Sword

From under the stones-
in a flurry of sticks-
the weapon bursts outward.
The weapon is singing a song.
The mission has a soundtrack.
Lists, signposts, a return address:
they mark the map I follow.
I want to hold the weapon–
for protection
for promise
for prosperity.
It seems to have new batteries though.
The weapon goes out into the fray.
I follow at a distance
out of respect
and safety.
But the song it sings is catchy.
I need to hold the weapon–
because of danger
because of defeat
because of death.
I feel disgrace when I lose sight of its shadow
and am left only humming the tune I’ve learned.
My hands want to hold the weapon.
But then I look around the field
where I’ve been in the fray
and realize the weapon has been holding me.

How To Be Christina Fishburne On Monday

Find yourself planted for three years in a place people typically stay for only one.
Congratulate yourself on all that personal growth you did in Hawaii.
Think about all the people you know who might have cancer.
Plan a productive day.
Damn the constantly dirty floor to Hell.
Think about writing.
Go to the gym.
Preemptively grieve all the friends who are leaving this summer.
Start crying because people you love might have cancer.
Want another baby.
Vacuum.
Forget to buy more bagels.
Think about writing.
Think about painting.
Think about cancer.
Think about being pregnant.
Damn elliptical machines to Hell.
Vacuum.
Decide not to have another baby.
Wish you cared more about politics.
Wish you cared more about history.
Wish you cared more about Power Rangers.
Damn cancer to Hell.
Vacuum.
Think about writing.
Think about babies.
Think about wine.
Think about the people you know who have survived cancer.
Wish you were Diana Gabaldon.
Wish you were Claire Fraser.
Wish you were taller.
Wish you were better at conversation.
Wish you had a plan for dinner.
Pick up crumbs with a wet napkin.
Hold Malcolm’s hand when he offers it.
Thank Sam for doing the dishes.
Listen to Bella’s detailed plan for her birthday party half a year away.
Laugh at how Auggie says new words wrong.
Think about not wishing for more.

This is not about the election.

They have to leave us.

They try to do it strongly.Version 2Version 2

We have to let them go. We try to do it gracefully.20161110_201110

They have to go far away. 20161110_185628We have to stay put. But it doesn’t always happen fast. Sometimes it drags out over days. Version 2Days of waiting to leave. Days of knowing they are technically still here. But we can’t see them. Then they are gone.img_0605 And they have to do hard things. 20161110_18575720161110_193815They have to live in hard places. 20161110_193857Version 2They miss us and we miss them. 20161110_193734100_2532We try to be brave like them. Version 2Version 2 Things happen to all of us. img_0514100_3275100_2507Version 2100_3056Version 2But they miss our things. 100_2990OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA100_3183100_3403100_2731And we miss their things. 20161110_185713Version 220161110_194029It’s hard for each of us to understand the other’s things.

And then one dayVersion 2 they’re back. img_1387_zps676d09f1And there’s more waiting. img_1519_zpsba00bc47Agonizing minutes and hours of waiting. img_1521_zps2bec4be9We can see them. img_1527_zps1a17229cWe can almost touch them. img_1539_zps152cc91aWe are about to lose what’s left of our minds. And then

img_1557_zpsa7e3979dimg_1559_zps8941975bimg_1561_zps89484c16img_1562_zps06530d61img_1563_zpsc1773a53img_1569_zpsbe72cb54img_1579_zps87e08feeimg_1580_zps47b05b4aimg_1594_zps9dde29bc

Welcome home. And welcome back. And whatever the world is like, it will always be changing–but the reason we send you and the reason we wait for you is the same as the reason you go and the reason you go again, and again: we love our country and what it was built for and we love each other because we have this in common.

We Put The “ER” In Character

This past week I had occasion to call an ambulance. Twice. The first time was especially great because I was also obliged to leave my screaming husband and screaming baby in the exam room so as to run across the hospital to the parking lot where I had to move my car in order for the emergency helicopter to land. Now, the last time my body hit a dead run was about the year of our Lord 2006. My body doesn’t like running. Nor does it do it well. But I was motivated. Highly motivated. And I was fast. It felt amazing! As I flew down the halls and burst out of the sliding doors, I rocketed toward my about-to-be towed vehicle and thought: I am a beast!
Who knew? And had the hospital been bigger than the frozen food section in Target, that Olympic record would have been in big trouble. I’ll tell ya what.
no-runI hate running. But apparently I can do it when I have to. For short distances.

