Monday, December 29, 2008

Peace Comes in a Whisper... I Usually Need a Roar

Written December 2008

There’s an old hymn entitled He Whispers Sweet Peace to Me. When I hear it, I always think of the funeral of a close friend of mine. He was killed in a car accident at the age of 20; an age at which most of us feel invincible. On that long ago June day, for me, invincible became inconsolable.

The reason, however, the long dreaded hymn comes to mind is because I recently shared the story of that funeral with another friend. We were discussing inappropriate reactions during tragic or emotionally charged events.

I recounted that at the funeral, a choir of elderly ladies sang He Whispers Sweet Peace to Me in what can only be described as quavering falsetto. Obviously their voices shook with sorrow. As they sang, I stopped crying momentarily, glancing at my mother, who was sitting next to me. She was looking down at her hands in her lap and her eyes widened slightly. Her response was nearly imperceptible, except to me, watching so closely. That reaction alone tipped the heavy scale of emotion from ragged grief to repressed mirth. Repressed, that is, until the gentleman in front of us, a talented and well-trained singer, gave his wife a nudge and uttered a dismayed grunt. The scale tipped all the way over and dumped my mother and me into a fit of giggles. The more we tried to suppress them, the less we were able.

Though I don’t believe anyone could distinguish between our ill-hidden giggles and the sobs from the previous moments, we were both very embarrassed. What is ironic to me is that the song was chosen as a comfort for the mourning crowd. Had I been able to get past the performance aspect and hear the message, it might have had a different impact.

Since giving the account, I’ve been thinking about the concept of God’s peace. I was raised in a Christian home and grew up in a church where I heard a lot about the subject. My mother, aside from the giggling episode (maybe that was God’s way of giving us a little peace right then!), is a living testament to the term. Even in the face of fears, disappointments, illnesses, and death, she is the stillness in the midst of calamity. When I ask her to explain, she shrugs and quotes, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." KJV

Her answer begs the question that's at the center of the issue of God’s peace. Which came first the peace or the stillness? I’ve always been prone to running around like the proverbial beheaded chicken. Peace often eludes me as I rush around trying to control everything.

On the other hand, it has been during periods of anxiety and deep despair that I learned lessons about peace. On my wedding day, I was plagued with a case of nerves just before leaving the bride room to enter the sanctuary. While I had no qualms about getting married, I believe it was stage fright of sorts. I realized 300 pairs of eyes eagerly awaited my entrance and would focus intently on me. My ever serene mother stood beside me, soothing me as if I were a crying child, while my heart hammered erratically. After a moment of fanning myself and fluttering around, my mother took my face between her hands. “Lori,” she said, “pray for peace.” I shook my head, amazed. Didn’t she know I was too keyed up? “Mama, I can’t pray right now. You pray for peace for me!” She led me to the sofa and held my hand. “Be still,” she said, then she began to address God like I asked. Almost instantly, a veil (no pun intended) of calm descended. Looking back, I believe God answered her prayer, and fast. I also believe her command to be still was a factor in the equation. I was no longer fretful or anxious. I floated through the ceremony on a happy high.

After my son was born, I experienced a similar feeling of fright (times 1000), only this time my body waged war on the perfect life I had planned. While I worried and cried without ceasing, my husband and my mother (who are eerily alike, by the way) were the catalysts for my calm. As I became increasingly desperate, they urged me to seek medical attention. While medication dealt with the chemical imbalance, it served another important function: it allowed me to be still. God sends peace in all kinds of packages, doesn’t He? My nearly hourly prayers were answered with a peace born of hope. Hope that I could get past the fear. Hope that I could be a sane mother to my precious baby. Hope that one day in the not too distant future, I could help my child understand that it’s not for nothing, that song. Be still and listen up…He WHISPERS sweet peace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Good Old Days

Written September 2008

We were sitting in my mother’s happy kitchen last Sunday, the soft hum of the dishwasher signaling after-lunch peace, when my sister-in-law posed an intriguing question: “When are the good old days?” Her point was that we often look back at our lives remembering, through rose-colored glasses, the past.

Meanwhile, we trudge through our daily lives; and if we’re not looking back, we’re looking forward. We’ll be happy when the weekend comes. We can’t wait until vacation rolls around, then we can have fun. Maybe when the gifts are wrapped, the food prepared, and all the running around finished, we will finally relax and enjoy Christmas.

There’s nothing wrong with looking forward. Only sometimes, in the constant anticipation of what’s coming later, we neglect now.

