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Choices

24 Nov

I was sitting on the kitchen floor, trying to muffle my crying, when my husband found me that Christmas Day about ten year ago.

“Oh my God, what’s wrong?” he asked, his voice full of concern.

My response was a babble of how the kitchen was a mess, how I had spent hours cleaning it for two days so I could have it clean for Christmas, but because my husband and kids decided to make a big breakfast Christmas morning, the kitchen was now a mess again – flour on the counters, dirty pans on the stove, and I was faced with more cleaning before having to prepare Christmas dinner  – which then I’d have to clean up after.

All of this between sobs and whining noises that only the dog could hear.

It was an epic, and well-earned, meltdown on my part. That past year, we’d been coming to terms with the fact that our youngest wasn’t just developmentally delayed, she was disabled. She was disabled to the point that she would probably always need to live with us. Just a couple of weeks before Christmas, she’d been diagnosed with epilepsy. I’d fighting depression and anxiety all year and trying to dig my way out of the messy house that came with it. Having the house clean for Christmas had been important to me. A clean house meant that I had my stuff together, that I was getting control of things, that I was a better mom than what I thought I was. A clean house meant a whole lot of things that it didn’t really mean, but it was important at the time. If my house was clean, then it wouldn’t bother me, and I could relax and enjoy the holiday.

I really wanted to enjoy the day.

Instead, I was sitting on the floor in desperate need of a tissue, hyperventilating.

My husband, who was now also sitting on the floor, apologized for messing up my clean kitchen, and offered to take care of things. I hiccupped about how I still had to cook dinner, and things needed to be started asap or else they wouldn’t be done in time, and maybe how everything was impossible because at that point, everything seemed impossible.

“How about we just order Chinese food?” he suggested.

I blinked at him.

“The kids don’t care about the food, and it’s just us anyway. It would be easier.”

A week later, as I told this story to my therapist, I got to this point, and she leaned in. “And what was your answer?” she asked eagerly.

“I told him to see if the Chinese restaurant was open.” I said.

“Yes! That was the right response!” she cheered.

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And it was. It was exactly the right response. I was there, crushed to the floor with the burden of making a perfect holiday, and was given an escape route. I could have forced myself to reject the easier path, to pull myself together and make the damn Christmas dinner.

Instead, I chose the easier route, and in doing so, I chose to enjoy my day.

I can’t remember if the kitchen ever got cleaned or if we decided to just ignore the mess. I do know that the Chinese restaurant was open, and the kids thought it was great to get Chinese for Christmas dinner. Afterwards, I sat on the couch laughing with our youngest while the older three and my husband had an epic Nerf gun battle through the house. For months afterwards, we found orange darts in odd places.

I had given up my idea of what it should be, and embraced what the day could be.

The kids remember it as one of the best Christmases ever.

Go figure, so do I.

Life is funny – you grow up thinking if you just go to school, find the right job, marry the right person, have babies at the right time, that things will go well for you, and there you are on Christmas Day, with the perfect turkey cooked perfectly, the centerpiece of your perfectly laid out table.

But that’s not how it works for most of us, and you’ll find yourself faced with choices. Complicated, messy choices that are hard. There is no getting around those. Some choices are made for you and you have to go along with them.

And sometimes, you are faced with a choice that is almost ridiculously simple, and yet can change everything. They are the choices that end up as the memories we cherish most.

So as we head into this holiday season, I hope you all are able to make a choice that’s easy and that brings joy. 

 

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

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Closer to Fine

31 Mar

The other day, as I ran errands, the song “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls came on the radio.

I of course, sang along, doing the higher harmony part.

But my mind wandered back to a time in the early 90’s at my small Catholic college, where one of the campus bands decided, for moral reasons, not to play their songs anymore. Because they were lesbians, and playing their music would be seen as condoning their lifestyle choices.

I remember being disappointed by the campus band’s choice, because I liked those songs, liked singing along with those songs. But my college was all about making “statements” and this was their statement to make. So my friends and I went back to singing along with “Closer to Fine” playing on cassette tapes in common rooms.

As I thought about that moment in the car, “Closer to Fine” playing in the background, I realized this was the only group that one campus band refused to play because of “moral reasons”. They were okay with playing Crosby, Stills, and Nash (a group comprised of men whose lifestyles included drugs and divorce), Bob Dylan (who had multiple relationships with women), Eric Clapton (who had a hit with the song “Cocaine”), and other such musicians whose “lifestyle choices” did not mesh with the Catholic Church.

But their songs, they could be sung.

Was it because they were all male? Was it because, while the multiple relationships were a bit frowned upon, were at least heterosexual? Was it because they were so established in society it was okay, but the Indigo Girls, they were new, and so had to be made an example of?

Who knows what their logic was for what they chose was morally okay and what was not. It was a strange place, my college campus, a place where I made lifelong friends and my husband, yet a place where I was also judged and shamed by people who didn’t get to know me for everything from musical choices to clothing choices (which I ignored – peer pressure has the opposite wanted affect on me – instead of bending to wills of others, I dug in my heels, and stayed true to me.)

