Sunday, February 28, 2010


3 : a skilled performer

J and I went to an Eric Clapton concert last night with some friends. For a show at a large venue, it was not a typical concert. There was no banter between songs, no stories about when the song was written, why he liked to play it, etc. In fact, I think the only two words Mr. Clapton said to us were, "thank you," with the exception of his introduction of Vince Gill, who joined him for several songs. I found that I didn't mind this. In fact, as the night went on, I found it a refreshing contrast to attend a concert that was primarily about the art of his music, not entertaining the audience with anecdotes, light shows and pyrotechnics. Given the type of show this was, I found myself pondering the difference between an artist and an entertainer.

It was clear to me last night how unbelievably talented Eric Clapton is. As someone who is not a musician and not really a big fan of music (I see music as primarily a vehicle for good lyrics), it was a little amazing to actually enjoy Clapton's guitar solos. I even found myself listening very closely because there were times when I felt like his guitar was talking, speaking a language that I couldn't quite understand, but wanted to know. I think this is art, not entertainment.

For a while now, I've held a theory that art must be shared to be complete. A painting sitting in a closet won't be a masterpiece until it is viewed. A book sitting unread is incomplete. So I understand why Eric Clapton plays in front of thousands of people. How could he not, really? I just think he does it more to share his art than to entertain people (and perhaps to earn a tiny bit of money, which is also a nice byproduct of good art).

As I continued to think about an artist versus an entertainer, I thought of two of my daughters. A is a dancer, but she's also an introvert, so it's always intrigued me that she's willing to dance in front of crowds big and small, on a stage that barely holds her group or at TPAC's Jackson Hall. I could never have done that at her age (or any age!). I once asked her about this. I started by asking whether she likes to dance. That got an immediate "Yes!" When I asked whether she liked to dance in front of people, there was a slight pause as she thought about it, but it still got an affirmative response. She went on to say that she likes dancing in front of people to share what she's learned, that it doesn't matter to her whether a few people watch or a lot of people watch and that it wouldn't be as satisfying to always dance in the studio, she wants to perform. I think A approaches her dance like an artist.

K, on the other hand, is a born entertainer. When we have friends over, she'll tell a story, do a dance or put on an impromptu play - whatever it takes to capture and keep their attention. I don't even need to ask her whether she would be content to stay in the studio - for her, the whole point of dance is to get on that stage. When she had her first dress rehearsal before her recital last year, I asked her if she had liked being on the big stage. There was a long pause, she tilted her head and looked up at me, then said, "Of course, Mommy!" I'm sure she was thinking, "Me? The stage? People watching? What's not to like?!"

I've struggled a bit as a mom with having daughters who are so very different from me. In fact, sometimes it's hard not to judge them. I spent at least the first two decades of my life trying to avoid attention, so it's tough to understand that wanting people to watch you perform can come from a good and healthy place - not a place of "look at me! tell me how great I am!" But I do believe K's desire to entertain is part of the way she is made. It was interesting to look up the definition of entertainer and see that the primary definition relates to being a hostess or entertaining guests. K is great at this. Whenever we have people drop by, she offers them food. Last week, two guys were here framing a door and hanging drywall - K took them part of her afternoon snack. She's a natural entertainer in every sense of the word. And that's not something that I need to train out of her, even if it does strike a bit of fear in my heart, even if I do have a difficult time understanding this impulse.

I want to love each of my daughters the way they need to be loved. I don't want my bias towards art for art's sake to overshadow the sheer exuberance of an entertaining performance. I don't want one daughter to think her offering is less worthy than her sister's, in my eyes or those of God. So I'll continue to watch them do their thing - whether that means a classical ballet piece, a funky jazz number, a comic routine, a basketball drill or whatever else awaits us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


3 : a state of powerlessness or incapacity to act

I recently read a blog post where the author wrote about how she has four different projects going (a screenplay, a memoir, a book, a TV show) and therefore has gotten nowhere with any of them. This sounded vaguely familiar, convicting and, ahem, scary.

