48 Hours Into Summer Break: A Report

Jun 14 2014

It’s 48 hours into summer break now. The toilet is clogged and the toilet paper dispenser has finally, after dangling by a thread for years, been ripped completely off the wall.

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and my kids have watched at least 36 cumulative hours of screens, played outside for 12, fussed for 8, been bored for 16 and also, nothing is fair. Nothing

It’s 48 hours into summer break , and I’ve done 7 loads of laundry which means only infinity left to go.

It’s 48 hours into summer break now, and there are sticks and rocks and sand and water on the floors inside my house. And one million Nerf bullets. And countless Goldfish refugees. And thousands of ramen noodle shards. And 9 discarded toast crusts. And 4 pairs of used undies. And that’s just in the family room.

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and I don’t know what’s for dinner. Probably something I forgot to defrost, Kids, just like always, ’cause not everything changes in the summer. 

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and we’ve begun our summer chore chart on a giant piece of poster board. So far, I’ve only had to argue with 3 out of 5 kids about chores, and only one of those has earned 7 extra jobs for being a total punky butt nugget about it. It’s OK, though. Don’t worry about a thing. In the next 48 hours, the remaining 2 kids will become punky butt nuggets, too, and 48 hours after that, I’ll realize it’s not worth my time or effort to maintain and the entire thing will fail utterly. We’ll be back to filth and squalor in no time, I swear. See: State of the Family Room for more information.

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and the calendar is filled to the brim with camps and appointments and get-togethers and go, Go, GO. How does this happen? Seriously. Every year. How??

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and I’m excited for the trips we’ve planned and the pictures we’ll take and the laughs we’ll have and fact that we won’t be late to one single school drop-off or miss any homework assignments ’til September. 

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and I feel a little breathless about how to spend time with my kids, and time with my friends, and time with my family, and time with my husband, and time with myself, all of whom have let me know recently – and kindly – that they feel kind of short-changed at what I can offer them. And they’re right. I can’t offer any of them all of what they need from me. Not even myself. 

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and I’m beginning to understand that releasing my feelings of inadequacy – of not-enoughness – isn’t a one-time or short-term event. It’s like learning to be healthy and learning to be free and learning to be unapologetically myself, a forever event that will take a lifetime to master. Like cleaning the family room and doing the laundry. It just goes on and on, you know? To infinity.

It’s 48 hours into summer break, and I know already it’s going to be a complete and utter mess, except when it’s magnificent. And mundane, except when it’s magical. And that we’ll fail and succeed and fail and succeed and fail again – at things and each other. And somehow, strangely, that’s OK this year. It is, I suspect more and more, what it means to be family and what it means to love one another. To be not enough sometimes. But to be not enough together. 

So, tell me… are you on school break? If so, how far in are you and what’s your report? 

How to Win at Parenting (You Know, More Than Your Partner Wins at Parenting)

Jun 9 2014

I lost last week’s Parenting Competition to my husband, which, to be precise, really Sucked the Sucky Suck.

Now, Greg doesn’t know there’s a weekly Parenting Competition, or that we’re competing at all, because I’ve never told him. Also, he’s nice and not competitive (except during Settlers and Scrabble when he’s kind of a jerk) and so he’s always rooting for me in parenting and in life (but not in board games), but that doesn’t make the Parenting Competition less real. Or me less of its winner. Because winning when no one else knows you’re playing? IS STILL WINNING, friends. Still winning.

In case you’re kind-hearted and a team player (pffttt) like Greg, though, the Competition goes like this: the parents in two-parent families compete against each other, and the one who works harder, who’s more exhausted at the end of every day, and who most convincingly plays the role of martyr wins. 

Throughout the week, each parent accrues points for every task he/she performs. This is works-based, folks, not grace-based. For example, points can be awarded for (but are not limited to) family scheduling, kid transporting, appointment tracking, grocery shopping, errand running, party planning, clothes washing, tear drying, puke cleaning, butt wiping, up picking, nap putting, manners reminding, bread winning, meal prepping, and, of course, for remembering your kids’ birthdates, sizes, food preferences, diagnoses, allergies, friends’ names, teachers, sports practices, recitals, clubs and All the Appointments that are trying to kill you.

