Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Musings on the Offspring

I would like to say a few words about the Offspring. They are truly delightful people: witty, caring, intelligent. Herself and I love them with a visceral devotion. There is no doubt that we would throw ourselves between Danger and the Offspring without hesitation: we would lay down our lives for them, unquestioningly.

Like all other young people, the Offspring are still developing into the individuals that they will be as adults - and this evolution requires, at times, moments of irritation, mild horror, disbelief, and frustration. There is no way to mentally will the Offspring to do certain things, or not to do certain other things. They are their own selves and no matter what we teach them, they will behave as they will.

We must walk the line between holding their hands and letting go. We must allow them them to fall, and yet be there to pick up the pieces and set them right again. We must put their needs ahead of our own, making daily sacrifices, both large and small.

Sometimes we feel that we are in danger of losing ourselves, no longer being a "me" but only being "someone's parent." We feel guilty when we do things without them, whether it be taking a walk by ourselves or talking with a friend for a few extra minutes. And yet, how can we give so much to them, if we do not take a little bit for ourselves on occasion?

Parenting is so difficult a job, and we often doubt our abilities. Are we doing the right things? Are we holding too tightly? Too loosely? Can we truly protect them from harm? Can we stand by and watch them make their own mistakes so that they will learn from them? We do the best that we can, and only time will tell what kind of adults the Offspring will become.

Adrienne Rich has captured the sentiments of the moment for us:

My children cause me the most exquisite suffering of which I have any experience. It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness. Sometimes I seem to myself, in my feelings toward these tiny guiltless beings, a monster of selfishness and intolerance.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Herself has been to the doctor to address her health concern. She is much more cheerful now that she has a treatment plan in place, and she is optimistic that this issue will be appropriately resolved in due course. She is required to momentarily suspended certain activities in order to allow the medications to heal her properly, but is hopeful that she may return to her regularly scheduled programming soon. In the meanwhile, she is grateful that the body machinery appears (with the exception of this one problem) to be functioning well. That is a Very Good Thing, indeed.

The wish for healing has ever been the half of health. - Hippolytus

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Herself has mentally curled inwards in an attempt to address a recurrent health issue that, while generally manageable and usually tolerable, always strikes her emotionally to the core. She does not discuss it with anyone except for her Beloved, and with him only rarely, but that lone tear of frustration forging a trail down her face when she thinks no one is watching gives away her thoughts.

I can do nothing for her except sit in silent companionship with her. For this small act, though, she is grateful.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

- Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 22, 2010

Junior Prom

Herself took Offspring the First out to purchase a prom dress this weekend. The outing had potential to be quite fraught, as Offspring the First is a tiny young lady with a similarly difficult-to-dress figure as Herself (an abundance of cleavage, but narrow hips). Fortunately, the Gods of Formalwear smiled down upon them, and an appropriate garment was indeed found and mercifully agreed upon by both Offspring and Herself.

While Offspring the First wrestled with the various selections in the dressing room, Herself had ample opportunity to reflect upon her own junior prom, twenty-six years ago.

Herself had a crush on a boy who attended the brother school to her all-girls' school, and was delighted that he responded in the affirmative when she summoned her courage and asked him to escort her to the prom. Herself's grandmother, an extremely talented seamstress, made a beautiful dress for Herself. As neither her date nor Herself could drive, her date's mother provided transportation.

Ah, but the potential of the prom shriveled even more quickly than the corsage that wilted on Herself's wrist. While the particulars of the event have faded in Herself's memory, one moment stands out in its ability to summarize the tone of the evening:

On the way home, her date sat in the front seat with his mother, while Herself sat alone in the back seat.

Over a quarter of a century later, a bit of age and wisdom have taught her that her wretchedly uncomfortable date was well out of his element that evening, and she thinks of him fondly for agreeing to escort her despite his unease. While her buried teenage self still wonders whether it was her unattractiveness that caused the problem, her current self thinks that is unlikely - she hopes.

All she truly knows, though, is that she would not want to suffer the slings and arrows of adolescence again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be strong and beautiful through all the seasons."

- Kahlil Gibran, The Madman

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Herself had a violent, virulent gastrointestinal virus over the past several days. Rarely is she so flattened by an illness. She was touched by the amount of care she received from the family. Unbidden, her Beloved actually worked at home one afternoon so that he could shuttle two of the Offspring to the orthodontist and the dogs to the vet. He also warmed broth and provided crackers for her. Offspring the third made Herself a Biohazard sign and taped it to her bedroom door, and then prepared her a tray of easily-digestible breakfast without being asked. Offspring the first and second soldiered on as well as possible, foraging meals for themselves and for Offspring the third.