***

I am trying to cook something for dinner while ping-ponging between the kids for homework assistance. Bella is trying to remember “the flag song” for her program at school, so she has me singing every flag song I can think of while she unceremoniously cuts me off after each beginning line.
“Oooooh say can you see…”
“Not the national anthem, Mama.” (Said in the tone reserved for simpletons, fools, and the miserable slobs who don’t know what color ranger is always the leader of the Power Rangers.)
I have just unloaded the dishwasher and turn around to see Auggie has emptied the cabinets. Sigh.
“This is MYYYYYY country…”
“NO.”
This is the day after the first ambulance ride and Sam has been able to come home, so I have a flurry of texts from concerned family members coming in. I answer a few at a time as I sing,
“My country ’tis of thee…”
“NOPE.”
Getting a little punchy, I throw in some swinging elbows:”You’re a grand ole’ flag, You’re a high-flying flag…”
“TOO FAST! TOO FAST! I can’t remember the hand motions!”
I pause over the laundry basket on the couch. Half of it is distributed around the room now. Thanks, Auggie. Why are there only 2 pairs of underpants? One, two, three…eight shirts and pants…
“KEEP GOING.”
“And forever in peace may you wave.” I start to get into it. I sing louder. I fold clothes in a rhythm. I’m on key. I sound great. “You’re the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free and the brave!”

I don’t know it yet, but my brand new friends, who’ve never even met Sam, are plotting. I don’t know it yet, but I’m about to get dinners and spontaneous visits to make me laugh and my lawn mowed and random snacks. I don’t know yet that the next day I will go to the store and totally lose my crap and cry and snot all over the woman who bags my groceries as she prays the most beautiful and powerful prayer over my family. I don’t know that a couple of hours after that bolstering I will be calling another ambulance and texting “I need help” to my friend who will show up and take care of my kids all day while I deal with the hospital situation. Or that my mother-in-law will put her life on pause earlier than planned to get on a plane. Or that moments after that I will be crying in front of Sam’s boss, who has returned to tell me to let him know if I need anything.

“Every heart beats true, under Red, White, and Blue, where there’s never a boast or brag.”
Asking for help is really hard. Accepting help is actually really hard too. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, a mom thing, a military thing, or what–but I tend to think, I can do this. I just need a few more minutes OR I just need to put that in the backpack so I can use my hands OR I just need everyone to be quiet so I can think… Spoiler: none of these things actually enable me to do what I need to do. I can actually do a majority of what needs to be done on my own. I have the twitching eye and stripe of gray hair to prove it. But I can only do it on my own for a short distance. I need my brave friends and my family and to be reminded that God is here and in control. And I don’t have to be.

“But should auld acquaintance be forgot, keep your eye on the grand old flag.” The chorus of George M. Cohan’s song is in all of our heads now as we stomp, run, wander, and shuffle around the house. James Cagney played him in the movie, so I see him singing it too. There’s a line that the Cohans would say at the end of their shows, and I’d like to say it to all my new friends here and to those praying and supporting us all over the place,
My mother thanks you, my father thanks you…my husband thanks you, my daughter thanks you, my sons thank you, and I thank you.

If You Give A Boy a Bowtie

My beautiful new friend.

laughmoreabundant

If You Give A Boy A Bow-tie

If you give a boy a bow-tie, people will tell him that he is cute.

Pretty soon his brother will get jealous and start wearing bow ties too. If you give a brother a bow tie, pretty soon he will want a fedora to go with it.

If you give a kindergartener a fedora, he will suddenly remember his suspenders. If he gets his suspenders, he will refuse to wear pants with them.

If a boy refuses pants, a mom will have to fight it and end up explaining that while Jesus didn’t have to wear pants to school, I am not Mary and until he can turn water into wine he has to wear pants.

