Pardon Me While I Burst Into Flames

I don’t know how to put today into words. That’s the problem with being stuck in a half-finished story, afraid that if I start telling it before the dénouement has had a fighting chance, karmic retribution will leave us spinning in limbo forever. And I don’t even believe in karma.

At least I’m fairly certain that we’ve already reached the story’s climax (I couldn’t be much closer to spontaneous combustion) and that a spectacular ending is lurking somewhere inside the next two weeks (or we will be living under a bridge). How’s that for optimism?

If you want the ineloquent, nutshell version of the last 24 hours, here ’tis:
– Dan and Bethany lie in bed trying to figure out where our plans for Italy went wrong and what we can do to survive at this point. Little things like lack of job, lack of house, baby due soon, you know.
– Dan tries one last time to call The Godfather, who–Miracle of Miracles–answers his phone! He tell us that we have finally received our authorization from the government. Stunned silence. Brief bout with disbelief. Surge of overwhelming excitement. We lie awake in the dark for hours fantasizing to-do lists, giddy at the thought of our dreams being back on track.
– Dan goes to pick up our faxed paperwork… which isn’t there. Long-distance calling ensues. Turns out that the government didn’t technically authorize us; they just decided we didn’t need The Form. (Just to clarify, this form in question is indeed the one we’ve been waiting for since January, the one we’re required to have to get a visa, the one our lives have been on hold over.) That’s it. No form. After all. this. time.
– Bethany enters a warp zone between crushing depression (no form = lives over), surging hope (maybe the visa office has changed its policy on required forms!), and numbing bewilderment (what to do now?).

Stay tuned for a special appearance by Jack Bauer, who will threaten the well-being of government employees’ kneecaps until they give up the location of our visa. Or, who will hunt us down because we are living under a bridge and thus look suspicious.

::Fade out::


“Perineal Tear”

I found myself today, for the umpteenth time since getting pregnant with Natalie, reading a birthing story online, all the while shuddering in horror and praying for Dan to walk in the door with a crowbar and pry my eyeballs away from the screen. It’s rather hard to appreciate the miracle of life when it’s described as a series of excruciating pains, awkward bodily functions, and positions that suggest the mother has officially renounced her dignity. Plus, no matter how special and unique your baby-having experience may have been, I’m still not [at all] interested in a grand tour of your womanly regions!

Maybe I just don’t have the proper respect for such things. After all, I spent the “breathing” portion of Labor 101 giggling into my jacket. (You try keeping a straight face in a room of purple-faced women gasping “Ooo-ooo, eee-eee!” as if their lives depended on it.) And Natalie’s birth basically consisted of a leisurely breakfast with Dan, a supposed-to-be-quick stop by the hospital, and a simple surgery. No screaming, no squatting, no squeezing — no gruesome or terrifying details to brag about later.

Online stories containing the words “perineal tear” aren’t the only features of childbearing that make nunhood sound appealing to me; I’m also quite horrified by curtain-inspired maternity wear, yoga labor positions like The Incontinent Cow, and breastfeeding in public. (Yes, I know that’s a right being vigorously defended by many topless mothers, but having a baby somehow failed to turn me into a nudist. Call me old-fashioned.)

Here’s the point where I would just end up paraphrasing my parenthood entry, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll just remind all of you in the blogosphere that it is possible to become a mother without dressing like a wall-hanging, undressing like a Vegas showgirl, or telling the whole world how many stitches it took.


Epic Paperback Life

Some weeks are just weeks, published with simple words, full-color illustrations, and cardboard pages for easy turning. Then there are weeks — the epic paperback kind with size 8.5 font, no chapter titles, and frequent lapses into ancient Latin. Guess which category last week fell into?

