Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#15, On Charles Finney, Love, and Parenting (As Separate Subjects)

My husband brought Charles Finney into our marriage in the form of multiple editions that have found their way to bookshelves in the various homes we've lived in. I never read Finney till last week (that's sixteen years of not getting to know this guy when I had the chance).  And now that I've started, I'm not so sorry it took me this long.

I picked up Principles of Love because, like so many of you good-willing humanoids, I'm trying to become a more loving person. Trying to figure out what it means to lay my life down, swallow pride, take the high road, love the lovable in a moment when they are very unlovable.  But Finny is not helping because Finney is all "Love is intelligent. Love is volitional. Love is impartial. Love is courageous" and none of it is inspiring me to shut my mouth when that would be the loving thing to do. None of it is girding me with the inner strength to bear up without complaint the inconveniences put upon to me.

The only piece of his book that has helped me is the "For Reflection" piece at the end of chapter one (a segment I'm not even convinced was written by Finney). Here's the worthwhile declaration that comes, most likely, from Finney's editor (thanks, man): I have decided to consecrate myself to loving God and others, rather than allow my feelings and actions to flow from a decision to gratify my selfish desires.

Editor, 1. Finny, 0.  Do I keep this guy?

Last night, I was dead to the world at 9:30, but my littlest peep Tiny was getting sicker and sicker. Mark was more hands-on at the beginning of the evening and about the time he was giving up, I gave it my all and managed to sit in the recliner in her room from about 1 a.m. on, monitoring her breathing. It sounded like she was sucking air in through a mucous-made straw.  When it got as loud and awful as I could take, I packed her up for the ER at 3:15 a.m.

The ER is such a lesson in human compassion--the greatness or lack thereof depending on the day--and I was warmly grateful when the male check-in nurse reported to me all of Tiny's revealing vitals, fretted over her cough, and offered to help me carry something back to the exam room (I was juggling a purse, water bottle, two stuffed animals and Tiny).

Enter nurse Kelly, a sweet-talking young blonde woman. Enter a resident who walks right up to me and Tiny without offering his name and asked, "So, what's going on here?"  And then: "Can I look in her mouth? Can I look in your mouth?" I ask his name and say to Tiny, "Can you open your mouth for Dr. Hassan?"  No, she shook her head. She couldn't.  Out went Hassan. In breezed Miller (supervising physician, female, forties) who introduces herself and asks if she can look in Tiny's mouth. The room is filled with a chorus of Please can you open your mouth? I know you can do it! It won't hurt. Miller pulls out a killer whale flashlight/keychain thingy. The killer whale has a retractable jaw.  See? Even the whale can open his mouth!

This is not persuasive.

The night is full of cajoling and unfabricated threats of shots if Tiny doesn't drink her Tylenol, prednisone and take her epinephrine gas mask, the latter advertised by a breathing treatment on myself, her stuffed puppy and her stuffed bunny.  The gas mask induces many tears, but once going begins to loosen up the phlegm in her chest. I can feel the epinephrine tendrils curling into my own nose and mouth, loosening up my own lungs and head.  Nurse Kelly suggests a song and I start with Tiny's bedtime favorite, wondering if "Be Thou My Vision" will forever more live on as a PTSD trigger involving memories of gas masks, insomnia and shortness of breath.

As soon as we get the mask off her, I see Tiny's arms trembling.  As I lay her down to change her pull-up, she gags and vomits Tylenol and prednisone all over her shirt and the Wreck-It Ralph sticker reward Kelly had grandly presented only seconds before. I strip Tiny down; nurse Kelly brings anti-nausea meds because, yes, Tiny could throw up again as a side effect of the epi.

I wonder if it's necessary, all the intervention. Tiny hasn't ever had her body so full of drugs in her life.  Her little self collapses on the pillow for the next two hours, intermittently sleeping and then awake.  Her fever breaks and she sweats through two sheets. There is one moment, in the darkened room, when she sits up with her index finger pointing right at me, and she's crying and shouting, Done! Done! and another moment when she stirs and asks, Is it good morning yet? (because in Tiny's book, good morning = morning. There is no other kind).

On our way to the hospital that night, she had been so concerned by the dark. Tiny is not a creature of the night. Mommy, she said in her whisper-raspy voice, I can't see the trees.   

I know, I know, honey. We'll see them soon.  I pray for her so quietly that only God can hear me.

When she is finally released four hours later, I carry her into 80 degree sunshine, a bright and humid August morning. Mommy! she cheers with clearer breath, it's good morning!

And now we're home and sleepy and Tiny is cranky but her breathing has improved and it is good evening and tomorrow we'll have good morning all over again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Notes #14, Particularly on Parenting


First-day-of-school failure: I didn't take pictures of the girls holding signs saying "First Day of Preschool" "First Day of 3rd Grade" and "First Day of 6th Grade." Apparently, my back-to-school mothering skills are lacking.  Did you even know that signs were a thing?  Well, you must've--because every other mom on FB had the pictures with the kids and the signs and the cute new back-to-school cowgirl boots. Mark and I had to divide and conquer this morning, meaning he waited with Middle in the 3rd grade line and I took Tiny to preschool. She got her picture taken--next to some overgrown shrubs and the preschool building's siding in the background. There is no sign or identifying characteristic to the picture. She was wearing a green skirt I bought from a re-sale store in town. In five years, I'll wonder if this was taken in front of the dentist's office or the library.

