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Gratuitous, Part 2

27 Apr

Whine: There has to be a way to get through Target without Brother Bear alerting every pitying grandma and bewildered stockboy that I am violating his 8th Amendment rights. Because half-an-hour (ok, maybe it was an hour) in Target is the cruelest form of punishment.

Cheese: By the time he had hollered his way through the store with me carrying him and pushing the cart and spilling out my whole purse in the checkout line, one of the managers came over and said “Hon, you’re gonna need a carryout.” and called a handy little teenage boy over to shove all my groceries into the front seat of my car (although there was only frozen food this time, so I was left to weigh the pros and cons of eating the taquito still frozen.)

gra·tu·itous  \grə-ˈtü-ə-təs, -ˈtyü-\

2 a : given unearned or without recompense b : not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration c : costing nothing : free

No cheese was harmed in the making of this photo. Right.

As far as baby gifts go (and I’ve gotten my fair share in the last five years), I’ve come to realize that nothing says “Welcome, Baby” quite like a cheese plate and a bottle of wine. A plate filled with hand-selected cheeses, just for me, I mean, Brother Bear. For a coupon clipper like me, a cheese plate feels sinfully extravagant. Each piece tastes a little bit like guilt as it smoothly melts into my mouth and I wash it down with a sparkling sheraz.

This last month has felt a little bit like a never-ending cheese plate. Wonderful. Decadent. Embarassing. 

Every few days the doorbell would ring and someone would be standing there holding grilled chicken fajitas or sesame beef and broccoli or homemade mac and cheese still hot and bubbly from the oven. There would usually be a salad, with the tiny grape tomatoes sliced in half. Who has time to wash tiny tomatoes, let alone slice them in half?? And the brownies, we could talk all day about the brownies. And the cookies. And the pound cake. 

As I would let each day’s fairy foodmother in to drop off her bounty, she would step over the wet towels in the entryway and the laundry baskets in the living room and would shove the open chip bags aside to find counterspace for the feast she had prepared for my family, I was struck with a sense of guilt. These people have lives. Kids, babies, full-time jobs, papers to grade and/or to write, much more urget things to do than make sure each and every enchilada has enough cheese (and yes, they sure did!). Yet here they are serving my family.

It’s hard to accept help. To know that if it weren’t for some blessed woman making chicken parmesan amidst ankle-biters tearing apart her living room, my family would be eating a frozen pizza, again. Heated up if I was feeling generous. It’s hard because when I let someone help me, I feel like maybe if I had it all together I wouldn’t need to inconvenience them with my ravenous appetite.

So mixed in with the immense gratitude and the deliciously full belly and the relief that tonight’s dinner does NOT involve pepperoni, there’s a dollop of guilt, with just a pinch of shame. I shouldn’t need their help. I should be able to do this alone. But the truth is, I do need help and I can’t do it alone.

Presents keep showing up at my house, too. Books and magazines to read while I nurse the baby. Tiny little shoe-socks. Diapers galore. And money, too, because apparently people who have had babies realize these things ain’t cheap and feel sorry for me. The tooth fairy even stopped by one day with this, which is not baby related but very useful:

Cheaper than a root canal. Trust me.

This is my third baby. I don’t expect anyone else to be as excited as I am. I don’t expect anyone to help me. I don’t expect presents, although I do really like them. So all this hoop-lah has been fantastic and refreshing and appreciated, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it because I didn’t earn it. I get the uneasy feeling that I don’t deserve any of this.

And I don’t. Not because I’m a bad person and I’m unworthy (although I’ve got record high score at “I’m not worthy” the arcade game), but because true love and compassion and friendship don’t come because I deserve it. That would put me in the driver’s seat, always trying to earn more, always looking for my next handout of kindness. And deserving everything I get would rob me of this small little feeling that bubbles up from inside every now and again, this little tiny part of me that feels thankful instead of embarrassed or indebted.

After blessing upon blessing, help and handouts and electric toothbrushes, I’ve found myself heading to a new place. A place of gratitude. I’m pretty sure the friend who brought the king ranch chicken would rather me serve it with a pinch of gratefulness than a side of self-loathing.

So since this is my blog and I haven’t quite managed to write a single thank-you note yet, I want to say a very big THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR EVERYTHING. And not just for the dinners and presents. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog or for calling me repeatedly until I answer or forcing me to go to the park and even just reading this blog, because getting one more reader might be the most productive thing I do in a day. Thank you for being excited about Brother Bear, and fighting over who gets to hold him (even if you do live a thousand miles away) although he mostly just sleeps and eats and hollers in public. I can say this honestly, the last five weeks have been better because of you.

