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I felt like I was preparing for the world to end on Monday.  Sixteen inches of snow were forecasted to fall on Tuesday, and since I had been out of the office for most of the prior week with a sick Bear, I didn’t have time for snow.

I left the house that morning in such haste to run several errands before work that I forgot my breakfast and more importantly, my wallet.  I drove first to the bank so I could deposit a check that, for whatever reason, had been repeatedly spit back at me by our friendly, local ATM, but then I discovered that I had no wallet.  So, I drove back home to get it.  Once I got back to the bank, I discovered that they did not open for another ten minutes, or until 8:30, which was not convenient, since I had a client arriving at 9:00.  So, I drove across the street to mail a package at a UPS store.

Inside, an older man was listening to classical music.  He seemed to have been up for hours and clearly had no cares in the world.  I watched him tape a box.  Then, I watched him type something on the computer.  Then, he returned to taping the box.  When he finally looked up at me, I could feel the beginnings of frenzy boil inside of me.  He took my box from me and weighed it.  Then, he wanted to know if there was glass inside.  There was.  More typing.  Then, he wanted to know if the value was greater than $100.  I thought about it for a moment, and said that the value was probably around $130.  Wrong answer.  He began to explain that they would charge me an additional amount for something valued more than $100.  So, I told him that if I were to sell the contents of the box, that I would not get more than $100.  He pursed his lips, but he didn’t argue with me about it.  He then told me that the shipping charges came to $13.  I raised my eyebrows.  Unless, he said, I wanted to use Parcel Post.  I did, I told him.  He began to lecture me about how my valuable items would not be protected through Parcel Post and that UPS was really my best option and that anyone with items as valuable as mine should want to track their progress to ensure that they arrived at their destination.  At this point, I practically threw $13 at him and ran out of the store.

Back at the bank, they had unlocked the front doors, and a line had formed.  One teller was helping the customers in the line, and another, who apparently was assigned the drive-through window, was looking out the window waiting for customers there.  Three other bank employees sat at their desks facing us watching.   When I arrived “on deck,” I watched the woman in front of me as she was being assisted by the teller.  This woman was wearing stretchy Capri pants with tall, Ugg-like boots up to her knees.  She kept bending and stretching and bending and stretching, and her ambivalence was driving me a little crazy.  When I finally reached the teller, she took the check from my hands and began typing at her computer.  She ran it through a little machine.  She wrote something on it.  She typed some more and handed me a deposit slip.  Not once did she look at me or open her mouth to speak.

Once at work, I met with my client, and then called another who was scheduled to come in the middle of the world-ending blizzard the next day.  No, she couldn’t come any other day.  No, she couldn’t come in earlier.  No, she didn’t mind driving through the blizzard.  Fine, I said.  I’ll be here, and I’ll attempt to arrange for childcare, since undoubtedly, Bear’s daycare will be closed.

At this point, my nose had started running.  I began to feel that bone-tired feeling where you want to put on every pair of sweats you own and curl up in a corner to sleep.  I began sneezing every few minutes, just in time for the arrival of my next client.

During this meeting, I missed a call from Bear’s daycare.  When my client and I moved from the conference room to my office so I could access my computer, my husband called.  Bear’s eye was swelling and her legs were covered with hives, so he was on his way to pick her up and he’d arranged for an appointment with her allergist.  Once I’d finished with my client, I “remotely” attended Bear’s appointment.  The doctor explained that she was prescribing Prednisone and explained that Bear likely was having an allergic reaction but that she also seemed to have an infection, so the doctor would also prescribe an antibiotic. 

Poor kid.  I wanted to go home to be with her, and I did not feel well myself.  My eyes were watery, and I felt both hot and cold.  Later that night, after we had put an itchy Bear to bed, I could not get comfortable enough to sleep.  Fever moved in about the time the blizzard started.  It felt like our furnace was losing the battle to the bitter cold outside.  The next morning, I woke up wearing three shirts and a jacket with the hood pulled over my head.  I felt terrible.