It's the small wonders I celebrate today, like the fact that lunch making was easy and well-planned out; I had the food on hand to make everyone happy. And: They. Ate. It. All of it. Or mostly, except for three jellybean tomatoes. Day 1 down! Oh, and here's my advice for Day 1 lunch packers: Set the bar low for Pete's sake. That way you're sure never to disappoint on Days 2-180. Today, the girls didn't get dessert. But tomorrow, they get brownies.  Already, they are soooo thankful.

And looky there, you've killed the second bird of cultivating gratitude in your offspring.

You're welcome.  That was for free.


I tried very hard to make this morning flow smoothly, but one of my offspring had a series of temper tantrums that won her half an hour of "room-time" in the evening. While I coached her on respect and speaking in a calm voice, she yelled at me about how disrespectful it was to ground her, and didn't I know she has feelings too and that I'm "damaging our relationship and connection" by giving her consequences? This is where all those big feely, relational words I use come back to bite me.


You probably guessed I wasn't writing about Tiny just now, but please don't try to narrow it down from there. These girls desperately need privacy even if their mother does a slap-bang job at providing it 100% of the time. They don't need the weight of everyone else's opinion about their short-lived sins. God knows we all want less of that! Anyhoo, I know you're not the sort of person who would ever go up to an 8- or 11-year-old with a sing-songy You got in tro-uble. I read it on your mom's blo-og. And if you are that kind of person, Oprah says that when you know better, you do better. Do better. I'm holding you to it.

So no real worries, but to be on the safe side, maybe just pretend I'm writing about my godchildren who live in Bali and have come to stay with me for the decade. 'K?

Btw, I'm not allowed to sing anywhere that is remotely public (i.e. a parking lot or the sidewalk). These children have sing-dar. The second I open my mouth in under-my-breath song, they panic. MOM! Mo-om, STOP! they implore in these hushed stage whispers while looking frantically around. You'd think the Titanic was sinking and there weren't any lifeboats left. You really would.

Have you all heard those mom-lines that go something like this, "But Honey, it's my job to embarrass you" (*wink wink nudge nudge smile elbow poke*)?

These godchildren of mine will take none of it.

All said, I see the light at the end of their tunnels (on some days more than others, true), but I was thankful today when I noticed good choices in the midst of the bad and was able to say how sweetly one was setting boundaries with her sister, taking charge of herself, using self-control.  And when I named what I saw, there was that little head-nod of acknowledgement, the moment of eye contact where despite the rocky morning and rocky afternoon, she knew I saw her and, I daresay, was again convinced I love her.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Raven Street Notes #13

Ever have those weeks where the same ol' topic comes up with different people in different contexts and you get on this internal soapbox and you start trying to articulate and re-articulate how a direction the world has gone is wrong just wrong and how it needs to be righted, just righted, but there are a million people who can say it way more succinctly/smartly/creatively than you and then you read it somewhere and you're like, Yeah, what she said!! What she said!!?  Well, this was one of those for me, and then I read this guest blog post today on Rachel Held Evans' blog, and my heart was singing amen and hallelujah (figuratively) until I got to the end, at which point I just head-scratched for a while. See if you head-scratch too. I'm curious. (Sidenote, if you're not in any way familiar with evangelical/pentacostal church culture, then this article might augment any unconfirmed suspicions that we Christians haven't got it all figured out yet).

Parenting + Summertime = bootcamp for Mom and Dad.  School starts in one week and I am conflicted.  On one hand I think we could use more time Ironing Out all the behavioral kinks that seem to have surfaced out of the Boredom of Summer; I believe that If We Could Just Get To The Bottom of this complex psychosis of whiny and/or disrespect and/or lethargy, that I could probably set these young people on a path to a more solid future.  My therapist, on the other hand, is convinced that boredom is the simple Bottom of the Problem and that school will solve it.  We shall see.

Ah yes, now you're probably wondering if I'm crazy (the therapist?). Right. Well, I'm of the opinion that we are all in need of a good one or, if not, at least someone in our lives who gets the job done even if we don't pay them.

If you live in eastern Iowa, you probably know that 7 people died on Sunday from auto accidents. A sweet, lovely woman in my church has died because of a hit-and-run; she left behind two children, a husband and a million family members who loved her dearly. This is the sort of week where you are sober, so sober, in the midst of life's necessary tasks and parent bootcamping and even blog-reading and idea-exchanging online. And you're praying for peace and comfort with what are at times wordless groans. And you listen to different people process shock and grief and you cry with them or you just are silent--and it's like you're just sitting and yearning and waiting for God's felt presence to settle on the community, the grieving, like a thick blanket that insulates against the winds of any hopelessness and any despair.