Monday, October 5, 2015

The Virtue of Displeasure

If you would attain to what you are not yet, 
you must always be displeased by what you are.
For where you are pleased with yourself, 
there you have remained.
Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.

-Saint Augustine   

I appreciate the kind words re: my new table runner that inspired last week's blog. No really, it means a lot to me as I spent a fair amount of time deciding that was the one I wanted to bring home.

We are five days deep in October, & this means several things. First, it means it is October, & that deserves a moment.

** moment **

There was a legitimate chill in the air over the weekend, & it was exquisite. I did a little rearranging in my closet so that the "hoodies" section is more prominent.

October fifth also means in a handful of days, I will turn thirty-five. The state of Louisiana is all over me about this, insisting I mail them thirty-two dollars & twenty-five cents in return for a sticker I can place on the back of my driver's license that will prevent me from having to venture down to the DMV. I actually wouldn't mind having my picture retaken, & while I do exercise regularly, I've birthed two kids & discovered Nutella since I last provided the state with my official weight, so that could stand some updating too. I mean, if a good-looking cop pulls me over for, say, drinking coffee & eating a Daily Harvest muffin while speeding toward Delta Community College, I don't want our relationship to begin with lies about my weight, especially when I believe I'm legally bound to share with Handsome Cop the news that there's a revolver in my glovebox. Even healthy relationships cannot withstand lies & guns.

With October also comes the realization that Reagan's been in school for a whole month now. Despite my initial misgivings (& a week of crippling heartburn), things have gone well. You know, that should've been my first clue. I should have known that after four weeks of WEE School bliss, something was coming down the pike. I won't leave you in suspense; COOKIES are coming down the pike.

Last week began wonderfully. The kids & I hung out at the house all day Monday until I loaded us all up & drove to my parents' house so I could shove the kids through the door at my mom & turn right around & spend an hour outside in the fall air with my friends Rob Thomas & Freddie Mercury. Yeah, yeah, keep your mouth shut. I mean once you're thirty-five, aren't you allowed to listen to whatever music you want, no questions asked?

Tuesday was also splendid. In fact, Tuesday, September 29, was National Coffee Day (which is apparently a real thing), & appropriately, the book club met Tuesday evening to discuss Winter Garden. We had a big group, & thanks to a tip from my mother (who knows the ins & outs of procuring coffee anywhere), we requested that McAlister's brew us some coffee. They obliged, & it was excellent, excellent coffee.

I tried mightily not to constantly segue into The Bronze Horseman when we were discussing Winter Garden, but there were moments I simply could not help myself. Both novels address the abysmal conditions inside Leningrad during WWII, but I feel The Bronze Horseman does a more thorough job, &, AND, The Bronze Horseman tells a love story that will pull every emotion from you. Every. Last. One.

I was on such a high from the stimulation of the book club's discussion (& the McAlister's coffee) that I was up until the wee hours of Wednesday morning rereading The Bronze Horseman. I awoke Wednesday morning to various text & Facebook messages alerting me to the fact that not one, but two book club members had begun reading The Bronze Horseman. Naturally I was ecstatic, but I also began to panic a little. I sat Henry down with Daniel Tiger so I could reread a couple of chapters that *fingers crossed* my wonderful Christian friends will not judge me too harshly for encouraging them to read. I mean, between the two of them, these ladies have eight kids, so I don't think there are any big surprises in the book.

Due to my foolish decision to begin rereading a long novel I love at eleven the night before, I was exhausted when I crawled out of bed Wednesday morning to rouse Reagan for school. The day begun to show signs of greatness, though, starting with my remembering that some men were set to arrive to deal with our embarrassing flower beds. Y'all, I can't believe I haven't dedicated an entire blog to this issue, so completely has it vexed me for months & months. I guess I held my tongue because I didn't want to publicly shame Trey into getting on the phone & calling someone about the Jumanji-esque situation surrounding our house.