Bonus points are awarded for performing any task while sick or with a sick kid in tow. 

OR, if you’re not into tracking specific points, you may alternatively accrue general points by committing to do way, way too much, never asking for help, raging internally about all you’re doing, muttering about how little help you’re getting, and then getting defensive when your partner offers to help reduce your workload. This is my preferred method because I believe it’s important – critical, really – to play to my strengths and live into my areas of giftedness. Throw in a dramatic sigh, toss your hands in the air, and say something along the lines of, “You just don’t GET it!” or “Nevermind, I’ll do EVERYTHING” and you’re a shoe-in for 1st place. Sure fire way to WIN, baby! 

A winner is declared (not necessarily out loud… in your mind is fine) when one parent has clearly out-parented the other. 

And I? I WIN. Like, all the time. 

Except when I realize what I’m doing, and then I don’t win because I try to be kind (gag) and a team player (gross) and communicative and mature and responsible for my own feelings and dysfunctions, which is vulnerable and hard and makes my marriage better in the end. But most of the time I just stuff my feelings with food and the slightest bit of rage… so, WINNING. YAY!

Last week, my oldest kid had foot surgery. Which was planned. And still hard. And painful. And exhausting. And I hate seeing my baby suffer. But ALSO IT WAS AWESOME, because HELLO, OPPORTUNITY TO WIN! 

And I had last week’s Parenting Competition in the bag, I tell you. IN. THE. BAG. Because I was up ALL NIGHT with her, newborn style, every half hour, clicking her ice machine on and off, and on and off, and on and off, and on. For days at a time! EVERY HALF HOUR, man. I set my alarm for EVERY HALF HOUR to ice my baby’s foot, and I threw in some pain meds for her every 3rd hour, and I never, not even once, helped myself to those narcotics. So I deserve, like, a TROPHY, right? 

And it was RAD. I mean, I looked TERRIBLE. Smudgy make-up. Droopy pajamas. No shower for 4 days. Hair wonky. Smelled fantastic. And I didn’t cry at all. Like, ZERO crying. Just stoic and stiff-upper-lip and very I WILL OVERCOME. Very sacrificial. Very LOVING and GIVING and Woe Is Me; I AM DOING ALL THE THINGS.

And, sure, Greg offered to take a night or two or all of them so I could sleep in our bed and he could take a turn on our daughter’s floor. He offered over and over again. And, sure, Greg handled All the Other Things during the week. And, sure, he changed sheets and ran for meds and watched the kids and kept up on his job and handled the bedtimes and checked to see How I Was Doing. But I did not let him help me. I did not let him Win, ’cause I know that ploy. That ploy to pull ahead! And he was NOT going to get away with it. Nope. Not on MY watch.

But Greg is sneaky. And Greg is savvy. And Greg is SMART, darn him, and he keeps thinking with his giant, genius brain, and so, on Day 4 of my Surgery Vigil, Greg offered a solution. A way to make my life easier. He suggested – get this – that we put Abby’s ice machine on a timer. A timer. A timer to automate the on/off cycle so I could sleep, pulling my martyr rug right out from under me like a magician with impeccable timing and expert slight-of-hand, and leaving me standing there, shocked and rugless.

Don’t worry, though; when he offered to set up the timer, I wasn’t nice about it or anything. I sighed and said, “You just don’t GET it!” like a timer was the world’s stupidest way to handle a round-the-clock icing machine, and then I threw my hands in the air dramatically and said, “FINE; set up a timer if you think that’s a good idea,” like I was doing him a favor. And, I know, I know; even though it was clearly the strongest possible comeback under the circumstances, I still know Greg won last week’s round. 

But what I really think you need to take away from this is, I’m winning. You know, in general. I mean, not recently. Recently, I lost the Parenting Competition. Bigtime. But I’m on a Winning Trajectory is what I’m saying. Lifetime Parenting Award! And one teeny, tiny setback will not (will not) determine the outcome of the entire competition. 

