Sisterhood of the Traveling (insert article of clothing which inspires, flatters, and cheers)

We were relatively new to the neighborhood, but several of the little girls were meeting on the porch across the street. Adorable with their ruffly clothes and pony-tailed curls, they brushed their dolls’ hair lovingly as they chatted. Bella had just arrived with her puppy backpack. I don’t think her own hair had been brushed since the day before. I heard one of the little friends greet her and ask if she had “an American Girl doll.” I did not hear Bella’s reply, but watched her enthusiastically drop to the ground, unzip her backpack, and triumphantly produce “Snakey”–the articulated wooden snake she’d chosen from Chinatown. Bless them, the girls went with it. Friends do that.

I have found my “movie friends”–the one or two who get into crazy predicaments and throw out fabulous one liners, who stick by you when times are stupid or hard, who make you laugh till you pee when you really just want to throw yourself out a window, who make you feel like the best version of yourself, and who can sit with you and be ok with your weird inner world.622675ac21c2d1d7a543311c03df7488ad6a5c1211e73ee7bbeb4cdb3d02fccf

I’m an introvert. I do Alone well. I enjoy Alone.
So this is the furthest from The Shire I’ve ever been. I’m going to miss some people. Three people. So much.
Let’s be real, I miss my friends who are far away. But somehow this is different.
Maybe it’s because I’m the one not going anywhere and the three of them are leaving. A Diaspora of Awesome, if you will.
There are three women I’ve laughed with here whom I will miss in a bone-deep way. Three women to whom I’ve actually bonded the way I imagine people bond with friends in high school or college. Three women whom I would totally watch a movie about.

I was in a Bible study for a few months that turned out to be my jam. I can’t even really explain why–on the page it looked very clearly laid out and logical but when I read the assignment each week I felt like it was completely formless and required flying by the seat of one’s pants. Essentially, it was precisely how my students must have felt when I gave them assignments in Freshman Composition classes. Made both no sense and all the sense to me.
I’ve been able to process and write in a way I haven’t felt able to in a while. And I’ve had a wonderful sort of anticipation with each assignment. Like God was going to really show me something each time.
So with the last week of class I was pretty pumped. I told God48324 that I would like to read something about friends and saying goodbye and having peace and not being sad and getting brave. Annnnnnnnd go!
Nothing.
For three days.
Not gonna lie, was pretty disappointed. Thanks a lot, God.
The next morning I resorted to sullenly flipping through my Bible. My eye dropped to the bottom edge of a page and saw “But even if he does not…” There’s a song I love of late and that phrase is the main chorus, so I stopped to see what was happening here.
It was about Daniel.
And his three friends–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In a nutshell, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in a fiery furnace which had been heated to seven times its normal heat (cuz a regular people-burning-furnace wasn’t enough…) when they would not serve false gods. They speak as a unit; there are no individual lines from each of them. They don’t know that God WILL save them, only that He CAN. And that’s enough for them.

Now. There are plenty of individual lines from my friends and me. And they are brilliant. None of us has known what will happen next,

desktop-1406691714

which is great

and we’ve had plenty to say about how jacked up a few things have been. But as a unit, and as part of an even greater unit, we’ve been able to wait. To not act too rashly. To remind each other that God can do this thing, but even if He does not, we will not give up our hope in Him.
Wednesday has been my other Sunday. It’s been how I pace and center and recharge and motivate. But with a lot more communion. And a tiny bit of cussing.

We’ve all been here less than a year. We’ve really only been getting together for a few months but the fire has been heated to seven times its normal heat. Bad stuff has gone down while we’ve been here. Broken spines and major surgeries, reoccurring illnesses, peeing blood, shingles, disturbing revelations–and that’s just my house. My three friends have had even more intense issues thrown at them. But, for me, knowing I will see them Wednesday, have a glass or nine of something festive, listen to their stories, and tell them mine, anchors my week.

I don’t know how the silver refining process works. I looked up a few things on the internet and I still don’t really have anything. I thought it would be a great metaphor of transformation from bits of metal and ore or whatever to this beautiful valuable silver after going through the fires. Dude. There are alloys, coppers, sulfides, light measurements, assaying techniques–forget it. I’m not skilled enough to make any of that mean my friends are beautiful and precious and strong.96e1996482068215613365280ef50400

So let me just tell you: My friends are Beautiful and Precious and Strong.

Jesus is absolutely my anchor, but these people have been the links connecting me more securely to Him. As much as I will miss their presence, these friends leave me with powerful outlines on my heart’s wall. Being blasted in a furnace leaves marks and I hope I never stop trying to walk like they do–with courageous and quiet strength, enduring and focused intensity, and an all encompassing joy and energy to not only do battle with this life like Boudica on speed but also to love the journey and infuse every person encountered with encouragement and hope and proof that the fire can always get hotter and the seas can always get rougher, but the Anchor will take the heat. The Anchor will hold.

Now,

bring me that horizon

and a box of Kleenex.

