Interesting Times

The afternoon of May 23rd I had to reluctantly admit that what I was determined to call “allergies” was really a cold.  If noses run in your family like they do in mine, you can appreciate the difficulty of telling the difference.

It was this mild cold that half the kids had already had, no big deal.  I sneezed a lot, and then it was supposed to be over.

Interesting thing one: Nothing bad happened, and it still managed to own a month of my life and counting. Normally what happens with a cold is that if there aren’t any complications, it annoys you and then you get better.

Instead what I had was no complications, and tangible but glacially-paced recovery.  So I go weeks constantly asking myself, “Surely something terrible has happened because no one is this tired, with this obnoxious of a cough, for this long,” except that no, nothing terrible was happening.  Not a single sign of a secondary infection or anything else. Every day was in fact just a tiny bit healthier than the day before.  A perfectly normal recovery, only carried out in ultra-slow motion.

So that aggravated me, because I was impatient to be back to the fully-functional-esque person I was in earlier April – May.  I’m thinking, looking back, that ultra-slow recovery is the same reason February and March were the disaster that they were; or maybe it was something else.

Interesting thing two: Just as I’m turning the corner I start getting a resurgence of the infamous “I feel like I’m buzzed” thing that was the fascinating side note to my initial (untreated) illness.  Which leads to a fair bit of lying when I see people, because after hiding in the cave with the cold long enough, when you see someone you’re so happy to see fresh humans that when they ask you how you’re doing you say, “Good!” even though what you mean is not, “I’m doing well,” but rather, “It is good to see you.”

And here’s where the interesting cropped up: My allergies really truly went away.  If noses run in your family like they do in mine, not sneezing is an aberration.

Curiously, when I first got dramatically ill in 2014, something that happened is that the allergies completely cleared up and stayed cleared up.

So today I googled “allergies autonomic nervous system” and it turns out this is a thing.  Essentially hayfever (cats, dust, pollen) and my presumed type of IST are opposites.  Not quite as neatly as all that, but something like it, which will presumably be helpful to figure out.

For the moment all that tells me is that should this renewed spell of sickliness pass, I should plan to start sneezing again.  Meanwhile, we’ve got a topic for the visit to re-up the meds this summer, which might entertain or even intrigue.  We’ll see.

***

In the meantime, given that 50% of the last six months have been “temporary” disasters, I need to quick get just organized enough to hand off the remainder of my responsible-person obligations.  Prayers in that direction appreciated, both that the intended handing-off will happen efficiently and well, and that I’ll make good decisions about precisely how much I can commit to in the year ahead.

So How’s it Going, Jen?

Quick update for those who’ve followed the saga all spring: I’m doing great.  By which I mean:

  • Medicated, normal life works fine.  Housework, errands, school, etc., all that is no problem.
  • Planned workout (you know how plans go) of a 2-mile walk daily seems about right.  
  • With that kind of schedule, I’m good Mon – Sat, and really need Sundays off.  “Off” as in go to Mass, do the social thing for a bit, then come home and read a book or write a novel or something.  Lie around and physically catch up on the week.
  • If I up the intensity earlier in the week, I don’t make it to Sunday.  Hopefully over time I can add more exercise, but for the moment, what I’m doing is the max sustainable. 

Which doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes jiggle the schedule, and borrow from one day to put more into another.  That works, as long as I pay up in a timely fashion.

So all you who have prayed, thank you very much.  Couldn’t be happier with the results thus far.

Just showed up here and you’re looking for my writing?  Check the blorg.

 

Real Life Prayer Gardening

 

Brown dog sitting in front of a flower garden.
What your prayer life needs is a Frisbee dog.

My first luminous mystery this week went to Margaret Rose Realy, the Catholic Gardening Lady.  She’s the author of A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, which is the book that helped me create what you see in this very attractive cell phone photo.  I think of her a lot this time of year, because I pray poorly indoors, so I end up going outside, and sometimes even end up in the official “prayer garden” part of my yard.

What you see:

Plants that aren’t dead.  Took a lot of trial and error, and finally a husband who installed an irrigation system, to discover species that could survive this particular corner.  It faces southeast and is not shaded, and thus in the summer average morning temperatures are in the triple-digits.  Early spring is the only time it looks quite this cheerful — in part because there’s a preponderance of early-spring-blooming plants, since nothing put in the ground after May 15 is likely to survive, and the garden store always sells in March – April that which blooms in March – April.