(Also, I apologized to Greg.)

The End

P.S. This may not be the best site on the internet for marriage advice.

P.P.S. Or parenting advice.

P.P.P.S. Or, you know, advice of any kind.

An Open Letter to Parents From Your Kids’ Camp Counselors

Jun 5 2014

It’s that time of year again. The time we ready our children… and ourselves… for camp. Camp. With all the camp feelings. Because we parents LOVE camp. Or we don’t love camp. We’re eager for camp. Or nervous. Thrilled. Or scared. Or all of the above, really, because we’re human and so very complex and so very complicated, and so are our kids. Human. Complex. Complicated. Which means they’re quiet and they’re LOUD, great at making friends and just terrible at it, enthusiastic and reluctant, brave and afraid, and they have needs. Needs for friendship, needs for love, needs for encouragement… and developmental needs, medical needs, special needs… and needs, you know? Because HUMANS; we’re a needy bunch from every angle. 

Earlier this week, I talked to a group of camp counselors as part of their pre-camp training. My job? To give them the parental perspective, to push back the curtain, to tell the truth of what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling – what we’re anticipating and what we’re fearing – when we send our kids into their care. But I didn’t want to go in alone, as though I have the One, Right Parental Perspective, because, of course, I’m only equipped to tell my story, after all. So I asked you what you want our college-aged camp counselors to know. 

You replied, as always, with vulnerability and truth and wisdom and grace, and I broke off bits and pieces of your stories like communion bread to pass around the group, and then the communion wine, which was the following reply from Heather Bowie, cut and pasted from a letter she wrote to counselors at a camp for kids with medical issues. Heather writes about her family’s journey and her son, Aiden, who has special needs, at the Team Aiden blog, and I read this letter, word for word, to the counselors:

My child needs magic.

I came to the right place, didn’t I?

All of this bushy tail shaking and Purple Unit’s number one, dancing like you can’t get enough of One Direction and trying to catch the elusive Weepee – it’s just the dose of medicine my child needs.

And it is medicine; you are healers.

The laughter, the songs, the cabin chat listening, the quiet conversation on the way to the boat house – you are filling my child with joy and hope and memories. You have a life giving job.

As do I.

My child is ready for you.

He’s had his chemo and radiation; we placed her catheter and central line just right; beefed him up with Factor; found her therapeutic dose of Depakote; and now he needs camp.

I’m exhausted. This life giving work is draining. I’ve done time in hospitals and school meetings. I’ve done the bedtime routine and medicine routine. I’ve washed my child after playing outside and after vomiting all day. I’ve pounded Ensure with my child and gotten creative with the Keto Diet. I worry, I cry, and man you should hear me advocate.

There’s not much I wouldn’t do for my child.

Like send him to camp…when I’m a bit hesitant. I don’t doubt you. You’re clearly well trained and supported and full of energy and confidence. I love that.

It’s just that I won’t be here and I don’t really know you. I’ve been brave under dire circumstances and gone head to head with powerful people. But you’re coming at me with love and acceptance and joy with a force I’ve rarely seen in my child’s world. It makes me believe in magic…almost. I’ve seen too much pain and experienced too much frustration from failed expectations and felt too much fear to be a full believer.

So forgive me if I call and desperately want you to share one tidbit of my child’s day and reassure me that you really get my child. I’m going to be brave, as brave as my child.

I have big plans this week. I will sleep, spend time with my other children, go on a date with my husband. Simple things, really, but all made more difficult because of my child’s illness. There are things I won’t be doing as well. I won’t be counting meds, I won’t watch what anyone eats, and I won’t listen for seizures. Which reminds me, yes, you can hear my child’s seizures coming. Well, I can because I’ve been listening for years. I don’t really expect you to hear them, but please listen to me when I tell you these little details that may or may not matter. There’s so much I’ll have to let go of this week.

I’m going to be brave, as brave as my child.

Because my child needs camp.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll fill her so full of magic and sunshine and rainbows, that she’ll bring some home too.

 

At the end of our time together, I asked the camp counselors if they had anything they want to share with parents. This is what they said.

