Sunday, March 30, 2008

To A New-Born Child by William Cosmo Monkhouse

To A New-Born Child

Small traveler from an unseen shore,
By mortal eye ne'er seen before,
To you, good-morrow.
You are as fair a little dame
As ever from a glad world came
To one of sorrow.

We smile above you, but you fret;
We call you gentle names, and yet
Your cries redouble.
'Tis hard for little babes to prize
The tender love that underlies
A life of trouble.

And have you come from Heaven to earth?
That were a road of little mirth,
A doleful travel.
"Why did I come?" you seem to cry,
But that's a riddle you and I
Can scarce unravel.

Perhaps you really wished to come,
But now you are so far from home
Repent the trial.
What! did you leave celestial bliss
To bless us with a daughter's kiss?
What self-denial!

Have patience for a little space,
You might have come to a worse place,
Fair Angel-rover.
No wonder now you would have stayed,
But hush your cries, my little maid,
The journey's over.

For, utter stranger as you are,
There yet are many hearts ajar
For your arriving,
And trusty friends and lovers true
Are waiting, ready-made for you,
Without your striving.

The earth is full of lovely things,
And if at first you miss your wings,
You'll soon forget them;
And others, of a rarer kind
Will grow upon your tender mind -
If you will let them -

Until you find that your exchange
Of Heaven for earth expands your range
E'en as a flier,
And that your mother, you and I,
If we do what we should, may fly
Than Angels higher.
--William Cosmo Monkhouse

Our little angel is learning how to use her new body. It's tough, but she's learning new things all the time. Here are some fun things Elizabeth can do:

She likes to suck on her fingers. She doesn't suck her thumb -- she starts out with sucking on the knuckles of a fist, and eventually one or two fingers get singled out -- often the index finger, sometimes the index and middle, and occasionally a pinky. The problem with this is that she sucks so hard that the finger goes down her throat and she starts gagging on it. It's really very funny to watch.

While we were in Utah, we saw that she was getting really good a hitting the lion that hangs on her carseat. He's very cute and colorful, and has a little jingly chime inside (which is why I bought him). I hung him where her arm would hit if she just flapped it randomly, and she eventually got much better at doing it on purpose to entertain herself while driving or shopping.

I also have a mat with two crossed arches that toys can hang from. When I saw that she was paying attention to the lion, I started putting her on the mat. This week, she moved from just whacking the toys to grabbing them. It's a lot of fun to watch her stare at a toy and take careful aim. Then she jerks her arm up and grabs for the toy. She misses as often as she gets it, but she's getting better, and looks so pleased with herself when she catches the turtle's dangly foot, or a little fish. Now she just needs to learn how to let go (she gets frustrated when her hand gets stuck and she can't play the game again).

I don't know if I've already written about mylar balloons, but they were the first toy she ever liked. I got some for Peter for Valentine's day when she was exactly one month old. A few days later, we noticed that she was staring at it sitting on the ceiling across the room. Her eyes widened, and she got very excited when we brought the balloon closer and then tied the string onto her hand so it would move when she wiggled. We watch her very closely while she's playing with the balloon, but they're so engrossing to her that when the Valentine's ones died, Peter got another for our anniversary.

She still doesn't cry much, and generally makes a funny little coughing noise when she's hungry. She seems to recognize what's going on when I start to adjust my shirt and nursing bra to feed her, and will reach out, grab some cloth, pull and/or throw herself over and glom on as soon as the path is clear. Sometimes she doesn't even want to wait for that and is confused and frustrated when her mouth finds cloth in the way.

Other times she gets overtired and cranky -- especially in the days after our trip to Utah when her schedule (or rather her natural rhythm of eating and sleeping) got thrown out of whack. She'll give every sign of being hungry, but when I offer her the breast, she'll arch her back, toss her head from side to side and cry angrily. I've found that the best thing to do is hold her still and shove it into her open screaming mouth, hoping that when she stops to breathe, instinct will kick in and she'll start to suck. When she does, the change is immediate. She stops fighting me, and her entire body goes limp. Her eyes roll into the back of her head and she gets a look of intense beatific pleasure on her face. It looks for all the world like she's just gotten a hit of some drug she was jonesing for.

One thing I absolutely love is when she's done eating and I give her a burp. Sometimes, if she's tired, she'll hug my shoulder, nuzzle into my chest, and fall asleep. I often have other things I ought to be doing while she sleeps, but she's so snuggly and warm and sweet that I'm overwhelmed by the waves of love and protectiveness washing over me and I can't bring myself to put her down.

