Sunday, April 26, 2009

Transitional thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions.

I’m sure this is related to the recent situation here at home, what with joblessness and job-searching and the [now-at-least-temporarily-eliminated] possibility of role reversals between Todd and me. And I’m certain that I’m still thinking about changes in part because Todd is still in the midst of transition, and will be for a while; he’s started a new job, at a new company, in a different field of work. He’s trying to absorb a lot of information as quickly as possible, and he talks about how overwhelming it is when he gets home—so I’m experiencing the transition vicariously, if you will.

I suppose I’m also thinking about it because of changes within our church, some long past, some recent, some current and upcoming. They all make me ponder what the future holds for this body of believers, many of whom have taught us much and have become friends on the journey.

And I’m faced with undeniable transitions in my son, of course—every day he grows, learns a skill, discovers a new pastime or toy or treat to embrace. He’s a walking change machine. And there are some changes in me, although not nearly so pleasant to observe: lines, droops, the occasional wiry gray hair…but enough about that.

I’ve always been one to scoff at people who fear change. I claim to love change, to accept it and even seek and encourage it when need be. And I still believe that is true. Change is healthy; as our pastor reminded us today, “Healthy things grow, and growing things change.” So true. But age and experience have added a new dimension to my comprehension of the side effects of change. Whereas I used to see transitions as refreshing and a little bit dizzying, now I also see the downside: transitions reveal fissures in the big picture—some tiny, some not so—and those fissures often grow and lead to more transition. It’s almost as if change is the catalyst for more change.

And why not? I recall my pregnancy (although I honestly try not to), and being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The nurse likened pregnancy to an extended stress test of sorts, explaining that often, a pregnant state reveals other issues that are or will likely soon be amiss in the woman’s body. She recalled cases of pregnant woman uncovering not just diabetic tendencies, but beginning stages of heart problems and even multiple sclerosis. That huge change the expectant female body goes through is just the sort of stressful transition to cause other tiny cracks to grow and spread until they, too, are discernable, diagnosable concerns of their own. They weren’t really caused by pregnancy, they probably would have happened anyway at some point, but there it is—pregnancy can egg on other ailments until they all start showing up as an ugly package deal. Transition begets transition—at least in that case it does.

So, perhaps every change is a mini-stress test, and often it reveals the fissures that are hidden in the infrastructure but would have waited quietly until later if not forced into noticeable existence by the stress of the first change. Does it happen that way in relationships? In work situations? In neighborhoods, government, communities and culture? I think so.

Maybe that’s the way life is supposed to be. If transitions didn’t build on each other and didn’t happen in clusters, then there’d never be any down time between clusters where you could catch your breath and be comforted by the thought that you have a slight clue what tomorrow will bring. Or maybe I’m just fooling myself; maybe there is no such thing as down time, and probably none of us will ever have a clue what tomorrow will bring. Maybe when you stop transitioning, when change stops occurring in your life, then you’re done.

Could it be that simple? Change or stop living?

Wow. Too deep for me. I think the sudden heat outside has gone to my head.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Good news and—once again—perspective

This past week has been an odd one. Mostly good, some bad, but definitely somewhat odd.

I shouldn't downplay the mostly good part, because it is quite good indeed. Make sure you're sitting down: Okay. Ready? Todd found a job! He started today. Isn't that a miracle all by itself? In this stinky economy, my dear hubby managed to land a job at the very first company to which he sent his post-layoff resume. It's been a long few weeks, but upon re-examination, I can see God's hand in much of what's occurred here recently. I still don't know all the whys of what's happened, but I feel pretty certain that this new employer is exactly where Todd needs to be right now.

So hallelujah, we are very grateful!

And on a completely different note, I was still quietly celebrating my husband's new job on Saturday morning as I dressed in my best, made certain the boy didn't have chocolate on his face, and drove the two of us to a nearby funeral home--to pay respects to a friend who'd just lost her husband.

There we stood in a crowded throng of mourners; while one part of me deep in my soul was still singing "tra-la-la, thank you Lord," the bigger public part of me was embracing this woman whose world has fallen in around her and her young sons. A woman who, just a few days ago, was probably feeling pretty normal. A woman who has such a bigger obstacle than no job.

It was a strange experience, to have my huge concern first solved, then completely dwarfed in the face of a genuine catastrophe. Our very real problem suddenly feels a bit like a persistent hiccup when it's juxtaposed with a life-altering tragedy.

What have I learned through this experience? Hmmmmm. I'm still learning. Mostly, I think I need to consider my blessings instead of my losses, and praise God more. I need to remember that there are no guarantees; each time I see someone, it may be the last time. I need to remember that this place, this fallen world, is a temporary home and perhaps I shouldn't even unpack my bags, really.

Does anyone else out there recall the TV show Hill Street Blues? "Let's be careful out there." And while we're at it, let's be thankful and caring out there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Checking in

Hi! We're still here. We have not yet fallen off the face of the earth. We're still trucking along. Things have been a tad busy what with Easter and all, church commitments, family events, and mad job searching—not necessarily in that order. I apologize for being the absentee blogger once again. I'll be back with a longer post soon, honestly. In the meantime, I'm sad to say I've missed not one, not two, but THREE tea parties near me. The coldest spring I can recall coupled with ceaseless rain, plus my 4-year-old son, have kept me away. I know that those are terribly non-viable excuses, but I also have a fear of crowds and of losing my child in them. And I forgot to mention that I fear violent alternative tea party crowds full of rabid bleeding-heart liberal types who may cause me to lose my logic by talking nonsense to me without relief for lengthy periods of time. And I might just harbor a silly fear that the ridiculously biased media would witness me being taken away in handcuffs by crazy tax-hungry Marxists and my child kidnapped by those same criminals, and that same media might just forget to report the offense because they had to feature a duck and ducklings in jeopardy instead... Gotta get ratings, you know...