ID-100218120An Open Letter to Parents From Your Kids’ Camp Counselors

Dear Parents, 

Thank you. Thank you for trusting us with your whole world, because we know that’s what you’ve handed us — your whole world, and your trust along with it, and we’re grateful.

You should know, we think your kids are the coolest. The coolest. With all their quirks and their gifts and their challenges and their unique qualities, we think your kids are just the coolest, and we’re excited to be their friends. For the time we have them, your kids are our life.

We’re here because there’s no place we’d rather be this summer than with your kids. We’re here because we LOVE this. We train for this. We live for this. We work for it. We’re exhausted by it. We’re energized by it. Because we understand your kids are worth it. Every bit. Deeply, deeply worth our time and our interest and our effort… and our prayers and our hopes, too. Even now, even before we’ve met them, in these weeks we use to prepare for their arrival.

So tell us about your kids when you spend those hours filling out the forms. Tell us what you want us to know; the more, the better. The needs, yes. Of course, tell us what your kid needs. And then tell us what she likes, too. What makes him smile. What makes her talk. What lights him up. What tricks and tips we might use to encourage, to help, to protect, and to love. And know this: we’re listening. We’re reading your words. We’re studying what you say. And we’re not judging – not you, not your kid. We’re here to be your partners. Because we want to make a difference for your kids who become our kids for a short time, even if we never get to see what that difference was. 

What we most want you to know, though, is this. You parents are our heroes. And your kids are amazing. Like, really, really great. Your children change us. They make us better. They show us the heart of God. And we’re grateful.

Sincerely,
Your Kids’ Summer Camp Counselors

………

Special thanks to Mandy Schmidt and the entire summer staff at Tilikum: Center for Retreats and Outdoor Ministries for welcoming me to your training and especially for this letter.
The letter was compiled by me; the thoughts are the counselors’ own.

“Timber Cabin 3″ image credit Poulsen Photo via freedigitalimages.com

How to Teach Your Kid Effective Communication

Jun 4 2014

I’ve got one kid who’s more susceptible to the stomach flu than the others. I promise you, if it’s going around, and often even if it’s not, this kid will get it at least twice. Often three times. And repeat every other month or so just so he doesn’t forget how. But the good news is, he processes it in less than 24 hours. Every time. So, silver lining!

The problem with kids, of course, is they suck at communication. I mean, it’s not their fault they suck at communication; it’s just they don’t yet have the experience or vocabulary to give us grown-ups all the information we need. For example, Stomach Flu Kid? Yeah. For the past two years, every single vomitty episode is the same.

  1. Cael goes pale.
  2. Cael complains of headache.
  3. Cael harfs buckets.

And he’s not the kid of mine who always makes it to an appropriate vomit-receptacle, either. Nope; this is the kid who ralphs without warning, but with great enthusiasm, and we never, ever – ever – get the bucket to him in time, because he never, ever – ever – tells us when it’s coming.  

So I’ve spent years with this kid – two straight years at least – trying to help him with his stomach flu communication. Trying to help him understand that the headache isn’t a headache… that’s called nausea, or, if that word’s too hard to remember when you’re sick, then it’s called “I FEEL LIKE I’M GOING TO THROW UP, MOM.” 

But no luck. Just none. Because TERRIBLE COMMUNICATION, I tell you. This kid can talk you under the table about Minecraft or insect anatomy or why 7-year-olds should be allowed to have driver’s licenses, but he cannotno matter what, identify nausea. 

And guess what?

Cael had the stomach flu three times last week. Woohoo! Twice at home and once at school. Three times lucky, friends. And every time was the same. 

Pale.

Then, “Mom, my head hurts.”

Then me, “That’s called nausea, Cael. Do you feel like you’re going to throw up?”

Then him, “I have a headache.”

Then me, “Can you say nausea? Nausea. You feel nauseated. Do you need a bucket?”

And him, “I have a heada…”…aaannd… puke cascading everywhere.

Every. Where. All of the Places. Like PlayDoh or glitter or those teeny, tiny LEGO pieces, impossible to contain once released into the wild.