I'm so happy we have our sweet Elizabeth.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cutting the Cake by Virginia Hamilton Adair

Cutting the Cake

Gowned and veiled for tribal ritual
in a maze of tulle and satin
with her eyes rimmed round in cat fur
and the stylish men about her
kissing kin and carefree suitors

long she looked unseeing past him
to her picture in the papers
print and photoflash embalming
the demise of the familiar
and he trembled as her fingers

took the dagger laid before them
for the ceremonial cutting
of the mounting tiers of sweetness
crowned with manikin and maiden
and her chop was so triumphant

that the groomlike little figure
from his lover at the apex
toppled over in the frosting
where a flower girl retrieved him
sucked him dry and bit his head off.
--Virginia Hamilton Adair

I heard this poem on The Writer's Almanac, and it was one of the few modern poems I've liked from that show. I've been saving it for months to use with this post.

I really meant to blog about the trip to Utah for Steve's wedding and Easter, and stuff long before this, but sometimes things don't go as planned. Sunday, I was so physically exhausted that my arms refused to pick up the baby. I've had to do some deep cleaning (the bathrooms and kitchen got really dirty while we were sick), get ready for my in-laws to visit, rewrite a manga in about half the usual time, make two trips to Huntington Beach (one with four sets of meals I'd prepared), do all the laundry from the trip, take enough naps to offset getting up in the middle of the night to force the baby to eat and relieve some of the pressure that builds up, and take care of all Elizabeth's needs, and get her back on some semblance of a schedule! Sometimes blogging takes a back seat.

So catching up, our story begins on Friday morning (March 14, 2008) as we arrived at Long Beach airport for our flight to Salt Lake. Peter dropped me off at the curb with the baby and all our luggage, and drove off to park in long term parking. I put the baby in the baby seat in the stroller with the detachable carseat base in the bottom basket of the stroller, then put the diaper bag and my purse on Elizabeth's feet. The two carry-on bags had long handles and could roll, but the large suitcase had to be lifted. So I moved the suitcase a few feet forward, then pushed the stroller with one hand and pulled the carry-ons with the other till I got a few feet beyond the suitcase, then went back and repeated the process. Finally, a very kind man picked up the suitcase for me and took it to the check in desk. I now realize that it would have been smarter to let Peter bring either the baby in the stroller or the carry-on bags with him from the parking lot, since the effort would have been minimal, and that we should have checked both our carry-on bags since the only thing we really needed on the plane was the diaper bag, but hindsight is 20/20.

Peter eventually got back from the parking lot and we got our boarding passes and went to security. We waited in the line, and when we got up to the front, the TSA guy said we had to go back and get a new boarding pass for me because Elizabeth wasn't accounted for on it. So we went back to the JetBlue desk and asked them to print a pass with the INF code on it, and found out that the guy had just been looking in the wrong place, and it was there all along. So then we had to wait through the line again. Sigh.

Going through the metal detectors was a hassle because we had to get everything out of the stroller, and collapse it, and put it through the x-ray machine along with everything else, but I had to hold Elizabeth in my arms while doing it. Luckily, the TSA guy who gave us such an unintentional hassle had just changed stations, and expedited our way through. In the Boarding area, Elizabeth decided it was time to present us with a dirty diaper, so I changed her on the floor (actually, on the changing mat on the floor, but you know what I mean). Thank goodness for pre-boarding! We gate-checked the stroller and carseat, and found our seats. Luckily, somebody was willing to trade seats with Peter who was two rows back (I bought our tickets late) so we could sit together. I had stuffed the Boppy pillow into the diaper bag, so I got that out and Elizabeth laid on it, which is more comfortable for her than my lap alone.

She did very well on the plane trip. Mostly she slept, waking up every once in a while with a confused, pained expression on her face, which I assume was because of the pressure in her ears. I'd pop the pacifier or bottle of pumped milk into her mouth, she'd suck a bit, and fall asleep again. When we landed, we misunderstood the directions for getting our gate-checked stroller and stuff, so we had to wait for a TSA guy to go find it for us since we couldn't go back once we had passed him. We finally got our luggage and made it to the Car rental place, and then had to wait something like 20 minutes for the slowest car rental people in the world to get around to serving us (they were busy with other people when we arrived, but there was nobody else ahead of us in line). When we did make it to the counter, the printer ran out of paper and the guy took five minutes to get the new paper, chat with a co-worker, and feed it into his machine. Our car was a Pontiac G6 and was, for various reasons, one of the most annoying cars I've ever driven. The turning radius was appallingly huge, and the controls were so far from intuitive, that they were actually dangerous.

Looking at what I've written, I sound like I'm complaining a lot, but it really wasn't a bad trip compared with what it could have been, travelling with a two month old baby who'd gotten four immunization shots the day before. It was adventure...and I wanted to remember all the challenges we had to overcome. I'm so pleased that JetBlue lets you gate check a stroller AND carseat and doesn't charge either against your luggage allowance. It would have been a LOT harder without that luxury!