In Which Christina Tries to Find the Poetry in “Breaking One’s Ass at the Bowling Alley”

pT5reBKac

Spoilers: There is no poetry in breaking one’s ass at the bowling alley.

And even sadder, this was not even my most epic fail.

So, picture it– the Ft. Leavenworth Strike Zone, moments after leaving a child home with her father, in a fit of rage and tears and possibly blood because the toy she’d ordered with her piggy bank money and which was scheduled to arrive that day did not in fact materialize with her sibling’s order. (This is an entirely different story of pain, anger, and ultimate redemption.) “I’ll just take Auggie and Mal,” I said. “It will be fun,” I said.

My lovely friends had set up the bumper lanes and there was an adorable little alligator slide for Auggie to push his ball down. We donned our stylish shoes and set up our screens. Then I proceeded to burn 4,000 calories whilst deflecting my youngest son’s attempts to bowl everyone’s turn, lift 10 pound toe-crushing balls, eat various snacks that did not belong to him, and essentially run betwixt and between every other human’s legs while they tried to send heavy orbs spinning down the intensely waxed lanes. All while trying to remember to cheer for my oldest son’s valiant efforts to hurl a ball only slightly heavier than his own person down a narrow lane using arms the length of a bald eagle’s wingspan and the width of a walky talky antenna.
Remember that “intensely waxed lane” part. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

So, all went All-American-Family well for about 8 minutes. And then Auggie decided he must and WILL follow the pink ball to its destination. The child may be shaped like an overstuffed Peep but he’s surprisingly fast. I honestly don’t remember anything but trying to grab his shoulder and taking 2 or 3 rapid steps when suddenly all was silent, I was closing my eyes, and the briefest of thoughts scrolled across my brain like a banner flying behind a retro bi-plane that I remember soaring across the cloudless sky when we would go to the beach as children: “ooooh maaaaaan, this is going to huuuuurrrrttt…”
I was not wrong.

I’ve fallen on my tailbone three times. Each marked by significant humiliation. The first time I had to pay my brother a dollar to go across the street and tell my mother that I was hurt and couldn’t stand up. (It may or may not have been payback for that time I broke his collarbone.) ((Bygones.))
The second time was in an English farmhouse at the lovely party of a dear friend. I had just reached my post-baby body goal and was wearing a darling vintage-inspired tea dress with my favorite seamed stockings and platform shoes. I remember every detail. I was carrying a beautifully delicate heirloom china plate to the kitchen, relishing the sound of my awesome shoes clopping across the old wooden floorboards, thinking how amazing I must look when–Lo there did I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they did call me, they bid me take my place among them, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever.
For I knew: I was going to die.
My friend’s two bulldogs. At a dead run. Where are they going? And why with such swiftness? I thought briefly as I continued walking toward them, as one continues toward impending doom. ‘Tis inevitable. ‘Tis fated.
Later, I would replay it countless times. I do to this day, 7 years later. There was nothing I could have done, save dive out of their path and into a curio cabinet or innocent bystander. My main concern at that moment was to preserve the plate. I don’t know why. In the same way I don’t know why singing Ole’ McDonald Had a Farm during labor helps me focus.
With each step, my shin met a solid, speeding animal. Two legs, two animals weaving betwixt and between them. Allow me to break it down for you: in the course of 2 strides, my legs made contact with a dog at least 4 times so that my body had no choice but to both pitch forward and then rear backward. And the whole time, my eyes were focused on that china plate. I watched it reach forward, rise up, and then float above me, ever connected to my hand, ever safe, ever preserved.
Not so my dignity.
Moments later, seated and swatting mortified tears from my eyes as stealthily as I could while assuring people–all the people–that I was fine, Sam showed up. Conspiringly, he leaned in, “Did you hear about the poor girl who fell? Legs up in the air and everything, poor thing.”
Screen-Shot-2014-07-24-at-10.22.30-PM.png

The coccyx. Apparently a vital part of our anatomy. Having an injured one inhibits many activities, such as rising from a seated position at any speed other than glacial, bending down, picking up, laying down, lifting, etc. Standing is fine. Walking is fine. So essentially, I’m like the bus in Speed. I just can’t ever, ya know, stop. No problem.

I’ve tried blaming Amazon for this. Why couldn’t you put BOTH Dinotrux in the same effing box? And the United States Postal Service. Why couldn’t you put BOTH boxes on the same truck? Then we could have all gone bowling together and maybe Auggie’s impulse to run down a waxed-to-hell bowling lane would have been thwarted. But then…what if Sam had been the one to try and catch him? What if he’d been the one to fall and had reinjured his spine?
So let’s say this: I’m glad it was me.
Let’s also say this: We’re not taking Auggie bowling again for quite some time.

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.

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.

Hello! My name is…wait, what was the question?

