times he will invade our lives like a child having a tantrum.

It's tough to be sad about it.  It's part of who we are.  To wish it away would be to wish away all we've learned from our walks with him.  It would mean we weren't as strong or understanding.  It would mean we were a little more hollow.

I mention this because today I re-read a post my daughter wrote about it last year, while at college (which you should go read).  It is such a part of her as well.  Kind of a travelling companion.  Like taking a friend with you wherever you go. 

I know it sounds strange when I describe depression this way.  Like a friend.  Like a family member.  But if you've experienced it then it probably makes total sense.  It can be a comfort.  It can help you understand who you are.  It can give you strength when you have none.  And like friends and family, it can be very trying.

Learning to understand Depression for the part he plays in our family helps.  It's part of why we understand each other, enjoy each other, even while we kind of freak other people out.

Just think of Depression as the crazy cousin who got drunk and passed out on the couch.  Yes, he's tough to deal with but he's still family.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Did I Get Out of Bed?

Let me set the stage a little.  I was very dizzy yesterday so I took some anti-dizzy medication.  Mixed with the Xanax I am taking let's just say I was VERY tired.  However, I still didn't get to bed until about 12:30am. 

Since I am the human alarm clock in my house, my day started at 5:00am.  Wake up one daughter so she can study for a test.  6:30am start waking other kids.  7:00am wake son.  7:07 wake son again.  And 7:14.  And 7:21.  Son is already grounded from the computer for other infractions, so what do I threaten him with now?  Finally scare son enough (pretty loud yelling) that he gets out of bed at 7:28am.  Keep in mind that I have to walk down the hall on my very painful foot each time to do this.  To say that I am irritated with him does not come close.

Spend the next twenty minutes trying to get him to move faster than a sloth so that he will be ready when his ride comes.  As he purposely pushes every single one of his sister's buttons.  When his ride comes he makes them wait a minute or so while he hunts for his jacket.  I am just glad to have him out of my house.

I lock the doors and go back to bed.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am still feeling the effects of yesterday's medications.  I set my alarm for noon.  I will surely be able to get up by then.  Or not.  Many snoozes and alarm changes later, I finally get up at about 1:30pm.  My foot hurts so bad I can barely walk.  I have to eat something so I can take some anti-inflammatory meds without extreme stomach pain.  I stumble to the kitchen and have a bowl of cereal (after I wash a bowl and spoon because the dishes have stacked up -- again).  Of course, the kitchen smells of something really nasty that I'm sure is buried under all the dishes.  I get my frozen water bottle and take it to my room so I can put my foot on it.  I try to catch up on some blog reading.

Half an hour later, I take the water bottle back to the freezer.  Passing through the living room on my way back to unlock the door so the children can get in, I notice a discoloration on the carpet.  Not a subtle one.  Cat puke.  Of course.  So I limp into the kitchen and get what I need to clean up the cat puke.

I get a text message telling me my daughter is on no-credit status because of unexcused absences or tardies (which I know I have called and excused).  I get an email that another daugher is failing one or more of her classes (she says the teacher hasn't entered all her make up work).  I find myself in the basement looking for something and can smell cat poop.  Somehow, as strong as the smell is, I can't find it.  I eventually have to give up and decide to try again later.

One daughter comes home, very sick.  I send her to bed.  It's her turn for dinner so now I have that as well.  Did I mention that my foot is killing me and my meds are sending me into a depression?  Just walking around my own house is hard.  I need a shower.  But now I have to go out in public.

Two more daughters come home.  Aside from their irritating cheerfulness, things seem to be okay with them.  I realize it's getting kind of late and I haven't heard from my son.  I decide to give him a little more time to check in.

Oldest daughter comes home and collapses on my bed.  Super tired and stressed because it's finals week at college and she is pushing every limit she's got.