As the mother of a toddler, time has existed in a strange warp the last 18 months. The first two months blew by like a tornado; fast, wild, and leaving a trail of destruction in the house! The next couple of months crept by ever so slowly while we dealt with nearly constant crying: Rafe’s and mine. He had colic, and I had postpartum depression. Thankfully, those months passed with the help of an army of support: good doctors, my unshakable husband and our extended family! Now, as I look back, I wish I could have spent more time enjoying and less time worrying.

The key, for me, is to realize that through paying bills, changing diapers, and trying to find the bottom of the laundry hamper, life is happening. Moments that I want to treasure happen all the time. Happy Saturday morning moments when Jason and I laugh hysterically at who knows what while we set up for a yard sale at dawn. Remarkable Monday lunchtime moments when the three of us play on the floor and Rafe says, “Catch!” for the first time. Or, moments like this one, when it’s almost naptime and my sweet boy brings me a book and climbs into the chair with me (the baby, not the husband).

It’s worth the interruption of whatever task I leave for later, because these moments are fleeting. It’s a privilege to catch so many snapshots in time. I make a vow to myself to stop worrying about what’s wrong with the car and how much it will cost to fix, and really pay attention to the bears in Rafe’s book. I’ll put extra animation in their voices and watch him smile at his silly mother, because the “good old days” are right now.

Day of Rest

As seen in the Sand Mountain Reporter Newspaper
Saturday August 2, 2008

Sunday morning comes with the promise of worship, fellowship, peace… Well, peace is a stretch. Our Sunday mornings come at the speed of light, riddled with every conceivable catastrophe.

Saturday nights have morphed into “the old folks at home” most weeks, peppered with an occasional dinner out. Even so, we have trouble getting to bed at a decent hour. Whatever tasks are required for Sunday are frequently left until bedtime Saturday night since the week is so chaotic.

So Sunday morning comes. I always feel a little sleepier, partially due to the late night, and partially because the temptation to lie in bed all morning is a mighty one. The clothes are pressed and laid out (if they weren’t, no one would ever manage to get out of the house.) Yet even with the night-before preparations, the calamity strikes. In earlier days, spit-up played a role. Without fail, the spitting up covered both the baby’s clothes and at least one adult outfit. More recently we’ve happily gotten past spit-up as a bodily function that delays, but others shift into the vacancy. Then there’s the inevitable leaving-behind of something important. Or, as the wonderful parents that we are, forgetting to feed our son breakfast. In our defense, it was a weird morning and he went back to bed for a nap before church-unheard of! So with the leaving behind comes the going back, which always takes a bit longer than you expect, because you catch sight of your hair in the mirror, and believe me, it needs work!

This Sunday morning, I was so proud of myself that I got up and got ready in time to go to early choir practice! That extra sleepy factor usually sucks me back in. Almost ready, my husband comes in the room to say he’s been called in to see a patient and will meet us at church, later. We go into express mode to get Rafe ready, with opposition at every step: he doesn’t care that his nose is disgusting or that breakfast (that he was lucky to get!) is still on his chin, he doesn’t want to get cleaned! I finally get us both in the car and realize that the shoes I have on just won’t work because I have a blister on my toe from wearing them the previous day and I can barely limp along. Going back in, I realize I had left my notes for children’s sermon on the kitchen table, spattered with oatmeal, no less. After changing my shoes, dropping my cell phone (my prop for children’s sermon) twice, and tripping on a small wooden animal, we were on our way: to worship, fellowship, and just maybe, a little peace.

Watch Your Mouth!

Written July 2008

I knew it would happen. I just never imagined it would happen so soon. My son has begun to repeat what he hears. Just today, my sixteen month old son, Rafe, parroted at least three different words; “puppy, please,” and much to my chagrin, “poopy”.

It’s funny to me how my perspective has changed in terms of language. Words that I never considered particularly ugly before, I cringe with dread when I think of hearing from my baby’s mouth. I’m terrified when I imagine what he may one day hear at school, but I know what he hears at home will have more impact on him. Rafe watches and listens very carefully, and mimics us. It’s a mighty burden and a powerful chance to shape him properly. My five year old nephew told me a motto he learned in Sunday School last week, which went like this, “Watch your ways, and control what you say.” That’s a lesson most parents would do well to remember, myself included, particularly when your children begin to pick up your words and phrases.

We live in a really old house, in which the floors aren’t exactly level, to put it mildly. Therefore, doors tend to close by themselves. I grasped just what a sponge our boy had become when he pushed open a door yesterday, then shouted, “Day!” translation, “Stay!” I had heard my husband give the same command to the doors of the entertainment center the night before.

