Friday, September 28, 2012

A Shot in the Arm

We (I use the word "we" loosely) give Amélie an allergy shot twice a week.  She hates them.  I hate it that she has to endure them, but her allergies are wretched, and I know how wretched they are because I watch her in her absolutely misery and empathize on a level that I wish I didn't know.  I endured allergy shots for 10 years.  Ten years.  I honestly don't think my allergies ever got any better, but apparently, in the past few years, allergy shots have come a long, long way.  Apparently, allergy shots now have a 95% success rate.

(I know some of you out there are wanting to hand poor Amélie a glass of elderberry juice and tablespoonfuls of raw, local honey rather than these poisonous shots.  I know.  I know.  I know.  I tried that.) 

There is always a significant amount of serum left when it is time to move on to the next vial.  Matt had this brilliant idea that he should give me shots of Amélie's leftovers.  I thought that was a good idea, too.*

Until tonight, our first experiment with Amélie's allergic leftovers.

I was actually taking a bath in Jack's bath water (Yes, I did this.  I just added another 6 inches of really hot water to kill any little boy germs.).  Matt walked in the bathroom with a drink in one hand and a syringe in the other.**  He shot me in the arm, it didn't hurt a bit, and then I sipped my drink, read my book, finished up my bath  and headed up to bed. 

When I had allergy shots from 3rd grade until the end of my first year of college, I always had to stay for 20 minutes in the doctor's office and make sure that I didn't have a reaction.  I never did.  Until tonight. 

My arm isn't sore.  I don't think it is even red.***  But I am an absolute wreck.

My nose is running.  Tiny needles feel like they are pricking my throat.  I am wheezing.  My eyes are itchy.  My ears itch.  My gums feel incredibly sensitive, and the only thing that brings them relief is if I actually jab my fingernails into the tissue between my gums and teeth.  ???!!!  My palms itch.  My palms itch!?!?  I was miserably sitting in bed a little bit ago assessing my situation.  I sat plopped upon my mattress with disheveled hair and dirty tissues surrounding me.  My sheets were sneezed upon.  My breathing was labored.  I alternated between pressing my fingernails into my gums and itching my palms with my teeth.  My teeth!?!? 
And I had an epiphany.
Crazy people aren't really crazy.
They just have allergies. 

*Matt actually asked the nurse if we could do this.  She said yes.
**I realized this morning that Matt gave me a shot from the vial of the SECOND round of shots.  Good thing I'm still alive.
***Oh, what a night will do!  This morning I have a 4" red, hot, hard welt on my arm.  Lovely!!! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

This picture has nothing to do with my post, except that I am a little proud of myself for spitting coffee onto a book.  That feat was an accomplishment, despite the fact that I didn't know I was being watched while performing this little assignment until I heard my husband and daughter laughing at me.

I am making a wreck out of Sabbath.  I am bad at it.  Well, I am good at parts of it.  I like saying to myself and to my family, "Today is my Sabbath.  I cannot cook or pick up after anyone or touch that mountain of clothes in the laundry basket."  But other than that, I am not doing Sabbath well.  Last week's Sabbath was particularly horrendous.  I went to church, but that's as close as my Sabbath got me to God.  I did not do even one of the daily offices.  I do not even know that I said one word to God the whole day.  I did nothing on Sunday, true, and I spent nearly the whole day reading, but I may or may not have spent the day finishing a book about a girl who bears the daughter's name of the last czar of Russia, but is not, in fact, even remotely about Russian history.  (Do I dare even admit that I have read that book, especially since I spent my Sabbath reading that book?  Matt asked me at one point in the day what I was reading. I told him the Bible.  He got up and moved away from me.  I asked him where he was going.  He said that any moment God was going to strike me with lightning.)

So I suck at Sabbath. 

I am not reading my books about the Sabbath, either.  I am reading books about creativity.  And rather compelling books about girl who is the namesake of a long-dead czar's daughter.  And another book about a girl who works at a used bookstore.  And to perhaps raise me up from your estimation of me which has now plummeted into the mires of lechery, I feel like I should tell you that I lust after her and her life surrounded by dusty books much than I do about that other girl and her life with Mr. _ _ _ _ (you know, the color you get when you mix black and white). 

In the midst of all this muddled confusion about Sabbath is a muddled confusion about life in general.  And sometimes, my confusion gets mixed up with despair. 

I had a conversation with Matt this week that began, "I hate to have hope, but..."

And then I stopped. 

And we both laughed. 

But it wasn't really funny.

I hate to have hope, but...

...but, I must hope. 

I must hope, even as I sit on my side porch this afternoon awash in melancholy. 

What is wrong with me?

I'm OK, really, I feel like I must rush to tell you.

I am fine.

I am fine.

When you see me, I will be smiling, of course.

And my smile will be mostly genuine.

How did this blog post go this direction?  I didn't mean for it to.