I wouldn't say that I am generally someone who is afraid of commitment, but with my writing, it's another story altogether. I have, in various stages:
a non-fiction book based on The Fun Jar

a partial novel (?) centered on a character in her early 20s

a set of book reviews that are possibly marketable with some editing, effort and elbow grease

a concept for a young adult fantasy novel

an idea that my blog posts about B's butterfly would make a great article

an allegorical story of my own journey

the best short story I've written so far - and actually submitted, but need to re-submit since it didn't win the contest

oh, and a commitment to speak at a women's retreat one month from tomorrow
So this person I don't even know has me wondering where I should spend my time and energy. And wondering why this is such a hard decision for me. Surely most people don't spend this much time thinking about what they should do...

I was sharing my thoughts on this struggle yesterday with some friends and asked whether I should focus my energy on what I want to do or what I think is the most marketable project. I would love to have something published, if only for the affirmation that I have written something that other people want to read. But I have found that creativity, for me, is not a hot water tap that just needs to be turned on. Sometimes when I open the tap, nothing dribbles out. And the past month has left me unable to really attempt tapping into my creativity. Have I lost the opportunity to do so? Should I just give it up as a lost cause, write only for this little blog and focus my energy on preparing to homeschool A next year? That seems a bit defeatist, if practical.

I am trying to move past the paralysis that I fear is setting in because I'm not really powerless, even if I do feel incapable of acting. My thought at the end of yesterday is that perhaps I should settle on one short term goal and one long term goal. Then I could work on editing book reviews alongside drafting a book proposal. This simply requires that I make up my mind about which of the various ideas flitting around my head are worth pursuing...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


3 : something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example

I am finding again and again - even more than a month after my surgery - how humbling it is to be unable to care for my family in the way I desire. While I am extremely grateful to be feeling a bit better nearly every day, I still can't do laundry, sweep the floors and cook dinner all in the same day. I've found that even when I don't realize I'm doing too much, my body informs me the next day by providing a rope of fire along the tendons in my lower leg. I respond by resting, again.

Yesterday was a good case in point. I awoke with a plan to test myself on the treadmill for the first time. I had very humble ambitions - to walk a mere 1/4 of a mile or stop if my leg protested before that. Sounds reasonable, right?

I dressed accordingly, then noticed as I came down the stairs that my leg was tight. Not paying this much heed, I got the girls ready for school, all the while expecting my leg to loosen as I kept moving around. On the drive home from dropping the girls off at school, my leg tendons burned from merely depressing the accelerator. And so I resigned myself to another day of rest, another day without exercise, another day spent with my leg elevated. It's not all bad - I do have a good book I'm currently reading.

But I had wanted to cook dinner. I didn't have high ambitions here, either. Merely a pork loin cooked in the crockpot, along with some veggies. As the day wore on, my leg continued to complain about being used. So A and K ate left-over pasta for dinner while J, B and I had jalapeno pimento cheese sandwiches. This is not exactly what I had in mind.

As I sat my daughters down to eat their dinner, which they uniformly ate without one word of complaint, I mourned not meeting my own standards yet again. Because what I have established by custom, model and example is that I will cook a meal - from scratch - three or four times weekly. This meal will be well-balanced and will always, always include at least one vegetable.

We've been truly blessed to have tons of friends bring us meals over the last four weeks. Our entire family has appreciated trying new foods and having the surprise of seeing what we'll be eating that night. But I (and I suspect all of us) am ready for a return to something approximating normal. I'm ready to plan for and prepare our meals. Heck, I'm even willing to make family favorites. (My loving husband complains that my obsession with variety creates a long lapse between servings of favorite family dishes.) But my body won't quite cooperate.

