Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's on Your Nightstand - May

I have to confess I have been WAITING for this week to roll around because it gives me an easy post and because I love to ramble about books. Unfortunately, this week finds me incredibly busy with cooking 5 nights of meals for Vacation Bible School. No Little time to read, no time to blog. So I'll make it brief, and next week I'll be buzzing around to everyone else's blogs to get some more good book ideas.

So, what's on my nightstand, er...spread around my house, right now.

1. Boys Should Be Boys, 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker. This is the same author who wrote Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters which I haven't read because, well, I have boys! Glorious, wonderful boys who are about to drive me crazy this morning. But as I work my way through this book I am coming to a greater appreciation for what it means to be a boy and how they tick. Which is great when they are doing things that make no sense to me and is helping me to learn when to back off and when to steer them in a constructive direction. I checked this one out from the library, but I have a feeling I will be buying it soon and referring to it over and over in the years to come.

2. Who Do I Talk To? (A Yada Yada House of Hope novel) I love Neta Jackson. I loved her Yada Yada prayer group series because it gave me a window into what it might be like to be part of a group of women reaching across social and cultural divides to really lift eachother up in prayer. I'm having a little harder time with the House of Hope series, which takes up where the first series left off. I think it is because I don't get that sense of mountain moving prayer that was woven through the first books. Where the first books inspired me to be bolder in my prayer life, this one is leaving me a bit flat. Still, I'm almost done with it. If you haven't read any of Neta Jackson's books I recommend starting with the Yada Yada Prayer group series first.

3. The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson. I haven't started this one yet, but I read Embrace Me and was enthralled by such a different voice in Christian fiction. Her characters aren't the typical beautiful people, they can be abrasive, sometimes hard to like. But there is a depth that grabbed me and kept me going to the unpredictable, unformulaic end. I am hoping for more of the same with this book.

4. The Oasis Guide to Asperger Syndrome. This is THE go-to book for anyone dealing with a child on the spectrum. It is written for parents, by parents who just happen to also be medical professionals and as such is very easy to understand. I've found myself reading something and having little light bulbs click on in my head as I think about something Gates has done recently. Highly recommended if you have, or suspect you may have, a child with an Asperger's diagnosis.

5, 6, 7 and 8. Better Homes and Gardens Decorating. Color Your Home Beautiful. Waverly At Home with Color. Debbie Travis' Facelift Solutions to Revitalize Your Home. Yes, I'm in the midst of attempting to redecorate! After picking paint colors several times only to hate them a month later (luckily BEFORE any paint was bought) I think I've finally found the key. If, like me, your interior decorator gene is missing or malfunctioning I highly recommend checking out a stack of books from the library and doing some reading and browsing. From the Debbie Travis book I learned that I first needed to pick a MOOD and THEN a color. Wow. Suddenly it became so much easier. I can't wait to get painting in a few weeks. In fact, there'll probably be before and after pictures on the blog...

So, that is what's on my nightstand this month. How about you?

Laundry Day

I pull out the umbrella clothesline, haul it to the back yard and drop it into its hole. It is opening day of outdoor drying season and my line has been languishing in the rafters of the garage all winter. Languishing and quite mysteriously...tangling. I try to untangle the mess. This line over that, that line over this, lift them over the pole, weave in and out, out and in. Frustration. It's hopeless. I simply cannot trace the beginning and the end, placing each line in perfect alignment.

So I unknot at the beginning and begin to pull the line loose. Pull after pull, row after row. The line stretches from one side of my yard to the other and back. I walk back and forth, pull after pull, row after row. Finally, with two rows remaining I am able to untangle what is left. And then begins the restringing. I hesitate, thinking that perhaps I'll leave it for the next day. There is work to be done, reports to file, bills to pay. 'Real' work.

But I can't leave this unfinished, it calls to me as I start to walk away. So I turn back and begin to string the line. Hole after hole, row after row.

And as I string I begin to hear it, soft and plaintive notes carried with the wind, an echo of native flutes and melancholic scales. The wind is blowing through the holes, resonating in hollow aluminum chambers. Transfixed, I continue to string, hole after hole, row after row, listening to the song of wind that has blown for centuries over grasslands. Finally I finish, tying off the last bit of line. The song is silent now, the wind no longer able to blow freely through the holes. "Beautiful," I think as I turn to get my laundry.

