Dorian’s Palette

042414Made of failure,
constructed of disappointment,
she is set down before Beautiful
with her empty bowl
and her crushed being.

Twisted and untruthful,
plank-eyed and a great arm for stone throwing,
she is brought to Beautiful
and placed on her mat,
given her bowl.

Her portrait is a glossy masterpiece
in Vermillion
in Prussian Blue.
The brushstrokes are masterful–
a rich blending of evil
of intention
of all the good colors.

She holds out her bowl
to take up the collection,
the things she needs from others
to cover up her own contributions.

All her betrayals
and every dead thing
she’s made or believed
go into this bowl
as she sits on her mat.

At night she brings out her mortar and pestle.
She brings out the linseed oil.
She grinds the contents of her bowl into
lovely pigments
to correct her portrait.

But each morning she must
be carried out again.
Unable to stand,
she is set down.
She holds out her bowl.

Until she hears,
Look at me.

And she does.
Then.
Beautiful looks at her.
Beautiful takes her hand and
pulls her up.
Beautiful is where she’s always been.

Standing up,
her knife is no longer flat and dull,
no longer for mixing facade.
With the new blade
she can destroy her portrait.

When they ask her what has happened,
she will say,
I looked up. It is Beautiful.

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.

I’m not dead. Let’s have dinner.

With bread. And cake. All the cake. Quickly.

Augustine Louis arrived with little incident! I got to wear an oxygen mask, which I’d rather not do again, and eventually got drugs, which was great. Still, it would have been nice to get help for the pain before the agony, which I hear-tell IS possible, just not for me, apparently. But: Nobody got kidney stones! Nobody dragged half the garage from the wall and bent the drivers’ side door of the car on the way to the hospital! You may think these are odd celebrations, but they’ve been known to happen when I have babies. And I did the glucose test again today, so hopefully I am free of the Gestational Diabetes Albatross. I certainly hope so. I may or may not have eaten nine sugar cookies one after the other while standing at the kitchen counter the other night.

As of now, I have successfully completed 72 hours of parenting three children– without help and with no help on the horizon. The fact that about 75% of that time they’ve been at school or asleep is irrelevant. It’s got to be a similar feeling to combat–long periods of waiting/peace punctuated by a few moments of frenzied chaos during which you meet the very face of your mortality and are shown with brutal clarity what in fact you are made of. I have a friend who has eight children and is one of the most serene women I’ve ever met. Sam calls her “The Boss.” I’ve had three for less than six weeks now and I can tell you with the utmost confidence that if I was ever serene, I will likely never be so again. It’s the standard list of anti-accomplishment: Is the laundry done? Nope. Are there clean spoons? Negative. Do your feet stick to the floor just a little bit? Indeed. But Augustine is getting fat, has a clean diaper on, and Malcolm and Bella have not been taken by child protective services yet. Poor Sam may still feel a little invisible and in my head I keep meaning to tell him what a good job he’s doing, so on my list of things to do, like, shower, I need to add: Talk to Husband. Many failings happening here, but–ALIVE to fight another day, so what we need to take away from this is:

Rockstar.

Rockstar.

I’m nearing the end of that magical time after childbirth when I can sit back and watch the number on the scale go backwards while eating like an absolute pig. I seem to have, how shall I say this, plateaued. I’ve been given the green light to begin exercising again. And I can’t wait. (Spit-laughs into hand) That’s a lie. We all need exercise. I know this. I see this in the mirror. But it is often an uncomfortable process. Auggie feels me. Babies need to strengthen their little necks and assorted other muscles too, right? They tell us to give our babies “tummy time.” I’m assuming this is normal, but neither Mal nor Bella particularly cared for Tummy Time. Auggie loves Tummy Time.

Loves it.

Loves it.

I wore work-out clothes today, ya know, just to get in the spirit of things. Maternity work-out clothes. I must now figure out when the heck I’ll have time to do any working-out. Since my phenomenal parents and mother-in-law left (let’s all pause for a moment to applaud these fine folks), my priorities have consisted of cleaning and feeding. And once Sam and the kids are home, well it’s still cleaning and feeding, but I’m significantly outnumbered, my strength of will is outclassed by a 4 year old, and my exhaustion is only exceeded by my frustration that it’s already 8:00 and I don’t have the energy to watch my shows now that everyone is in bed. I fantasize about living in the same town, hell, same state as our parents. Not that I’d rely on them to do everything, but that there’d be the option to ask for help if I needed it. Just being able to ask is a comfort, even if I don’t actually do it.

I have a moment of absolute panic when I hear sirens while in traffic on the H1. I know I’m supposed to get out of the way, we all know it, all 4-5 lanes of bumper to bumper cars of us. It makes me proud of humanity to see a way made for the ambulance to pass through and then gracefully zippered back together again once it’s gone. There was one time though when I was on a two lane access road waiting to get on the highway and I heard the sirens. My options were: concrete wall buffered by a few thin shrubberies or car next to me–whose options were: Me or apartment building buffered by sidewalk. Panicpanicpanicpanic I chose the shrubberies. I think I might still have leaves stuck in the van’s sliding door mechanisms. I could see the whites of the ambulance driver’s eyes as they passed, but they managed to get through. There’s always enough room for help to get through, but I have to get out of the way.

A couple of weeks before Auggie was born I got terrible news about a friend. In that moment my two miscarriages seemed merciful. I haven’t seen her in years and am only really connected to her through Facebook, but I felt punched. Heartbroken for her and terrified for me. Then, watching from my computer, I saw and felt what faith is. I’m not there and there is no way I can claim to know anything about how they feel, but from what I read in the few updates she gave I can say what she made me feel. Grace. Hope. Not serene, but hopeful. A way has been made and it won’t close back up. I’m still a little terrified, but I think all new parents are. I’m not sure that makes it ok.

I need help. In a big way. But not just with being a mom or getting in shape(ish); I can figure that out. (…right? right?) I would like very much to be serene or the kind of woman who can reach through the pain and hold tightly to the hope I know I already have. I just have to get out of the way.