When he wears pants he will take off his suspenders, no longer looking like A Sound of Music extra and will want a picture.

kaitandjonbowtie

If a Mom…

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In Which Christina Realizes She Is In Fact A Colossal Bitch

When we had a non-carpeted eating area (ah, the sweet sweet regret of yesteryear), one of the kids’ chores was to sweep the floor after dinner. On this particular day, Bella was wearing her paper crown from school–Happy Birthday Bella! scrolling in gorgeously sparkly glitter around it.

Bella, from the floor with her dust pan: “Since this is Dad’s house he should be sweeping.” (angry vicious sweeping…) “It’s like we’re servants.” (sweep, sweep)

Sam, from the sink where he is rinsing dishes: “That’s right. And I’m the king.”

Bella, placing the dust pan down with great dignity: “I think you’re forgetting about…” (pointing to emphasize) “THIS” (indicating the crown).

Oh, how I laughed! We are all a bit self-important at times, yes? Except me. I have a completely balanced perspective on where I stand in life. I would never presume any sort of, like, entitlement or anything. That would be childish.

***

Let me sum up

May 16–they pack up our household belongings in Hawaii and we commence the living with nothingness.

June 6–we move to the hotel, discover Bella has lice, and commence the FREAKING of the out.

June 13–we get on a plane back to the mainland.

June 17–I decide to stop caring if we all get lice. I. Can. Not. Deal. with the fighting and screaming and “hold effing still”ing.

June 17, one hour later–I feel itchy and treat everyone’s head for the 3rd time.

June 24–we move into our empty house with great hope.

June 24, 10 seconds later–I am disgusted with the kitchen and the carpet.

June 25–Sam gets a kidney stone. We get to visit the local ER.

June 26–we buy a 36 ft carpet for the basement and, in typical galactically stupid Fishburne fashion, don’t ask for help bringing it in.

June 29–our household goods arrive!

June 29, one hour later–we are told one of our crates was left in LA. No one is exactly sure what is in it.

July 1–Sam is pretty sure he has another herniated disc. He is not wrong. He (rightly) stops all all unnecessary movement. It’s so great that there isn’t anything that needs to get done…VZM.IMG_20160629_191143

July 2–the extent to which I am screwed sinks in: the Hawaii movers disassembled EVERYTHING. The bunk bed, the crib, the shelves, the coffee table (where is the other leg?!), the bicycles, the play table, etc. And the Kansas movers assembled: The bunk bed. For which I am eternally grateful.

July 6 –our missing crate is here!

July 6, three minutes later–oh wait. It’s someone ELSE’S crate. Ours is still in LA.

July 21–Our REAL crate is here! We have a couch! etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

***

So. Here’s the situation:

I have no life.

No, actually, I have 4 lives–but none of them are mine.

No, actually, I have 4 lives and only the parts of my own life that are exceptionally necessary–Eating. Dressing. Going to the bathroom.

Unless someone is about to fall down the stairs. Or needs more milk. Or medicine.

not-now-skeletor

“Can I get some coffee when you’re done with that?”

Things I Find Demoralizing

*A long white whisker growing from under my eye. What the effing hell. Even the bags under my eyes are stressed? Pull that mother out but quick.

*Spilling some sort of extremely unnatural Red Number 5 juice on the carpet and totally not caring.

Things That Make Me Feel Like An Absolute Rock Star

*Remembering to take off my teeth whitening strips at EXACTLY 30 minutes without setting a timer.

*Figuring this out20160809_080601

 

I’ve always thought of myself- on the whole-as a compassionate and understanding woman. Willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Polite. Kind. Two years ago when Sam hurt his back the first time, I attributed my hideous behavior to being pregnant. I even congratulated myself on how well I managed, all things considered.

I think you’re forgetting my crown, Family…

***

My day for the past 5 or 6 weeks

Wake Up

morning

Just. Like. This.

Make coffee, make lunch for Sam, make breakfast for Sam.

Bring breakfast to Sam.

If baby is not awake yet, gleefully check Facebook and do Jamberry stuff.

Make breakfast for kids, who are now awake. (the gall)

Help Sam with the trickier parts of getting dressed in uniform.

Bring dishes down. Break up a fight or two. Stop Auggie from throwing himself down the stairs.

Load everyone into the car and take Sam to work.

Run errands, or clean, or do laundry, or hang a few pictures, or unpack a box– It never seems to be more than one of these things.

Distribute snacks, put baby to bed, make lunch.