Ironically, when I got home that day, thinking about these, a college friend published a story of judgment and shame she endured by roommates over a dress that was deemed immoral.

Have a seat.” One roommate called the meeting to order. “I found this in your closet.”

That’s when I noticed it. My dress. Laid across the table. Did they think I had stolen it? I had never stolen anything in my life, save a duck eraser from the prize box in fifth grade, but clearly that had riddled me with enough guilt that I was never one to foray into shoplifting. Between my guilt and the fear of getting caught, I had long since marked theft off of my list of must-tries.

“We know now. You were obviously sleeping with him.”

My heart started beating really fast. The room appeared to be spinning, and I saw spots. From what I could piece together, my concerned roommates had decided that my new, immodest dress was proof positive that I had been having sex with my now-ex-boyfriend. (I hadn’t been.) They had previously suspected as much because I had been so emotionally invested, but now this was their tangible proof that I was no longer a virgin. –  The Dress That Ended My Modesty Obsession, by Jenn Morson

I had no idea she had written this, and yet, the timing of it coinciding with my wondering why music by lesbians was banished, but music by men who had several marriages and did drugs was okay, well, it was a bit of a coincidence, was it not? Is it because now, we’re so far away from those days back at our conservative college, now that we’re raising children of our own, that we can look back and see what was maybe not the healthiest of atmospheres for a very young woman?

Because her incident with being confronted with her scandalous clothing choices wasn’t a singular tale. I vividly recall the day I wore a mini skirt (over leggings) and listened to a trail of “Wow, look at her skirt!” all day until a “friend” stopped me to say snidely “Isn’t your skirt a bit short?”

“Yeah, well so am I.” I snapped back, carting my tray of crappy cafeteria food to my table of friends.

Because flipping people the middle finger in the middle of the cafeteria was possibly frowned upon more than music by lesbians.

Ironically, if I want to flash back to my freshman year of college, it’s not one of the Christian artists that tips me off – frankly because I rarely if ever listened to them.

No, it’s “Closer to Fine” that puts me back there, with friends who are still friends of mine today, laughing, being too loud, too secular, and our own selves.

I spent five* years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper, and I was free…


*yes, I know, the original lyric is “four years” not five – but it took me five years to get that paper, and that’s how I sing it

That time I had to call Poison Control – a Flashback Friday post

23 Jan

Sometimes, I feel bad for all you readers, because when my teens were just rugrats, well, they kept me on my toes!

Like the time I had to call Poison Control.

No, not that time..

…not that time either…

That particular time I called Poison Control was when Sean was a toddler.  Sean was an amazing toddler who walked at 8 months, who could maneuver his little 50th percentile self up and over the crib rail at 14 months, who inverted the crib tent once, who wiggled an arm out of the papoose at the ER to slap the doctor stitching up his forehead after he fell “surfing” on the gliding ottoman…

Needless to say, I kept everything really high or locked up.  The top of my fridge was a ridiculous mishmash of knives and scissors and Sharpies.  If I wanted to clean something, first, I’d have to get a stepstool, because all cleaners were put up higher than even I could reach (okay, low bar, I’m short.) He was the sweetest kid though, which made up for the fact that I could never rest while he was awake.

Meanwhile, I have always had a water bottle for my hair, just a little sprayer to tame my hair down or revive my curls now.  Sean thought the little spray bottle of water was the coolest thing, and would walk around the house spraying water into his mouth.  Which was a step up from when he would lick everything.  Yeah, he was a sensory seeker, that toddler.

So that day, as I was sitting on the couch, I heard the sound of a spritzer – which was normal – but then I heard 2 yr old Sean go “Ew!”

I turned, and saw he was holding a bottle of Fabreeze.

I didn’t even question how he got it.  I never left anything low, but the boy was a magical monkey child who could get things he shouldn’t, despite my best efforts.  I sighed, took the bottle of Fabreeze from him, and dialed 1-800-222-1222.

Yes, I have that number memorized.

“Poison Control, how may I help you?”

“Yeah, I think my two year old just drank Fabreeze and I need to know what to do.”

“Are you sure he drank it?”

“Well, I didn’t see him do it, but his breath is really fresh.”

There was a snort, some choking, and then an apology from the nice Poison Control Center man for laughing.

“No, it’s okay to laugh.” I said.

At the time Fabreeze was still new, so he looked it up, and said to give Sean milk or something, and then just watch him for vomiting, etc.  Sean was fine, he figured out after a spritz that Fabreeze didn’t taste good.

When I told my friend that I was going to start buying all natural cleaners so that when my kids drank the stuff, at least it would be natural, she laughed – because she thought I was kidding.

I wasn’t.

And Sean did survive his childhood and grew to be a really laid-back teen who is more selective in what he ingests.

monkey boy

monkey boy

 

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