So I'm left wondering whether I should lower my standards and whether temporarily lowering them will be detrimental to all of our expectations. If I start serving sandwiches on a weeknight for dinner, will we all be satisfied with less than stellar food offerings? If I bend my self-imposed rules and get take out weekly until I feel better will my girls begin to prefer someone else's food to my own? I guess what I ultimately worry is that if I lower my standards now, will I ever be able to get them back up to where I want them?

I try to remind my inner legalist to offer myself a bit of grace. These standards are, after all, self-imposed. I set these standards because I love cooking for my family, I love offering them healthy food and I love expending some creative energy in the kitchen. And none of those things will change, no matter what standards I fail to meet.

Monday, February 22, 2010


:the state of being grateful : thankfulness

Saturday was the one-month mark for my surgery and I am grateful to be feeling a bit better each day. I've pondered and wondered about the best way to thank the many people who have helped me and my family over the past month. Traditional types would say I should write thank you notes to each person for each act performed. I've actually started this approach and floundered. There are, quite simply, too many people to thank. Too many people who have cooked for us, washed our clothes, driven our children around, done countless tasks to help us make it through. It is, in fact, overwhelming. Even as I type this, my eyes fill with tears to recall how long we have needed help and how willing people have been to give it.

So please bear with me as I express a bit of gratitude. It will be small in proportion to the help received, but I suppose that is always the way...

Thank you if you encouraged me

Just before my surgery two or three people e-mailed me to tell me how much they enjoy reading this blog. While I think it's important for me to stretch and share my writing with others, it continues to be a scary process. The encouragement came just when I needed it.

One friend sent me a card in the mail with verses she was praying for me during my recovery.

Another friend called on what turned out to be one of my worst recovery days and told me it wasn't unusual to feel so poorly a week after the surgery itself.

Thank you if you cooked for me

It's been more than a month since I cooked for my family. Even tonight, the first night we've been officially off of meal rotation, I heated up quiche from one friend and soup from another.

For nearly three weeks, it would have been impossible for me to stand for long enough to cook. For the first two weeks, I couldn't even heat the food. J had to heat it and serve it to me and the girls. Before the surgery, I thought we would be fine without meals. I thought we'd eat a bit of cereal and get back on track. Little did I know.

My kind friend who organized meals for the first two weeks didn't even ask me about extending our meals - she simply e-mailed me to tell me who was bringing food for the next two weeks. At that point, I was so tired, so discouraged and still in such pain, that all I could do was offer a humble thank you.

I have friends who made us dinner, brought me lunch, and even drove me to lunch when I was well enough to leave the house. You provided nourishment for our bodies and our souls.

Thank you if you drove my children to or from school or anywhere else

I've never realized how hard it is to be unable to drive or just how much driving I do. For three weeks, I couldn't drive at all. My girls attend a school with no bus service and also each take dance at least once weekly. You can do the math on all of the car trips required. And if you were one of the many, many people who helped our children get around, thank you for not only driving them around, but listening to K, who surely talked your ear off the entire car ride.

Thank you if you washed our clothes, unloaded our dishwasher, swept our floor or performed other thankless household tasks

Some things can wait until recovery is over. Laundry is not one of those things. J did an admirable job of doing not only his own job, but mine for weeks on end. But there simply is not enough time in the day, in the week, to do everything.

I have a high tolerance for dirt and did an admirable job of ignoring our floors when I could barely stand on them, much less sweep them. But I also have a black and white kitchen floor (a lesson in humility) that shows every speck of dirt, every flake of cereal, every drip, drop and drabble. And it needed sweeping long before I was able to do so.

Thank you if you called me, stopped by to see me, sent me a card or e-mailed me to see how I was doing

Even an introvert like yours truly finds more than two weeks of house arrest a bit stifling. And while there were days that I didn't even feel well enough to talk on the phone, I am so very grateful to friends near and far who picked up the phone to see how I was really doing and to let me know I was cared for, even when I felt alone.

If you e-mailed me and I didn't respond, thank you for forgiving my feeble brain and limited energy. Your words still reached me and helped me through a rough day.