You're not going to believe this, but I am completely, over-the-top anal about flower beds. I actually used to go out in the yard & pull weeds myself back when I had one child who napped several hours a day. I simply cannot maintain the beds to my specifications right now, & unfortunately, Trey has no specifications, aside from, "Weeds? What weeds?" Weeds amaze me; they are so determined & grow so rapidly even in the harsh Louisiana summer heat. They're like Saban; I just despise them so, so much, yet they are good at what they do & they press on, even when everyone loathes them.

Anyway, as Henry & I were leaving to go pick Reagan up from school I drove away from the house very slowly, watching as beautiful, perfect edges were being formed between the yard & the flower beds. When I approached Reagan's classroom, a smile on my face due to, (1) successfully badgering two people into reading The Bronze Horseman &, (2) successfully badgering Trey into addressing the yard situation, my smile faded when I saw Reagan's teacher. Her face told me something was wrong, & before my mind had time to wander too many places, I was told that Reagan was bitten.

I'd never considered a bite before. My school fears are of course all diabetes-related. Someone giving Reagan a huge piece of cake or a Capri Sun, or some curious child doing damage to the incredibly expensive insulin pump top the list of potential school-related travesties that sometimes give me nightmares. I took a deep breath & talked with Reagan's teacher, who told me the bite did not break the skin. Reagan didn't seem too bothered by it, & so I figured that was our glitch for Wednesday, which was, as I mentioned, otherwise shaping up to be a good day.

The kids & I met Trey for lunch at the Cracker Barrel, where, to his credit, Trey reacted considerably better to the bite news than I anticipated. While Trey & Reagan were huddled in discussion about hypothetical bite-retaliation scenarios, I was lost in my chicken pot pie. Have you ever had Cracker Barrel's chicken pot pie? It is their Wednesday special, & it is indeed special. I usually rotate between the grilled chicken salad & the grilled chicken dinner plate at Cracker Barrel, but I took a chance on the pot pie & was rewarded for my bravery. Sometimes when your child is bitten, you need carbs in the form of a warm, flaky crust.

So, I mentioned cookies. I haven't forgotten. Wednesday afternoon, while Henry was sleeping & Reagan was doing something quietly that didn't require me to be alert, I sat down with some coffee, admired the yard for a bit, & then went through the papers in Reagan's school folder. What I discovered is that, for the remainder of the school year, every Wednesday will be Cookie Wednesday. I'm not going to lie; I totally cursed in my head.

If you don't parent a diabetic child, or you don't parent a child with a severe nut or other food allergy, I don't know that you can fully appreciate my reaction to the announcement of Cookie Wednesdays. The drill is this: every week, one student will be the "Cookie Monster," meaning the monster's mother will bring cookies for all the other students on Wednesday of that week. There are so many things about this arrangement that make me want to scream & throw things.

I've not yet figured out how we're going to handle Cookie Wednesdays. If Reagan is to eat cookies with her class, someone who knows how to check her number & who can properly assess the amount of carbs in various cookies in order to dose her for them will have to be present at the school for cookie time. Those who meet the aforementioned qualifications are, as you might imagine, an elite group consisting of me, my mom, & my mother-in-law. Scenario No. 2 is for me to train a friend who works near WEE School & who has graciously offered to learn the pump. The final option is for Reagan to save her cookies for later.

What I despise is that whether she eats the cookies or not, every Wednesday Reagan's school day will be interrupted with a reminder of her diabetes. If she eats the cookies, she'll have to be singled out & taken aside so her finger can be pricked & medicine can be given. If she doesn't eat the cookies, she'll sit there while her peers enjoy their cookies, which is a small matter, I realize, but perhaps not so small to a four-year-old who already deals with a lot of things most four-year-olds do not. You don't even want to know what I'm considering bringing all the kids the week Reagan & I wear the Cookie Monster crown. Let's just say they may strip me of my title.