I dread the day, and the day will come, when one of my "slips" slips out of his mouth at church. We must try our very best as parents to “watch our ways, and control what we say.” The happy flipside of the teeth gnashing “poopy” moments is when we’re so proud of something copied. At meals or bedtime, when Rafe folds his baby hands, unprompted, in preparation for prayer, I think, just maybe, we’re doing a few things worthy of imitation.

Home, Cluttered Home

Written June 2008

As I sit at the computer, I can hear the sounds of ripping paper behind me. My little mouse has found a roll of adding machine paper and is in the process of tearing it to shreds. This stops my work momentarily, and I pause to trade him an empty box (one of his favorites) and try to regain my train of thought. Sometimes, the offense is small enough that I glance back and keep typing, thinking the price of cleaning up 200 envelopes will be worth the mental continuity.

Ah, being a stay-at-home mom/writer/marketing liaison/lousy maid, there’s just nothing like it. The upside is that I often get to work in my pajamas. The downside is that my toddler wreaks havoc in his pajamas while I attempt to work. A delicate balance is required for working, parenting, playing, and housekeeping. Striking that balance continually escapes me.

On top of the day-to-day insanity of my life, I’m responsible for many duties at Vacation Bible School this week, and my husband is out of the country for two weeks. Jason takes an annual mission trip to Zimbabwe with a small group, where they minister both spiritually and medically to the people of the Tonga tribe. While I am so proud of him for risking himself for the mission (literally, things are quite dangerous there now), I miss his company and his help. Usually, he’s away at work during the day, however, when he comes home, he shares equally in the child care. I have a special prayer in my heart for single parents these days, and I wonder how they manage.

The true upside to my life is that God has blessed me with a Christian husband, a healthy child, a wonderful extended family and enough sense to recognize how fortunate I am. Once in a while, when my boy says, “Mommy, play,” I stop. I save my text, sit down amidst the envelopes, flashcards, and foam peanuts to play with the sweetest baby this side of the Zambezi River. The clutter and chaos will still be here when we‘re done, but I’d like to think as he grows up, the thing he’ll remember most is that Mommy played.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Motherhood: A Year in Review

Written January 2008

The tiny scrap of hair, skin and flattened nose that made his entrance last year has bloomed into a gorgeous, blond life-force of crawling, chattering energy. Yes, my boy has just turned one.

What a ride! Everyone told me what a whirlwind this year would be. I still can’t believe its come and gone. All you moms and moms-to-be, this is for you. For you who are just about to enter this phase of your life, please don‘t be afraid! If you’ve just been on this journey, I’m sure you’ll find some commonalities. If you’re the mother of two, or three, or five, then sit back and chuckle at this rookie’s na├»ve words.

I divide the stages of my motherhood evolution into these:

The Euphoria
Just as I imagine a skydiver feels after that first jump, I was exhilarated immediately after childbirth. My husband and mother, both knowing what a pain-fearing ninny I really am, praised my performance over and over. I was proud of the fact that I didn’t collapse into hysterics at the advent of pushing a nearly nine pound baby into the world (oh no, the hysterics would come later). The feelings of accomplishment were, of course, accompanied by the sheer joy of having a healthy and perfect baby. My husband and I didn’t stop beaming at each other for days. After coming home the euphoria waned a bit, but didn’t go away. If the night wakings were not easy for me, the early mornings were murder. Still, I was positive, happy, and not at all frightened by the aspect of motherhood. Rafe was a good baby, rarely crying. I felt a little clingy to my husband, Jason, which is not really my style, and I confess that I was weepy at bedtime. Ever late to bed, this new regimen of early bedtime was challenging, and I felt very alone when I was up with Rafe during the night feedings. So I struggled a little then, but chalked it up to the baby blues. Jason went back to work, and I began my life as a stay-at-home mom.

The Colic and the Terror
About six weeks into my maiden voyage into motherhood (no pun intended), two things happened to change the course of the world for us. Rafe began to cry. And cry, and cry. For what seemed like hours on end, he cried. His pediatrician, after multiple visits and after hours calls, finally told us, “It sounds like colic.”
At the same time,maybe even a bit before that, my baby blues blossomed into depression. Even on the days when the baby wasn’t crying, I was, ceaselessly. I questioned my ability to deal with motherhood. I dreaded the time I had to spend with Rafe. I resented Jason, for what I perceived as his unchanged routine, while at the same time clinging to him and needing to be near him desperately. If I could have crawled inside his chest, I would have, and still not have felt close enough. I called my mother ten times a day and asked her if I was crazy. I called my sisters-in-law to ask if they had felt like me. I begged my husband not to leave me and go to work. I awakened every morning with a sick feeling that an entire day stretched out ahead, filled with caring for a screaming infant. I started to feel afraid to be alone with Rafe. I imagined myself dropping him, or falling with him, or worse. I felt so wretched that I just wanted to run away. I literally would beg to go to the emergency room just to escape.