If you sat and talked with me while I was stuck on the couch or in bed, you know you're a dear friend, because who else would do that for me?

Thank you if you brought me a book to read

This doesn't really need much explanation, does it? I haven't yet read all of the books loaned and given to me during my recovery, but that doesn't mean I won't and it certainly doesn't mean it didn't make my heart sing to have friends who know the way to my heart is through a good book.

Thank you if you prayed for me

In person or in private

Whether I knew it or not
And, finally...

Thank you if you have stayed married to me or still let me be your mom

through sickness,

through whining,

through crying,

through frustration

and have loved me so well through it all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


2 : something that sustains or fuels

It's been a rough day of mothering and I'm not quite done yet. The day started fine. The alarm went off. I hit snooze (as I am known to do). I curled up behind J. Rubbed his back. Rubbed his head. Snuggled with him as we woke. It was a gentle start to a day that would not stay gentle for long.

Fast forward a few minutes to me, downstairs in the kitchen, making lunches for school. As I grab something from the refrigerator, I see A, sitting at the counter, huddled over a paper, pencil in hand. "What are you doing?" I ask, suspicion gnawing at my heart, my mind. "Umm, this math packet was due yesterday. I forgot," she says quickly, apologetically. "Again?!!" I say, voice raised, red, angry.

Before you judge me too quickly (but still, go ahead and judge me, I deserve it), this is the fifth project this year she has forgotten, left until the last minute or turned in after its due date. So I was justified in my frustration that we were right back at this place. I was not justified in expressing my frustration - it did nothing to appease the situation, or to make either one of us feel better.

After uttering "Again?!!" in frustration, I know that I can not talk to A about this rationally. I turn, leave the kitchen to find J. His reaction is even more vehement than my own and he quickly hands down her punishment: no reading. She may not read at home, during free time at school, anywhere. Not until we tell her we have removed the no-reading penalty.

I don't know your children. Maybe this would feel like no punishment at all. Ahhh, but not to this child of my heart. J knows as well as I that the way to her heart is through a book. It's not exactly like taking away bread or water - you truly must have these to live. And while I'd prefer not to contemplate it, even the Truss family can live without books. But it would be a lesser kind of living, wouldn't it? It would be like moving to a high altitude area. There's oxygen, but not as much of it. So for the next few days, A is going to the proverbial mountains. No books, living on thin air.

All of this is before 8 AM. I then (unwisely) pack my day full of time studying the Bible with other women, lunch with my husband, physical therapy and then back to pick the girls up from school. You may have already deduced that this is too much to do in one day when I've been stuck at home for weeks and have only recently been able to get out of the house at all. So my energy is at a low ebb when I pull into the drive with the girls.

I ask A to sit down at the dining room table to get started on her homework. She opens her backpack and says.... "I left my math packet at school." What would you say at this point? I'm not even sure exactly what I said. I know I asked her if she did it on purpose. I asked her if she thought leaving it at school would mean she didn't have to do it. Then I asked her what she thought we should do. She had no suggestion, so I left the room to call J for advice. No answer.

Meanwhile, B brings me a note from her teacher. Third grade, for those of you who don't recall, is all about multiplication. Facts must be learned, memorized, memorized and memorized. We all do it. B made it through the first batch (0 to 5) with no problems, but she has struggled with 6s, 7s, and 8s. In fact, she's taken the timed test three times and not passed. Her solution? Today she wrote the math facts on her desk. . . so that she could look at them when taking her test, of course.

When I asked her what this is, she told me it wasn't cheating because that means copying someone else's work. I explained to this child, who is far too smart for her own good, that the point of the test is that you do the work right then, not that you have done the work at some point in the past. I then told her that her consequence would be writing a note to her teacher to apologize and taking the multiplication test I was about to create for her.

This reasonable (in my mind) consequence resulted in sobbing, near hysteria from my lovely eight year old. To my credit (or the Holy Spirit's?) I kept my tone of voice level, my mouth - and mind - calm as we talked about this. I told her she could cry for a while longer, but that if she continued to act this way, she would get another consequence.