My hormone-riddled mind is having a hard time adjusting to our second summer move into a place that is neither our house here in Delaware nor the house waiting for us in Italy. I feel like I’ve earned the right to be impatient after SIX MONTHS of being strung along by foreign bureaucracy. Or, at the very least, I’ve earned the right to buy an exorbitant amount of orange sherbet to ward off uncontrollable weeping. (And you think I’m kidding…)

I haven’t felt this intensely frustrated about life since I was 14, and yet I’ve never had so many reasons to be grateful —

For Game Night Till 3 AM Friends; for Barbecue At The Beach Friends; for brilliant, scientific friends who know more Dora the Explorer trivia than we do; for friends who share their homes with us and teach us about generosity —

For a Walk Laughing In The Rain On Our Anniversary Husband; for a Secret Dishwasher Husband; for a husband who knows how to bring out my tears and my joy and my hidden imaginations; for a husband who loves me —

Happy us at Amada

For my Drama Queen Daughter; for my too-clever two-year-old; for my curly-haired bolt of energy who astonishes me daily; for my little girl who is delighted to be mine —

Giggly Mommy and Natalie

For Little Girl #2 twirling inside me; for the tiny life fast on her way to completing our family; for my unborn daughter who gives me far more to look forward to than an overseas move ever could —

For breath and food and working air conditioners and hope, however shaky, however absurd; for the knowledge we are neither alone nor forgotten; for the assurance that our lives will take a miraculous twist in the next few weeks because there simply is no other option.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.”
~Emily Dickinson


Donald Miller is the New Ex-Lax

So the title of this blog may contain coffee and clarity, but I’m enjoying neither at this moment. *Sigh* The problem is religion. (The problem with clarity, that is. The coffee problem is more likely caused by the desperate shortage of Starbucks nearby.)

Still reading?


It’s not just our current church, though the Presbyterians are [much] more liturgical than I prefer and find an enormous amount of foreshadowing in the Bible that I suspect may not actually exist. (“And we can clearly see that the hundred raisin cakes mentioned in 2 Samuel 16 foreshadow the glorious ascension of Christ.”) I’ve felt the same sense of utter deflation in nearly every other church service I’ve ever attended.

Admittedly, I’m still viewing Christianity through the sticky residue of a childhood in which every heartbreaking moment was called good and attributed to God. Perhaps that’s really the only problem. All I know is that I often leave sermons affected more by the absurdity of straight-backed pews, unspoken dress codes, and the word “partake” than by any relevant message.

I know that churches are really just groups of imperfect people who want to love God together. I know that many of these imperfect people radiate a rare kind of joy and genuinely care for each other. I know that church services are often built on decades, if not centuries, of tradition that has proven meaningful to many. I know that most pastors speak from a genuine desire to impart God’s relevance to their congregations’ lives. I know.

Yet when I sit in church, I find Prohibition-era morality presented as Biblical doctrine. (According to American theologians, Biblical accounts of wine refer to grape juice, and the term “drunk” actually meant “not drunk.” Just wait till Europe finds out!) I find self-deprecation taught as spirituality. I find petty issues like the sin of envy given more stage time than pressing questions about God’s identity and the point of Christianity in daily life. I find conditional acceptance based far more on personal appearance than on heart quality. I find long, lofty prayers full of words that no one but reverends and King James himself would ever use.

I don’t see curious neighbors, friends, or previously “unchurched” visitors. I don’t find church members talking about their personal troubles or concerns — especially not spiritual concerns. I rarely find a view of God that makes me want to spend eternity with him. He is the God who commanded puffed-sleeve dresses in the ’90s, after all. (Just kidding. Put down the pitchforks.)

I have no solution, but I feel more hopeful every minute I spend with people who can manage to love God while drinking beer and using language their grandmothers wouldn’t. (Just for the record, damn damn damn damn damn.) My general feeling of religious constipation lets up when I read Brian McLaren, Philip Yancey, and Donald Miller. My fingers are crossed for the “emerging church,” and I pray I can one day find my place in a group of people who are ready to rediscover God outside the box of American Protestantism.

Until then…?