Worse, I felt disconnected to Rafe. I didn’t want to hold him, I just went through the motions. Jason would ask me, “Isn’t he precious, Mommy?”, and I couldn’t muster up feelings for him. I was terrified. On top of the fear was the guilt. Here I was, with a healthy baby, a supportive husband and family who loved all of us, but I couldn’t feel happy. No matter what, I was just so sad and frightened. I knew I was experiencing postpartum depression. Even so, I told very few people what was happening. I was good at putting on a show. At church, at the grocery store, I smiled and said my life was wonderful, all the while hating everyone I saw because they felt a happiness that escaped me. My husband was superman during this time. He would calm me down and tell me the feelings were temporary, that soon, I would feel better.

About the third time my mother came over and I sat in her lap and cried, she made me promise to go to my doctor. She said, “Tell him everything. Don’t sugarcoat it, don’t try to be the perfect mother, just tell him how you feel.”

Now, if you’re reading this, and you are feeling any of these feelings, I beg you to tell someone! Don’t be ashamed. These feelings stem from a chemical imbalance, and you are NOT to blame. Tell your doctor, tell your mother, tell your pastor. TELL SOMEONE.

The Rise from the Ashes
I did go to my doctor, and I did tell him how I was REALLY feeling. He took me seriously. He asked me some very serious questions. Then he prescribed medication to help the chemical imbalance right itself.

It took a few weeks for the dread to subside. It took a few more before I could come home from running errands while Rafe was with his grandmother, and not feel nauseated, sweaty, and panicked. Truthfully, I still obsessed about the crying, but that was getting better as I did. The pediatrician recommended we add rice cereal to Rafe’s diet, and that seemed to make him feel better quickly. I still worried about our lives never being normal again. I wondered how people adjusted their lives to include a child without becoming slaves.

The Happy Mommy
Thanks be to God, who heard my often hourly prayers for strength and help, I recovered. I began to relax and enjoy my sweet baby. I started to cherish the days and hours I could play with him, and teach him, watch and listen to him. I felt privileged to be the one on whom he depended.

I revel in each new accomplishment, now. When Jason asks me, “Isn’t he precious?” I can answer without reservation. As I photographed him digging into his first birthday cake this past weekend, I was struck by how far I had come in my journey to be his mother. How blessed I am to be healthy. I know the joys shine brighter after the darkness.
Now, maybe Rafe needs a sister…

Got Milk?

As seen in Valley Babies
February/March 08

Ah, childbirth. I was terrified of it. I’ve always been a bit of a Nervous Nellie, to say the least. So when it was over, I was really happy! I had a healthy, beautiful baby, I felt pretty good, so on to the next challenge, right?

My son took to the breast with no qualms. He latched on the first time as skillfully as he does now! The problem was, the nurses said he acted as though he was starving. The colostrum wasn’t satisfying him. They would bring him back to me after bathing him, and he’d be howling. We began to give him formula with a nifty little contraption called a supplementer. Without getting into too much detail, it allowed him to get formula through a small tube that attached directly to me while he nursed. It was a great temporary solution.

Like many mothers, breastfeeding made me apprehensive because I feared the baby wouldn’t get enough nourishment. Therefore, when my milk still hadn’t come in by the time we came home from the hospital, Nervous Nellie grew more nervous. The supplementer was becoming tedious to use, particularly at 2 a.m. with my mother and my husband hovering over trying to help. Make no mistake, I was grateful for ANY help I could get, but it added to the pressure.

Obsessing is one of my greatest talents, and I put it to use in those few days. I waited and watched, terrified that no milk would come. I had read book after book during my pregnancy. I could recite the way it was supposed to happen, how it should feel. I asked anyone pertinent who came to see us, “How did you know when your milk came in?” They always answered with certainty, “Oh, you’ll know!” But still, nothing. Five days had passed. The supplementer solution, intended as a temporary fix, was becoming less and less user friendly.

On the sixth morning, just before going to the pediatrician’s office for Rafe’s first check-up, I undressed to shower. When I caught my reflection in the mirror, I knew. I hadn’t felt any of the sensations I’d read or heard about, but there was no mistake, the milk fairy had visited while I slept. I was so overjoyed I ran (well, walked gingerly, I had just birthed nearly 9 lbs of baby) into the bedroom to let my husband in on the good news by showing the proof. He would have thrown beads if he’d had some handy! My dear mother-in-law also was startled to see the proof when I hurried into the nursery to flash the happy tidings. I think three adults have never danced around so merrily at the advent of properly functioning mammary glands!