We finally made it to Grandma's house in West Jordan, and said hello to everyone there: Mom and Dad, Grandpa Roly (Grandma was still in Ohio in a skilled Nursing facility), Aunt Shirley (who left almost immediately after we arrived), Heather (who was pregnant and showing nicely), Sam, Steve, Rachel (who I'd never actually met before), David, Marcelle, and Jonas. People said Hi to Peter and me, but all the real attention was on Elizabeth. Most of the people there had never met her, and even those who had (MOM) wanted to hold her again. Jonas was really excited about the BABY saying and signing the word over and over. He wanted to come and pat her on the head and show us where her eyes and nose were. He doesn't have much experience with babies, so he had to be restrained from really whacking her and poking her eyes out (he was just too excited to learn about "gentle" at that moment). Daddy distracted him by putting together a little plastic shopping cart mom had brought, and everybody settled down to talk for a while. Mom had brought a whole bunch of stuff with her from Ohio, so I looked through it to see what I wanted to bring home (I got some Eric Carle books, some other books, the photos of the five older kids sitting in the rocking chair, and a few little toys)

Mom had originally planned to spend this time fitting the skirt and jacket she had made for me. I was supposed to have the same dress as all the other bridesmaids, but as Mom was getting ready to make it, she realized that if she followed the pattern for a dress with a single zipper up the back and a little bolero jacket, then not only would I look silly with so much emphasis on my enlarged nursing bustline, but that I wouldn't be able to nurse without taking the entire outfit off. So I ended up with a skirt out of the regulation fabric, a knit blouse in the same color, and a black jacket (because though she started a matching jacket in the blue fabric, by the day before the wedding, she was far too stressed to tailor a jacket herself).

That evening, we went over to Grandpa's ward building and had a get-together with Rachel's family. We sat and talked, and read trivia questions, and ate Chinese food. Doug, Lesli and Daniel, and Mike, Miriam, Aidan, Martin and William all joined us for that. Heidi Johnson, a good friend from the Ohio days also showed up and it was great to see her. It was a fun evening. By the end of the night, the boy cousins were so wound up that they were banished under the tables to play Star Wars while the grownups talked and Mike occasionally shot them with his laser pointer.

When that was over, Peter borrowed a car and went up to Bountiful to see his friends (Brandon Sanderson, Dan, and some other guys from the old Leading Edge crowd have a writing group that meets up there) and enjoyed himself so much he didn't get back until about 1 am at which point, we went over to Aunt Mary's to sleep (because it's important to her to host guests when we all come to town). The directions we were given were a little vague in places, and a little too precise in others (you don't turn at the first street immediately after the third speed bump, you discount that one and turn at the first street you notice once you've gone over the bump and then started looking for the next place to turn) but we found it eventually.

The next day was the wedding. We got up, got ready, allowed Mary to make a big breakfast, and got on the road a little later than we'd hoped. Peter had forgotten his suit at Grandma's, but Marcelle took it over to her Grandma's house where we would be leaving Elizabeth so her parents could watch her and Jonas during the temple ceremony. So we dropped off Elizabeth, Peter changed clothes, and we all jumped back in the car. Salt Lake City is under construction, so it was nearly impossible to find a street that wasn't blocked and would let us through to the Conference Center parking lot. We did make it to the temple and changed our shoes just in time to be called to the sealing room. The ceremony was lovely. We didn't have to wait for straggling guests (though Uncle Steve did arrive late), the sealer didn't talk too much, and he did speak loudly enough to be heard. The simple ceremony is always beautiful with its promises of being together for eternity, and Peter and I were especially touched because it was just 10 days till our 3rd anniversary.

After the ceremony, we went outside to take pictures. Peter went with David to meet the people who were bringing the little ones, and Elizabeth arrived dressed in a tiny dress that matched the Bridesmaid's dresses. She looked sooooo cute! She met Mary Beth, and Jill, and several of my aunts and uncles who were there. It was VERY chilly and windy though, and she let us know that she didn't appreciate this new sensation of COLD we were introducing her to. So after the requisite photos, we hurried over to the Joseph Smith building. I fed her in somebody's office (which was very kind of them to let me use) while Peter got the stroller from the car, and then we went down to distribution to pick up a few necessaries. Then it was upstairs for more photos. Martin had convinced Sam to let him use his digital camera (which I think was extremely noble and brave of Sam). I got photos of Elizabeth with her older cousins, and then it was time for the lunch.

