Class of 2015: A Sweet Deal



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The Long Goodbye




I don’t know anyone who particularly likes goodbyes. But I have been known to skip them altogether. As in, I will walk past your place on the day you are leaving and just keep on walking. It’s not because I love you too little. It’s that it hurts too much. It hurts and I am not brave. And so pretending that it’s not happening has always been comforting to me. I know I will see you again and stalk your Facebook page.  But today I’m facing a goodbye I cannot avoid. I keep medicating myself with music, exercise, wine and social media. But it never leaves me. It just stays crouched in the corner watching.  When I make eye contact, I completely lose my marbles. So I at least try not to do that so much.

I have to say goodbye to the only four-legged child I’ve ever known. My Moxie. I remember when she was a puppy, days old, the runt of the litter. Her chocolate fur all smashed to her face. Easily the ugliest of the bunch. But it was love at first sniff of puppy breath for me. No turning back. I was all in. And, like anyone else who begins to love some thing or some one, I immediately became aware of the fear of losing her.
Moxie has a liver issue. Could be cancer, could be disease. It’s bad. We’ve looked into all of our options and tried remedies only heard of on the internet. But it all ends the same way. I guess it’s not surprising for an aging lab. We found out at Christmas and have eaked out a few more months (thanks to my husband who has buried himself in the research). But my goodbye to Moxie began long before this.
At birth her breeders were told to put her down. Too weak, too small, too sickly. But with their love and attention, she pulled through. This is how she earned her name. The risk of losing her was there then gone,  but the some-day stayed.
At two, Keith and I made an innocent but stupid mistake that caused Moxie to have a heat stroke. Near her death, I begged God to save her. To give her another chance. And, if he did, I promised I would not protest too much when her real time came to leave. The risk of losing her was there then gone, but the some-day stayed.
So here I am. Not protesting. Only grieving. Grieving the little ball of fur who made me a mom. Grieving my walking buddy, my foot warmer, and my duckling. Just like any animal lover, it is the small things I will miss:  seeing her sprawled out like a bear rug, watching her soak up the warmth of the sun, the click of her nails approaching after I’ve opened a bag of chips. I cannot remember life before Moxie really. Missing  her will be the hole I walk around in the day and fall into at night (Millay).  At least for a while.  I know time heals.  But time does not fill.
Our some-day is here.  I cannot avoid this one. It’s not today. And maybe not tomorrow. But we are assured it will be soon. I don’t grieve prettily.   But I will hold grief and gratitude side by side in the days to come.   My God has been very kind.



This little life tethers me to my own — to the things that really matter. I admit with much shame and guilt that, at first, I didn’t like that one bit. It was a death to give up my freedom, my time and my own pursuits – let alone have a small, needy being super-glued to my hip. But that death gave way to a new life — one that I need, have always needed without knowing it. I’m still learning. I fail a lot. And I know this is not everyone’s experience or calling but God has always had to wrestle me down to get my attention. I’m stupid like that. But, oh, am I loved.

Private Twitchel Reporting for Duty

I was afraid it would always be February and that God would never stop trying to kill me.


This is how I felt about my early motherhood experience.  My son, Major, is now four years old and I can write about it as if it were just a bad camp experience with roaches, rats and nasty food.  It is a way for me to remember how far I’ve come and to extend a hand to anyone who finds herself in the same bad camp.


I look at my son in this moment and marvel at his devilish face and angelic charm.  I couldn’t love him anymore than I do.  But I didn’t always feel that way.


In the first few weeks after his birth – and I feel sick about writing this – I don’t think I even liked him.  He was stealing my life.  The life I’d known since I left home.  It was all about me.  He was stealing my sleep.  God, I’ve never felt so exhausted in my life.  I was the scrawny boy who just joined the military – the one you see in the movies – and my face was in the mud, in the rain, doing pushups while my son, the Drill Sergeant, was barking orders at me:  “Get me another bottle, Private.”

“Sir, yes sir.”

“Get me a clean diaper, Private.”

“Sir, yes sir.”

“You think you’re a good mom, Private?  You’ve got vomit on your shirt, you smell like baby poop and I can tell you haven’t brushed your teeth in three days.”

“Sir, yes sir.”


I was drowning.  I didn’t even know it was depression at first.  I just thought I totally sucked at being a mother.  I called friends, parents, I Googled everything from ‘burping a baby’ to ‘how much sleep can I lose before I die’.  I was being broken down.  Infantry training.


The ceiling fan started to sound like the baby’s cry in the middle of the night.  I was on edge.  My well-meaning friends would say, “sleep while the baby sleeps.”  I couldn’t.  I tried.  Then I’d panic because I couldn’t sleep.  There was electricity running through my veins.  I’d lie in bed after Major fell back asleep and cry or pray or anything but sleep.