Breastfeeding has become so routine now, I can’t believe I felt that nervous. I was blessed that Rafe had such an easy time with it. I personally am glad not to boil bottles, warm formula, pack milk, etc. I’ve got the goods already packed, warm, and with us where ever we go. The sheer convenience of breastfeeding sells me on it again and again.

Sure, there are drawbacks, like being solely responsible for your child’s meals for most of the first year of his life. Even if you don’t physically feed the baby yourself, you still must pump to keep up your milk supply (and to preserve that precious nectar for when he sleeps over at Nana’s!). And with the pumping, you get the boiling, steam cleaning, storage, etc. You also miss out on adult conversation if you don’t feel comfortable covering up and nursing in the room with some people.

However, for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. In addition to the health benefits for him and for me, I get something even more precious. For a fleeting few minutes, and for a few more months, I sit down with my boy. I have his total attention, and he, mine. What a privilege, this cherished connection with him that no one else gets! I consider it a miracle. God gave me the ability to perfectly nourish my child, all the while looking into his sweet face and catching the corners of his mouth turning up when I talk to him. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful.

Getting Surly About Surly People

As seen in the Gadsden Times
Sunday October 8, 2006

I don’t know if you can hear the scraping, but my soapbox is heavy, so I have to drag it along behind me to get it into place. My complaint is about surly people: ones who look surly and especially ones who act surly. I once read somewhere that if you smile, even if you don’t feel like smiling, your attitude will catch up with your face. I think many of the people I encounter have either not read this adage, or have read it and discarded it, because some of them look like their attitude wouldn’t recognize a smile if it smacked them in the mouth, (no pun intended.)

I took it upon myself to do some research into the subject by studying folks while out and about. The grocery store and Wal-Mart are two of my main spots for observation. I have grouped the grumpies into three categories: the unintentional frowners, the common downers, and the downright miserable scowlers.

Let’s take the first category. This is the mildest offense. These are people who probably don’t realize they look so unhappy. We’re all guilty of the unintentional frown occasionally, because it’s the look of concentration we get when we can’t find the Velveeta at Wal-Mart (another subject for another soapbox). The unintentional frown is usually temporary, disappearing after the resolution of the problem. The people in this group will usually snap out of it and return a smile if you beam at them persistently.

The second group is a little more offensive. The common downers are the people who, when asked how they are, say, “Fine,” and leave a dreadful silence while you wait fruitlessly for them to ask how you are. People in this group will also resort, when asked about themselves, to using my very favorite response, “Well, I’m here.” This is generally accompanied by a deep sigh. Their chief crime is not purposeful surliness, but rather a lack of enthusiasm. This bunch just doesn’t realize the effect they have with their dreariness. An example of this is the person at the drive-through window who says, “It’s a great day at (insert restaurant), could I take your order?” with about as much gusto as a child at Christmas, thanking the giver after opening socks. If you expect to have a smile returned by a member of this group, beware, the result is typically half-hearted. More often than not, it turns out as more of a smirk, with no joy reaching the eyes.

The third group is the worst! The scowlers actually spread discontent with their expressions. This is the cashier at the grocery store who won’t speak, but simply scans your items and slams them down on the other side. When forced, these group members may respond to a determined, “How are YOU?”, but they won’t be pleased about it. You’ll probably want to tear out your hair when you ask where you might find blank note cards and hear the answer of the scowling clerk who rolls her eyes and says, “This is not my department.” Further, my research shows that in face-to-face contact, 4 of 10 strangers met were miserable scowlers who wouldn‘t smile back no matter how hard I tried. That’s quite a statement.

Now, please let me qualify by saying that last Sunday, I listened and agreed with our pastor when he spoke about the evils of judging people. He said that we most often don’t know all the facts, and therefore are in no position to draw conclusions about how people act. I do realize that some people have valid reasons for being surly. Moreover, I’m not trying to pick on people who happen to work at Wal-Mart or the grocery store, many of whom are as cheerful (and helpful) as possible. Nor am I condemning truly shy individuals who have trouble meeting someone’s eyes, much less speaking to a wildly enthusiastic person.

We all feel surly from time to time. I’m sure we’ve all fallen into one or more of these categories sometime in our lives. It’s human. My point is that we should really be aware of the expressions on our face, because just like the flu, they’re contagious. So why not spread around a little happy. I know some miserable scowlers who could really use a smile today.