At 7:00 that morning, I called my client again, thinking that maybe the reality of the blizzard had caused a change of heart.  No.  She stilled planned on coming.  About that time, I received notice that Bear’s daycare would be closed.  Of course.  My husband volunteered to take more time away from work so I could meet with my client.  I left a message imploring her to arrive as soon as she could, and I left for work three hours before her appointment.

Ten minutes after her appointment was to begin, she called to say that she was “right around the corner.”  Great, I said with my voice full of sickness, because our office was closing, but I would wait for her.

Oh, you’re sick, she responded.  Oh no.  I hope that I don’t get it.  I wouldn’t want my baby to get sick.

Too bad, lady.

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I found myself in the air for a moment yesterday.  For a split second, I thought, “This is a joke.  My husband is going to think that I’ve killed myself.”  Then, my lower back hit the wooden step that I had missed, and I slid roughly down the stairs to the cement floor of our unfinished basement below with the laundry that I was carrying sprawled out around me.  It wasn’t a joke, but husband did think that I’d killed myself.

Crying, I flung myself forward to my hands and my knees.  I said a few choice words through gritted teeth and slapped the cold floor with my hand.  Upstairs, I could hear my husband running and Bear screaming.  I was moving.  I was crawling.  I thought I could stand up.  Apparently, I hadn’t broken anything.

I walked around the corner crying but attempting to soften my face.  Bear was crying “Momma” upstairs.  She had not seen me fall, but she knew that I was hurt, and my hurt hurt her.

“I’m O.K.,” I called upstairs to Bear.  My husband was trying to reassure her.  Slowly, I made myself walk up the stairs to hug Bear.  And then, I had to walk into another room to cry some more.

My back had angry red welts where it had struck the steps and then long, red scrapes where it had hit each wooden step as I slid down the stairs to the bottom.  My elbow hurt.  My foot hurt.  The front of my leg hurt.  Of course, my back hurt.  I briefly contemplated going to the emergency room, worried that I had cracked or displaced something, but it was Bear’s bedtime, and I could move and walk.  So, I comforted Bear.  I held her in my arms, kissed her warm cheek, and told her that I was O.K.

Bear seemed to accept my lie.  She happily settled with me on the couch – a bag of ice between my back and cushion – and we read book after book until she went to bed.

My time with Bear is in the evening before bed.  No matter whether I spent the day away from her at work or whether I spent the day with her at home, bedtime is our special time together. 

We sit together and rock back and forth in the warm light of her nightlight.  We are both quiet expect for her contented slurps of milk.  She has started reaching for my hand again, almost like she used to when she nursed.  However, now her hand is big enough to actually grasp my own.  She rubs her fingers on my palm and traces her fingertips rhythmically up and down and back and forth.  Sometimes, she wraps her little fingers around my own and holds on.  The gesture feels so intimate, almost as though our bodies were once again connected.

Once she has finished her milk, I scoop her little body into my arms and carry her to bed.  She allows me to lay her down and to pull her blanket up around her.  I am always careful to arrange her babies next to each side of her so she can find them in the night, and then we say a quick bedtime prayer.  We ask God to bless each member of the family, and at the end, I say, “and especially Bear.”  Simultaneously, she inserts “Momma.”  Often, with tears in my eyes and a heart that seems to fill my chest, I will repeat, “and Momma too.”

I carefully kiss her babies, her blanket, and if she insists, the crib.  Then, I direct blown kisses at each cheek and her forward.  If sleep is going to come easy, she will drowsily rub her eyes.  If sleep is going to be elusive, she will chatter and giggle until I leave.

As I close the door, I look back once more, sad at our parting, and say, “Good night, sweet girl.  I love you.”

When I need a break at work – and I often do – I tend to turn to the Internet for quick break from my work reality.  During this interlude, I often visit the New York Times.  In the past several days, I’ve come across different articles that speak to me in very different ways.

Is Law School a Losing Game?

If you know my background, you might think that my immediate answer to this question would be “yes.”  After all, I left a big law job where I made a good salary, but made me hate life, to somewhat aimlessly go back to school, and then to return to a small law job where I make half of what I used to make (and that was when I worked fulltime.)