Because I am fine.

I really am.

I hate to have hope, but...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


For the past few days I have felt off-kilter.  I have been stumbling through my funhouse, clutching at the tilted walls, scrambling across the undulating floors, peering in the distorted mirrors. 
It's a little disconcerting. 
It's a little dizzying. 
I don't remember exactly when or why I handed over two carnival tickets and walked through that dark door. 
I hope I find the Exit soon.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sabbath-Rules: From No Technology to No To-Do List, How I Am Structuring (and Failing at) Sabbath

I could tell you that I chose this picture because it is peaceful and Sabbath-like, but the real reason I stole this photograph from Matt is because it is a picture of the Walnut Valley River, in Winfield, where I was a year ago today, where I am NOT today, which makes me sad.  Ah Winfield bluegrass, I will miss you! 

Is it lawful to blog on the Sabbath* day?  :)

I've decided to be all Jesus-ish about my Sabbath rules rather than Pharisee-ish.  Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  I am healing on the Sabbath, too.  If I were Jesus I would be healing other people.  Since I am not Jesus, I am healing me, which, as I type those words, sounds incredibly selfish.  However, I am quite sure that I will not be able to gift myself to others until  I have gifted myself with space for Sabbath. 

I meant to write last week about my Sabbath rules.  Today I am going to address that subject, and I would be further along in that post right now if I had not broken Rule #1:

Rule #1: No Technology, with the exception of blogging.  I broke Rule #1 first thing this morning when I automatically sat at my computer as soon as I materialized out from under the red and blue glow of Jack's Spiderman sheets where he and I had been playing Storm Trooper.  I didn't even think about how I had broken Sabbath Rule #1 until I was sitting in church singing a hymn.  I think that remembering the broken rule was my punishment for giggling when I read the typo on the screen during "Holy Holy Moly""Holy Holy Holy."  (That was funny, though.)  Right before I started blogging I checked my email, peeked at Facebook, and sent a chat message to a friend who wasn't even online.  Just this second I hopped into my email account to see if I could figure out the date we went to the bluegrass festival in Winfield last year (Aside: I know it's not the right decision for us to go this year, but my heart has been waxing melancholy and nostalgic the past few days for camping, for the donut truck, for hippies, for music, for taking a shower under an open sky in the back of a semi trailer.  OK, not that last one.  I won't miss Winfield's bathing conditions.)

Rule #2:  No to-do list.  What a security blanket is to some 3-year-olds my to-do list is to me.  I carry my to-do list around with me everywhere.  I panic if I lose it.  I have multiple blank notebooks  scattered about so that I always have paper upon which to scribble my list (or, lately, write out my list in cursive, as I have re-discovered the beauty of script since teaching cursive to Amélie).  If it were socially acceptable for a 38-year old woman to lovingly stroke her cheek with her list or suck on its tattered corners, I would probably do so.   

Rule #3:  Feed my soul.  I read.  I play Storm Trooper under the sheets with Jack.  I sit out on my deck and talk deeply with Matt.  I journal.  I am quiet.

Rule #4: Do all of the day's liturgical prayers, which includes the morning office, the mid-day office, vespers, and compline.  I have been sorely failing at liturgical prayer.  I have been doing, on average, one office a day.  I have noted an increase in the hollowness of my soul as I have slacked in the discipline of liturgical prayer. 

Rule #5: Move slowly.  If you are my neighbor, just pretend that you didn't hear Slave Driver Mama herding her husband and children into the car at 11:20 this morning to make it to church by 11:30.  Moving slowly is incredibly difficult for me.  I am always moving, always striving, always doing.  The faster the better.  Only, faster is not better.  The faster I move the more frayed at the edges I get.  Today I move slowly and hope to stitch back together some of those tattered edges. 

Rule #6: Don't work.  My Sabbath is a day for sweeping up the dusty corners on the inside of my soul, and as such, I need to ignore any dusty corners on the outside of my soul. 

I think those are all my rules.  I feel a little unsettled because I worry that my Sabbath is selfish.  I feel like it needs to be more spiritual or more altruistic or more giving or more...something.  As I sit alone outside on my deck I can hear Matt and the kids inside.  They have just been creating music on a Native American flute and a keyboard.  Now they are sitting on the floor surrounded by watercolors and colored pencils and thick sketch paper and paintbrushes and cups of pigment-stained water.  And I wonder if I should join in their Sabbath.  Is it selfish of me, is it un-Sabbath-like of me, to close the door to their group creativity and create on my own?  Honestly, I don't know.  I think I will ponder and struggle through that worry as I create a Sabbath.  I'm new at this.  I suppose I don't need to be perfect. 