Sleep, Glorious Sleep

As seen in Valley Babies
December 07/January 08

Mama said there’d be nights like this. I can’t seem to learn my lesson about boasting and being smug. Despite having colic (I can say it now that it’s over), my son began sleeping through the night at the age of 6 weeks. He went to sleep at around ten at night and would not stir until 8:00 a.m. People would ask me, as people inevitably do, “How does he sleep?” My answer, a prideful; “All night, every night!”

I read in a book that you shouldn’t brag about how well your child sleeps because it can always change. Well, change it did! When Rafe was five months old, my husband left for a mission trip to Africa, and my little slumbering angel began waking up three or more times a night. Some nights he awakened every hour. I chalked it up to things being “a little off kilter”, and didn’t worry too much. Sadly, my husband’s been back nearly two months and the night wakings haven’t changed.

When I mentioned this to the pediatrician, he suggested giving him a low dose of antihistamine for a few days to “reset” his clock. For seven blissful nights, we remembered how it was to get a whole night's rest. Then on the eight night, it was back to the drawing board.

We grasp at straws, trying to imagine what in the world is waking him up. Could it be teething? If so, he’s been teething for two months. We wonder if he’s getting too cold, too warm, has a tummy ache. The thing that smacks me in the face over and over about this parenting gig is that just when you think you’ve gotten over one hurdle, you bump into the mountain that follows. It vexes us when our babies wake up screaming like someone is sticking them with pins. We are bewildered when they are exhausted, nap for fifteen minutes and pop right back up ready to fight sleep with an iron will. They get over colic, then get a cold. Its enough to make you want to take drugs. But of course, you can’t. Who’d get up with the baby while you slept!?

So I trudge on, chanting my mantra, “This is temporary, this is temporary!” I know this time is fleeting, the good parts as well as the not so good. He’s six months old, and I’ll turn around and be watching him get on the school bus. Notice I didn’t say ‘in the blink of an eye‘. These days closing my eyes is no laughing matter!

I used to pray that he would sleep again. Now I pray that I can be loving at 3:00 a.m. when it’s the fifth time I’m up, leaning over the crib. I pray that God will help me remember that, right this minute, my baby is the most important piece in the puzzle of my life. He’s more important than the anxiety I feel when the sink is full of dishes and the floor full of grit. He’s healthy and I’m so grateful for that. Therefore, in the morning, bleary eyed, I drop down on the floor to play with my boy, who, for the moment, thinks I’m more fun than any light-blinking, sound-making toy.

Maybe soon we’ll get some sleep around here. I hope "soon" begins before the child is three years old. My husband has threatened my life if I read aloud to him from one more book about how to get your baby to sleep. Just like other parents looking for answers, I dig into every possible source. But for now, he’s blessedly sleeping. When I look at him on the monitor, he’s so precious, it makes me want to go and kiss him. I won’t, of course, at the risk of waking him. I’ll just wait until he wakes up to kiss him. It shouldn’t be long now. This is Lori Boatfield, nodding off!

Separation Anxiety

As seen in Anniston Gadsden Christian Family Magazine
May 08

As a little girl, I was a romantic. I dreamed of my prince: handsome, charming, a man who would hang on my every word.

As my mama says, “Careful what you wish for, missy.” I got a man who hangs on my every word. The man of whom I speak isn’t exactly the man of my childhood dreams, but he is a prince. He’s handsome and quite charming, even though he’s short, nearly toothless, and has atrocious table manners. Nor is he satisfied with merely hanging on my words, he also hangs on to my shirt, my hair, and my legs.
The boy is altogether sociable. At ten months, he will smile and let most anyone hold him, briefly. Then he wants “Mummee”. He’s even clingier when he’s been with one of his grandmothers all day or overnight. After that, he really doesn’t want me out of his sight for a minute.

It isn’t so much my leaving him, when I occasionally do, with his grandparents. It’s when I return that he’s distressed. I believe he’s smart enough to be suspicious that I may leave him again. At least that’s how it seems.
The weird thing is, as much as it’s a pain when I’m taking a shower and he’s whining in his Exersaucer just outside the curtain, most of the time I feel kind-of happy about the way he wants me. My husband always told me that the dog liked him better, and, the dog did. I always countered that when we had a baby, the child would prefer me. Sure enough.