Work still waits for me. A few seconds would have had the laundry in the clothes dryer without the work and the back and forth pulling of the line. But there would have been no songs, no moments to move me out of time and place to where imagination dwells.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kids' Book Picks - May

Today I have a guest blogger, 8 year old Gates, who is going to tell us about his favorite book as part of Kids' Pick Tuesday from 5 Minutes For Books. Gates likes to read a lot and we could probably fill up pages listing his favorite books, most of which he has read over and over and over again. But today we are going to focus on just one book...maybe next month we will do more.

Me: So, what book would you like to tell other kids about this month?

Gates: United Tweets of America, by Hudson Talbott.

Me: Can you tell me what it is about?

Gates: It's about a competition for which bird is the best tweet. And all of the birds that are doing it are state birds and the eagle is telling them that everyone is a winner. But they are still arguing.

Me: Why do you like this book?

Gates: Because it has lots of information about the state and the birds.

Me: Is it funny or serious?

Gates: It's informational and funny.

Me: Do you think other kids would like this book?

Gates: Yes. And that's all I want to say.

Despite the brevity of his description, this is a book that he checks out frequently and laughs most of the way through. It is well illustrated and contains some interesting random facts about all of the states. I would say that it is suitable for any early elementary child, even 5 year old Indy likes to have it read to him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Part of the family

Originally published 5/3/2008.

Sometimes when my husband is out of town I allow the boys to come spend the night in our bed as a special treat. (OK, really I'm just afraid that they'll need me and I won't hear them.) It always follows the same pattern, but they always want to do it and I'm always willing to let them try. Still, getting two small boys to fall asleep in the same bed is no small feat; it's like they are some unstoppable energy machine that has to keep on making noise and wiggling until 'boom' the battery runs out and silence and cessation of motion ensue instantly. It was no different this time. There were repeated cries of "Mom, he's bothering me," and "Mom, he's poking me." And finally there was the ultimatum. "Mom, I don't want Indy to be a part of our family any more."

Oh dear. What is a parent supposed to do with THAT statement? I'm not even sure what heinous crime Indy committed in order to deserve banishment from the family, something about scrubbing that was keeping Gates awake. I gently told Gates that we are all part of this family and I would be very sad if anyone was missing because I love them both so much.

I suppose it isn't that uncommon to hear from our children. I can recall wishing every now and then that my brothers belonged to a different family (or that I did). (Sorry guys.) What made me sad as I thought about it today is that sometimes we carry that attitude with us into adulthood and into the church. Sometimes there are people in the church that make us think "Boy, I wish they weren't part of the family; I wish they'd go someplace else."

I'm not talking about the people who are making things difficult for the church, I'm talking about the people that we just don't like. Maybe their personality irritates us. Maybe they have a disability that makes us uncomfortable. Maybe they don't dress 'right'. Maybe they challenge our faith in areas we don't want to be challenged in. Somehow they 'scrub' us the wrong way.

We don't want you in the family, you talk too much. We don't want you in the family, you need too much. You aren't up to my standards of what a church member acts like. You're too emotional. You're too philosophical. You're too distant. You're too clingy. It isn't fun to be around you. Your personality is scrubbing up against me and it irritates me.

God, forgive me for the times I haven't wanted people in my church family that you had placed there. When we stop seeing people as part of our family, we lose the ability to BE family to them. We forget that God put them there, just as surely as he placed each of our children in our earthly families.

Who don't you want in your family? Are there still people I wish weren't a part of mine? If I'm being honest, sometimes my hangup to being invitational isn't so much that I'm an introvert, it's that I don't want that person to be part of MY church family. It's a whole lot easier to invite someone who acts like me than it is to invite the person I wish would just disappear from my life.

A very wise friend of mine has said that if someone irritates you, pray for them. Continue to pray for them. You may not like their behavior any better, but you will find yourself being filled with love for them. You will begin to see them as part of your family. I've seen it played out in my own relationships; I need to be more diligent about continuing the practice.