Then I walked out of the room, feeling completely unequal to my current parenting tasks, and called J again. No answer. This time I left a message. He called back and our talk left me feeling a bit better, if still overwhelmed.

So the day wears on. I'm not sure who is the most tired - the mom, who has been doling out punishments, making the peace, teaching the math - or the girls, who are making poor choices at every turn. We could each use an oxygen tank - a big, fat book to take us elsewhere, make us forget about our cares. Sadly, that's a consequence we're all facing right now - no time or permission to read when there are behavior corrections to be made.

But I'll give you one guess as to what I'll be doing as soon as I put three lovely, sinful, challenging, beautiful girls to bed (early). . .

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


1 a : one attached to another by affection or esteem
4 : a favored companion

Now that I am finally beginning to feel a bit better, I find I have more that I want to write about than time to write (will the snow ever stop?). I've had several blog posts circling in my mind today about crutches, fear and peace, but I find myself stealing a moment to write about what makes me choose friends. What draws me to certain women? Perhaps more importantly, what makes me pursue friendship with them? While every relationship is different, I think there are a few overarching things I look for and need in a friend:

Shares a Common Interest
Whether this is a friend who...
chatters away about the latest book she's read
makes my mind spark with creativity
shares a recipe in every conversation
laughs at the same jokes I do OR
watches a football game instead of wanting to talk to me during it
these are women I want to be around on a regular basis.

Inspires me
A woman who...
makes art
parents well
is brave OR
follows her dreams
is a friend who inspires me to do the same.

Encourages me
I fail pretty regularly to be the woman I want to be, so I need friends who...
remind me of who I am
point me to who God is
see the true me and not just my mistakes
are willing to fail in front of me
because these are women I can trust.

I read something today that reminded me that while friends can betray us, we should never let the potential for betrayal stop us from forming friendships. That was a good reminder to me during a time when I've had to concentrate so much energy on myself recently. I am, quite frankly, tired of me. I am tired of resting, tired of fatiguing quickly, tired of conserving my energy at every turn. I want to be able to think about others, do things for others and be a good friend.

As I look at the things I crave in a friend, I think I mainly want to be known. But it's hard for any one person to really understand another completely. So it takes many different friends to fit all of the different parts of me. One friend might understand my desire to raise independent daughters, even if I don't care whether they dress in matching clothes. Another might see my desire to write like a kernel buried in my heart and gently work - for years - to excavate it. One might talk openly about who she is and what she thinks, with little artifice. I hope I do as good a job of being a friend as others have for me - in recent days, especially.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties
(2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers
(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests

Last night I was thrilled to find Roman Holiday playing on TV. It's my favorite movie of all time and to happen upon in on the eve of Valentine's Day was a gift. Even better was the fact that B and K sat and watched it with me. I've seen this movie several times, yet it never fails to make me cry. B and K were fascinated by the movie. Surprisingly, neither one asked about why the movie was in black and white, but they did pepper me with questions about the subtleties you find in old movies that are completely lacking today. B kept waiting for Gregory Peck's character to fall in love with Audrey Hepburn (because don't we all fall in love with her the moment we see her?).

If you haven't seen the movie, see it. But here's a quick plot summary: Hepburn plays a princess who is overworked and overwrought by the demands placed on her as she tours European cities. On her first night in Rome, her governess gives her a sleeping pill. The medicated princess sneaks out of her quarters and is rescued by Peck, an American reporter. Peck recognizes the princess and decides to try to get a story out of it: he talks her into spending a day doing everything she's always wanted to do. Over the course of their time together, they fall in love. But this is not a modern movie. They don't ride off into the sunset together. Duty calls and the princess returns to her life, one where an American reporter can't go.