Wake up baby, load everyone into the car, pick up Sam.

3 times a week: Help Sam change clothes if needed. Load everyone back into the car, take Sam to physical therapy. Wait an hour. Come home.

2 times a week right after the above: kick Sam out of the car then turn around and take kids to Karate. Cuz good parents make their kids do stuff, right?

Come home. Make dinner. (Why didn’t I buy stock in Cheerios?! STUPID STUPID STUPID)

Give a few baths.

Listen to them read. (KILL ME.)

Put them to bed.

1-2 hours of Blessed TV Viewing.

Bed.

And interspersed in there, I try to play with them, or listen to the recent development on the War of the Roses research for his thesis, or do math flash cards, or shave my legs, or answer emails. The evil comes out, sadly, every once in a while. And by “once in a while” I mean “around 3:00.” It manifests most frequently in the unhinged shrieking of “STOP YELLING!”

I yell at the kids. I sigh heavily at Sam.

Seriously? You want me to go make you some coffee? That’s great. Cuz I love going up and down the stairs millions of times a day. And now you want a KISS? So I have to put all these dishes down and walk all the way around to the other side of the bed now? Fine. Whatever.

Why am I thinking such things? I’ll tell you why? Because I am an absolute ASS.

I’m pretty sure Sam would rather his spine NOT be jacked up. And last time, he actually DID try to do more and it ended up further injuring him. So essentially I’m all Saint Christina, Martyr Wife and Mother because the poor guy is trying to get better faster, to get back to his own life where I allow him to work like a dog to support me in the style to which I’ve become accustomed and to help me.

Geez, Sam.

So naturally the Facebook 7 days of Happy Couples Challenge exploded my computer and phone during this time. I wanted to want to participate…but all the loveliness only exacerbated my Phelps

***

I’m in the Bizzaro 2013. I tell people where we’ve just come from and they get all wistful and then express their condolences for our surely despairing family. I am so happy to be back on the mainland. SO happy!

The sky isn’t as blue here. I noticed that right away. But it’s HUGE and open and the trees are so familiar and both muted and sparkly.

I see pictures of where I used to be and I want to miss it.

I hear Auggie’s little wave sounds from his Lamby nature sounds toy and I get hit with an image of myself walking toward the sea. For a split second I feel a delicious melancholy and romantic yearning. But almost immediately I remember what the reality was: strapped with 4 tons of baby, carrying a bunch of crap I won’t use, hot, and about to spend the next 3 hours roasting myself on a mat watching everyone else have a great time, making sure no one eats handfuls of sand, and dreading the 2 hours of laundry and 4-5 days of cleaning sand out of my kitchen.

If I squandered my time on the island, it was my own fault. But it also sort of wasn’t. There’s always stuff that needs to get done. But it IS possible to appreciate the important stuff in the midst. Beauty. Humor. Kindness. Honor. Generosity. All of which I just so happen to see in Sam. Maybe not all at the same time. Maybe not every day. We are quite evenly matched in the unevenness of our goodness.

***

In sickness and in health. That’s one of the challenges I accepted. It is one to which I never gave a second thought. Of course! Because I love him!

I have a life. I have a RIDICULOUSLY good life. I’m in no danger. My family is in no danger. I get WAY more sleep than I’ve had in the past 2 years. I can in fact manage day to day activities for all of us by myself. And it is my great privilege to do so. Plus, my legs are getting SO strong from going up and down the stairs.

I’ve spent the past 3 years putting myself back in order. I thought. None of it is any good if I can’t take care of the one I love. I even want to, dare I say it, serve him.  At least…I want to want to.

Aloha

Hawaii is widely acknowledged as paradise. And of course it’s beautiful. It’s fantastically beautiful and fantastically strange. I arrived here with the generic Hawaii expectations: Hula girls, ukuleles, beaches, drinks with little umbrellas in them. But I also arrived with my bad attitude and reluctance to give even a rat’s ass about any of it, and my resolve to instead focus on how my plans had been so royally screwed up. Which facilitated the expansion of my bad attitude into a really bad attitude. The heat. The distance. The expense. The inconvenience. The delicious Brontean misery of grief.

"It doesn't get that hot here, ma'am." Tell it to the hula girl, fool.