Also a Cookie Day downer: I don't teach on Wednesdays, & I've been loving the mornings alone with Henry at the house. I usually have an hour to myself after Trey leaves with Reagan (I could write a blog about that hour!), & then Henry wakes up & we watch some Daniel before dressing to go get Reagan. Cookie Wednesdays will upend our nice little routine should I decide to drag Henry to WEE School with me so I can give Reagan medicine for cookies.

This is how I dealt with Cookie Wednesdays anxiety on Thursday of last week:

I eat french fries maybe once a month, & often my monthly fry binge happens at Five Guys. I stopped  there on my way home from teaching Thursday & sat & ate a burger & a small order of their fries.  Everything was freshly made, & it was so hot, & so salty, & after some deliberation, I ate every last fry, even those littering the bottom of the greasy brown paper bag in which the calorie-fest was served. And p.s., I went to my parents' house Thursday evening & exercised for over an hour, so get off my back. 

On the heels of my learning about Cookie Wednesdays, Trey left town Friday morning for a weekend of golf with some friends. If you're thinking that Trey doesn't play golf, you're correct, except sometimes he does when it means a two-night stay out of town with friends who want to play golf & watch football sans their young children. This meant Henry spent Friday night with his grandparents, & Reagan & I enjoyed a girls' night.

We went to Outback to eat & take selfies.

After dinner, we strolled through Hobby Lobby & then ended the evening at Chick-fil-A, where Reagan played on the playground with a young boy whose father annoyed me considerably despite my pretending to be completely absorbed in what I was reading on my iPhone.

The week's best irony: annoying Chick-fil-A dad ate no fewer than three of Chick-fil-A's chocolate chip cookies as he bored me with stories about his son, about whose future athletic endeavors he has grand delusions. Had I not been enjoying it so much, I'd have doused him & the cookies he did not need to be eating with my large cup of coffee. After the week I'd had, I wanted to say, "Stop eating so many cookies, & stop feeding them to your son, who is overweight at four no matter how many times you tell me he is big-boned." And by the way, the kid is not big-boned, nor is he tall for his age. Reagan was a head taller than the boy, & p.s., she has her finger pricked ten times a day, is constantly attached to a pump that provides her with insulin, & routinely sits & watches her peers eat sweets she cannot have, so please, please stop telling me how large & wonderfully tough your child is.

Whew. We left Chick-fil-A not a moment too soon.

Friday night after Reagan went to sleep, I did what I usually do when Trey is out of town, which is shop online. I mean hey, it's cheaper than a golfing weekend, you know? Ann Taylor Loft had everything online marked 40% off, & I ended up ordering a blouse, an Ominous Teal blouse. I began the shopping venture vowing not to order anything black or white, or black & white as I've realized in the past few weeks that about eighty percent of my wardrobe is black, white, or black & white. Teal is a bold color, yes, but Ominous Teal? I was intrigued. I'd post a picture of the blouse to satisfy your curiosity, but the color is currently sold out online.

My mind was already on all things teal because I am considering making a bold handbag purchase.

*hold your thoughts*

It's not the purse I'd normally gravitate toward, but I saw it in a Talbot's magazine of my mom's & just flippantly asked her what she thought of it, & she said, "Well, do you want that for your birthday?" The wheels began to turn. 

I haven't yet decided if I want it for my birthday. I am forever a fan of the tote bag, & I definitely like the two-toned look, & since the majority of my wardrobe is black & white, there's almost nothing I own that will clash with the purse. It was paired with various colorful sweaters in the Talbot's magazine, & everything just looked so vibrant & warm & happy. The real beauty of the two-toned teal tote conundrum is that it's given me something to ponder that has nothing to do with Cookie Wednesdays. Ladies, let me know what you think of the purse (gentlemen, you can share your thoughts as well, but I likely won't heavily weigh them when I make a final decision). 