Obviously, Rafe loves his daddy, too. He often cries for him when he leaves for work in the mornings. He’s pretty partial to his grandparents and he adores his cousins! But at the end of the day, he wants Mommy. My mother says, “Well, he’s a breast baby,” as an explanation for it. I disagree. That may partially account for his clinginess, as does his age. But, I never really got over my own separation anxiety. I cried the entire trip when I went away to college, and many days after that, missing my mom. I still see her as much as possible.
I remember when she went back to work after having stayed home with us from our births. I was just shy of starting kindergarten. I went to a daycare center near her office. Those first few days, I felt completely abandoned. Many of the other kids were picked up before me, and I remember sitting, watching for her. When my mother arrived, I ran to her and buried my face in her neck. The smell of her was my comfort. It wasn’t her perfume, which had long since faded by that time of day, it was simply her essence. When I hug my mother now, I still remember how I felt in those moments when she came to collect me.

I find it a little inconvenient at times, like when I’m trying to write, and I must stop and pick up Rafe. He stands next to my chair and clutches at me until I give him my attention. I’m sure my mother found my clinginess inconvenient, too, occasionally. But when I think about how I feel about her, even now, and when I consider how I was so completely calmed and reassured when she held me, I am so thankful that my boy wants his mommy. For I know, all too soon, he will wrestle his way out of my arms and my protection to be independent. I can only pray that he will forever find comfort when he clings to me.

For Crying Out Loud

As seen in Valley Babies
October/November 07

It’s amazing the things you can learn to do while holding a baby. Like typing, one-handed, a peck at a time. There’s a commercial on television that says, “Having a baby changes everything.” Well, they’re not just whistling Dixie!

Before I was a parent, I heard people talking about their lives with infants; using words like sleep deprivation, colic, depression… I heard those words, and many others, but just like any other experience, you can’t understand it until you’ve lived it yourself.

The minute after my child was born, I was blanketed in such euphoria. I actually told my mother, “The hard part is over.” I can still hear her laughter ringing in my ears. You see, I was so terrified of childbirth, of the pain, that I couldn’t see past it to the REALLY hard part: bringing the baby home and caring for him day in and day out. I was so smug! When people would ask us if he was a good baby, my husband and I would gush, “Oh, yes! He only cries when he’s hungry.” We felt good. He felt good. The world was at our feet. There was nothing to this baby stuff!

Then the crying started. Oh, and the baby was crying, too! It didn’t take long for the giddiness to wear off and the reality of the job to sink in. The sheer relentlessness of what I had to do began to overwhelm me. I began to wonder on earth I would do with this baby all day long!

It seems we had a colic situation, although I refused to believe at the time that he had colic. I became the mother every pediatrician hates, visiting and calling constantly, trying to figure out what in the world was making my child cry so alarmingly. He couldn’t possibly have had a condition that doctors really can’t even explain. Five weeks later, I accepted that the baby had some colic-like symptoms, but I still couldn’t bring myself to say he had colic. It would have just been accepting defeat.

The funny thing is, (and people who have children will smile in agreement), so many of the ideas you have about childrearing become laughable in the face of a screaming baby. You just plain don’t care that you have to hold him the whole time he sleeps because that means you might get to sleep a bit yourself. And when your mother reminds you how you said you’d let him cry it out, you smile through your own tears and say, “Please pass the Tylenol.”

Having a baby changes everything, indeed. The fact that it took me nearly six weeks to write a piece that would have taken ten minutes pre-baby is case in point. However, when I feel his soft hair against my cheek, and when he smiles his crooked little smile at me, the worries of my life recede just a bit. I can appreciate small moments of sheer bliss and know that having a baby has changed me.

Saying I Love You with Macaroni and Cheese

As seen in The Gadsden Times
Sunday May 21, 2006

I know one thing is true: when people are grieving, you feed them. A time honored tradition has, of late, caught my attention. I’ve always accepted this phenomenon without giving it much thought. But recently, I became an adult. I should clarify; as a married woman over the age of 30, I’ve taken my place as an adult woman in my church.
As a Southerner, a Christian, and lifelong (mostly) attendee of church, I’ve experienced the “gift of food while grieving” firsthand. When someone dies, people open up their freezers, their pantries, their cabinets, and most of all their hearts. Doris Greer, a wonderful lady at the church of my childhood, is a prime example of how it works. If a family member died, Doris was the captain of the team for meals. Obviously, others accompanied and contributed, but she’s the one who comes to mind. I can remember my mother, too, baking pies or casseroles for the same purpose. It just never occurred to me how much compassion was baked into them. As I said, I didn’t give much thought to the act, until now. Perhaps its because, at this advanced age, I’m coming to realize what it means to serve others. For whatever reason, the “need to feed” has really become clear.
Dear friends of mine lost their mother just this week. An army was set into motion as soon as the news broke. A group of people worked silently, behind the scenes, to figure out details. They calculated how many family members and friends would arrive from out of town and when. They delegated and designated. When I arrived with my offering, most all of the family had gone to the funeral home for family visitation. However, a neighbor had been posted to house-sit, receiving the food and guests that would inevitably come. Coolers of drinks had been brought, paper plates and napkins stood in force. The food sat, waiting to give comfort to those who came to the table. If pain could be eased with potato salad, I know many people who would still be peeling. As it is, the chicken and dumplings, the ham, the cakes, the sandwich trays, they offer a different consolation. The message conveyed is clear: “We love you.” “We want to care for you.” “Let us give you, at the very least, physical sustenance to help you through.”