And I swear I didn’t chide him for barfing. I didn’t. I wiped him up with someone’s t-shirt and undies, helpfully abandoned in the hallway near-by, and I said as I carried him to my bed to rest, “Oh, sweetie. Honey. That was nausea.” 

And he looked at me, droopy-eyed and exhausted, and said, “I had a headache.”

Which is when it occurred to me that he might be having… wait for it… headaches.

Because it also occurred to me that I get migraines.

And my mom gets migraines.

And my symptoms are primarily headache followed by the sudden onset of nausea / vomitting. Without, you know, a build-up of nausea as a precursor. 

Years. Years this kid has been telling me he has headaches.

Years. Years I’ve been telling him he’s wrong.

So I took Cael to the doctor yesterday to talk about his penchant for the stomach flu. And the doctor listened to his symptoms and diagnosed him with migraines. 

So… that was great.

And here’s my awesome advice on How to Teach Kids Effective Communication:

SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO THEM, Beth. Geez.

OK? OK.

I’m glad we had this chat.

P.S. Obviously, I have Parent of the Year in the bag, but if you have a similar I Rock Parenting story, I’m not opposed to having some company here on the awards stage. **ahem**

Seeping Booty: The Bizarre But True Tale of Maleficent’s Real Magic

Jun 2 2014

photo 1 (70)When Abby, my oldest, was a toddler, she couldn’t get enough Sleeping Beauty in her life and watched the Disney movie, the way toddlers do, over and over and over again – and over again – slamming her sippy cup on the TV when I failed to rewind the tape in the VHS player with a speed that met her expectations. Oh, Modern Mamas with your instantaneous DVD magic! May you never know the pain of prolonged rewinding.

Now, when Abby was 2, she couldn’t pronounce Sleeping Beauty, and so she called Aurora “Seeping Booty,” instead, which is, of course, a leaking butt and always made me think of the beautiful princess Aurora with a terrible, terrible case of diarrhea. Just horrible. The kind that leaves you chalky and pale and doubled over with pain and sure – sure – that you are about to DIE on the toilet, or, worse, pass out and soil yourself and have to live to face the person who finds you. There’s just… nothing beautiful about that. Nothing.

It changes the movie entirely once you consider it from the Seeping Booty perspective, to think of Aurora laid out on that bed, pale and lifeless from a dreadful case of the runs, the finger pricked on the spinning wheel a mere coincidence on which Maleficent capitalized in order to further her reputation as a wicked practitioner of the most nefarious magicks, instead of the truth, which is this: Maleficent is a just an accomplished food poisoner akin to the witch in Snow White who worked her spell on an apple.

And, really, let’s think of Maleficent for just one minute and how it might shape you to be born into a family of benevolent fairies only to discover your one magical gift is to cause people gastrointestinal discomfort. What would you do? Who would you become? Not so easy to casually dismiss Maleficent now, is it? And what if Maleficent’s gift applies not just to others, but also to herself? Wouldn’t a lifelong case of the craps explain the gauntness? The razor-blade cheekbones (even Angelina had to wear prosthetic cheekbones to play her)? The cruel disposition? The giant, fire-breathing dragon, which is obviously a metaphor for the trots, which drag on and drag on and drag-on… DRAG ON. Dragon. Right?

I don’t know. I don’t mean to be critical here, but I think Disney could’ve done a better historical job of making Maleficent a sympathetic character all along by simply divulging this information about her, rather than waiting for a 2-year-old to ferret it out. Of course, I haven’t seen the new Maleficent movie yet, so they probably corrected this gross oversight and I just spoiled the entire thing. 

photo 2 (76)P.S. This post is utterly pointless, FYI, and it occurs to me now I might’ve warned you of that at the beginning. Sorry about that. It’s just that Abby is recovering from foot surgery, which means she’s hopped up on narcotics, unlimited Disney movies, and a general but determined aura of patheticness, and she fell asleep watching Sleeping Beauty the other day which made me happy and maudlin at the same time to remember our Seeping Booty days, and now you’re stuck with this drivel. You’re welcome. It’s what I do.