She is on the mend now, mercifully. Her Beloved looks quite relieved that Herself is better, and the Offspring have reverted to their usual expectations of Mom Handles Everything. While she would like to forget the distress of the illness as soon as possible, she would like to hold on to those moments when others looked after her for a change. It was a rare and much-welcome comfort.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Herself has one particular relative who, every time there is any family gathering, large or small, invariably recounts at least one story or makes a particular commentary about "Fat People." When this relative travels, there is always one Fat Person story about some individual on the plane who was taking up more than his or her allotted share of the airspace. When this relative goes to the grocery store, there is a description of the snack food aisle and remarks on how that aisle always seems to have Fat People in it. Then there is general Fat Person Health Discourse, about whether the Fat People realize they are jeopardizing their health by being fat, as well as criticism of those who provide food for the very Fat People. Like clockwork, this relative works the Fat People into the conversation with every visit.

Herself is thoroughly tired of the Fat People observations put forth by this relative. Being inherently nonconfrontational, she typically greets the Fat People discourse with polite silence or topic-changing words. For what she would like to say requires more than three sentences, so she cannot put forth her thoughts coherently in these situations. What she wants most to say is something along the lines of this:

People have complex relationships with food. Food is love, consolation, companion. Feeding other people is a devotion from the very beginning: every mother who puts a baby to her breast knows that she is giving of herself, far beyond feeding her infant. Eating is a filling of an emptiness that goes beyond the contents of a stomach; it is the placating of a stress, a discomfort, a loneliness or a sorrow that dwells deep within. Eating is also a a delight, a joy to the senses. Enjoyment of a good meal, either alone or in company, is one of the greatest pleasures there is.

People know when they are overweight. People know when their loved ones are overweight, too. They know what the health risks are. But sometimes -- many times -- food is the only thing that momentarily eases the void within, or is the only language that two people can share. And many other times, the gratification of a bountiful culinary experience is far more valuable than calorie-counting.

It's time to acknowledge that being a Fat Person is not a character flaw or a sign of ignorance or apathy towards one's health. We all have needs as human beings. Food fulfills a wide variety of those needs. A smile and a few friendly words would do far more good to any person, Fat or Not, than whispered judgement or criticizing glances.

Do not bestow your good will solely upon those people who fit your approved physical critera. No one truly knows what dwells in another person's heart.

Be kind.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Now that the weather is warm, the Big Oafish family dog likes to spend her time lying outside in the sun. When she finally comes inside, she is absolutely covered in tiny dead grass bits, sometimes with a few leaves interspersed for good measure. While it is irritating to have to clean up all the dessicated plant life from the floor and the couch, it is quite entertaining to see the sheer volume of material she wears each time.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

The temperature is warmer, the trees are shyly offering tiny buds to the sun, and the flowers are beginning to color the once-drab desert terrain. The air holds a promise of infatuation. How I love the spring.

Herself and I are struggling with so many thoughts crowding about in our brains like bees awoken from hibernation. Much to say, and where to begin?

She would like to write about the difficulty of enduring the long hours her Beloved spends working. She plainly says that she rarely sees him, or that he does not do things around the house because he is hardly ever there, but those simple statements belie the complexity of emotions she hides. She misses him. She is lonely. She does not want to be like other women she knows, counting the hours and the nights that their husbands are away and withholding affection for the ransom of attention.

She knows that everything he does has a purpose and a meaning, and she never begrudges him the time away. She would also like him to have opportunities to enjoy his hobbies, even if it means that she sees him even less. Yet, it is so difficult to refrain from asking, "When will you be home?" Even though she knows the only answer he can give is, "I don't know." It is hard, and she does not have the right words.

She would like too, to write about her friends, who have been life rafts when the tide of loneliness has threatened to wash her out to sea. They warm her heart and bring her joy. They keep her company and talk to her. They listen and support her when she is self-critical and grumpy. They tolerate when she e-mails them with mundane blather. They let her make them muffins. They recount her favorite types of jokes, and they hug her. They let her help them.

It is soothing to her soul to care for them. Yet admitting how fond she is of them makes her too well aware of the risk she has taken in making friends. Where will she find the strength to do without them, if she must? They are her strength. How can she explain? She does not have the right words.

She knows the shapes and the shadows of these thoughts, yet cannot paint a verbal picture clearly enough to satisfy her.

She and I will search until the right words make themselves plain. In the erstwhile, we will borrow once more from one of our favorite poets:

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

- Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Going To The Dogs

It is loneliness that makes the loudest noise. This is true of men as of dogs.

~ Eric Hoffer

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


It is not alone the fact that women have generally had to spend most of their strength in caring for others that has handicapped them in individual effort; but also that they have almost universally had to care wholly for themselves.

- Anna Garlin Spencer