By the time lunch was over, I was exhausted. Elizabeth had been very good, considering (other than in the cold, she hadn't cried at all, and was happy to be passed from one admirer to another. There's a reason I've nicknamed her Sweetness), but we hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, and I needed a nap. Peter waited with Aunt Mary while I took Elizabeth to get the car. Let me just say, that the Conference Center is so far from being wheelchair and stroller accessible with all those granite steps out front that I'm amazed that it's legal. I had to walk a long way to get around them, and never did find a ramp that would let me down to the garage entrance (I simply had to muscle the thing down the stairs). By the time I got to the car I was so tired, cold and frustrated, that I was about at the end of my rope. We had thought of visiting Peter's sister Barb between the wedding and the reception, but that idea was nixed when I collapsed into bed at Mary's and didn't get up for a couple of hours.

We went to the reception at the University of Utah Alumni house, and it was very nice. There were lots more people there to get pictures of holding the baby (I'm going to make a book of "People who love Elizabeth" with just photos of her and friends or relatives so she can learn names once she gets a little older. I think Marcelle did something similar for Jonas to great effect.). We talked (some people told me that they'd never seen Peter so outgoing and animated as he was that evening), and ate (really good food catered by Marcelle's parents).

At one point, Elizabeth very obviously filled her diaper, so I took her into the restroom to change her. I got the diaper off (very pleased to see that I had caught it before it leaked onto her pretty dress and tights with lace on the bum), and was using my last wipe to finish cleaning her off when she let loose with a high velocity, very liquidy poop. it went all up my arm, onto my skirt, and all over the changing pad. I was alone in the bathroom. I couldn't reach the paper towels or faucets from where I was sitting. I couldn't get up to wash my hands because she might roll off the bench onto the floor and hurt herself. I couldn't pick her up because my hands were covered in poop. All I could do was sit there in distress and disbelief until somebody came into the bathroom and consented to fetch my mom.She made everything all right again. It turns out that the fabric the bridesmaid dresses were made of was extremely washable, and even dried quickly enough that I didn't have to spend the rest of the evening in a dripping skirt.

After the reception, we went over to Barbie's house for a short visit. Getting there was an adventure because of the snow. It was a heavy wet snow -- perfect for making snowmen (I know because as I was pushing the stroller out to the car, the snow kept building up on the wheels as they turned). The roads were slippery and wet, and there was so much buildup, we had trouble reading street signs! Aunt Mary got stuck in the snow trying to get to the reception (she set out much later than we did). Evidently, she drove behind a plow for a while, but when he went a different way than she wanted to go, she ran into problems. I'm a little hazy on the details, but at one point she left her car by the side of the road, intending to walk the rest of the way to the Alumni house at the top of the hill! She soon thought better of that plan, and having unstuck her car (again, I'm hazy), she just went home.

Anyway, we got to Barb's house, and chatted. When I asked them to pose for pictures in Elizabeth's book, Barb was happy to, but Kyle had to be convinced. He said he didn't like babies and didn't know how to hold them. We said he'd have to learn sometime, since Barb is expecting! Peter wanted to show off Elizabeth's new smiling skills, so he put a big grin on his face and started babbling in high pitched tones, "Are you going to smile? show us a smile! Smile for Daddy!" Later, When I predicted that Kyle might feel differently about babies when he got a look at his own, Peter said, "Yeah! I never talked like that to somebody else's baby!"

The next morning, we got up at 0-dark30 to take Peter to the airport for his 6:00 flight. He took a suitcase full of stuff from Mom (we brought two suitcases, one inside the other, for that very purpose). I went to Grandma's house, and found that somebody had kindly put a blanket and pillow out on the couch for me to sleep on till we all got up for church. That morning Jonas delighted everybody by playing "Ring the bell Ring!" and other similar games where you yank on ears and noses and end up getting tickled. Sacrament Meeting was nice in Grandpa's ward. Mike, Miriam and the boys were there, and Aidan wanted nothing more than to hold Baby Elizabeth (actually, every time he saw me the whole weekend, he'd ask, "Can I hold Baby Elizabeth?"). She was very patient with his ministrations, and he was content to head for California with his parents as soon as the hour was over (Marcelle told me that one time, she heard him call the baby 'Cousin Elizabeth' in exactly the same tone of voice Mr. Collins uses in Pride and Prejudice. I'm glad that our society's rules mean that my Lizzie will never have to turn down her cousin's declaraitons of ardor :) ). Sunday School did not go so well. The microphone they were using had a constant high squeaky feedback that nobody tried to fix. Then, Elizabeth had yet another diaper blowout, and I found that I had not restocked my bag with emergency clothes, so I had to bring her back to class in just her diaper and put her into the extremely cute snowsuit that she hates wearing for some reason. At the end of the hour, both Mom and I were glad of the excuse to go home and take a nap.