“It doesn’t get that hot here, ma’am.” Tell it to the hula girl, fool.

I read Unbroken and fell in love with Louis Zamperini. I also fell in love with his family. Any mother who has to sit in front of the door with a rolling pin to keep her TODDLER from escaping (again) gets all kinds of love from me. Louis was stationed here on Oahu for a time right before he left on that doomed flight. Driving around this island, especially on overcast days when the little bits of sunlight hit the darkening palm trees bending in the wind as they wait for rain, I think about him a lot. He drifted on the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. Forty-seven days of sun scorching, shark fighting, bullet dodging, storm weathering, starvation and fear with very little hope to cling to. Yet at a certain point, the starvation gave him clarity. Immediately after being “rescued” he was imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp. Beaten, further starved, humiliated, and demoralized, Laura Hillenbrand says, “he missed the raft.” Reading those four words took my breath away.

The raft was too small for 3 grown men. It was not where he intended to be. It was not comfortable. It was not even safe. But it is what saved him and his friend. I am definitely not starving, (I’m totally eating the last gingerbread man cookie that I’d frozen from Christmas. No shame. I’ve also eaten 5 of his brethren before him. That’s 6 gingerbread men. After my salad lunch…) but I have had some clarity during this last year.

Saying that I can accept unflattering revelations on my person gracefully and with the appropriate measure of reflection and repentance is like saying I will not be consumed by full body-wracking sobs while watching any given episode of Call the Midwife. ‘Tis a lie, Precious.

I listen to the radio on the traffic trek to school each day. I’ve heard it said that you know you’re in love when all the songs make sense. Since moving here, all the songs have made sense. But not because I love the island. I listen to Jesus music. At first it was because I wanted those songs stuck in my kids’ head. I hear them singing to themselves, “There’s a war between guilt and grace/ And they’re fighting for a sacred space/ But I’m living proof: grace wins every time,” instead of, “Baby, baby, baby, oooh/ Like baby, baby, baby, baby, noo/ Like baby, baby, baby, baby oooh/ I thought you’d always be mine” and I feel like a good parent. But the songs also get stuck in MY head. Which is useful for the other 12 hours of the day when I am not such a great parent…

Me and the kids doing homework

Me and the kids doing homework

We have our new assignment and it is to a location that was neither on our list of acceptable choices nor anywhere remotely close to our family. This, after we had convinced ourselves, due to the logical evidence and information we were given, that we would actually get what we wanted this time. And by “we” I of course mean ME. I would get what I wanted.

I blame the raft.

For the first year we were here, all the songs seemed to be about oceans and waves and having faith in the midst of doubt. The second year all I heard was God is FOR us, not against us, being brave, and fighting the good fight. Now all the songs are saying: Trust.

Death and grief have touched me and those around me more since moving here than during 3 deployments. Friends’ husbands, friends’ babies, friends’ parents, friends themselves. Easter was very poignant for me this year. I will see those friends again. My friends will see their babies again. I will meet my other babies. We have this hope. This trust.

I can trust all over the place about the afterlife. It’s the life part that I seem to have trouble with.

In the beginning, I may or may not have indicated that I did not wish to live in Hawaii. It was subtle, you may have missed it, but I didn’t really want to move here 3 years ago. Now that it’s time for me to leave, I find myself randomly tearing up as I run errands or sit in traffic. I will miss the people I’ve come to love so much here. My friends. My kids’ friends. The ladies in the post office who are always so nice to me. Our little 15 mile radius life that has been so sweet and difficult and funny and stressful and exciting and sad and rich and worrisome and good. There are many many parts that I wish never happened. But truthfully, I think I needed to be here and those things needed to happen to me for one reason or another.

It’s been almost a full year since my online business venture and I’ve been ridiculously blessed by it. I started out just wanting to earn enough to buy this Hawaiian bracelet.

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I had enough by the fourth month, so I just kept going to see what would happen. And what happened was a completely unexpected joy and deep satisfaction. Ho’omana’o means “Remember.” And while there is so much that I would rather forget, I don’t want to ever forget that God’s plan is good–even when the way it plays out is not.

Aloha means hello, goodbye, and love. Aloha means everything. So.  Aloha, Hawaii.

I’m thinking I might even miss the raft.