I will be the first to admit that I hated law school.  I hated every minute of it.  Fortunately, I did not have to pay for this torture.  Instead of going to the best school (according to U.S. New & World Report rankings) where I was accepted, I went to a well-regarded second-tier state school that paid me to attend.  After graduation, I knew that I was one of the fortunate ones.  Although I graduated before the downturn in the economy, many of my classmates (my husband included) finished law school without jobs waiting.  Unlike them, I knew where I was going.  The problem was, I didn’t like what I found when I got there.

Even so, law school was not a losing game for me.  It stretched me in ways that I didn’t realize that I could stretch.  It resulted in my ability to take part in a profession that, while not inherently enjoyable, could sustain me if I needed it to.  And, in my current job, I actually get to help people who really need help.  It is not my dream job, but it isn’t a losing game either.

The Benefits of Fever

I wrote about Bear’s high fever in October.  Seeing the thermometer read 104 was shocking – and frightening.  Despite my great alarm, Bear’s pediatrician kindly reassured me that a high fever was not a cause for alarm.  He told me to look away from the number and to assess Bear’s behavior.  He explained that a high fever would not permanently damage her, despite common thought.

Intellectually, I knew that he was right.  However, as a mom, I was terrified.  I knew that Bear was miserable and becoming progressively more miserable.  I was desperately afraid that as the night wore on, her fever would rise to a level where no one could help her.  Fortunately, her fever spiked and broke, and by the next morning, Bear was almost back to her old self.  Her body won that battle, but my heart was still damaged from fear.

I agree that patients and their parents should be better educated on the benefits of fever.  But, ultimately, it will serve medical professionals well to remember that when a child is sick, a mom thinks more with her heart than her head.

Newberry Awarded to Debut Author

When I was in elementary school, I eagerly anticipated the day each year that the librarian put out the cart of Newberry and Caldecott award nominees and winners.  I remember the joy I felt when I was fortunate enough to borrow our school’s one copy of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  I recall reading Lincoln:  A Photobiography by Russell Freedman in the bathtub (shh, don’t tell my librarian), and I was surprised that I enjoyed it.

I am eager to get my hands on Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.  It is the kind of book that I would have loved as a young girl growing up in rural Kansas.  In fact, it is the kind of book that I would love to write someday.  Ms. Vanderpool’s story inspires me.  She wrote Moon Over Manifest in bits and pieces; between making lunches and shuttling kids to activities.  She knew that she wanted to write, and she found a way to put her story onto page.   If she can do it, so can I.

Is spending too much time on eBay looking for a new pair of shoes for Bear a good excuse for not updating this blog in quite awhile?  Probably not.  I have a couple of pairs that I’m “watching” though.  I tend not to enjoy the bidding aspect of eBay, which results in a lot of watching and waiting.  In the past, whenever I’ve found something that I want – usually after a lot of research and scrutinizing – I have placed a bid only to lose to someone more eBay-savy than myself.  And then, I’ll spend a good hour or two mad about it.  Isn’t the “Buy Now” feature easier?  If only I could find good Stride Rite shoes for less than $30 somewhere else.  Bear is about to grow out the last pair that I bought her at a consignment sale in, um September, so we’re going to need a new pair very soon, and I grew weary of the monthly Target shoe purchases this summer.  I bought monthly not because she grew out of them, but because they fell apart.  The last pair Bear had from there, the ladies at daycare actually asked me not to send her back in them.  They wouldn’t stay on, and she kept tripping on them.  Hence, all of my time wasted on eBay, and I still have no shoes to show for it.

Instead of Trick-or-Treating this year, we took Bear to the zoo.  Fortunately, she is too young to really understand that she was missing the opportunity to amass a lot of candy.  Next year, candy avoidance is going to be much more difficult.  Hopefully, by that time, she will have outgrown her soy allergy.  I feel like we could work around the peanut allergy, but soy is in nearly Every Single Piece of candy that I looked at.  Finally, I purchased a package of special allergy-free Sour Worms at Whole Foods.  The package indicated that it had 20 packs of worms inside.  When I opened the package and took out a pack to give to Bear, I found that it had ONE worm inside.  Yes, one.  As did each and every other pack.  I bought 20 allergy-free sour worms for $6.00, which works out to 30 cents a worm.