This same army arranges, restocks, and cleans up when it’s time.
The dishes are washed, sorted and separated for return, the masking tape on the bottom identifying their owners. “Serving with a glad heart” has new meaning for me when I think of how this is accomplished.
When all is done, and the crowd goes away, the refrigerator will still stand full. Wrapped, sealed, and waiting: the leftovers of all the love a community could deliver

Love Affair

As Seen in The Gadsden Times
Sunday March 12, 2006

I’ve fallen in love with a woman. Shocking, I know. More scandalous than that, she’s 106 years old. And, my husband is obsessed with her, too. She’s a house we bought six months ago. Oh, we fuss and complain about her; she‘s got a lot of troubles, but make no mistake, we’re smitten.

I’ll admit, when I was in my early 20’s and conjured up my dream house, it looked nothing like the one I have now. At that age, that’s all a house was to me anyway, a distant dream. Transitioning from college digs to first job apartment, I didn’t think about houses too much. I was going to New York to be famous. But I did have an idea of what I wanted someday. If I recall correctly, it was big, and new, and I feel sure it had huge closets and bathrooms. I took for granted that the walls would be exactly perpendicular to the floors, that the floors would be straight, that the walls would be smooth, that lovely features would be left lovely.

Silly, silly, silly! In the house we love, the floors sag slightly to each side of one wall that runs the length of the kitchen, dining room, den, and each side of two bedrooms, making strange angles. The walls that have plaster in some places, sheetrock in others, are anything but smooth! Hardwood floors in the bedrooms had been used as drop cloths for painting, then carpeted. In the kitchen they had been covered by layers of tarpaper, particle board, and then linoleum. The bathrooms are closet sized, and the closets, well, to be kind, are petite, both features having been added several years after the house was built.

Let’s not forget the wiring. To say it’s elaborately convoluted, I may be making the understatement of the decade. Not equipped (yet) with central heat and air, we’ve discovered, this winter, that you cannot, I repeat cannot, wash clothes, turn on the heater in the den and pop popcorn in the microwave at the same time. If you attempt this; darkness falls. Oh yeah, and if you’re lucky (or experienced) enough to be able to power the washer and the lights at the same time, said lights pulsate in several rooms during the spin cycle.

As I was showing the house to my aunt, and pointing out all the things that had to be changed or repaired, she asked me, “Well, what made you want this house to begin with?” That got me thinking why we became enamored. The rooms are huge, the ceilings soar past ten feet, the hardwood floors are still lovely, in spite of all the abuse. The house is situated on a huge lot among her peers: magnolia, black walnut, oak, and pecan trees. In other words, the answer was: charm. Oh, and because it's such a challenge.

Driving by a beautiful, brand new house recently, I said to my husband, “Can you imagine moving into a house with new everything? I mean, not having to pop up crumbling particle board with a shovel to get to the hardwood floor underneath? Or not having to pull up old carpet affixed with a million tiny staples and have floors refinished before you can really decorate a room? Can you fathom such a thing?” I know he had heard the reverence in my voice as I peered longingly out the window. He took a long look, then said succinctly, “Cowards!”

I laughed, a little hysterically. But that night, as I walked across the gleaming, refinished kitchen floor that took us almost a week to uncover with shovels and hard labor, I was so proud. Obviously, she’s not yet the dream house we envision, but her bone structure holds promise. Our house really is like a human being: flawed, often maddening, but when lovingly redeemed, a treasure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Here comes the blog

Welcome to the 90's Mr. Banks...
I've finally done it. I've joined the modern age and gotten myself a blog. When I first heard of the concept, I confess, I just didn't get it. I still can't really explain it. Just last week someone asked me, "What is a blog?" My answer contained a lot of ums, and uhs.

My purpose for this blog is to snag freelance writing jobs. I often apply for them and they ask for a link to my work. I never had one until recently, when I began writing posts for another blog
But that's not a real representation of my work, since it's mostly how to's that don't have much flow. Hence, LoBoatLit was born to give a link for applications. In that spirit, I'm adding my work in the chronological order it was written.

So, tune up the organ, 'cause here comes the blog...