The ending of the movie prompted the most questions. After stealing a public moment with the man she now knows is a reporter, the princess exits with her entourage. Peck stands at the rope separating the press from royalty until he is the only one left. At this point, K said, "Why can't he go see her?" I explained that he can't see her again now that she's gone back to being a princess. B said, "Well, can't he marry her?" "No, he's not royalty. They can't get married," I replied, sniffling. "Well, someone has to do it eventually. They should just get married," B said with conviction.

I love this about my middle daughter: she believes a rule does not have to be obeyed simply because it exists. I firmly believe this will serve her well later in life. I think she will probably live to break some rules that need to be broken. But I'm not sure choosing the duty of fulfilling your obligations to your family and country is a rule that should be broken, even for love.

We talk, especially on a day like today, about love conquering all. But there are many types of love and I don't want my daughters to believe that romantic love is the only love worth having, the only love worth serving, the only love worth protecting. I want them to be able to make the hard choices in life with confidence. As I watched Roman Holiday with them last night, I was grateful that my daughters will not be faced with the choice Hepburn's princess faced.

But I don't want to kid myself. They will make choices about whether to follow love and what love to follow. They may have to choose between career and family, not once, but several times. They may have to choose between living in a city they love and living where their husband's job sends them. They may have to choose between seeing J and I regularly and being with the love of their life.

So I pray that all of my daughters will have the strength to make the right choices about love and about life. I pray they will break the rules that need to be broken and choose to obey the rules that should guide their lives - and I pray they will have the wisdom to distinguish between the two, as did a fictional princess played by Audrey Hepburn.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


1 : an act, process, or instance of translating: as
: a rendering from one language into another; also : the product of such a rendering
: a change to a different substance, form, or appearance

Last night, I took my newly 10 year old daughter A, her sister B and two of her friends to a long awaited event: the movie version of The Lightning Thief. This is a series of books our family has really enjoyed. J and I have read them, along with A and B. They've been great hits with each of us, for our own reasons. We happened upon this series last year, when A had recently completed a series on Greek mythology at school, so the cast of characters was fresh in her mind. J and I learned a lot about the minor characters in Greek mythology and enjoyed the modern day characters of Percy and Annabeth.

When A saw that the book was being made into a movie several months ago, she immediately asked if she could have a Percy Jackson movie and sleepover birthday party. A's birthday was January 5, so she waited five weeks to celebrate with friends in order to see Percy together. She was very excited and even loaned her copy of the book to friends so that they could read it before seeing the movie. She really wanted everyone coming to the party to have read the book first (that's my girl!).

So was the movie all we had hoped for? Not quite. We knew from the previews that the movie differed greatly from the book. In the book, the reader and Percy spend a great deal of the time not knowing who Percy's father is. The movie, by contrast, spills the beans on that mystery in the commercials! Removing the tension of Percy's confusion about his father didn't seem to further the plot and only made the ending of the movie less believable when Percy meets his father for the first time.

But my biggest complaint as a parent is that a series of books that are appropriate for third and fourth graders have been turned into a movie that's laced with sexual innuendos, swear words and violence. I'll acknowledge that many times a movie is scarier than a book - there's something about seeing someone else's vision of a monster that's more horrifying than we envision them ourselves. But turning a friendly satyr into a horny cohort is far from being a necessary change to the plot.

I believe that books and movies are different media and that changes are necessary in order to convey the spirit of a book onscreen. In fact, I thought the first Harry Potter movie was TOO faithful to the book. Sometimes, you do a disservice to your source material when trying to keep every single element in place. So how do you translate a good book into a good movie? Is it even possible to do so?

I normally find art inspired by a different art medium fascinating. I loved Girl with the Pearl Earring and recently enjoyed The Swan Thieves, which features a fictional Impressionist artist and a modern day painter's obsession with her. So why can authors successfully translate the hint of a story on canvas into pages that I enjoy while filmmakers tend to leave me frustrated with their efforts to take those words from the page and translate them into living, breathing images?