Aside from the lack of candy, Bear had a great time.  She recovered from the stomach flu (yes, that came to visit us a week after Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease), and she loved dressing up for her daycare Halloween party.  She was the last to leave, and we literally had to drag her out of the building.  We treated Bear to the zoo next, and since her favorite books right now are Goodnight, Gorilla and I am a Zookeeper, she was delighted to see the animals.

We kept seeing another young couple with a sleeping baby at each exhibit.  Bear refused to ride in the stroller and for awhile, Dad carried her on his shoulders.  Before a long walk back from Africa, we decided that she needed to ride in her stroller, and we gave her no choice but to get inside.  Bear screamed and howled and trashed and kicked.  I noticed the young couple watching us.  As we walked away with a yowling Bear, I told my husband that they were thinking one of two things:  Either “That’s what we have coming next,” or “Our child will never act like that.”  I remember thinking something similar to the latter one day as a little boy followed me around a store beating on a drum.  Every time I turned around, he’d stop and walk the other way.  As soon as I started walking again, he’d follow me banging on the-most-annoying-toy-drum-ever-made.  Even now, as I recount this, I am thinking, “I can guarantee that my child will never wander around a store alone,” but I am sure that someday this thought too will come back to haunt me just as that young couple’s sweetly sleeping baby will soon enter the Frequent Public Tantrum phase.  I do have limited experience, but I am fairly certain that all toddlers try their parents in this way.  And, I have no doubt that Bear comes by it naturally.

When I picked Bear up from daycare on Monday of this week, one of the high school girls who helps out there after school looked at me and said, “She was hitting kids today.  A lot.”

We have had several occasions when I’ve received “Incident Reports” upon picking Bear up from daycare, and each time, I think, “Oh no.  My child caused an Incident.”  Every time, however, I am strangely relieved to learn that Bear has been the incident victim instead.  Bear must have learned to fight back this week, because surely any hitting from my sweet, innocent little girl would only be in self-defense.

On Monday night, my husband and I talked with Bear about how it was not nice to hit other kids and how she didn’t like when they hit her.  She quietly listened to us with big eyes, seemingly absorbing the meaning of our words.  The next morning, I asked Bear, “Do you promise not to hit anyone at school today?”  She replied with a definitive “yes.”

When I picked Bear up from daycare, I asked if Bear had hit anyone.  “Oh no,” replied the high school girl.  Before I could congratulate Bear, she added, “She scratched someone instead.”

I am going to have to expand the terms of our agreement next time.

Contrary to my promise to do so, I haven’t updated my blog in a few weeks.  But, don’t worry.  It isn’t because I haven’t been writing.

I wrote a short story that, while still a work in progress, is a good first start and perhaps, something that I’ll submit somewhere someday.  I need more defined goals, don’t I?

Last weekend, I took Bear back to my hometown for the first time since March.  I am always amazed at how when I first arrive, my rural little hometown feels so foreign.  After half a day there, though, it begins to feel familiar again.  The first morning we spent there, I put Bear in her jogging stroller and took a twenty minute walk across town to visit my grandmother.  My hometown is flat with few trees in comparison to where I now live.  I reveled at how it was so quiet and peaceful that I could hear a car driving down the street three blocks away, and if I turned my head in time, I could clearly see it pass between houses.  As I walked, I could easily tell who was home, and even hear moms talking to small children inside their houses as I passed.  Sound carries easily there without the trees to soak it up and other sounds to drown it out.  On our walk back, I thought about how all of the familiar names on realty signs and inscribed into rocks in front of houses now belonged to my classmates rather than their parents.  Later, when we went downtown to shop, I was amazed how some people (mostly those from my parents’ generation) so enthusiastically welcomed me and how others (mostly those from my generation) looked at me like I was the prodigal son returning home and they were his brother.

