December 24, 2013

Crowley Christmas Lights: Infirmary van fun for free

There was nothing -- absolutely nothing -- on the calendar today, and certainly nothing pressing enough to hassle and hustle the kids (sick and well) to clean their zones, get presentable, double-check their belongings, etc.

As a matter of fact, today was such that all the well people naturally slowed to the pace of the ill people, and it made for thoroughly satisfying peacefulness.

Moe crafted felt ornaments, Squeak wrapped her homemade gifts for her friends, Priss and I worked on a newly designed stocking to replace the one she's had for the past six years or so. Leisurely.

Then I got a bright idea to find some drive-through Christmas lights in the area, which would be a perfect evening venture, even for the sick folks. Free fun and wonderment, and no one would even need shoes. I found...

Lights to Music Spectacular
Crowley City Hall, 425 North Parkerson
Crowley, LA
Dec. 2, 2013 - Jan. 3, 2014
5:00 PM to midnight

"Over 200,000 dazzling animated holiday lights synchronized to music. Listen to the lights by tuning in on your car radio -- tune to 93.3 FM."

To get the full effect, one should approach City Hall from the south, traveling north on N. Parkerson. Tune in to 93.3 FM, and drive slowly!

We made several passes up N. Parkerson, and each trip was a stimulating treat. At one point, we pulled off of the street and just sat curbside listening to the music and watching the Christmas lights pulse and dance.

Before leaving downtown, we hung a right on E. 4th St. to check out the First Baptist Church nativity. It was a simple display (no live animals or people), but it was perfectly appropriate in keeping with the night's theme of simplicity.

We decided to have dinner at Sonic in Crowley and briefly discussed the concept of community support through tourism. A yummy (if nutritionally lacking) illustration, our family visiting Crowley to enjoy the lights display (which costs the city x-dollars each year to publicize and power, for visitors' free enjoyment), then flowing our dinner-money into the Crowley city economy instead of driving all the way back to spend it in Lafayette.

An analogy:

You kids spend weeks preparing a beautiful Christmas lights display in our front yard. You also set up a hot cocoa stand in the driveway so visitors can purchase a warm drink and also contribute funds toward the display expenses.

Visitors come from all over to see your display. They love what you've created. BUT...

...instead of buying your hot cocoa, they go to the kid on the next street over and buy his hot cocoa. Hmm.... Why is "community support" important?

We're definitely going to try to offer community support during our little outings, in our own limited ways. The kids agree: art, history, and enrichment are worthy causes.

So, it was a wonderful, slow-paced day/evening, even with sick family members. Peaceful, savored, and in no way ruined by what was not aspired to, or what was unaccomplished. It was absolutely lovely, just as it was.

December 12, 2013

Pace versus Peace: On reclaiming parental instinct

Maybe after all, change really is simply one tiny step in a moment of opportunity. The many failures where my feet stay planted where they are for whatever reason, or the moments when I backtrack or sidestep...those instances are just that -- instances, and they have no bearing on the heart of the matter: progress.

Instances of 'Ailina's failures are features of pace: since when has pace been a concern of mine, the weakest of the weak? Pace became a sucking black hole, swallowing up inspiration, motivation, optimism, vision. Pace was a naysayer, a destroyer of dreams, a thick splotch of ink over the vibrant strokes and shapes that might otherwise have become a stunning panorama. Pace promised progress, but was a thief disguised.

When I strip away the entire context of pace and instead make peace the goal of the moment, the moment becomes an as yet untouched but willing canvas for an image of experience that can be as intricate and layered as we care for it to be. No more hurried sketches desperately scrawled in hopes the result will reflect an already established ideal of perfection (read: so educated, cultured, informed, prepared) -- an ideal that was never really OUR ideal to begin with, but one that's been constructed for us and through us for sixty years (or at least since the establishment of the modern American model of education).

Pace, or peace? What will guarantee a spirit of life-artistry in the end? Which collection of experiences would most speak to a soul of true thoughtfulness and creativity? One of a mind that's been taught to paint by number within a given restriction of time? Or one that has enjoyed the liberty of every desired color and texture to the satisfaction of the individual's singular spirit, not the institution's impersonal standard?

The concerned adults of the world wield ideal against ideal, all under the same banner of progress for our children. But no matter how loud the voices or how long they speak, it's the parents who own the when, what, why, and how of raising their children. This is what nature intends, why parental instinct exists.

There is no shame or error in parents acting upon conviction in raising up their children, or equivalently, conforming to traditions they've always known in order to accomplish the same. Their defining responsibilities as -- strictly -- "parents" is to grow their children, which they shall go about doing according to primarily their own nurturing instincts and inspirations, not primarily the nurturing instincts and inspirations of other persons or entities.

I think far too often, parents deafen or deaden themselves to their most sophisticated parental instincts out of fear: of failure, of ostracism, of error -- as if the well beaten parenting path of the status quo were failure-, ostracism-, and error-free! We relinquish our leadership thinking we are not worthy leaders, or perhaps these areas of our children's lives are not meant to be led by us, or (most regretfully) other persons or entities were meant to lead our children on "this" particular leg of the journey.