In the next few days, we went down to Provo one day to see Steve and Rachel open their presents (which Doug and Lesli were kind enough to take home in their spare luggage allowance), and the BYU Museum of Art (which had exhibits on Pre-Raphaelites and Minerva Teichert) and another day to see Leah White at her Interfaith conference. Heather and Marcelle made Bread and Beef Brisket. Mom and I walked around the mall (and decided we really ough to stay out of cute baby clothes stores like Gymboree). Mom, Dad and I walked to the Dollar Store in search of Finger-paints (and didn't find any). Grandpa talked for hours (about his niece Joan, who died that week -- the time when he was 13 and she fell out of her crib and he caught her head in his hands before she hit the floor; about his dad -- who taught him the old music hall song, "More Work for the Undertaker"; and about his service during WWII--most of which was Stateside before he went to take part in the invasion of Okinawa) and obsessed over Elizabeth's tiny fingers. Jonas was very cute, and wore snazzy clothes from David's childhood. Elizabeth was sweet tempered and adored by everyone. One by one, everyone headed for home and our family dispersed itself once again across the country.

My trip home was even more of an adventure since I didn't have Peter to help me. Daddy carried my suitcase to the luggage line,and I checked my carry-on so I'd have less to deal with. This time I really did need the counter guy to print a new boarding passwith the INF code because the automated machine didn't do it. One of the floating TSA guys helped me through the whole process of getting through the security machines, pushing my various things down the table and into the machine because my hands were full, and setting the stroller back up so I could set the baby down to put my clothes and shoes back on. Elizabeth was happy and charming on the plane again until she emptied the bottle of pumped milk halfway through the descent. One of my ears was painfully plugged, so I totally sympathized with her when she cried, but I was tired of hearing the baby in the next row cry, so I didn't want her to add to the general anxiety level around us. I got the flight attendant to put some water in the bottle, and between that and the pacifier, we made it down without too much complaining. Elizabeth was thrilled to see her Daddy, and they made happy faces at each other while we waited for the luggage. She was DONE with traveling, though, and was NOT HAPPY when we buckled her into the carseat for the ride home. I ended up riding in the back seat and feeding her the bottle of water until she finally fell asleep.

It was really nice having the entire family together, with everyone married, and most of us starting families of our own.I love having a family so full of nice people. Peter was sad to leave. He said he couldn't remember feeling so comfortable in a large group of people, and that knowing my family liked him made him feel better about starting conversations with people he didn' know. I got the feeling that he was sad he didn't have anything like that here, so I told him that if he was willing to make an effort, we could invite people over and have a social life in our ward. He said that maybe that would be nice, so we'll start doing that.

Well, this post is already about ten pages long, and Elizabeth is pretty much done sitting at the computer, so I'll leave Easter and the Ahlstroms' visit for another day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Me? by Chloe B

Why Me?

What did I do wrong?
Was it my hair?
Was it my smile?
Was it my weight?
Or was it the fact that I’m smaller than you?

Why did you hit me?
Why did you laugh when I started to cry?
Why did you threaten to kill me?
What did I do wrong?

Why won't you leave me alone?
Why keep on hurting me?
Does it make you feel better?
It doesn't for me.
I wish we could be friends.
I wish we could get on.
Why did you pick on me for so long?

I hear voices
Taunting, teasing terrifying
Why me?
What did I do?
Leave me alone.

I'm cold out here.
Please let me in
Stop laughing.
Don't laugh at me cry.
Give me my clothes.
Don't make me stand here in the cold rain.
Why me? Somebody help.
--Chloe B

Below is a letter I wrote to Jodee Blanco a woman who wrote a book about her experiences with, and now does seminars to try and stop bullying in schools. I heard her speak on the Diane Rehm show and was amazed at how accurately she described my experience. On her website, I was particularly interested in her list of symptoms of what she calls "Adult Survivor Syndrome" describing the permanent damage that bullying and teasing can do:
  • A nagging insecurity that makes you second guess yourself to the point of negatively effecting your daily life
  • Compulsively driven in your career or the opposite extreme of never living up to your full potential
  • Susceptible to abusive romantic relationships
  • Tendency to over-extend yourself to others for fear of abandonment, rejection, or exclusion
  • Fear of bumping into former classmates that can be so extreme you avoid necessary errands
  • Negative voices from school keep replaying in your head, making you a hostage to self-doubt

Anyway, here's the letter:


I wanted to write you this letter to thank you for talking about this issue on the Diane Rehm show. I’m what you call an adult survivor of peer abuse. Listening to you talk was like finally having somebody put into words just what I went through in school. For years I have wondered those exact words, “what’s wrong with me?” since something obviously must be, right? (insert sarcasm here) My therapist didn’t officially diagnose me with PTSD, but she did say in one of our sessions that I seemed to have many of the symptoms and that the trauma wasn’t one big event, but just a constant feeling that I wasn’t emotionally safe anywhere.