Sleeping Beauty

P.P.S. Abby used to call Clifford the Big Red Dog, “Bullshit.” I thought you should know.

I’m Moving to Mexico

May 30 2014

We are 60 hours post-surgery on my kid, and I’ve officially lost all the the poo there is to lose. Which is a complete and utter lie. There is always more poo to lose, and I haven’t begun to hit the mother load because, let’s be honest, the mother load is a LOT of poo. There is a LOT of poo to lose. All the Poo. There is All the Poo to lose and I’ve but lost a tiny fraction of it. But I’ve been awake every hour on the hour for the last 60 hours straight, dispensing opiates and turning on the ice machine and comforting the teenager who’s all WHAT DID YOU LET THEM DO TO ME even though we’ve had her foot surgery planned for, like, ever, and I’m a little done in. A little fried. A teeny, tiny bit at the end of my rope. And the barest bit Yell All the Things I’m Thinking at Greg. Hold Nothing Back! Which would be nice if I was thinking about roses and puppies, but I’m not. I’m not. I’m really, really not.

I’d like to just take this minute to do a shout out (do you do a shout out? make a shout out? is that too like making a poo? or do you simply Shout Out without the doing or the making at all? HELP ME) to all of you who are Awake with Small Children All Through the Night. YOU ARE HEROES. Do you know? YOU ARE HEROES who somehow Exist Without Sleep but Keep on Tickin’ like that battery-operated toy at the bottom of the toy box that will not – WILL NOT – shut up already. Except, unlike that toy, which is creepy as hell at night, you ROCK. And as many bloody noses and wet beds and bad dreams and vomitty messes as I get up with in the middle of the night, I am out of your league, mamas and daddies of babies. OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE. Which the last 60 hours showed me in spades.

I left home tonight. Left Greg and All the Children and skedaddled. Outta there. Gone. Because I needed a break to find some of the poo I’d misplaced. And, just before I closed the front door, when the Children asked me when I was coming back, I said, “NEVER! I am NEVER coming back. I am moving to Mexico because they have beaches and sunshine and lounge chairs and BOOKS, and none of those things exist in Oregon. NONE.” And it was a very dramatic exit, but they all rolled their eyes at me, and Abby said in a stage whisper I’d probably be back tonight, and one of the littles asked me to pick him up a churro. A churro. Because my children MOCK MY PAIN. And Greg joined them saying, “You can’t go to Mexico ’til January, anyway” like he’s the boss of me, and I said, “January? January?? WATCH ME.” 

So this time, I’ve decided to do it.

I’ve decided to move to Mexico. ‘Cause that’ll show ‘em just like it showed my parents when I ran away in the 3rd grade, which they never noticed, but whatever. 

I’m moving to Mexico, and I’m doing it right now. 

Right after I run some errands, I’m outta here. OUT, I tell you.

I’ve decided to move to Mexico, but first I have to go get a mouse for our snake and food for the dog and those chips Abby likes.

And I’ve decided to move to Mexico, but first I have to go to the pharmacy to renew the kids’ prescriptions.

Yes, I’ve decided to move to Mexico, but first I have to clean my house because my mommy told me to always wear clean underwear in case I’m in an accident, and right now my house looks like it’s been in a terrible, terrible accident, and none of its underwear is clean. Metaphorically or literally. So someone’s gotta fix that whole situation.

Sure, I’ve decided to move to Mexico, but I have to go home and see Abby through surgery recovery and physical therapy. Which will take at least 6-8 weeks, at which point she’ll have her 2nd foot surgery. But 6-8 weeks after that one, I’m gone. GONE. 

Assuming I’ve done the grocery shopping.

And the extracurricular planning.

And the extensive calendar-writing.

And, of course, the butt wiping. And the tear drying. And the boo-boo kissing. And the night-nighting.

And the hugging and the loving and the living and dying, which happens every day. 

And the breathing and the being.

And the moving and the shaking.

And the still-as-stone-ing and the stop everything-ing.

And the reckoning. And the gratitude-ing. And the attitude-adjusting. And the mama-it’s-ok-to-resting. It is, mama… shhhhh. It’s ok to rest.