On Sunday, Bear battled stomach issues that I am fairly certain can be traced to some mystery zucchini bread that a lady in a hometown clothing store gave to my grandmother with Alzheimer’s, who then gave to Bear while my back was turned.  There were a few exciting minutes that my aunt spent frantically digging pieces out of  my daughter’s mouth.  Bear spent most of the next day with some nasty diapers and had periods where she cried and beat on her tummy, crying “Owie!”  Her response reminded me why I work so hard to only give her food that I know will not cause her to react.

Yesterday, after several good days at daycare, Bear came down with a fever.  She also began using her new, favorite word “owie” indiscriminately, so while we knew that something was hurting her, it was impossible to tell what.   At first, she would pull up her pant legs and hit her knees and saying “Owie.”  Then, during diaper changes, she would say “owie.”  She would also open her mouth to say something, and a huge bubble of saliva would come out instead.  These symptoms, along with her fever, seemed concerning, so I called the pediatrician’s office and her allergist’s to see if he would call in a prescription for some compounded non-soy containing Tylenol-type medication.   Around 6:00 last night, Bear began acting strangely.  She couldn’t seem to keep her eyes open, and she was moaning softly.  This, of course, scared me, and I immediately took her to her pediatrician’s after-hours clinic.  By the time we arrived, her fever had reached 104.  Despite enduring a strep culture and a catheter to obtain a urine sample, we left without any answers. Her pediatrician promised that a high fever wouldn’t “boil her brains” but acted annoyed that her allergist wouldn’t let us give her generic painkillers that contained soy.  I was annoyed that he was annoyed, but mostly I was tired and sad that my daughter was still not well and that we didn’t have any way to help her.

Fortunately, Bear’s fever broke last night.  She has not felt well today, but the absence of the fever has greatly improved her spirits.  She seems hungry but doesn’t want to eat.  She continues to have strange drooling issues and to say “owie” when I change her diaper.  She has also started telling me that her hand hurts.  We think that she has Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, but until blisters start forming, we won’t know for sure.  She seemed happy to take a nap, and for now, is sleeping peacefully, and I am still waiting for a call from the compounded pharmacy that someone has made a painkiller that my little girl can safely take.  However, I am hoping that we’ve passed through the worst.

This weekend, my daughter showed me that she can think outside of the box.

By thinking outside of the box, she found a comfortable place to sit when she needed to rest.

She embraced creativity when the whim struck her.

And, she found a step up when she needed help reaching her goal.

I can learn a lot from my daughter.

odd man out, originally uploaded by Terwilliger911, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Today, before Bear’s music class, I sat between two friends (one closer than the other) as they discussed a new place that one of them had “private messaged” the other about on Facebook, and I listened as they discussed taking their two little ones there together sometime. I felt that I was in the middle of a conversation that they should be having elsewhere, particularly if they were not going to include me in it. Uncomfortable, I physically shifted backward to give them a clear line of vision. Still, they did not include me, and then the class began.

After the class, another woman who has been in previous classes with me, my two friends, and our babies took one of my friends aside to discuss something that they were going to do together. Earlier in the summer, my other friend mentioned taking her son to a play date with this other woman’s daughter.

I know that I shouldn’t be offended. Obviously, we are all adults, and we are all free to choose who we want to spend time with. Particularly, in the past, this other woman has made numerous passive-aggressive comments about her daughter’s lack of hair and walking. Since my daughter has quite a bit of hair and walks very well, I felt like she was comparing our daughters, and it made me uncomfortable and a little sad for the other little girl whose mommy didn’t seem to be content with what she had. I shouldn’t be surprised that this woman has not sought me out as a companion. Frankly, I shouldn’t even care.

But, I do. I feel a little like the kid who wasn’t invited to the birthday party with all of her friends, and I hate that feeling.

When I was ten, I remember being acutely aware that most of the girls in my class had been invited to one of our classmate’s birthday parties. I was not close friends with the birthday girl, but being from a small, rural community, most everyone was invited to every birthday party, and she had been invited to mine. My mother concluded that it was not possible that I had not been invited and that the invitation must have been sent to our old farmhouse rather than the one where we currently lived. So, despite the cold, wet day, she strapped my younger brother into our 1984 Blazer, and we began battling the snowy, muddy road for the two-mile journey to the farmhouse. Once there, I sadly discovered that my wonderful and couragous mother was wrong. No invitation waited for me in the mailbox. Unhappily, we began the trip back only to become hopelessly stuck in a ditch before we could reach home. I remember walking through the cold, wet mud and crying less about the slight of the birthday party and more about the feeling that I had somehow failed my mother.