In addition to my Ominous Teal blouse purchase & two-toned teal tote contemplation over the weekend, I did some reading that was not Bronze-Horseman-related. I was searching for some words to help me sort through my Cookie Wednesdays rage. I really like Augustine's thoughts above, particularly the line, "you must always be displeased by what you are."

It sounds negative, it does, but he's not advocating displeasure over your circumstances, or the weeds in your yard, or the car you don't have, or the tote bag you want, rather he is encouraging a healthy sense of displeasure concerning what you are. Are you satisfied with yourself as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a Christian? Am I satisfied with my efforts as the mother of a diabetic child? Be careful of an answer in the affirmative. If we settle too thoroughly into any routine, it can become crippling. Stagnation sets in, & growth is stymied (I love the word stymied, by the way).

Diabetes teaches me this lesson every day. Every day. No two days are the same. What worked yesterday may not, & likely will not, work today. There is no rhyme or reason to it, particularly when a diabetic is sick, or growing, or - - Heaven help me - - experiencing puberty.

Just when Henry & I have settled beautifully into our Wednesday morning routine, boom!, here comes Cookie Wednesdays. I was this close to a lengthy analysis of Percy Shelley's "Mutability" today, but opted to share the riveting teal tote conundrum with you instead. But, as Shelley says in the poem's conclusion:

Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;

Nought may endure but mutability.

Whatever your comfortable routine is, consider shaking it up even if circumstances are not forcing you to do so. This is the old adage you hear about exercise, but it is true in almost every other area of your life. Are all your clothes black & white? Do you read only romance novels? Only fiction? Buy yourself a pink sweater & read some nonfiction. Do you order the same thing every time you dine at Cracker Barrel? Put on your pink sweater & go enjoy a chicken pot pie for lunch on Wednesday.

Do you say the same prayer over & over? Change it. Write out a new prayer if that helps you. Make a prayer list (lists are great!). Do you never read the Bible? DO THAT! Do you only read the New Testament? Stop that! The Old Testament is included for a reason.

Do you whine that you can't understand Hemingway's novels? Try again. Read them! Ask me your questions, & I'll write you an essay (or assign you one). They are wonderful novels. Have you never read Twilight or The Hunger Games or Harry Potter's saga because they are, "for kids?" Read them. Read them all.

Is your grocery list the only thing you write? Write something else. Write in a diary, or write a letter to someone you love, even if you've no plans to give it to them. When I left graduate school I had zero intentions of ever writing anything again, in much the same way I had no intentions of reading ever again when I was handed my English degree.

Sometimes you get burned out even on things you love, love!, & they slip from your routine, & that's that . . . until someone convinces you to read Twilight, & you remember how much you love to read fiction, or you watch days slip by, watch your baby girl changing & growing & you feel the only way you might possibly can preserve some of the moments you're witnessing is to sit & write about them. So discover something new, or rediscover something that once made you happy. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.

No, I am not excited about Cookie Wednesdays, but this is a challenge that's come our way, a change in a routine I was just beginning to enjoy, & I will meet it, somehow. I know enough about diabetes to know that Cookie Wednesdays are only the beginning of the myriad of challenges Reagan & I will face as she grows & attends school all day, as opposed to only three hours in the morning, as she meets friends who invite her to spend the night at their house, & she desires to participate in the various events & activities that accompany the business of growing up & going to school & experiencing the world beyond the walls of our safe little house.

I don't know how we will handle every situation, but the more I manage her disease, the more I realize there are solutions, you just have to stop hyperventilating & think clearly in order to find them. I always tell my speech students that a little bit of anxiety prior to a speech is a good thing. It's the kick in the pants they need to get them off the couch & prepare. In the same way, displeasure too can be a powerful motivator. That which displeases me propels me to act, prompts me to resolve issues, to find & use the right tools to continue carving out a niche of normalcy & simplicity for my diabetic child.

So come at me, Cookie Wednesdays. My Ominous Teal blouse & two-toned teal tote & I are ready.


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