Luckily, people I know are far more cool than me and actually attended the tea parties and told me about them. One person even wrote about it. Check it out! And don't be afraid to speak up.

All truth goes through three stages: First it is ridiculed; second it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.
-Arthur Shopenhauer

Monday, April 6, 2009

The solace of a stranger

Let me begin by telling you that I’m not a big weeper, nor a terribly dramatic person—at least I don’t think so, and I’ve been told by many that I am not.

For obvious looming-healthcare-timeline reasons, the weeks surrounding Todd’s layoff have been, and continue to be, rife with appointments: check-ups, dental cleanings, routine tests, etc. This morning was a bit more challenging than most because it began with a well-child visit for my son—who needed no fewer than five immunizations. That’s right, five. Ouchie.

The kid and I met with the doctor first, and since he’s a great fellow whom we know from church, we ended up talking about the upsetting subject of life and its current challenges,. And then, to further push me over the brink of emotionality, we suffered through the horrific occasion of multiple shots in my son’s arms, me blinking back my own tears as his ran freely (although, truly, he was very brave). And then, several cool band-aids and stickers later, we emerged from the doc’s office, so I could hurry home, leave my red-eyed boy with Daddy, and depart quickly for my dentist appointment. Oh, joy.

(My dentist and all his assistants are lovely people, gentle, friendly, never rough or insensitive to the patient’s discomfort. And I appreciate that, because I don’t know anyone whose pulse doesn’t quicken at least slightly when he sits down in the magic rising chair and entrusts his mouth to someone else. It’s unnerving. And I’m no cryer, but I am a bit of a pansy about the dentist.)

So, on that roller-coaster morning, I was already a tad shaky as I sat down in the big reclining seat, and the poor well-intentioned hygienist asked me how things were going. In retrospect, I am increasingly certain she was asking about the state of my teeth, not my life. And yet—she got the lowdown on my life right now. And she was the picture of concern and kindness. She didn’t assume any overly involved tones, or pry, or ask hot-button questions that would set me off. But she addressed what I had shared; she spoke honestly and with sincerity. Mostly, she just listened and cared. Or convincingly gave the impression that she did. And as we wrapped up the visit, she looked me in the eye, encouraged me, and wished me well. And I have to tell you, not with pride, that my eyes might have welled up a tiny bit and I had to fight the urge to hug her. A woman whom I do not know, an unfamiliar person who has been unfortunate enough to spend time picking and polishing my teeth, whose name I am still not certain I know even though she’s worked on my mouth twice now. I wanted to embrace her.

What is it about near strangers that elicit our deepest reactions sometimes? Do we feel secure, knowing we won’t face them every day? Is it a safe confessional because these people do not depend on us at all and we need not pretend bravery or optimism before them? Is this part of that anonymous appeal that the internet has perfected in so many guises of social networking?

Whatever the reason, I am really grateful for this woman. I am sending her a thank-you note, for doing more than her job—for listening and responding to the human frailty that was displayed before her. And once that little note is sent? (I am happy to report that I already wrote it.) Once that note is on its merry way, I have one more responsibility: to pay it forward by being that caring person to another needy soul on the journey.

Upholding each other is the only way we’ll all make it through these days. Besides, isn’t that a great way to spend Holy Week? There are so many different acts of sacrifice we can make for each other.

I am wishing you a sweet dental hygienist just when you need it most.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Comic relief

It’s hard to stay serious for too long when you hang out with a 4-year-old. Thank goodness. : )

You know you have a young boy in the house when Easter baskets, eggs, and bunnies emerge for the season and are summarily recruited for service in the EHL (Easter Hockey League). That’s what happened here a couple days ago.

Todd dug around in the attic until he uncovered the box of Easter goodies, and we pulled out the baskets, paper grass, plastic eggs, and multiple stuffed rabbits from post-Easter sales of yore. Some last-minute searching in the garage uncovered even more fun finds, including the tiny stuffed Peep Bunny and his buddy Beanie Polka-dot Peep Chick. In a matter of minutes, Marcus had discovered that the pastel eggs went flying when whacked with a hand, which in turn led to his “assisting” the bunnies (that’s proper hockey terminology, right?) as they whacked the eggs around the room. Further investigation revealed that the best pucks were comprised of slightly larger eggs that housed smaller ones inside (apparently, the added weight created more velocity, not the mention that the doubled eggs made a satisfying smacking sound as they impacted furniture, walls, etc.)

And that, my friends, is what you see in these photographs: stuffed Easter critters playing egg hockey (and a small duck sporting a football-turned-hockey helmet.) The blue bunny was exceptionally skilled at slapshots, but Peep Chick was a more-than-talented goalie. It was quite a start to the whole bunny season.

A season which, thankfully, is not about bunnies at all, but about our savior.

Now, get out there and fight! Fight! Fight!!!