Seashells. That’s the blurry mass of white stuff in the center.  The first time we went to the beach with the kids, several years ago, I collected a bazillion seashells. I can’t help myself, they’re all so interesting, even the broken the ones.  Especially the broken ones.  So I had all these grocery bags of damp, salty, seaweed-y seashells.  And of course I live in a very small house, if you calculate size by creating a ratio of junk-to-square-feet.  So where to put the seashells? And then I remembered that seashells come from outside, and thus . . . they can stay outside.

This makes me happy, because it means when I go to the beach, I can bring home as many shells as I want.  You can’t say that about many things.

A garden gnome.  Thus far I’ve failed in my efforts at acquiring a suitable piece of sacred art for the prayer garden.  Meanwhile, we had this gutter running right through the view from our screen porch.  I kept trying to hide the gutter, which is not attractive even by people-who-collect-junk standards.  Finally I gave it up, and claimed the spouse’s garden gnome from another corner of the yard.  He (the gnome, not the spouse) was appointed master of the waterworks.  He’s got a large overturned flower pot, broken just right, for a cottage, and a collection of overturned broken tea cups for his various pets.  The place is so much homier now that there’s someone to keep company the toad that lives behind the bush.

Rosary Dog.  I’m a sucker for a good ball dog, always have been.  So now the dog knows that when she hears me grab a plastic rosary off the hook in the kitchen, it’s time to bolt outside and find a toy.  In this photo she’s posing with her chewed-up Frisbee, but FYI it’s actually easier to pray while throwing a tennis ball.

***

So that’s my report.  Cheer up Margaret Rose Realy (who could use it) by reporting in with your garden updates.  Thanks!

On Suffering: What Would Jesus Do?

What is the Christian response to suffering? We can take the question from any number of angles, and in time I’m hoping to hit most of them.  It’s a thorny — meaning, “Ouch!” — topic, and as Joe Paprocki observed, it always comes up. Sooner or later everyone passes by way of the Cross.

Today’s topic: What do you do when it’s your turn to hang?

I’m going with the straight-up What Did Jesus Actually Do? answer on this one:

1. Sweat blood.

Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life.  It turns out the sinless, perfect response to the prospect of unspeakable suffering isn’t some kind of happy-clappy, “It’ll be fine!  I love this!” song and dance. By the grace of God, maybe it will be fine.  Maybe you will love it.  But maybe you won’t.  Maybe you’ll sweat blood.  Par for the course.  Not a sign that you’re lacking in faith.

2. Try to get out of it.

Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me.  Complete abandonment to the will of God does not prelude prayer for deliverance.  So long as not my will but yours be done is tacked on the end, we’re good. And see “sweating blood” above: We can give ourselves over to complete trust in God, and still not think of it all as one big party.  If it’s one big party, it’s not suffering.

3. Fall down.  Repeatedly.

Will God give you more than you can handle?  Sure.  He just won’t give you more than He can handle.  Sometimes you’ll be laid out so flat the only way you’ll get up is if some Roman comes along and commandeers helpers for you.

4. Die.

The Author of Life is not stuck in the here-and-now. Life on earth as we know it is not our ultimate end.

Is death good? No.  Does it happen to every one of us? Yes.  Being Christian, having faith, doing everything right . . . none of that is a free pass out of mortality.

God can and does frequently intervene to heal, revive, and restore us in our earthly lives.  The life of our Lord was one long series of deliverances after another . . . until, one day, it wasn’t anymore.  At the end of all things, we pass into eternal life by way of death.

You don’t die because you lack faith.  You rise to eternal life because you’ve got it.

No Kittens!

So she was either very very wormy, or . . . I dunno.  No kittens.  I’m telling you, there were kitten-like creatures inside that cat last month.  I guess my future as a cat-midwife is totally written off now.  It’s either writing or accounting for me.  

Meanwhile, SuperHusband dropped the farm cat off at the vet in the morning, and picked her up again after work, transformed into the Cat Who Will Never Be Suspected of Pregnancy Again.  My closet is safe.