… but right after all those things, I’m moving to Mexico. I am.

And I mean it this time.

Who’s in?

My Last Words on Earth Will Be…

May 27 2014

I’m sporting an enormous bruise on my right butt cheek after gracefully slipping in my bunny slippers down the stairs on Sunday. Of course, I yelled, “OH, SHIT” during the THUMP BOOM CRASH, and of course all my children heard me, even the littles, and of course they all thought I was HILARIOUS except the lone child who wanted to know if I was OK and who is now my Official Favorite. I’d like to get t-shirts made for occasions like these – Official Favorite Child t-shirts – which I can distribute with pomp and circumstance and a huge ceremony and cake so I can mock the rest of my children better, since they never, ever believe me when I make mere verbal pronouncements of favoritism. “He’s not your favorite, Mom,” they say, sing-songy and puffed up with misplaced confidence. “We’re all your favorites,” they insist. Which… whatever.

I was 18 years old and headed back to college when I first learned my last words on Earth will be OH, SHIT.

I was driving my snazzy, navy blue Toyota Tercel hatchback alone from Colorado to Idaho, petal to the metal, man, when I drove off the left side of the road and over-corrected which sent me careening to the right and spinning out of control on the sandy right margin where I came to rest within a few feet of a cliff with no barrier, at which point I noticed the narrator in my car, coming off a prolonged and rather loud OH SSSHHhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittTT, started in on the shit staccato: shit *breathe* shit *breathe* shit *breathe* shit *breathe*, followed by a whole lot of shaking.

Please understand, as soon as I caught my breath I was mortified by this entire situation because I was a nice Christian girl – a missionary kid, for God’s sake (literally) – and I attended a nice, small, conservative Christian college where I’m sure - positive - it’s written somewhere in the lifestyle agreement that our Last Words on Earth are not allowed to be Oh Shit or any derivative thereof. Yet there I was, about to approach the Pearly Gates with shit on my lips instead of a prayer or a confession or praise or thanksgiving or something – anything at all – more triumphant or sweet or … quotable… than an expletive, you know? And I couldn’t think of any way to prove myself less suitable for entrance to Heaven than bringing the shits with me. 

This is not how I thought I’d give up the ghost, so unladylike and crass and gauche, and so I waited until I was in my late 30′s to confess to my father that I’ve spent more than 20 years coming to spiritual terms – and getting my explanation ready for St. Peter – for what will surely leave my mouth should I come to a sudden, accidental end. Which is when my dad – my former Marine / retired pilot / missionary father – said, “Ah, yes. Of course those will be your last words, sweetheart. In the aviation business, we call it the Shit Trilogy.”

“The what?” I asked.

“The Shit Trilogy,” he said. “We say it when there’s trouble in the air. Ah, shit… Oh, SHIT… HOLY SHIT and we hope to have a resolution by the end of the litany.” 

And, I don’t know how to explain it, exactly, but the Shit Trilogy made me feel better. The idea that this is a common experience, yes, but especially the idea that even the most well trained and best prepared of us, well, sort of shit ourselves when we’re on the way down. Like, everything’s just falling apart and we’ve slipped on the stairs and we know we’re going to crash and burn and we’re not entirely sure we’re going to make it out of this one alive.

Like life, you know?

Like life with all the slipping and falling and crashing and burning. 

My friend Abbie says crapballs a lot. My sister-in-law Kim just says balls. I usually try to keep my shits to myself but we can all see how well that works when I’m falling. And I used to spend a lot of time embarrassed – maybe ashamed – of how I acted and the ways I flailed and the things I said on my way down. But I’ve had a lot of time these 20+ years to think about my Oh Shits in the heat of the moment, and to catch my breath at the almost-crashes, and to feel the bruises on my butt when I fall all the way down, and to watch my kids giggle at their mommy and to see that her mistakes and slips of the feet and the tongue are just part of it. And I don’t know; I guess I’ve come to think that God, who I call Love, accepts the cries of our heart. Even – perhaps especially – the shits.