Perhaps this is my own bias at play. While I am routinely inspired by visual art, I'll take a good book over a good movie any day. The book lets me fill in the edges with my imagination, instead of being a passive receiver and a painting or photograph does the same thing - I get to supply the narrative (or not) to go along with the image.

The movie's numerous changes to the book prompted discussion from our group of girls. We talked about whether we would want a book that we wrote to be made into a movie, if that means giving up control over your vision for it. One friend shared that she heard Kate DiCamillo where the author said that having your book made into a movie is a lot like having your child grow up: you've done what you can and you have to let it go.

So it is worth what you lose in the translation to turn those words floating in your mind into images on the screen? What's a movie you've seen that made you love the book more? Is there such a thing?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


: to move along unsteadily or with difficulty; especially : to limp along

I've been hobbling around for nearly three weeks now and I would like to think I've learned a bit from it. If nothing else, I know that when I am finally able to walk with a normal gait, when I am able to move steadily and without difficulty, I will be inordinately thankful. Walking is something that the vast majority of us take for granted. We simply put one foot in front of the other and our body complies without thought, without effort. Having not had that luxury for many days now, I find myself marveling when I am able to walk from one room to another and roll all the way through the ball of my right foot with each step. This, for me, is momentous.

I have decided that the old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder is true. Many of my daily activities were taken away from me the moment the surgeon snipped three tendons. I never thought myself overly fond of driving, of grocery shopping, of taking care of life's little everyday tasks. Yet, I miss them now. As I pondered this last week, I came to the realization that I enjoy my mundane life as a stay-at-home mom very much. I am fond of making dinner for my family, whether I'm cooking a particular family favorite or something I'll likely never throw together again. I enjoy keeping our house orderly, if not clean. (Even three weeks on the sofa hasn't made me long to mop the floor or clean the toilets.) But most of all, I've realized how much I enjoy mothering.

For the first week following my surgery, I was able to do almost no hands-on mothering. I couldn't even let little K sit in my lap and read her a book. I have gradually been able to take part in some of the hands on tasks of motherhood, but many of them (giving a bath, preparing a dinner, picking up toys from the floor) are, quite literally, still out of my reach. And what I've realized with some astonishment is that I truly enjoy many aspects of mothering.

I'll be honest: At times, I have hobbled through motherhood. When my daughters were young, I struggled with the sheer physical demands placed on me. As my husband will tell you, with no small degree of sadness and a touch of frustration, I can only stand so much of someone touching me in one day. There were many days when my daughters were toddlers that I was willing to give him no more than a peck on the cheek when he returned home after a long day at work. I quickly found after leaving my job in the business world that taking care of two small children was not something that allowed you to mark things off of your To Do list. I washed the dishes, they ate again in two hours. I did laundry, they spilled chocolate milk on their dresses. I mopped the floor, they came running inside with glee and muddy shoes. All of this is obviously part of life and part and parcel of mothering. Since I didn't enjoy it, I decided I was a bad mother.

So I have been encouraged to realize that even though I can't do any of those things right now, I am still the only mother my daughters have. And they don't love me any less because I can't load the dishwasher right now. They do love that we can once again spend part of each day reading The Iliad together. They love crafting, assembling and creating Valentine's cards together. They love going through my closet as they try to determine exactly how a 100 year old person would dress (since I am the closest thing they have to a 100 year old!).

Hobbling through life has given me a gift: the gift of realizing that I am no longer hobbling through motherhood. I'm not a ball room dancer, either. I don't handle every twist and turn with grace and aplomb. But I do enjoy it and I am becoming more and more capable in the areas that matter most to me. So while I'll continue to hobble from room to room for a while longer, I'm going to remind myself that in the ways that matter, I am strolling along just fine.

My friend has been hosting a series of thoughts on what it means to be a member of the Imperfect Mamas Club. I'm definitely in her club, as this post indicates. Head over there to read more...