I would sit in the living room nursing him at 3:00 in the morning (God, it felt so lonely) and think horrible thoughts.  It’s taken me years to admit that I considered giving him up for adoption.  I couldn’t figure out how I would explain it to friends or even convince my husband it was the right thing to do but I swear to God I was working out the details while watching the STYLE network.


I’m lucky in the sense I never wanted to hurt my son or myself.  But on my worst days, I did think about getting in my car and driving far away – never to return.  I tried to imagine my husband, Keith, and my friends and family forgiving me.  I couldn’t get it all to work out okay in my mind but the fantasy that it would bring relief kept me going sometimes.


I remember walking downstairs one day and saying to Keith that something was terribly wrong.  I wanted him to take me to the hospital.  I thought I was dying.  Panic attacks.  I’m a school counselor for God’s sakes and didn’t even recognize what was happening to me.  I couldn’t breathe and trying to eat was like choking down sand.  I spent portions of the day doubled over, sweating and praying I wouldn’t die.


It all came to a head after returning to work when Major was seven weeks old.  I lasted a few days on the pure high that comes from people welcoming you back and wanting to see pictures of the baby.  But by day four, I ended up on the floor of my office (thank God my door locks), rocking myself and chanting to God, “I know you are good, I know you are good.”  I did something totally out of character and started asking for help.  I called my doctor who had already prescribed me Ambien for sleep and one Ativan a day for panic.  She wanted to see me right away.  I ran to my principal with tears in my eyes.  I didn’t care who saw me in the hallway.  The point of desperation had come.  I could barely speak when I told her I needed to go.  Graciously and without question, she dismissed me for the rest of the day.  I called my best friend, Jennifer, and had her talk me off the ledge as I drove to the doctor’s office.


Unfortunately general practitioners are afraid of post-partum depression.  They will tell you as much.  Although she is a super kind doctor, I began to think of her as sadistic.  She was worried about me staying on the Ativan.  She thought one a day was risking addiction.  She wasn’t going to prescribe it for me any longer. I panicked even more.  How in God’s name was I going to live without it?  Then I thought of myself as an addict sitting in rehab with Lindsey Lohan and panicked even more.  Oh God, I was trapped.  Suffocating right there in a doctor’s office and no one could give me oxygen.  Luckily the doctor saw the sheer terror on my face and did the very thing I needed.  She said she was going to refer me to a Psychiatrist.  The sound of the word made me sick.  I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.  But because I was so desperate for help, I agreed to go.  She managed to get me in the next day with someone who specializes in post-partum depression.  When I tell you this saved my life, I am not exaggerating.


The Psychiatrist gently laughed when I asked her if I was dying.  She heard me out, then summed me up as a “textbook case of postpartum depression.  We’re going to put out the fire,” she said.  Ding, ding, ding.  The magic word.  How did she know I felt like I was on fire?  She got it.  She assured me I wasn’t going to die.  That was the beginning of my healing.


It took several months of adjusting meds, talking about my story and changing the paradigm of my life to get back to some sense of normalcy.  I don’t have to take the cocktail of anti-depressants anymore.  And this is not everyone’s story — but I will not be ashamed or regretful that it is mine.   I’m loving motherhood.  I’m loving my son and my little family.


I remember talking to Keith before the baby came and saying I thought parenthood would bring us a little discomfort much like when you’re walking along in the airport and decide to get on the human conveyor belt.  You lose your balance for a moment and then recover.  Ha.  Haha.  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.  It was more like someone through a grenade into the house and six months later we were still picking shrapnel out of our skin.  When talking about trying to have a baby, why didn’t any of you grab me by the shoulders and shake me?  None of you told me this was Basic Training.


But I know why you didn’t.  Because nothing compares to the Heaven I see when Major looks at me and knows I’m his momma.  Nothing is as gratifying as when I look at him and my heart nearly bursts from the connection we share.  And don’t forget about the cuteness.  My God, the cuteness.  Don’t you think everyone would look better in a white onesie?


I’m making a trek: from an ordinary civilian to Major’s mother.  So far I’ve come from thinking we made a horrible mistake all the way to praying my son will outlive me so that I never have to know life without him.  I’m turning in my civilian clothes for t-shirts covered in spit-up with a lingering scent of mustard-colored poop.


I’m reporting for duty.

For Love of the Light

My size 4 black patent leather shoes found their way to patches of light cast on the 1970s linoleum.  I don’t know how long I would stand there in it or if my mother even noticed her curious toddler, but long enough to warm my toes and leave a smile on my face. As an adult, I have been known to pull off the road to watch the light dance through leaves and to stop mid-conversation to watch the sunset hug the edge of my son’s blond head.  I love light.  I notice it, I appreciate it, and now I try to capture it in a lens.


I’m also trying to live it.  But I can be a hopeless idiot.  The works below are the documentation of both.