Despite this experience, I always had close friends throughout my childhood. I have no actual memories of “making” these friends, however. For whatever reason, we were always friends. I made a few close friends in college, and with many nearby acquaintances, I was not lonely. That was the nature of college.

After law school and marriage and the start of work, my husband and I wondered if there weren’t multitudes of other couples “out there” who already knew each other and spent a lot of time together socially. If there were, they weren’t doing it with us. We finally decided that social relationships outside of the school environment, particularly after marriage, were meant to be different. I assumed though that once we had kids, we’d begin forming friendships with other couples who fell into the same phase of life as we did. Now, I’m wondering if maybe I just don’t know how to make friends. Maybe I’ve forgotten, or maybe I never knew.

At ten years-old, I realized that the sting that I felt at not having been invited to a birthday party had very little to do with my desire for a friendship with the birthday girl. I did not want to be left out. Being overlooked seems to say something about one’s self, and one’s importance to others. Perhaps now, I’m looking to the wrong people for friendships. I just wish that I was grown up enough to remember the difference between the two.

 

“Bountiful implies that your cup is already overflowing so you simply tip your abundance into the hands of others.”  Christina Katz at The Prosperous Writer, “52 Qualities of Prosperous Writers:  Number Thirty-Four is Bountiful.”

My cup overflows.  It’s true.

I should regularly reflect on the gifts in my life so I can more fully appreciate its bounty.   Instead, I often focus on the minutiae of each day rather than savoring each sweet, small moment before it has passed.

I spent the morning with my daughter.  We had appointments to meet and errands to run, but before the flury of daily activity began, I sat at my kitchen table soaking in the early morning light streaming through the window in front of me as I sipped my coffee and Bear chattered in her chair about “doggy” and “cereal” and “agua.”  The morning light softened her bedraggled hair and face sticky from peaches and post-nasal drip.  I turned my thoughts from the piles of magazines and junk mail on the table and dirty dishes in the sink.  Instead, I focused on the loveliness of sitting quietly at my kitchen table, with a warm drink in hand, and a sweet soul next to me.

Later, as we waited in an exam room for Bear’s allergist, Bear and I read a beautiful book about butterflies that my dearest friend gave us about a year ago.  I pulled the book from Bear’s bookshelf today for the first time, knowing that a long doctor’s visit might be the perfect time to read it.  Bear gazed lovingly at it from the moment she laid her eyes on the cover.  We spent long moments lingering on each page where Bear could pull out flaps revealing elaborate garden scenes and run her fingers over vibrant butterfly wings, kingfisher feathers, and sunflowers.  She continually amazed me as she pointed at the ladybugs and fireflies that I asked her to find, even though I didn’t think that she knew about such things.  I found myself holding Bear a little more closely, breathing in the smell of her hair, and sending a silent thank-you to my friend for the thoughtful book that had so completely captured my daughter’s interest.

As Bear has napped this afternoon, I checked in with the world at work and found that it has not fallen apart in my absence.  This has left me with a span of uninterrupted time to think and write.  The dog sleeps on the floor next to me.  The locusts sing and buzz soothingly outside my window, and our homebuilding neighbor builds quietly across the street.   I can sit at my computer reading, thinking, and typing; embracing this rare time to be alone with my thoughts and to focus them in the directions I desire.

My husband told me earlier that his day has been passing smoothly and quickly.  His work has been going well, and clients have been cooperative.  Before long, he’ll drive back to our home and his family.  When the garage door begins groaning and rising, the dog will scamper wildly around the house, and Bear will run to the door shouting, “Daddy!” and he will step through wearing an expectant smile at our celebration.  Then, we will start our long weekend together.

All is well in my world, and I am thankful for each sweet, small moment of the day and the bountiful life they signify.  I hope that by sharing the bounty that I enjoy in life, I’ll tip my cup to help fill up yours.