Paul had some things to say about the church acting as a body:

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.   Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV)

One body. One family. We strive to cultivate things like compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience in our own families. Can we humble ourselves enough to cultivate them in our church family as well?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Company Girl Coffee 5.7

This is my first Company Girl coffee post. And I'll admit that I'm mostly doing it because I want an excuse to not finish cleaning my bathroom. (Yes, not very Home Sanctuary-like of me, I'm afraid.) All my cleaning supplies are ready, though, and the counter is cleared. I'm just taking a break. Yeah, all that counter clearing really wore me out.

This has been a bit of a frazzled week as I try to catch up on work and dig myself out from the piles of paperwork on my desk. I love the whole working from home thing, but it is SO easy to get off task, not helped much by my quest to discover new and wonderful blogs to read.

It's also been a bit of a challenging week as there have been several essays over at iMonk lately on becoming a Dangerous Christian and musings on what it means to walk barefoot in our world today. I'm feeling a lot of pin pricks of discomfort telling me to get out of my safety zone. The thing is, I have no idea what I'm supposed to DO once I leave it. I don't know, maybe it's supposed to be just as simple as inviting the neighbor's kid to our church's VBS. At any rate, I'm struggling with knowing I'm called to more than just this safe little life but not sure how to make it happen.

So, there you have it, my week in a nutshell. Oh, and add in one sick 2nd grader who is now getting better, and one 5 year old who is now getting sick...neither one of whom I have been giving the proper amount of attention to. I think I'd better clean a bathroom and then go snuggle.

Visit Home Sanctuary for more virtual coffee and chit-chat.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Goofy, crazy, silly motherhood

It's so random, this thing called Motherhood. All of the moments in a day strung together over the years, a rosary of memories running through our fingers one by one. Sometimes I flip through the pictures and I look for the sweet moments, the wayward kisses, the hugs and cuddles. Other women have them, these moments captured that make you stop and say "Oh, how precious!"

I have moments like this:

Many, many moments like that. (I wonder if Washington  or Lincoln ever made goofy faces.)
And that's ok. It's who we are, who my family is, the defining aspect of my motherhood. We are quite simply...crazy. Crazy silly. And I wouldn't trade my goofy silly boys for all the sweet and tender moments in the world.

But sometimes when it's least expected, when they are completely worn out from silliness, I get about 60 seconds of 'Awwww'. No kissing pictures though.

For more photo essays on Motherhood check out We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And so it began

It was easier to write and publish this when no one I knew was reading it. It was easier to hide it away and pretend it didn't happen to me. But something happened when I first published this on my blog two years ago. Women read it. And one after the other they commented about how much they needed to hear it, about how much it helped them, about how suddenly they didn't feel so alone any more. And that's what I want, because if someone had told me this story eight years ago it would have made a world of difference. I'm willing to risk the vulnerability of putting this out there again if it helps just one woman to understand something that I didn't, if it helps just one woman to feel less vulnerable, less afraid.

Postpartum depression is talked about; it's understood to a degree. But there is another type of postpartum mood disorder, one of many, a type that I never knew existed until Gates was almost six years old. This is a story, my story, of postpartum OCD. This isn't a story just for women, it's a story for every man who loves a woman as well. Because the thing about postpartum OCD is that we don't talk about it because we are scared, we need people in our lives to ask the tough questions, to see the signs when we can't see them ourselves, to love us through the pain and the darkness. This is my story.

Sometimes I wonder how time could pass so quickly without my notice. It seems like such a short time ago that I held Gates in my arms for the first time and yet it is so hard to remember how small he was, how helpless. But here he is, another year older, and I am remembering. Remembering and finally healing.

There is a common saying, turned into a commercial for baby products, which tells us "Having a baby changes everything." And it does. The sleepless nights, endless loads of tiny laundry, the inability to just head out the door with ease whenever you want, the worry over every cough, the endless debate over every decision because it now affects a third person in your life. The first real smile that melts your heart, the celebration of every milestone, big or small, the pride that fills your heart that this is YOUR child. Having a baby changes everything.

I was ready for change, ready for the responsibility, ready to be a mother to this tiny little being. I held him in my arms and I loved him. The first week wasn't easy. There was recovery from a traumatic birth experience, the struggle to nurse him, the fear that he might have to go back to the hospital, the suspicion that I might be sliding into postpartum depression.

But I could handle it. I was tough. Having a baby changes everything, I just needed to adjust.

