Monday, January 30, 2012

All Nighter

I ran a huge event on January 12 that went splendidly well.  And then, many said predictably, I got really sick.  I missed some social events that I was actually excited about.  I don’t have as many social events since taking back my family last fall.  I am making huge attempts not to schedule things that aren’t important to me.  I spent a couple of entire days in bed, and parts of other days for over a week.  Just as I was feeling better last Sunday night, when my husband and I had watched one show and were getting prepared for another, just before 10 p.m., my youngest daughter wakes up with the worst stomach virus in the history of the universe.  Without getting too down and dirty with the details, suffice it to say our entire army of cleaning products were used, and we left windows open all night in January in Minnesota to fumigate.  
I pulled an all nighter.  She was sick at least twice an hour, we stopped counting at 10 times around 2 am.  My youngest daughter is tough as nails, especially when it comes to stomach flus.  She spent the better part of her first three years throwing up, and knew to run to the toilet to get sick by the time she was 18 months old.  She is often stoic about stomach viruses, sometimes not even waking me up.  
But this one was different.  The night is somewhat of a blur, but the pattern is clear.  She would writhe in pain, her body straightening and stiffening into a board.  She would cry out sometimes in sharp cries, sometimes whimpering.  I would rub her if she would let me, and she only let me when she had given up hope, when all of her was used up.  

Then, suddenly, she would bolt in the bathroom to be sick.  After about 11, there was nothing left, and she became intimate with the word bile.  All I could do was hold her hair back, rub her back, and watch.  Watch her little abdomen roll uncontrollably, her shoulders following suit, her neck roll just enough to allow her blond head to crush against the back of the toilet. 
Then, the reprieve.  We would lay in bed and wait for the next one.  I would start to doze, and then I would hear something like this:  “Mama, how come I didn’t know the word bile before now?”  
I rolled from my side to my back with a little giggle.  “I’m not sure Sals.  I guess its just not that pretty of a word and it just hasn’t come up before.”  
Quiet. Dark.  With a crack of light from the bathroom, so we can find our way when the next battle comes. 
“Mama? I should have known that word.  My stomach has always been sick.” 
I had made my husband go sleep in the office because he just can’t handle this.  He goes nuts when he can not do anything to make it better.  Her pain becomes his unbearable, unfixable pain that morphs into fear, betrayal, and anger.  
Her questions and insights in the in between times became my anchor for the night.  

“I don’t understand the tuning of a violin.  You tighten the string to tune it, and it gets loose again, usually because of the water in the air.  But why does it just break at some point with no warning?”  
I know it looks like things, or people, just break without warning.  But there is always a warning, a sign, if you pay attention, and if you know what you are doing.  
“Why was I born last? Would I be the same person if was born before Chaucer or Chloe?”  
When we noticed the sky turning from the darkest black, to a little lighter black, she noticed the shift and asked why.  I explained that morning was coming soon.  
“Really? I thought the night was longer than the days in the winter.”
It is, honey.
“Wow.  That night flew by.  You mean we did an all nighter? Yes! I can’t wait to tell Chloe and Chaucer I was the first one to do an all nighter.” 
And as the sun edged its way through our blinds, I held my daughters hand, and we finally slept. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blessings of a Bad Day