I have a stack of books to read this month, of course.  Here is my list:

The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time by Judity Shulevitz
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster
Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller

Here are some other books in my stack this month:
In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise by George Prochnik (this is a leftover from last month's venture into silence and solitude)
Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner (This is an amazing book.  Amazing.  Quite frankly, I am reading nothing else until I finish this one.  And I may have to re-read it again, because I have a library copy, and this book begs to be underlined and written in.)
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  Beautiful writing.  Lovely book.
Imagine:  How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer (So far I have concluded that in order to be creative I need to smoke pot, lay off the coffee, and be bi-polar.)


I am finishing up this post, now, at 9:21 p.m. (although I won't post it until tomorrow because...well, I don't know exactly why).  I am feeling a bit panicky.  My Sabbath is over. 
I need more Sabbath. 
I need more rest. 
Instead of feeling rested and ready for a new week, I am feeling sluggish and worried and anxious.  I am sticking my heels into the last few moments of my Sabbath day and grinding them stubbornly into the earth.  There is something I am not quite doing right in this Sabbath thing, because instead of filling me up and satisfying me it creates a craving for more. 
I wish that a different day of the week besides Monday would ease me out of my Sabbath Sunday. 
I wish I were heading up to bed soon with a peaceful heart rather than a heavy, unsettled one. 
I wonder how to create Sabbath on a Monday. 

*I am of course aware that the traditional Jewish Sabbath is from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.  While I may consider a sundown to sundown approach,  I think that Sunday is the best day for me to practice Sabbath.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I actually wrote this post on Monday (hence the reference to September 3rd), but my Galaxy wouldn't transfer the pictures I had taken for the post, so I am stealing a picture from Matt, instead. 

Today is both the third of September and the beginning of my third month of...hmmmm....what is it I am doing, exactly? 
I am pursuing spiritual disciplines.
I am poking around in my soul. 
I am acquainting myself with the art of stopping, of breathing, of praying, of being. 
It's a tall order.

This month I have decided to flounder around in the idea of keeping a Sabbath day.  I say "flounder around in" because, as I discovered yesterday, I'm going to be doing a lot of floundering.  I am not at all adept at the heart of Sabbath-keeping--rest.  I have this evil stepmother of sorts who sits on my shoulder, smiles wickedly at me, and assures me in her coldly alluring voice that of course I can sit and rest and keep the Sabbath, dearie, just as soon as you
put away that laundry
sweep those floors
feed your family
clean up the kitchen
tidy up that clutter
and on...
and on...
and on it goes.

The evil stepmother doesn't like me to blame her, so I blame others.  Matt, for example, spent a really long time just doing his own thing yesterday morning, and helped me out not one iota (that my slightly clouded brain remembers anyway).  I spent the morning before church putting away laundry and straightening and cleaning and feeling a teeny, tiny bit resentful. 

I went to church and my soul untangled for a bit.  During the music, anyway.  I loved holding Matt's hand and singing with him from our church pew.  We sang and harmonized and I forgot I was mad at him, and as my spirit lifted in song I also forgot about the evil stepmother sitting on my shoulder, who had fallen asleep, I think, because she gets bored in church. 

Then Eric preached a sermon about the "party parable" in Luke 14.  And I thought that it would be nice to hear a sermon about a party parable, only I didn't remember exactly what this particular "party parable" was about, and I spent the sermon squirming a bit, and, when things got a little too uncomfortable, meticulously mapping out my schedule for the week.  Normally in such a desperate circumstance I would write out my to-do list, but I wasn't supposed to have a to-do list yesterday, since it was my Sabbath and all. 

Yesterday afternoon, then, Matt had the audacity to take a nap.  I spent his nap-time sitting on the loveseat with Jack, answering his 5-year-old brain-inspired questions while simultaneously trying to soak in the lyrical prose of Ann Patchett's novel Bel Canto.  I tried.  I did.  I failed. 

Then, yesterday evening we went to my grandparents' to celebrate my grandpa's 81st birthday.  I ate pizza and cake and gifted my grandpa with a tub of caramel, cinnamon, and cheese popcorn from Velvet Creme Popcorn.  The Sabbath part of that visit, aside from melting into family love, was first singing, a capella, "As I Went Down to the River to Pray" with my Amélie, and then gathering around the piano and singing beautiful, soul-nourishing hymns.  My mom, Matt, Amélie, and I circled around the piano and harmonized our way through "Abide with Me," "Blessed Assurance," "Day by Day" (which is, incidentally, both my grandpa's favorite song and the lullaby I sang to Jack), and "Victory in Jesus."  It was lovely.  It was Sabbath.

So, yesterday I managed to knit together a Sabbath of sorts, but I had to pull at least as many stitches as I linked together.  I think that I need some help.  Perhaps an intervention is in order.  (I mean, if any of you want to kidnap me and take me away to a remote little cabin in the woods somewhere and force Sabbath upon me, far be it from me to stop you).  Because I doubt that the intervention will take place, I will plead for second-best--books.  Any book on the Sabbath that you might recommend?