Thursday, June 30, 2011

life cycles

[disclaimer: do not read this post while eating]

When I quit my full-time nursing job in the Air Force, I thought I was finally done cleaning up urine, feces, vomit, and sputum.  

But what did I know?

I was only six months into motherhood then.

The puking started in our household about three weeks ago and it stopped over a week later. The whole saga began when Lucy woke herself up early from her nap. She had projectile vomited all over herself and her crib. The puke kept coming almost every thirty minutes after that, until it finally stopped late that night before she went to bed.  

And then you can probably guess what happened.  Less than two days later, Tess started puking, and puked every thirty minutes for the rest of the day.

Tess, laid-out on my lap between puke-sessions.

Then we thought we were in the clear.

Until about four days later, when Chris started complaining of nausea.  And then the next day Tess started having diarrhea, and at one point it was coming out both ends.  That same night Lucy also pooped in the bathtub, and the following morning she woke up covered in vomit.  I think she'd slept in it, because it was already dry and crusty when I got her up.  Chris was still laid out in bed, so I was manning the house-hospital all by myself for a couple of days, scrubbing floors, replenishing Gatorade, throwing away defiled underwear, and trying to keep our dog away from all the excrements, which she finds appetizing. 

It all transported me back to the good-ole days working on a medical-surgical floor, with multiple patients with different ailments, who were dripping, spewing, and excreting bodily fluids in all the wrong places. When I went to nursing school almost ten years ago, I didn't know how much it would prepare me for motherhood. But what do ya know?  God doesn't waste a thing!

All of these bodily excrements have been topped off by puddles of pee-pee I've been finding around the house, wondering "who done it?" It turns out that my suspicions were right all along: our dog, Texanna.  

Finally, this week, I admitted to myself that these sporadic urine accidents weren't so sporadic anymore, so I took her to the vet this morning. It has been an eye-opener to realize that my furry baby isn't a baby anymore.  She's an old lady who now suffers from urinary incontinence.

Tex, taking an afternoon snooze...getting so gray on her chinny-chin-chin.

And here I am--currently in the midst of my female cycle, keeping my heating pad and Motrin close at hand--and I'm in jaw-dropping awe of how controlled we are by the all the bodily fluids that this flesh excretes.

During our life cycles we have these babies and we teach them and clean up after them and it wears us out...and then we grow old and we start making messes of our own and our children clean up after us while they start to have their own babies.

We spend the first 2-5 years of our lives (give or take a few) learning how to put our pee-pees and poo-poos in the right place, and it's hard work, you know, it's a real skill.  And all it takes is a little virus or old age, and before we know it, we no longer possess control over our own bodily functions.

It's all very humbling.

In light of the past several weeks, I think the term "physical perfection" is an oxymoron.  The flesh perpetually keeps us humble; we are slaves to the material world. It seems to me that all of humanity is at the mercy of forces much bigger and smaller than ourselves. Cleaning up the aftermath of stomach bugs and incontinence is evidence enough that when it comes to this fragile thing called life...the birthing, the growing, the aging, the illness...

we have no control.

Thank God for hardwood floors and washing machines.

Monday, June 20, 2011

same ol' same ol'

Tomorrow is the first official day of summer, but in my book, summer is already here.  The hills of Northern California have turned from vivid green to rusty blonde, like the grass has decided to hibernate until the rain returns in November.  The sky looks like a big ceiling coated in light blue paint, with no variation or texture other than the abrasive ball of heat that moves across its surface.  I sit here at my desk, looking out at all of it, and I think about how my life mirrors the landscape.

I remember when summer used to feel full of excitement, activity, and change, but ever since I graduated from college, it seems to have become quite the opposite. The heat makes me want to stand still. The monotonous, cloudless skies feel uninspiring. 

I exchanged emails with a friend of mine last week, and we talked about how hard it sometimes is to carry on with the daily grind of raising a young family, of doing the same thing over and over again without change or newness. But this is life, after all.  Peaks and valleys come and go, but in between the slopes of change lie the flat, sturdy plains. Dry. Dull. Austere. Just like the steady, summertime heat.

I currently find myself on one of these dry plains, having just descended from a steep, invigorating mountain, and I'm starting to settle into the new landscape, to adjust my eyes to the change of scenery, which is still beautiful in its own right, but not quite as flashy as the dramatic mountain view I encountered last winter. I know there are more dramatic landscapes soon to come, so I'm trying to slow down and enjoy this lull while it lasts.  But I also find myself wondering about what it is inside of us that tends to resist the flat lands, that longs to speed through the sameness into more dynamic topography? 

If my life were a road trip right now, I presume I'd be driving through rows of flat cornfields somewhere in Nebraska.  The sun would be blaring through my windshield and I'd be flipping through my iPod, fanatically looking for a new song to play to break up the boredom.  A trickle of sweat would start to trail down the back of my neck, and I'd start to feel that the miles that I've logged thus far haven't gotten me anywhere.  But I'd keep driving, waiting for the landscape to change, waiting for some cloud cover to break up the heat, and waiting for some sort of sign to indicate progress.  But perhaps I'd also take note that the Great Plains are called the American "heartland" for a reason.