I don't remember when it first happened, but I remember where I was. I was sitting on our couch by the window. Blue fabric couch, reclining ends, middle that folded down into a table so that I could sit there for hours just holding Gates, everything I needed right at hand. I was holding him, looking at him, marveling at his perfection, loving him. And then the thought hit. "What if I put him in the oven?" What?? Where did that come from? I'm not that kind of parent. I love this child; I would DIE for this child. "What if I put him in the oven?"

And so it began. The endless parade of thoughts that I couldn't stop, thoughts that horrified me, thoughts that made me feel so unclean I wanted to scrape them off my body like the sticky residue of unseen spiderwebs. Oven, microwave, knives. In my mind I pictured myself hurting my child in a multitude of ways. I stopped watching any show that involved victimization of children, it just added to the list of horrible things I might imagine myself doing to Gates. It made no sense. How could I be holding my child and loving him and at the same time be thinking these things? I begged God to take the thoughts away. I cried and I begged and the thoughts didn't stop. I couldn't understand it. Wasn't I supposed to be a good Christian mother? Was I really as evil as I felt? Had God turned his back on me?

Having a baby changed everything. If I was evil, I had to work doubly hard to hide it. When people asked how it was going I smiled and proclaimed how great motherhood was. I couldn't let them see the cracks, the doubts, the uncertainties because they might see though them to the part of me that was evil. I couldn't tell anyone about the thoughts; they'd declare me unfit and take away my baby. I couldn't tell my husband, what would he think of me? Would he reject me? I deserved to be rejected, or so I thought.

As Gates grew the thoughts slowly subsided, only manifesting themselves rarely and in other bizarre ways; but the effect remained. No matter how well I parented, I was a failure. I'd failed at the most basic aspects of motherhood, therefore I was a failure. Having a baby changed everything.

Fast forward several years. Major life changes, major stress. I was sinking back into deeper depression and there at the center, waiting to confront me was the part of me that was evil. And I had had enough; I couldn't continue living with the fear that the shell would crack open and what was inside would lash out and hurt the boys. So I finally gave up. I couldn't do it all on my own, I couldn't fix it and I needed help.

At my second counseling appointment I finally spoke the words I had been holding inside for all those years. Slowly, hesitantly the words trickled out of me, telling of the thoughts that wouldn't leave me alone. I told of how evil I felt. And then my counselor spoke the words that changed everything. "It sounds like obsessive thought patterns to me." I came home and started Googling. What I found changed everything.

I found that postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder is part of a whole spectrum of postpartum mood disorders and is estimated to affect 2-3% of new mothers. It is most likely under-reported, however, because of the shame it produces and the fear that our children will be taken away from us. Postpartum OCD is NOT the same thing as the more widely sensationalized postpartum psychosis. Women suffering from postpartum psychosis believe their thoughts are rational; women suffering from postpartum OCD know that their thoughts are not normal but are unable to get rid of them. Mothers with postpartum OCD rarely act on those thoughts, instead they typically (not always) develop any number of rituals in order to avoid them or avoid the possibility of acting on them. It can affect women with a previous history of mild OCD as well as women who have never had it before.

Do you want to know what grace feels like? Grace is taking your deepest, darkest secret, exposing it to the light of day and having it washed away with just a few words. Grace is finding out that even in those dark moments, when I didn't understand why he wasn't taking the thoughts away, God hadn't turned his back on me. Grace is knowing that although I am altogether human, I am NOT a monster.

I don't know the answer to 'why me?' Why did I get this disorder that changed the course of my early parenting years? I will probably never know. I know that it has taught me that secrets held too long leave their mark. I know that in some ways it did make me a better mother because fear gave me the desire to seek out parenting solutions that were gentle. I know it reaffirms the depths of love that my husband has for me, that when I finally told him he didn't turn away, he didn't reject me. I don't know all the answers, but I know the peace that comes from being finally set free.

If you'd like to know more about postpartum mood disorders, including postpartum OCD, you can find many great resources, support and links at Postpartum Progress.

For another mom's story as well as some more in-depth posts on the subject, please visit Angela at Becoming Me. I 'met' Angela after I posted my story and she shares the same heart to help women navigate the depths of postpartum mood disorders. Anything else I could post on the subject would simply be re-inventing what she has laid out with such grace and gentleness.