High School Daydreams

Ever since high school, Dave Matthews Band has made me think of about a guy I once shared brainwaves and heart-rhythms with. When I was 15, my thoughts were dreamy and slightly intoxicated with the hope of intertwining lives. My junior year of college, my thoughts were reeling from the Other Girl, the beauty pageant winner who voided every effortless laugh I had shared with him.

We never dated, but he inspired me to write and to live music and to run in the rain. Friends thought I would never need another muse. Friends thought I got engaged on the rebound from a relational paradise lost.

But the truth is that my muse was never mine–a fact I didn’t fully accept until he chose blonde hair over red. Once sober, I realized some other facts too: that his passion for life did not connect to a solid purpose, that our similarities of thought and personality would have driven us into a hole of brilliant moodiness.

I am earnestly grateful that I ended up recognizing a blurry-eyed obsession for what it was and saying “yes” to the right man. Dan’s soul provides the solidarity I’ve always needed, and our purposes for life blend together flawlessly. He keeps me laughing, but even more, he provides the optimism to balance out what I glumly call “realism.” Our eyes sparkle simultaneously when we talk about traveling, when we walk into a concert, when we snuggle together in restaurant booths.

One year ago, for our anniversary, Dan took me to a Dave Matthews show under the Pennsylvania stars. I stood barefoot in the grass, pressed up against my husband of three years, and never once thought about the boy that got away. I was supremely happy to be with the man who loves the red glints in my hair and encourages me relentlessly to be the Me I want most to be.

Now, with our second daughter on the way and an impending move to Italy to chase our dreams, I know more deeply than ever that I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with my husband. You could probably call that a high school daydream all grown up.


Say No to Crack

Here’s how I described myself in college:


I am a dance draped in chartreuse
With ostentatious flecks of glitter.
I am a bright pink bus with busy yellow flowers
Caught up in a refulgent whirlpool.
I am a sea urchin, dangerous and prickly,
That everyone wants to touch “just to see.”
I am a leopard-print chaise
Floating around to an oboe soliloquy.
I am a disco, full of colored light
And platform shoes and energy and Aretha.
I am a guilty pot of melted chocolate
That imitates women who like to imitate cats.
I am an amoeba who occasionally shimmies,
And I am only afraid of wrinkles.


And the only question remaining (as I’m sure you too are wondering) is what exactly was I smoking back then?


Small Victories

Looking at the grand scope of life, in the invent-a-light-bulb/achieve-world-peace sense, my past week was a blot of unproductivity. However, it was full of the kind of small victories that make life, in the living-between-homes/having-a-two-year-old sense, beautiful.

1. Natalie started using the potty after 2-1/2 weeks of futile attempts (and 2-1/4 weeks after I convinced myself she would be in diapers until junior high). I haven’t had to clean a poopy diaper in three days. What greater joy can there be?

2. I learned to catch grapes in my mouth after 20-something years of embarrassing incompetence in this socially significant area. Now, if I can just master water-skiing, I will be cool.

3. The hubby and I beat the odds–and the frenzied bidders–to get a sacred Nintendo Wii for our collective birthdays. I feel like we conquered the world! (At least, I will until the Wii arrives and I remember how badly I suck at video games…)

4. As shocking as this may sound, Dan got in touch with his new boss this week. Keep in mind that he’s called multiple times nearly every day since December, and the Godfather has only answered about four times (not to mention all the unanswered messages and e-mails!). At any rate, we found out that the sole reason we are not in Italy already is that the Godfather has not yet procured an apartment for us. That would be why my head exploded at 2 a.m. last Tuesday. The only victory in this is that I now know for certain that Natalie will be in junior high (diapered or not) before we get our paperwork for Italy. Let’s change the subject.

5. I discovered that if you’re the lead singer for the Eagles and you happen to have a pair of small green maracas, your crotch is not a flattering place to hold them.

6. I’ve been writing again and feeling far more fulfilled than I have in months. (Obviously, nothing beats the satisfaction of using “maracas” and “crotch” in the same sentence!)

Another week gone, and I’m lounging in bed with a bellyful of dancing baby and a content heart. It’s more than I could ask.

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