A few days ago I read something that seemed to tie all of these thoughts together.  I keep going back to it, and it gives me pleasure to read it.  It makes me realize the intrinsic value of the season and landscape of life I now find myself in:

Drudgery is the touchstone of character.  The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do...There are times when there is no illumination and no thrill, but just the daily round, the common task.  Routine is God's way of saving us between our times of inspiration.  Do not expect God always to give you His thrilling minutes, but learn to live in the domain of drudgery by the power of God.  --Oswald Chambers.

So here I am--here many of us probably are--in the "domain of drudgery," in the steady summer heat on dry flat land.  Supposedly, this is a blessed place. Perhaps the reason we resist it so much is because it forces us to practice more self-awareness, to embrace monotony and discomfort. In the absence of thrills and constant change, we can no longer drown ourselves out.

What does the domain of drudgery specifically look like for us right now?  Well, I have to continually surrender this adoption process to God. I am feeling frustrated that my efforts to complete our dossier in a timely manner have backfired, as we are experiencing paperwork set backs at US Immigration due to factors beyond our control. It feels like this whole thing is at a stand still. Stuck.  We are at the point of the journey when it feels like we'll never arrive.  I know, I know, you might tell me that "the journey is the destination"...yada yada yada...  

And like Oswald Chambers says, routine does feel like the glue that holds me together during times like these.  I'm thankful for a summer schedule I can sink my teeth into.  I'm grateful for the new gym that opened up two miles down the road.  I'm thankful for grad school and Mom's Day Out and the company of good friends.

Perhaps I'll look back on this time and see how it built character and endurance, how the waiting enlarged my heart, how the uncertainty matured my faith, but right now, I'm just on the open road tryin' to keep my eyes on the flat, hot pavement.

What season and landscape do you find yourself in?

What does the domain of drudgery look like for you?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

tea and things.

So, according to my calendar, I'm just about six months "pregnant" now, and over the past weeks I've been experiencing sudden, intense cravings for Chinese food. Go figure.  

There is a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant less than one mile down the road that serves up some amazing chow-mein. The noodles are salty, earthy, and doughy...wholly satisfying.  They soothe my waiting spirit, my primal maternal angst, which is starting to groan and moan daily as we wait for our referral from China. 

Chris and I had a date night a few weeks ago and we went out to eat...Chinese food again.  Each time we crack open our fortune cookies at the end of the meal, I hope for some sort of sign, wanting God to cosmically communicate some secret message that indicates how this will all pan out and when it will all go down. But instead, I open up my crinkled piece of paper and read,

"a modest man never talks to himself."

Hmmm...whatever.  That gives me nothing.

We are nearing the end of paperwork now, and every evening when Chris comes home with the mail, I ask...

Did IT come?

That is, our approval from US Immigration, the last prized piece of paper we need before our dossier is COMPLETE.  

We're coming up on two months since we sent in our application, which is the usual amount of time it takes China families to get immigration's approval, so it should be any day now.

In the meantime, we are just waiting...drinking tea, eating lots of noodles, and reading lots of meaningless fortunes.  

We hope and anticipate that our dossier will be in China by the end of July, and that we will find out who our boy is by the end of the summer.


In other news, I'm reminded that nothing passes the time like busyness and distraction, which equals SCHOOL for me.  I'm back in school this summer, completing the final two classes before I start my thesis, which I'm still uncertain about, but I'll cross that bridge when it comes.

The class I'm currently taking is Advanced Workshop in Poetry II. This is actually the first poetry class I've ever taken--I volunteered to move up into the advanced level course because it was going to cancel unless a few more students joined.  I also moved up because the professor of this class is one cool dude and is the head of our whole MFA program.  So far, so good.

The description of our "student lounge"--the message board where we can virtually raise our hands and ask questions--reads:

This is the Student Lounge. It has plush leather chairs and a mini-fridge filled with travel sized bottles of Cristal. There is a masseuse on call, and take my word, the personal chef creates the gustatory experience of a lifetime. If you have forgotten your smoking jacket, loaners can be found on the rack to your left, next to the Rodin. Yes, indeed, the National University MFA program spares no expense!

Needless to say, the Student Lounge is my kinda place, and it's amazing what kind of classroom you can create for yourself when it's left to your imagination.

Anyhow, some words that immediately come to mind though when I think of poetry are:





And...I suppose it can be all of these things...and I LOVE IT.  Perhaps I have an affinity for impracticality. I think Chris is expecting me to change my track from nonfiction to poetry. I'm not sure, but we'll see. Poetry, just like prose, seems to be GOOD THERAPY. Putting thought and emotion into words is cathartic and freeing, and I find that it offers a great sense of pleasure and relief in the midst of life circumstances that are largely out of our control. So, in that sense, poetry is the most practical and necessary thing ever guys may be seeing more poetry up in here over the next eight weeks.

For me it's been hot tea, chinese noodles, and poetry...
but what soothes your waiting heart?

Friday, June 3, 2011

growing you.

growing you
doesn’t look 
like two
cells that 
my womb.
you grew 
my new
soft heart
of me.
meeting you
doesn’t look
like two
that light
a screen.
i meet
you in
my dreams
my mind
i trace
your face
chasing you
doesn’t look
like two
small feet
that run
fast one
from me.
i chase
your heart
the wounds
with love
the shame.
seeing you
doesn’t look
like two
brown eyes
or skin
to mine.
I see
black eyes
to me
you shine
boy come