I won’t go into details of my story because I’m sure you’ve heard most of it before -- obviously because you describe it so accurately. There’s just one small story I’d like to share. I was in 5th or 6th grade and we were standing in line after Music class. A girl named Bonnie was hassling me as usual when her best friend Melanie came up and asked what she was doing. “Oh nothing,” she replied, “Just teasing Karen.”

It was one of the most hurtful things anyone ever said, and for years I’ve tried to figure out why. It wasn’t making fun of anything about me in particular (I don’t even remember what she was teasing me about seconds before). It was such a simple statement of fact, and when I write it or tell someone about it, it sounds trivial. But as I listened to the interview, I finally figured it out. You used the words “Socially Expendable.” I wasn’t getting teased because I was skinny or tall or dressed funny or had a larger vocabulary. It was because I was socially expendable.

I don’t remember the specific words of most of the teasing because deep down I knew that those things didn’t matter. What I do remember vividly is the feeling of being small and insignificant that those kids gave me. In effect, Bonnie was saying, “Oh nothing, I’m just cutting this girl’s heart out.” in an offhand way that showed that my emotions meant less to her than dirt. That’s why it hurt so bad.

I guess I’m writing to tell you something you already know. You can tell kids that they’re not getting teased because they’re fat or gay or smart or whatever. I was tall, blonde and slim, with a figure like a Barbie doll (though I didn’t wear clothes that flattered it). They got singled out because they were vulnerable, and the specifics are just incidental.

Thanks so much for all you’re doing in this desperately needed area.

-Karen Ahlstrom

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Captain of my Soul by Afterglow

Captain of my Soul

We are here on Earth to work out our own salvation and we can receive great joy as we work and struggle, pursue and achieve righteous goals. We truly are the masters of our own destiny. But when the way is rough and rocky, it is comforting to know that we have a perfect Eternal friend who will support us and help us set a steady course through life.

At times my life is dark and so confusing.
At times my heart is weighted with despair.
Cause though I try to win seems I'm still losing,
As all my efforts vanish in the air.

They say you gotta fight to gain the glory.
They say you gotta strive to win the prize.
It's gotta be like in those old time stories
Where heroes walked with vict'ry in their eyes.

I am the captain, captain of my soul,
Master of my destiny.
With the truths that I've been given
I can choose the path for me.
I'm the master of my destiny.

Life with all its sorrow and confusion--
Sometimes it seems we're walking all alone.
There's gotta be someone we can rely on.
I know we'll never make it on our own.

They say you gotta fight to gain the glory.
They say you gotta strive to win the prize.
But one whose name I've heard in Bible stories
Stands waiting there with vict'ry in his eyes.

He'll be the captain, captain of my soul,
Master of my destiny.
Knowing ending from beginning
He can plan my course for me.
He's the master of my destiny.

Here, at long last, is the follow-up I wanted to do for the Invictus post. When I wrote that post, I remembered a song by Afterglow which also talked about the "Captain of my Soul." I was curious about which of the two poems in the Invictus post the song would be closer to -- the one that says I have control over my own destiny, or the one that says we ought to let Christ pilot us through the rough waters. Well, as you can see from the lyrics posted above, it's both. Fascinating eh?

I got the lyrics by continually asking mom to look for the tape that had the song on it. She finally went looking for it, and ended up just sending a pile of tapes with LDS pop music out to me. I listened to a lot of junk before I came to the song I was looking for, but it was worth it in the end. Interestingly, the stuff by Afterglow has stood the test of time much better than most of the other artists. If you want to revisit the old days yourself, you can download all sorts of old LDS pop music at LDS Tunes Now.

The best part of the whole process though, was that when Mom really started looking through her old tapes, she found the one that I REALLY wanted a copy of -- the Articles of Faith songs by Shelton and Ostler. Last April, when Mom looked for the tape, she couldn't find it, and thought it must have gotten lost somewhere, which was odd because of all the tapes we had, this is the one I'd think she'd be LEAST likely to lose or get rid of. I would guess that we got the tape and book of sheet music around the time I was 8 -- it was definitely before we moved when I was 10. These songs not only set the Articles of faith to music, like the ones in the Children's Songbook, they set them to fun, memorable tunes that actually helped with memorization. They also had an interesting format: the first verse was the AOF, then came an interlude that explained the key points for kids who might not understand the big words, then they sang the AOF again. We listened to that tape a LOT, and I, of course, memorized all the lyrics. I ended up knowing all the articles of faith long before it was required in Merry Miss. When that time did come, our teacher, Sister Cindy Gaspar, gave us ice cream sundaes with an extra topping for every AOF we could recite. I had an extremely gooey, sweet sundae -- and actually stopped putting toppings on before I ran out of Articles of Faith because it was just too much :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Flu by J. P. McEvoy

The Flu

When your back is broke and your eyes are blurred.
And your shin-bones knock and your tongue is furred,
And your tonsils squeak and your hair gets dry,
And you're doggone sure that you're going to die,
But you're skeered you won't and afraid you will,
Just drag to bed and have your chill;
And pray the Lord to see you through
For you've got the Flu, boy,
You've got the Flu.