No more free cats.  No more free cats.  No more free cats.

Helpful Help for Seriously Ill Parents: A Babysitter List

Because I have the coolest friends in the universe, I’m getting offers of help left and right.  For which I am so incredibly grateful.  And I thought of something to ask for:

A babysitter list.

We’ve never had a single go-to babysitter who could be on call 24/7.  I guess most people don’t.  For all our younger kids’ births, I compiled a chart with the various volunteers, and their availability, and their contact info.  Availability might include days of the week, hours of the day, “Please call me first” or “Please call me only in emergencies”, dates the volunteer wasn’t availabe (“Not May 15th – 27th”), etc.

Also I put in notes like “can come to house” or “Please drop off at their place”, “needs carseats”.  Anything that makes in a difference in whether the person can or can’t help at this very instant.

So then when I went into labor, Jon or I could just go down the list and call someone who was available. While I was in the hospital, he could find childcare without needing me to give him 10,000 suggestions.  It worked really well.

***

Anyway, if you have a friend who has kids and some kind of crisis-y situation, that’s a good way to help.  Babysitter list.

Southern Snow Day

On every block: children in rain boots and camouflage jumpsuits, trailed by parents with cameras in hand.  I love this place.

***

In other snow news: No ice on the power lines.  We have electricity.  I’m happy.

In not snow news: Up at CatholicMom.com this morning, my blogger Q&A with Sarah Reinhard.  In which she asks me why I blog, and I tell her. I’m afraid my answers aren’t that glamorous.  That’s what you get when you ask me stuff.  I just tell you.

About that “winter mix”

Six inches of snow in DC doesn’t bother me a bit.  1/2 of ice in SC?  Bothers me.  As in: Last time this happened, we didn’t have electricity for a week.  It’s winter survival camping, suburban edition. Couldn’t go outside, because iced-over pine limbs were falling on people’s heads. 

So anyway, I’m hoping for a nice snow holiday.  Meanwhile, am stocking up on clean laundry. 

Home Again.

If you didn’t see it already, here’s my post at New Evangelizers today.  It’s about what makes a community a community, and why do we need a Christian community?

If you didn’t see the March, EWTN’s coverage is here.  All jokes aside, it really did feel kinda like a Ninja March.  Noisy Ninjas.  But there was no one else around, other than us, as far as the eye could see in both directions on Constitution Ave. coming up by the Capitol.

Someone asked me before we went whether it was true that there were very many young people at the March.  Let me clarify: The March for Life is a youth event with some chaperones along in order to reassure the nervous security people at the Smithsonian.

***

Interesting discovery, as I was walking up the hill from the playground after an hour or so of sledding, headed back to my friend’s house in my old neighborhood in the burbs.  I passed a house flying a US flag and a Maryland flag.  I had no idea a Maryland flag would inspire a wellspring of patriotic sentiment, but it did.

Another thing: Hills covered in tall, bare hardwoods – scattered with snow or not — just shouts with memories from the past.

And another: We went to the Star Spangled Banner exhibit at the US History museum.  Just wow.  I had a good patriotic upbringing.  It was like going to shrine.  Well, not like.  It is.  A shrine to something very, very good.

But, funny thing: Riding home, it was good to reach that special place in NC where it was warm enough to thaw the  windshield wiper fluid so I could finally see out the front window without a haze of salt-spray.  And then coming west on I-20, the vast expanses of pine trees through the sand hills — exactly the opposite of those Virginia hardwoods — and let me clarify right now that Carolina pine barrens *do not* possess the austere beauty of, say, the desert Southwest.  Just no.

But, weirdly, I felt welcomed home.  As we entered the infernal city on I-20, shoulder-to-shoulder with drivers doing their best via crowding and incompetence to make up for what we lack in population density, I could finally relax.  Driving on the Beltway feels like being in one of those car-race video games to me.  Infernal traffic is just as dangerous, but its my traffic, so nothing to worry about, right?

We crossed over a river and my daughter asked, “Is that the Congaree?”

I chuckled.  “No, darling.  That’s the Broad.”  Everyone knows it doesn’t become the Congaree until it joins the Saluda, downtown.

She laughed at her error.  Of course.  Everyone knows that.