I need lots of positive reinforcement. Every once in a while I’ll google my name to see what comes up, both in images and in links, but always with my maiden name–because without the “Rauh” all I get are the menacing facial expressions of one Laurence Fishburne. A few years ago I bailed on a self-publication right before it was to be actually published and right after I had made my last of 4 nonrefundable payments of 500 dollars. Because, if you’re gonna face-plant in shame, go all in. Anyway, I can’t even look at those 6 copies of that book without seeing that could have been a Tiffany’s bangle scroll through my mind and hanging my head under the disgrace of it all, but thanks to the indifferent colossus that is Amazon.com, it appears online that I am a real author. So every few months I pretend that it’s true. Recently, googling my name presented me with charming pictures of myself and my family, lots of Korean Drama actors, the obligatory random Laurence Fishburne stuff, and a starkly black and white phrase clip art: “Eat Shit And Die.”
Huh. Interesting. I could have been quite confused by this. Should have been. But it almost made sense that day. My name conjured that weird collection of images. This was a trail of where I’d been, an acid trip pirate’s map of people I love, my interests, and cyber-wanderings. If a stranger, say a renowned publisher looking for undiscovered mediocre writers to take under his wing and sky-rocket to heights of fame and recognition previously undreamt, were to use my name as a search for clues as to my character, “Eat Shit And Die” might be off-putting.
But do I look like I care?

teacup

Does it bother me that my name should bring up such a command? No. Not really. Know what bothers me?

THIS.

THIS.

And also that my hair is falling out in a post-pardem cascade of horror.

***

I printed out Boss of the Bathroom on my printer. Used up valuable black ink for this. Black ink that I will not be able to replace unless I also replace all three color ink cartridges at the same time. Color cartridges that are perfectly fine. I find the needless replacing of still full ink cartridges to be inordinately infuriating. BUT ANYWAY–Boss of the Bathroom. I started the story when I was in third grade. I finished it after Malcolm was born twenty years later.
This is not War and Peace, people. It’s not so much that I am a meticulous writer. My stories do not require hours of detailed research. It’s more that I am really slow to process my thoughts, easily distracted, and kind of don’t really have anything to say for long periods of time. So I keep it in the back of my mind that I have this finished story (!!!) and I will self-publish it when I’m at a low point to make myself feel productive. Just printing it out on my stupid little printer made me feel like the day wasn’t a complete wash. It flashed me back to the times in the computer lab at school, printing off a completed (!!!) story for workshop, and feeling all optimistic and clean and full of promise. Printing Boss of the Bathroom at my little desk in the kitchen that day made me feel full of promise again. I was 8 years old again. I was 27 again. It was all in front of me.

I am 36 years old. That’s almost 40. That’s, like, a real adult. I’ve always imagined 36 year old women have real problems and expensive purses. They have places to be. Responsibilities. Baggage.
So far, I feel ok. Though, the hair thing is disconcerting as hell.

What I see in the mirror after washing my hair.

What I see in the mirror after washing my hair.

I am old enough now that I can “look back” at my life and see a relatively interesting story. The Web Images that come up in my Life Google are flashes of a great childhood, painless (in retrospect) High School years, dramatic wartime romance, travel, beautiful babies, wonderful friends, essentially: a happy and fulfilling life. A daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother. But there’s always a little nagging feeling. A small blank space when I scroll through the images. Something is just not there that I feel needs to be there. It’s like looking in my rear view mirror at the NEVER centered baby seat mirror. I know (because of the screaming) that something is not right but all I can see is that his left knee is perfectly fine. This nagging is not a spiritual emptiness–far from it. It’s that I’m supposed to be doing something and I’m not doing it. I am indeed this wife and mother and friend and sister and daughter that people know, but there’s that “aaaannnnnnddd?” in the back of my mind.

***

My sweet first born child had a lapse into hooliganism a few weeks ago. Who knows why, but he thought it would be a great idea to etch his name into a teacher’s car bumper. Now, there is nothing good about this, but I can at least be grateful that the bumper in question had already been in an accident and is about to be replaced so the restitution required will be covered by a 7 year old’s allowance savings and a week of Anti Scratch Scrubbing during recess. Was it peer pressure? Was it showing off? Was it art? Doesn’t matter. It was what we in the business call “A Bad Choice.” But along side the embarrassment and concern that this episode is a foreshadowing of future visits to local penitentiaries comes the completely inappropriate chuckle. He was doing something wrong but was still innocent enough to choose his own name as the carving.

Adorable. But not a bright future in trade craft.

Adorable. But not a bright future in trade craft.

I’ve got all these perfectly fine ink cartridges but the thing I need to communicate won’t print. I know who I am. I like who I am, and my friends and family like who I am. That should be enough. What is it that makes me want my name to mean something to people who don’t know me? What is compelling me to write this? There’s no way on earth I’d ever SAY these things to anyone. The idea of it just made me take a deep calming breath. I don’t talk about my feelings. I can think of nothing more terrifying. But apparently I can write about them all day like an absolute fool. And actually HOPE someone reads them. When it’s out there I feel both relieved and shy. A risk taken, but safe. It’s singing loud, but only if sure of being drowned out–like say, belting out Gershwin show tunes while vacuuming. I’m not saying I do that. Ever.