It's one thing for parents to raise their children within the established context of societal norms, and have peace and contentment with their choices. Yet, it's a very different matter for parents to do so because fear or a lack of confidence forces out other options.

This is important for me to write out for myself now because I am making a conscious, intentional decision to throw off the established (and implied) restrictions of pace and instead, commit to nurturing richness of experience and depth of character through peaceful living and learning. It may sound extreme for me to say so, but it's true that such a decision challenges traditions and ideals in countless aspects, from work ethic to integrity, from general knowledge to interpersonal relationships and self-respect, from core education to higher education and beyond. It's the stark contradiction of training versus cultivation. And oh, how it matters!

Funny...boiled down, it all seems to come back to the parent-child relationship and the shared journey, even when the relationship changes and the parent and child paths have long since diverged. What do I sense deep in the soil that forms the full length of the way? Irreproachable love.

December 11, 2013

View from the Shore

The "most Zen mother I've ever met" revealed she gauges success by how peaceful an experience is and the peace her family is left with afterward. Further, her goal is to strive for that optimal level of peace in all things.

She referenced her Eastern philosophies in this, and even though I'm a Christian, I can appreciate her motivation and identify with it, with respect to Christ's peace, which comes through acceptance of the current challenges and acknowledging His sovereignty in each unfolding moment. Therein lies the "peace beyond all understanding," and that is not only worth pursuing, but it is worthy of a life's dedication.

I feel as if I've herded my children along through our daily experiences rather than invested myself in walking beside them. As a matter of survival, I've drawn myself out of the current in order to navigate our ship from the bank. How sad would it be to look back and realize I never truly traveled with everyone else.

If remote participation is all I have been able to manage, then these particular rapids I've chosen are too tumultuous. At the end of the river, the kids will emerge breathless and spent, having experienced so much orchestrated exhilaration. But what place will I hold in memory? Where was Mommy's laughter? Her wonderment? Where was SHE? Always arranging the crowd and snapping the photos but never in them.

This is not and will never be sufficient. I'm climbing into the boat.

May 15, 2013

A Number of Wellness

In the absence of miraculous signs of recovery -- like vanishing wounds, exuberant disposition, writing on the wall -- I rely on evidence of improvement found in cryptic numerical expressions, like "CBC = 24.6" or "99.7° F" or "150 cc's suctioned". 

Even though phrases like these hold meaning for me, it's hard to interpret the sum of it all as "good news." Changes for the better happen so gradually and are so shifting, there's no room for a sense of peace or optimism. Changes for the worse happen suddenly and at any given moment, no matter how "well" a patient seems to be doing.

And my mind, it's far more menacing than chronic illness or congenital conditions, because bacteria is alive; it's a foreign invader that multiplies and destroys, and you just pray the antibiotics are strong and smart enough to overcome the attack.

Gumball lays there and lays there and lays there, still, unchanging. The IV drip churns and beeps, the sink leaks, the baby in the next room wails in her own variety of agony. I sit here on the "sofa" with my coffee cooling and the clock's hour hand stuck on the same damn number it was half a day ago.

What I want is a new numerical expression. Take all the blood you need. Run all the tests you want. Take her vitals till we're all sick of readings, but dammit, give me a new number.

May 14, 2013

And just like that...

...something that seems of relatively little consequence blossoms and lands you in the OR less than 24 hours later.

 I've dealt with staph numerous times before, and fever and discomfort, but Gumball's lethargy was so marked, I carried her into emergency. By morning, her abscess spread to three times its original size, so the doc opted to go in and clear it surgically.

 She's been on antibiotics and three rounds of morphine, and her fever persists. She hasn't cracked a smile once -- not even a hint in her shiny black eyes.

 A mother's hell is being trapped at a hospital bedside, watching her baby whimper through pain because there is no longer any strength to fight it. And five other kids at home fending for themselves.

 Hell is knowing your children need you but you can neither bend time nor space to help them.

May 12, 2013

Mother's Day: Working a Double

The official shift began at 3 am -- middle-of-the-night store run for infant meds.  Gumball's (9 1/2 mos) temp was 102.2, and I had nothing to give her. She's the fourth kid this week to catch this virus, but add to that a mean staph infection in her diaper area....

I've been coddling her ever since, trying to keep the fever down, draining her staph at every other diaper change, nursing her pretty constantly. She's in so much pain and obviously worn out. Of all the stressors I'm dealing with at the moment, staph is the one that I cannot cope with. It just makes everything else seem impossible.

Major Stressors

  • Gumball's staph & virus
  • Sister's newborn I have not yet gotten to meet
  • Debilitating tendinitis in (dammit, of course) my DOMINANT arm
  • Impending educational deadlines
  • Sibling rivalry at an all-time high (in the fashion of animalistic regression aboard a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, when everyone else begins to look like hamburgers and hotdogs)
And I no longer enjoy Miner's long-distance support via Internet chat, because now, he's working on a rig from the Neolithic period; they still communicate with smoke and drums.

So I'm on my own with this mess. With one functioning arm. And the clock ticking. The only thing I'm not dealing with is a leaky roof in a hurricane, but I'm bracing myself.

I used to have a battle cry for times such as this, but I lost the range somewhere along the way. Not sure what happened to the Warrior.