Thursday, February 4, 2010


2 a: something (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession
b: an element of a computer program (as a graphics application) that activates and controls a particular function
c: a means to an end

I've had lots of help to get me through the last two weeks. I've used some big and small tools to get me through preparing for and recovering from my leg surgery. While I truly hope no one reading this ever has to go through anything similar, if you do, here are some tools I suggest you acquire:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer DVDs - OK, so I guess you can pick your TV series of choice, but I must say that Buffy has many merits. Upon re-watching this series, I am struck anew by Joss Whedon's genius. This series is about friendship, good vs. evil, what it means to grow up and what a healthy relationship looks like, amongst other things. It also offers the strongest female protagonist ever on a TV show: a character who is sexy without being sexualized and strong emotionally as well as physically. But even if - for some bizarre reason - you pick another TV series, a set of DVDs are great for those days when you're not tired enough to nap, but not awake enough to read.

One Caring, Involved Husband - I'm not sure where you can go to get one of these, but you'll find it invaluable. (I found mine at the library, but I make no promises about what you'll find when searching there.) My dear husband has not only done his job, but mine for many, many days now. He's put children to bed, washed dishes, sorted laundry, served meals, vacuumed and played nursemaid to a wife who has been alternately thankful, frustrated, in pain and weepy - sometimes all of the above at once. I don't know how I could have survived this without him.

Rolling Office Chair - "Why?" you may ask. This odd accessory has been found in my bathroom since my first stressful post-op shower. That first day, I needed the chair nearly immediately. I was able to dry my torso, then needed help with my leg and, frankly, needed a rest. A chair with wheels was great for pushing myself around the room with my leg fully supported. Whether I was drying my hair, reaching for clothes or brushing my teeth, I used this chair.

Helpful Extended Family - My mom came up to help immediately following the surgery, allowing J to focus his time and attention on me instead of feeling spread thin between me and our girls and staying with me during the day when he needed to return to work and I was still groggy from anesthesia. My sweet sister-in-law has picked our girls up from school, washed laundry and cleaned out our refrigerator.

Many Loving, Sacrificial Friends - My friends have brought me food, driven my children to and from school, washed my clothes, cleaned my house, listened to me, brought me books, had lunch with me and taken my children overnight to preserve my sanity on the third snow day in a row. I suppose our family could have survived without all of this help, but we would have been less healthy, more wrinkled, more stressed and generally less well cared for. To say that I will gladly repay each and every one of them - and friends still unmet - is an understatement.

Trays, Trays, Trays - When your leg is in a brace that makes it impossible to bend your knee, bending over is a problem. I needed trays to hold my books, trays to hold my plate for eating, trays to hold the laptop and keep the weight off of my legs. J bought two new trays the weekend after my surgery. At the time, I thought this might be an unnecessary purchase. I was wrong, he was right. They've been immensely helpful.

Three Kind Daughters - Silly as it sounds, I was worried about how I would manage to make my coffee every morning when it was hard to stand for more than a minute or two at a time. A was quick to volunteer for this task and she has joyfully brewed my coffee for me each morning before leaving for school. She's also been incredibly gracious about sharing her bed with an invalid mom who hangs out there during the day while she's at school (though I suspect her hospitality is partly linked to the fact that my presence in her bed means she doesn't have to make it every morning). B has helped out by vacuuming and K has done anything she can think of, including serving me a lunch one day that consisted of oyster crackers, tortilla chips and two Reese's cups.

Travel Coffee Mugs - These handy vehicles have allowed me to enjoy A's brews each morning, no matter how much I jostle their contents as I hobble from room to room.

Books - It should come as no surprise that I needed books - lots of books - to make it through recuperation from surgery. I need books all the time, healthy or not. But it helped to have just the right kind of book - one that was easy to read, compelling and engaging. Blessedly, I found this time and again with Broken for You, Beautiful Creatures, Understood Betsy and Manhood for Amateurs.

A Blog - So maybe this one's not essential, but it has helped me maintain some semblance of sanity, provided an occasional distraction and given some of you the opportunity to encourage me ... and that's something worth having. Thanks for reading.