and how was your thanksgiving?

Out of all the things to forget for Thanksgiving dinner, I forgot a roasting pan. My husband Tim reminds me of this while he starts the dinner during the football game. I said, “No problem, I’ll run out and get one.” He said, “No, I can work with a baking sheet.” We use the most awesome invention ever called Reynolds Oven Bags. He said we’ll check on the turkey periodically, drain it and tie it back up and it’ll work just fine.

Meanwhile, mom stuffs potato peelings down our garbage disposal. It backed up and our sink looked like stinky potato gunk soup. So we try a plunger which makes the peelings spurt out the other drain. My dad loosens up the screws on the pipe and lets it seep out slowly. This doesn’t work so my dad and Tim take the sink apart and snake out the drain in the backyard, filling the yard up with potato peels.

While that’s happening, I notice smoke coming out of the oven. I open it and flames come out. I scream and Tim runs in from the backyard, yelling, “WHAT?” and I say “FIRE!” so he opens up the door, gets a pan, grabs the turkey, cuts a hole in the bag and lets it drain. Crisis number one averted.

Then, as Tim was about to put the sink back together, he noticed a screw missing and he asked my dad if he saw it. Dad said he drained a bucket down the toilet and Tim said, “The screw was in there.” So he had the not-so-pleasant task of searching for a screw in the toilet. Luckily, my dad went through a very unorganized tray of nuts, bolts and screws and found the perfect one. Crisis number two averted.

We saved the turkey and everything else which saved us a trip to Panda Express ala Christmas Story.

Other than that, my day was awesome! How about yours?

 

 

no longer inhabitants

 

A lit Yahrtzeit candle, a candle that is lit o...
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we aren’t heartbroken
whatever you decide won’t leave us
weeping

 

we bear no grief
whatever you do won’t leave us
slipping off door handles
unable to turn

we understand no celebration
hanging pine and cinnamon
scented wreathes

crawl like a baby
stand upright
light a candle

no longer inhabitants but
guests waiting

for light to invite us
like a holiday visitor

 

 

cupcakes and carrier pigeons: talking to the grieved

 

Engraving of "carrier pigeons" (actu...
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One of our church pastors lost his mom to cancer last week. For the last Wednesday Family Night this year, the kids made sympathy cards for him.

 

There’s nothing a child can say that’s insensitive when we lose a loved one. A few of the cards read, “I hope your family is all right.”

Another card read, “God blesses you.” Not “bless” but “blesses” because he’s already done it. Other kids wrote “Happy Thanksgiving” with pictures of turkeys because they didn’t know what to write, which is also perfectly okay.

It’s when we reach adulthood we feel we have to have the most perfectly chosen words to say to someone suffering a huge loss. I have that problem too even though I lost a brother myself. I can talk to children, though. Words come a little easier when comforting kids.

As our pastor read the cards, one girl who lost her dad 2 years ago held him crying. I requested a hug from her. And then I felt like her daddy embracing her. As we shared tears, I said, “Your daddy is SO proud of you.”

The thing is, I never knew her dad. He passed away shortly after I started attending this church. I wasn’t sure how he passed away, I knew it was fast like my brother’s passing from a brain aneurysm.

Grief is God’s way of making us remember. If we had no grief, we’d lose the memories of those who’ve passed on. If we fight the sadness then it’s just like closing the door or forming a wall around these people. If there’s a way for me to keep those doors open and avoid the bricks and mortar, then I’ll do it. Consider me a carrier pigeon.

Another girl walked up to us and wanted to know why the girl I embraced was crying. I said, “Because she misses her daddy.”

The girl asked, “Why are you crying?”

I said, “Because I know how much she misses her daddy.”

Our senior pastor lost his son to murder last year. I never knew what to say to him in person. I knew how to form his words into poetry, but never knew what to say in person. Until Wednesday night, I only managed “Hello.”

This time, I had an excuse to talk to him. I grabbed a few trays of cupcakes I brought for the kids and walked into his classroom where he was about to teach his adult class. I peeked in and asked, “We have way too many of these things for the kids, it’s too much sugar. Would your class like them?”

“Sure,” he said.

Maybe it wasn’t exactly what I thought I’d say. Instead of saying, “I’m so sorry your son left this earth this way. If he were here, I know he’d tell you how proud he is of you of not only carrying on with your work as a church pastor, but standing upright. He’d say you’re a great example to everyone out there who suffers such horrible losses,” it came out as, “Um, do you want a cupcake?”

Not quite his son’s carrier pigeon message, but still, I broke the silence.

After the class I came and picked up the treats, all seven trays of cupcakes under my chin, feeling victorious for finally breaking the ice and falling through.

 

 

my fear of self-loathing: body image

Designer Vera Wang at Ralph Lauren's 40th Anni...Image via Wikipedia

Self-Loathing is not fashionable. It’s never in style no matter what era.

After my oldest daughter Holly was born, I went on Zoloft and gained a lot of weight. One of my friends said that Zoloft had numbed her fears so much that she just didn’t care anymore, about anything.

I told the doc what happened after Holly was born (GI problems, single kidney, hole in her heart) and he said, “Geez, no wonder you’re on Zoloft. I made the same gesture the delivery guy in Christmas Story did when Ralphie’s dad says, “What’s in the box? Fra-gee-lee! That must be Italian!”

Because of not caring about anything, I didn’t lose any baby weight until Holly was 3 years old. In fact I still wore maternity clothes until then. People kept asking me when I was due. I kept saying, “Um, 3 years ago?”