Finally decide I can't wait any longer and I have to track down my son.  I try to call the only friend I can think of and their phone isn't working.  I decide I'm going to have to drive to his house.  I look like death warmed over.  I drive up there.  She says they were there but they went to do parkour somewhere.  She doesn't know where.  She can tell by my face that he's in trouble.  We each promise that whoever finds them first will make them contact home.  It is now 2 1/2 hours since school ended and since it's winter it's dark.  He's fourteen.

I am a pretty relaxed parent in many ways.  My kids get away with a lot.  But I have one major rule (other than don't kill anyone) and that is that I must know where you are and who you are with.  Always.  You do not leave the school to go anywhere but home unless you call first.  You do not stay at the school to practice your instrument or work out in the weight room unless you call first.  You do not say you are going one place and then go to another place without checking in first.  You do not leave me wondering where you are.  Especially if you already ticked me off that day.

I drive around for half an hour checking parks.  No sign of him.  The street lights are now on.  I go buy Little Caesar's pizza because I'm in charge of dinner now.  Still looking like garbage.

I decide to go home and wait it out.  On my way, he calls.  Our conversation goes like this:

"Hi, mom." (sounding cheery and nonchalant)
"Are you at T's house?"
"Get your binder (which he left there last week).  I will be there in five minutes to pick you up."  (It's now three hours since school has been out.)
"You mean I can't stay?"

I pick him up.  I can't even speak because I am so angry.  (Okay, fine, the meds may have something to do with my aggression.  But this is also not a first offense for this boy.  He's been warned and grounded before.  Several times.  I have had it!)

We get home.  I kick his sister off the computer and tell him to log into his facebook account.  Then I send him to take out the over-flowing trash.  As he does that I change his facebook status to:  "This is Nik's mom.  He is grounded from any contact with friends for the next two weeks.  Do not invite him to do anything or call until after Christmas.  He is unavailable.  Thank you."

I go in to make sure he puts a new liner in the trash can only to find that someone spilled something nasty in the trash earlier when it didn't have a liner and just put a new one in anyway.  So whatever they spilled has now fermented.  I get the Lysol and paper towels and start to clean it out, only to find that there is also an entire serving of mashed potatoes in the bottom of the trash can.  Soft and gooey mashed potatoes.  This is a 30-gallon trash can so I have to practically climb inside to clean it.  Awful smell.  And now choking on the Lysol.

People eat their pizza.  Husband finally gets home.  I am a little irritated at him, too.  He forgot to charge his phone last night so it's been dead all day.  This means I couldn't call and ask him for help finding my son, to pick up dinner on his way home, or complain about the horrible day I was having.

I finally take a bath.  Now I no longer look like an unearthed zombie with a hangover.  I head into the kitchen to see if there's anything I can eat (I hate Little Caesar's pizza).  I finally make a couple peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  I go back into the kitchen to put my dishes away.  I don't have the heart to make the daughter in charge of dishes do them because she's the one studying like crazy for finals.  I have other daughter unload the dishwasher and I load.  In the process I find that both sides of the sink are clogged because my family simply cannot resist the urge to throw solid food into the sink.  Our disposal has been broken for over a year.  I have been lecturing for about that long.  They aren't getting it.  As I do the dishes I find chunks of curdled milk, soggy Cheerios, sandwich baggies, a box top, the sharp removed top of a tin can, and bits and pieces of no-one-wants-to-guess.  And a seriously disgusting rag that could easily be used for a science project in its current state of stench.  I end up using our mini-plunger just to get the sinks to drain.

My head is killing me.  I'm tired.  I have zero patience.  I have done no Christmas shopping because my foot hurts so bad and my meds are playing havoc with my system.  We don't even have a Christmas tree.

And my daughter just sent me a text asking me to wake her at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

Today, I am Scrooge.  And I am completely and 100% okay with that.  Wake me up in January; I'm skipping the rest of this holiday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shutting Up, Smartly

I have a new essay up over at Smartly.  It's all about learning to shut up -- or not.  You should check it out by clicking here.