I am smart enough, or evolved enough to ask some questions.  Serious questions like, when I am in tears over everything and every one is upsetting me..... “What time of the month is it?” or like now, when I am sick, “Is everything as bad as it seems, darker than usual, because I am sick and under the weather?”  
I consider it progress that I ask the questions, even if I don’t answer them correctly.  I was really looking forward to this quiet week after the crazy week I had last week.  Honestly, I like both kinds of weeks - busy and full of action, and quiet non scheduled weeks.  I know there is no perfect time, and it is probably better that it happened this week, but being sick has really thrown me off my game.  
I actually love it when I am able to give in to sickness.  Just say, we can’t do it.  Whether its me or my kids, giving in, laying in front of the TV or in bed, canceling obligations, and just getting thorough it.  Although I fight this, I often embrace it when I must.  
But my world is weighing heavy on me now.  Substance abuse problems tearing families apart. Families that are close to us, our children.  Allegations of sexual abuse from families in our school.  Nasty divorces, like you wouldn’t believe.  Parents driving their kids under the influence.  Adults acting like teenage girls.  A suicide in my hometown.  The heavy, heavy weight of teaching my kids to navigate this world and wondering if I can do it. 
Oh yea, and this cold.  Which somehow seems harder than anything.  Yesterday, nothing was going right, you know those days?  Nothing big, but everything little.  I woke up to a very troubling email, on an issue that is constant but sometimes demands more.  I couldn’t write a thing... except a lengthy thank you letter for my event last week.  Being sick, I am even less able to multi task than usual, and spent the better part of the early afternoon dealing with learning issues at school.  Steve called from out of town and he was distressed that his meeting didn’t go well.  Last night, I needed help disciplining my son, who is so, so sweet and kind but has to be held responsible for his actions, or inactions.  I find it almost easier to fight my headstrong daughters than to help my son be responsible.  I didn’t know what to do, so I told him I was taking all of his new fatheads off his wall.  Well, that was a disaster and I ended up being the only one crying as he pulled them off his wall, saying “I’m really sorry, Mom.  Please be careful, Mom.” I wasn’t angry or out of control, I was just trying to find something that might mean something to him.  Also, trying to tune it, I broke my youngest daughter’s beloved violin, which she plays all the time. 
I was in tears when my husband arrived home from out of town exhausted, and he surprised me.  
“Do you want to go out? Take a drive somewhere?  I’ll handle this.”  
“No.  I can’t.  I feel so bad.”
“OK.  I’ll draw you a bath.”  What? Who is this? I vaguely remember this man I dated, then married years ago.
“There is already a kid in my bathtub.  Can’t go there.”  
“OK. Honey.  Just get in bed and read.  I’ll finish with the kids.”  I can’t get in bed to read because my son’s brand new 6 foot fathead is laying on my bed.  I just spent the last 30 minutes unsticking it because it rolled together when I took it off his wall and now I don’t know what to do with it.  
I get up to check on my older daughter who is in the bathtub.  I walk in my bedroom and see that the huge football player fathead is not on my bed anymore, and I quickly see that my youngest daughter has tried to clean my bed off for me, but has gotten caught up in the fat head, which is stuck to itself and her, and she is trying to deal with it without letting me know.  
I burst into tears with a wailing sound and plonk on my bed and hold my pounding head.    My older daughter is calling from the bathtub, “What’s wrong, Mom?”  And my younger daughter is silently trying to fight the sticky fathead herself.  If I were in a different state, I would have taken a picture.  My husband comes in and says, again, that he will fix it.  He tells me to go downstairs and I do.  
I play our old pinball machine with tears streaming down my face.  The tears are from being sick, frustrated, challenged with the day.  They are also from all the heavy things going on in families close to us.  They are fear from what has happened to the life we imagined having, fear of losing the closeness with my husband.  They are also, thankfully, tears of happiness and a little hope.  
One by one, they come down.  Chaucer says he is sorry and brings a picture he has made and offers to play with me.  I tell him that I don’t know what to do with him.  I am so proud of him.  He is such a good, kind, nice boy that I am so proud of.  I know you don’t mean to do the things you do.  I know it is the attention deficit disorder, but you are still responsible for your actions.  Mostly, I hug him and tell him how much I love him and he has tears in his eyes.
Sally comes down with a note apologizing for breaking the ornament and wrecking the fathead.  I kiss her head and say thank you, but I know they were accidents and she was just trying to be helpful and supportive.  
My husband comes down and tells me he beat the fathead and it is back on the wall perfectly.  He says he will take the violin to get fixed.  He is calm, and good with the kids.  He says he has already stepped in and handled some of the issues at school.  I am still crying, not sure why, but probably for all the reasons listed above.  And because it feels like it has been so long since I was supported, and it feels so good to have them caring and helping in a loving manner.  I haven’t felt this in so long.
I took a bath with candles and headed to bed, only to find a sweet letter written by my daughter.  It was folded like a letter addressed to Mama Sweetgirl Countryman.  I started crying again.  Maybe some of the things I do sink in.  Maybe they do matter.  I wrote her letters most every day at camp with these salutations.  Chloe Mama’s Baby Countryman, or Chloe Dancer Extraordinaire Countryman, or Chloe Wild Girl Countryman.  She never said anything about it and I never asked.  And now, six months later, she addresses it to me like that.  She noticed.  
She wrote how much she loved me.  She also said she asked Chaucer if he was upset about the fatheads and he responded, “Yea.  I guess.  But I’m more upset to disappoint Mom and see her upset.”  This fills me because she was taking care of her brother when I wasn’t able to, and it scares me because his heart is so fragile.  
Finally she said, I’m glad you are writing now.  I love having a mother that writes.  It makes me proud.  If you write a kids book, I will be the first to read it.  Dont. Know. How. To. Write. How. This. Makes. Me. Feel.    
I have been working so hard, fighting really to find my place.  I haven’t found it, and times are not always or often easy now.  I miss my children terribly now that they are all gone all day.  Too much around them is work, rather than relationship building.  I struggle to find a new path for myself, and trying to redefine myself puts unexpected pressures on my marriage.  
Now, I find myself thankful for that  horrible day yesterday.  I would not trade it.  I was so depleted that I had to depend on my family.  I had to let them be there for me.  My husband was soft and kind and calm.  My kids were amazing. Oh, what it is to feel.  To feel pain and frustration, and sadness.  And to feel love and support and kindness.  And to know that not everything is wrong in the world. 
Especially our little world.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dear Husband