When your toes curl up and your belt goes flat,
And you're twice as mean as a Thomas cat,
And life is a long and dismal curse,
And your food all tastes like a hard-boiled hearse,
When your lattice aches and your head's abuzz
And nothing is as it ever was,
Here are my sad regrets to you,
You've got the Flu, boy,
You've got the Flu.

What is it like, this Spanish Flu?
Ask me, brother, for I've been through,
It is by Misery out of Despair,
It pulls your teeth and curls your hair,
It thins your blood and brays your bones
And fills your craw with moans and groans,
And sometimes, maybe, you get well —
Some call it Flu — I call it hell!
--J. P. McEvoy

On Tuesday of last week, Peter came home from work with the flu. He was pretty miserable, but tried to avoid breathing on us etc while he lay in bed feeling like he wanted to die. It was all for naught. Friday morning I started coughing and noticed that my skin was super-sensitive. By noon, I realized I was pretty seriously ill, and it would be a BAD idea all around to go to Grandma & Grandpa's house -- not only would I be tired, achy and miserable, but the LAST thing they need is a bad case of the flu in their house. So I turned the car around and stopped at the Walgreens on the way home to get some stuff to treat the symptoms I knew were coming. The pharmacist said he couldn't recommend giving anything to the baby if she got it unless she was seen by a doctor first.

I went home and took a nap, and when I woke up, the baby seemed very hot. I had been alternating sweating and chills, so I got out the thermometer to make sure my hands weren't lying to me. She had a fever of 101.4. I called the doctor, but they had already gone home (why do we always get sick on weekends?). I called the nurse advice line, and after they hung up on me once, I finally got to talk with somebody who said that they also couldn't advise giving her anything until she'd been seen by a doctor and that I should go to the emergency room. Luckily, Peter had been feeling so lousy at work that he came home early, and was there to help get everything ready and drive us over.

We waited a little over an hour to be seen. Elizabeth had been crying at home, but was happier once we went outside where it was cooler. She did keep making sounds like a tired groan/whine which I thought expressed exactly how I was feeling, and made me even more sure she had the same thing I did. When we finally got into a bed at about 7:30 or 8, the doctor said that even though Peter and I were both obviously sick, and a reasonable person would assume that the baby had the same thing, and that if the baby was 8 weeks old or more, they'd just tell us to give her Tylenol and only worry if the fever didn't come down, it wasn't going to be that easy for Elizabeth this time. Because she's only 6 weeks old, they can't afford to miss anything, so they have to test for EVERYTHING.

First, they put in an IV for broad-spectrum antibiotics and fluids. This took two or three nurses at least 20 minutes. They tied a rubber tube around her arm to cut off the blood, and then looked for a vein to poke while her arm turned purple. They couldn't find anything on the first arm, so they tried the other. This time, they actually poked her hand with the needle three or four times before giving up and going back to the first. A couple more needle pokes, and they had the IV in, but they couldn't get any blood for their tests. They taped her arm and the IV to a piece of stiff foam so she wouldn't pull it out by wiggling or bending her writs. The whole time, I'm standing over the bed, trying to hold my screaming baby still, crying and feeling like a horrible mother for putting her through this, and hoping I don't faint because I'm so sick myself.

They left us alone for a while, and I held Elizabeth, and comforted her and myself. I don't remember the order of the rest of the tests, but they also did an X ray (which they made us leave the room for), drew blood by poking her yet again, tried and failed to put in a catheter to get some urine, and finally, when THEY couldn't take the crying anymore, taped a bag to her bottom in the hopes that when they poked her yet again, she might empty her bladder herself.

The worst part was when the doctor did a spinal tap to check for meningitis. He said that if it was up to him, he'd make the obvious diagnosis and let us go home, but the on-call Ped's doctor that he consulted said that he had to check the spinal fluid on a baby this little with a fever that high. He told us that we could refuse the procedure if we wanted, but that it was a trade off between a little pain now, and the chance of permanent brain damage. Of course we said yes, but I don't know if I'll ever forget the way she screamed. She went from crying to yelling to screaming, and then to something beyond screaming -- a kind of high pitched breathy-screech noise that I don't have words to describe. It was just awful.