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Big Baby

14 Mar

Whine: I have officially sunk to a new low. For the first time since college, I’ve gone out in public in my pajama pants. What would Stacey and Clinton say?? I don’t really care, I’d like to see Stacey rock those kitten heels with a watermelon protruding from her front.

Cheese: They are very cute pajama pants.

Friday I had a root canal.

Yes, you heard me correctly. I decided that the best thing for me to do at 9 1/2 months pregnant would be to schedule an emergency root canal. You know, sort of like a dress rehearsal of pain for what’s coming up here pretty soon.

Let me tell you something about myself, in case you didn’t already know: I am a whimp. A pansy. A big baby. When I had my last big baby (aka Lil’ Sis) I had an epidural. Ok, I’ll be honest, I actually had two.

Friday at my friendly dentist’s office was no exception. After much poking, prodding and trepidation over poking and prodding a woman as pregnant as me, (Um could you please not go into labor? Yeah, thanks.) the dentist injected me with some Lidocaine. And then some more Lidocaine. Then she poked me some more. Can you feel this? Yep. This? Yep. Really? Mmm hmm. . . And so she gave me some more. And poked some more. Still feeling it. She called the other dentist in, who repeated the whole scenario. At the end of the day, I ended up needed 5 1/2 shots of Lidocaine (which means six pokes with a needle longer than I’d really ever like to see anywhere near my mouth agan) just to get a quarter of my mouth numb.

Once they finally removed all capacity for feeling from my mouth (which took an hour) the rest of the procedure wasn’t too bad. Except the part where I was lying flat on my back like a bloated turtle. And the part where I had to stop the dentist mid-torture to waddle mouth stuck open with some torture-related device to use the bathroom because, well, I’m hugely pregnant. And the part where they told me how much the whole episode was going to cost me, which led to the part where I was driving home and had to pull over because I was hyperventilating.

Once I stopped needing paper-bag-assisted breathing, I got myself a strawberry milkshake then took a monster nap. When I awoke, I discovered the part of a root canal that gives it it’s horrific reputation. Yeah, it’s the after part. When you wake up from your nap and the whole left side of your mouth feels like a giant throbbing mass of horribleness. And when you try to eat a mushy banana and accidentally chew on the wrong side and it feels as if there’s a tiny little ginsu knife going down into your nerves. I felt like I should have pulled one of these to make the pain desist:

Did I mention that I’m a big baby? Like it’s not obvious.

Ok, maybe I’m not a big baby. Perhaps I’m just . . . sensitive. Yes, that’s it, I’m very sensitive. Delicate, you might say. If by delicate you mean getting upset and close to tears when I realize that the Old Navy coupon I’ve been saving until I can escape the confines of my home without my children who behave like wild banshees in clothing stores is actually expired and I can’t use it after all. Or that someone ate the last piece of corn on the cob and I didn’t get any (but that was totally fair because I was newly pregnant then and could barely eat anything without hurling and corn on the cob actually sounded good and it was just so sad because I really was just so hungry).

So maybe I’m a bit oversensitive, and, yes, perhaps occasionally a modicum of logical thought might be of assistance as I deal with real life instead of the cry until I fall asleep approach. But there are positive aspects to being a complete bleeding heart.  Like rescuing stray puppies (ok, can’t say I’ve ever done that) or empathizing so much with the team who didn’t win the Superbowl you need a Pepto (I have definitely done that). 

And tell me this, when you spill the two ounces of breastmilk it took you an hour to pump or your seventeen year-old cat finally gives up the ghost and you’re heartbroken even though you didn’t actually like the cat, who are you going to call? Your “logical” and “rational” friend who “doesn’t cry over spilled milk or old dead cats” or the one who’s guaranteed to feel your pain and then some? That’s what I thought.

Remember That Thing I Said About Compassion?

14 Jan

In my previous post, I talked about the many different ways that people in my life have seen my pain and jumped in to help. Then I challenged all of us to find a way to do the same for someone else.

Here’s your chance.

The capital city of one of the poorest countries in the world lies in ruins today. People who on Tuesday morning began with very little, by Tuesday evening, had lost everything. Their world is in chaos and uproar.

As I watch the coverage from the safety and comfort of my couch, I’m tempted to change the channel back to Wheel of Fortune or something less hopeless. But I stay in the moment, in the misery, because the people running for their lives, searching for their families and desperate for hope are exactly that. They are people.

President Obama came on this morning and gave his statement on the situation. I was particularly struck when he directly addressed the people of Haiti. He said to them, “I want you to know that you are not alone. The American People stand with you.”

I pray today that you will stand with the people of Haiti. With your prayers and with your checkbooks. I know many of you have already done this, but if all you need is an opportunity, please visit one of the sites below and find out more about how you can show mercy at this time of devastation.

World Vision  

Compassion International

Red Cross (via text message)