Sometimes, I question , as I’m certain you do, if I am the right woman for you.  Your life would have been so different without my complexities.  The terroir of my emotional landscape is as familiar to you as Mars.  You don’t question like I do, and for God’s sake you value keeping the peace over speaking your mind.  My softness often hides inside, under my quills, where the good it does is more elusive.  You might have been served better with the opposite, soft on the outside, quills kept tucked safely away.  I am much more than I do, and this lies in direct conflict to one of your most esteemed values and identifying trait of being a hard worker.  
But, still waters run deep, and in my heart, I know you have a very deep well.  You are my private iceberg.  Only the tip can be seen; the majority of the mass is hidden, undiscovered, unknown, unreachable.  One of your favorite quotes is, “I like a challenge.”  You might say that about me, although I know I am, and our marriage is, harder than you ever thought it would be.  
Many of the things I want from you, I now realize you want from me too.  And I wish, more than anything, that I could give them to you.  I think the reason I want them so badly from you, is that I don’t know how to give them..... to you, to me, to anyone. 
The soft, calm, centered, artistic, playful soul beckons to me from somewhere, and I greedily want it.  I get glimpses of it, and pounce, ravenous for what has been missing for so long.   But, you see, a calm soul can’t live with ravenous, pounce, and greed.  It may not be as elusive as trapping a moonbeam, but the challenge needs more tools than I have right now.  
So, I unabashedly demand it of you. Unbeknownst to me, I am asking you for something I am seeking, perhaps for myself, perhaps for others.  Something I have been exposed to, yet do not know intimately. 
Welcome to my inner journey.  My hidden softness can only be exported through the written word for now.  It can’t be spoken yet; it gets distorted and torn and hardened when I try to speak my truth.  
I know, in the subterfuge of your iceberg, you can comprehend, interpret, listen, feel, at least part of my pilgrimage to my center.  I invite you, to understand my deepest and most private self, through my written word. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Topic

Women write about slowing down, trusting.  They talk about time flying, and years passing.  They write about motherhood and kids; oh, they write about their kids.  They try to write about themselves, distinguish themselves from their kids.  They write about nature, and details, and overcoming whatever has come their way.  They write about books and arts and politics; they write of painful pasts.  They write of their causes, they share their insights.  They speak of friends and dreams they have.  They write of health and change. They write of their sadness, their darkness, their depression.  
It’s harder to find, or at least I haven’t found it yet, writing about marriage and the spousal relationship.  I mean real writing, intimate, true.  Or perhaps what I have always thought is true, no one feels or experiences the world as I do.  I had talked myself out of that because I never dreamed of finding people and making connections with those who understand some of my struggles.  I do understand the tenuous ground of writing about spouses, (or teens or parents or sisters...etc) but I yearn to understand and have someone identify with me on this level.  
I have an added advantage right now of having a few trusted readers, none of whom appear in my real life.  Except for my mother.  And I have another blog where I write about her.  Kidding.  
Even though we have made major changes, our lives are still full and busy and, frankly, we are tired.  I don’t take the time to talk to Steve about much of my journey, and when I do, it doesn’t come out like I want it to.  Over the years, especially when tempers run short, I have written him letters so that I can let him know what’s going on. I wrote one to him a few days ago.  Not only did it explain where I was coming from, but, as with most of my writing now, it led me to new places that were unexpected.  I have done this the past few days, and I have taken to filing them in a folder I have dubbed, The Husband Series.  
I am not sure what will come of this, but I like it now.  Parts of these letters are very personal, but I think parts of them may be more universal.  The biggest surprise for me is what I am learning about myself.  Writing to him has pushed me to look at some things in a new way.  And as a disclosure, I may not give him all of the letters.  And I certainly won’t share them all here.  But I would be interested to hear what you think.  

Monday, January 2, 2012


I have never written a year end summary in our holiday card, but I have always sent out a card.  I made our card hastily, oh so very hastily, this year.  I was frustrated with my lack of pictures, or lack of organization with them.  I ended up using this picture from last Christmas which, in my defense, was taken after our cards went out last year. And I love it.  The temperature was right at zero, but we were on the Lake and the wind was blowing fiercely creating wind chills about 40 below.  I had them take off their coats and go sit in the sled for the picture.  They were such good sports - I think because they wanted it over with so they cooperated immediately. It was fun!

And for some reason, I wanted to write something.  I didn't want the dry recitation of where we went or what sports my kids were doing, but something more.  But I didn't have time, I had about an hour to create the entire card and make the order or they wouldn't get done.  As it was, I mailed them on the 23rd of December.  So I wrote this bit in about 5 minutes, barely edited it, and sent it out.  Of course, now there are many things I would add or take away, but shutterfly was fickle in the amount they would let me put there.  Ultimately, I was happy with it, so I thought I would share it here.

In 2011, 
We watched sunsets, we said goodbyes, we woke at midnight to watch a caterpillar spin a cocoon.  We released it days later, with quiet reverence, learning to let go.  We skied by moonlight in a winter wood, and spent many days on the lake and fall evenings by a fire. 
We hunted for eggs, celebrated the royal wedding on a day that longed to be warmer. We grew our own tomatoes and ate them off the vine. We learned painful lessons that were uninvited, yet we became stronger  because of them. 
We sat in the rain watching soccer and baseball games; we took a road trip from South Florida to New Orleans.  We ate beignets and po boys and alligator and longed for more time down South.   
We kayaked through lilly pads in Northern Minnesota.  We skipped rocks in a stream in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains.  And we starting skyping Daddy for bedtime prayers, so now we know he closes his eyes when he prays for us while he is on the road.
We embraced wonder, simplicity, and gratitude.