I really hated myself then from all the mind-numbing. I thought I let Holly be born that way. Even when everyone around me told me not to blame myself, I still did. So I took weight gain upon myself as sort of a self-mutilation. Some girls cut themselves, (like Lindsay Lohan) starve themselves (like Lindsay Lohan), or do drugs (like Lindsay Lohan). Instead I put on weight from pure hate.

In 2002 I switched to Paxil and lost weight right away. But it wasn’t really the anti-depressant that made it work (in fact, if you ever miss a dose, watch out! It’ll feel like your lips are falling off). Then I ate better, exercised more and finally took off weight. What a concept!

I remember crossing the street at an intersection pushing Holly in a stroller, and some guys in a car yelled, “Hey, want a donut?” It was right after I lost my first 10 pounds. Come to think of it, I wasn’t wearing the most flattering clothes – a frumpy T-shirt and light blue maternity biker shorts. Ladies, if you have any issues with your thighs at all, do NOT wear light blue. Imagine cumulonimbus clouds brewing on a sunny sky-blue day. And then add cellulite.

I’m not down to my vegetarian body from my twenties and I don’t expect it (bacon just tastes WAY too good). In fact, I went into a dressing room this weekend for the first time in years. I hated those flourescent lights on my legs. This time, I looked at my imperfect self and said, “Whatever!” and tried on a pair of Vera Wang jeans. And I loved them.

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how much is that dead dog puppet in the window?

 

Hand or glove puppet dog
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In the mid-90s, I decided to get over my stage fright while living in the San Fernando Valley by attending poetry readings. I loved the camaraderie of the poetic gatherings because it was the only place in that area where we didn’t know what was in store for us – comedy, tragedy, or drama. I never met anyone quite as eccentric as the Dead Dog Puppet Lady.

The first time I saw her she walked in with crazy hair, dangly earrings and a squeaky black crate on wheels. It looked like the boxes used to transport musical equipment. She took out these incredibly realistic Rottweilers, stuck her hands up their backs and they performed her poetry for her.

She had conversations with the dogs like a ventriloquist but it wasn’t a ventriloquism act because her lips moved the entire time. So I wasn’t sure exactly what group to put her into: Poet? Puppeteer? Performance Artist? Possibly a Patient?

As I sat transfixed, a fellow poet leaned over and said, “Those are her real dogs.”

“What?” I said in a stage whisper.

“Yeah,” he stage-whispered back, “when her dogs died she took them to a taxidermist and had them stuffed.”

After that I couldn’t hear a poem she said. Or what her dogs barked. I mean, she had a litter, not just one.

She came to readings every weekend always late. We cringed when we heard those wheels scratching on the sidewalk; like nails on a chalkboard but not as soothing.

The rest of us came with our Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski-type poems, filled with angst and mad at the world type of poems. Her poetry was just too cute and trite to fit in.

I thought that a gathering of kids might better suit her. But I feared children asking her where she got the puppets. Imagine her saying, “Well, these were all my dogs at one time. When they died and went to doggie heaven, I had them stuffed and made into puppets.”

There’d be more crying and gnashing of teeth than the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

 

 

the life we planned free from worry…

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

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is not exactly what’s in store for us.

 

 

“We must let go of the life we planned to accept the life that is waiting for us.” ~Author Unknown

John Chancellor said, “You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” He was a news anchor I watched every evening while growing up in Wisconsin in the seventies who succumbed to stomach cancer in 1996.

I watched the news to hear the weather report to make sure no destructive tornadoes came to flatten our house or send it spinning in the air like in The Wizard of Oz.

That’s when I first learned what anxiety meant. The first day of third grade I told the teacher I was sick. Mom came for me just because it rained and I didn’t know if the school had an emergency plan for when a tornado struck.

Yet home didn’t help because we were the only family in Wisconsin without a basement. Believe you me, the sight of the first rain drop had me running for the nearest house with a basement. My escape plan was to bolt when the Severe Thunderstorm Watch beeped loudly on our television.

A watch is not the same as a warning. A watch means conditions are favorable for a tornado but one hasn’t been spotted. That beeping sound scared the crap out of me. Imagine playing with dolls and Lego’s on a sunny day and a BEEP BEEP BEEP wakes you out of your smiling Ken and Barbie enjoying their drive along the beach in the convertible.

A crawl reads SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR THE NEXT 6 HOURS. To a kid it might as well read TAKE SHELTER NOW OR ELSE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ARE GONNA DIE! BUT YOU GOT NOWHERE TO HIDE BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO BASEMENT! THERE’S NO HOPE FOR YOU! KISS YOUR BUTTS GOODBYE!

I stored Ken and Barbie safely under a bed in my Barbie Townhouse hoping they wouldn’t end up pile-driven into a maple tree after the storm. I walked over to our neighbor Mrs. Garcia’s house. She let me in, no questions asked, and let me sit in the kitchen while she baked pies. I didn’t tell Mom because I knew she’d say no, then she couldn’t find me. My worry turned into her worry.

This proves worry is genetic. My oldest daughter had ear tubes implanted when she lost her hearing from fluid build-up. One time she got some water in her ear which caused a lot of pain but more importantly, fear. Now she’s afraid to wash her hair, so I try to help calm her fears by helping her in the shower. I say “try to” because I’m not always successful.

I now understand my mom’s frustration with me as my worries and fears popped up every time it rained. I can’t plan my days hoping what causes fear and worry to never happen. I can only learn techniques to deal with that worry to lessen fear.

God said don’t be anxious for tomorrow because tomorrow has enough troubles of its own. God won’t give us what we can’t handle. No matter how many storms come our way.