Sometime before that, Peter had reached his breaking point. Neither of us had eaten much that day, and we missed dinner entirely. I had my emergency supplies in my bag, but they amounted to a juice box, some applesauce and a piece of fruit leather -- enough to tide me over for an hour or so, but not enough to sustain two of us for 4 or 5 hours, which was about how long it had been since we left home. They told us that they'd be admitting her for at least a day for observation, so the ordeal wouldn't be ending anytime soon either. Peter's blood sugar was dropping, and though a nurse promised to bring some OJ and crackers, she never did. I knew that if I sent him home for the night, not only would he be happier, but he'd be much more helpful to me the next day with a couple of good meals and a real night's sleep.

At some point (but only after I reminded them), they gave Elizabeth some Tylenol and her fever came down, and as long as they weren't poking her, she was content to nurse a little and then sleep. I wasn't so lucky. Because I wasn't the patient, nobody would even look at me or my symptoms. One nurse did take pity on me after a few hours and smuggled me a couple of Tylenol, but they weren't enough to even take the edge off by that point.

We just had the exam bed -- covered with a strip of paper -- to lay on. They sat it up for me to nurse her, but since there was no foot bar at the end, I had to struggle to keep myself from gradually sliding off. There was a tiny pillow -- covered in plastic -- that kept sliding down to make my back uncomfortable rather than supporting my head and neck. There was nowhere to put the baby except holding her up on my chest -- which made it even harder to breathe without coughing. I didn't want to cough because besides being incredibly painful body racking spasms, they disturb the baby. It's weird -- she can sleep through all sorts of noises without batting an eye -- but whenever someone coughs near her she startles and wakes up.

So at midnight, there I was, alone in the ER with my baby, struggling to stay on the bed, struggling to hold Elizabeth, struggling to stay awake so I wouldn't drop her on the floor, struggling to get any rest so I could keep going as long as they needed me to, aching everywhere, especially in my head, weak from hunger and fatigue, with my nerves frazzled from the stress, the baby's crying, and the constant alarms from the other ER beds. I was also feverish -- alternating between shivering with chills, and being literally dripping wet with sweat.

They finally took up up to the Ped's ward at about 12:30. Since I'm a nursing mother, and Elizabeth was admitted to the hospital, they had some food for me. I wolfed down a dry bologna sandwich, a banana, and some vegetable soup. There was a cot with a real mattress, sheets and blanket on it for me to sleep on, and a separate crib for the baby. I can't say I was comfortable that night -- I had the chills so bad that even a second blanket didn't keep me warm, and I was in a very odd semi-waking paranoid dream state for most of the night when I wasn't getting up to use the bathroom -- but it was a thousand times better than it could have been if we stayed in the ER.

The Ped's nurses had only one baby-distressing trick up their sleeves (though they did it three times over the course of the next day). It was called deep suction. Essentially they have a little tube that sucks all the snot out of baby's nose since she can't blow it herself. It sounds fine in theory, until they shove the tube DEEP into her nose, then keep pushing further till it goes down her throat and into her lungs. Elizabeth was not impressed with deep suction.

Peter came back from home, and the two of us sat there being miserable together as we waited for the test results. Every time the baby moved, one of the vital signs sensors would come loose, and the alarms would go off which wore on our illness-sharpened nerves like sandpaper. I got a plugged milk duct (which, by the way, is about twice as painful when you're super-sensitive and everything hurts already). Pumping did no good (it's also twice as painful when you're sick), but we eventually cleared it once Elizabeth woke up and deigned to suck a little. She didn't feel like drinking it all, so once the plug was out, she left me with milk literally spraying out all over everything.

When the Ped's doctor came in that afternoon and read the test results, she told us that it wasn't meningitis or pneumonia, but Influenza type A which may or may not have been covered by this year's flu shot if we had gotten one (which we hadn't). Elizabeth's fever had been gone for several hours without additional medicine, so the doctor said that she'd be happy to keep us at the hospital for a day or two if we thought we'd like that, but looking at us, she thought we'd rather go home and be miserable in our own beds. We jumped at the chance to get out of there, and so ended Elizabeth's worst day ever. I think that if you stacked up all the crying she's done in her whole life, and compare it to the amount and intensity of crying she did that day, it would be a pretty even balance.

Since we came home, Elizabeth seems to be doing pretty well. She wants to be held all the time, and doesn't eat very much at a time so she keeps waking up and crying for food. She makes all her hungry noises and faces, but then fights me and won't latch on, and/or only sucks for a minute before drifting off into a light doze again, waking up to cry if I put her down. This would be trying at the best of times, but when I feel so lousy I don't have the energy to take care of myself let alone a fussy baby, it's simply too much. After much soul wracking (am I a horrible mother for wishing my baby would go away and leave me alone?) I finally called somebody from church and had them take her for a couple of hours while I slept. (of course she slept the whole time for THEM).

I'm feeling a little better today, (which is why I finally have the energy to write this), but Peter's been sick for a week, and so it looks like we've got quite a slog ahead of us before we're through.