Monday, November 2, 2015

In the Shadow of the Black Horse

The Lord's mercy often rides to the door of our heart 
upon the black horse of affliction.

- Charles Spurgeon

There's a bit of a skip in my step this Monday morning. I freely admit I am thrilled when Halloween is over. You go to bed sick to your stomach from the Laffy Taffy, & you wake up to November, which promises actual winter weather, a week-long break from early school mornings, & a holiday that doesn't exclusively revolve around candy.

Last week was a challenging one for me, & I suppose for Reagan as well. When you're four, Halloween celebrations aren't limited to October 31. In addition to the weekly cookie Wednesday carb-o-thon, Reagan came home from school every day with various forms of carbohydrates. When your child's a diabetic, finding this in her backpack is like finding a bag of cocaine.

Where did you get this? Have you had any of it? Are you telling me the truth?

I know what you're now wondering, & I have no idea how many, if any, carbs are in cocaine. 

Eventually Reagan gets to eat her treats. She eats them in the manner in which everyone should eat food void of any nutrition that wreaks havoc on the body: sparingly, in small increments, accompanied by a source of protein, & slathered in insulin. This principle was reaffirmed in a special way for me Saturday night when I used the hour we gained to check that my children were asleep & then eat too much Halloween candy, which I washed down with hot chocolate. 

You don't need a degree in psychology to recognize that, in a twist of great irony, sometimes I cope with the stress of Reagan's diabetes by eating. Knowing how many carbs are in most all foods is an asset that keeps me on track about eighty percent of the time; the other twenty percent is evenly divided between my thighs. 

Reagan's school week concludes on Thursdays, & so the kids & I were at home all day Friday, locked inside our house where there was little chance anyone would thrust a bag-o-carbs in Reagan's hands. I had a book club meeting Friday night &, as is so often the case, it came at just the right moment. 

For the month of October the book club read The Heir, which is the fourth book in a series we began reading last October. We had a fun discussion about the novel's protagonist, an eighteen-year-old whose name is Eadlyn Schreave. Everyone had an opinion about Eadlyn, although I admit when I read the book I was so caught up in my dislike of her name that it possibly clouded my assessment of her. 

Because we are responsible planners, we also discussed our schedule for the remainder of the year, which includes a group outing to see Mockingjay (Part II), the final film in the Hunger Games series, & then meeting in December to discuss Jane Eyre & compose a list of books we'll read in 2016. I'm sure you now understand a bit more about the aforementioned skip in my step. I haven't read Jane Eyre since I was in high school. I'm eager to return to Ms. Bronte's masterpiece. I'm just guessing, but I bet Edward Rochester will be a more appealing suitor to me this time around than he was when I was a teenager & his creepy-old-man vibe was strong. 

Saturday began early for me. I'd arranged to have my hair cut at eight-thirty. I know, I know. I can't tell you how much I wanted to stay in bed & listen to the rain, but believe it or not, equally as enticing was ridding myself of my split ends while the kids were sleeping & Trey was at the house to deal with them should they wake. It was particularly difficult to get out of the bed since I'd joined the book club ladies for a round of coffee at eight o'clock Friday night, which left me wide awake & watching Gilmore Girls until two-ish Saturday morning. 

Once my hair was fresh & bouncy again, I headed to the grocery store, which is just instinctually where I go now when I am alone. I didn't have a list, but sure enough once I was inside, flying up & down the aisles with the cart, several things we needed just jumped out at me. The trip inside the store (in the rain) was totally worth it. 

When I returned home, I washed & folded clothes. I put away the clothes. I washed sheets. I remade beds. I vacuumed. I knew what I was doing, too. I took an introductory to psychology course in college (actually I think I tested out of it), & so I knew that I was working through my Halloween anxiety by controlling what I can control to overcompensate for that which I cannot control, namely my daughter's blood sugar & a culture that insists on this weird annual celebration that flies in the face of what we try & teach children about strangers & healthy eating. 

I did a lot Saturday morning, & all before noon, but the one thing I didn't have on Saturday's to-do list was shaving my legs. In addition to LSU having no game Saturday, it was perhaps the dullest day of college football I can recall, unless you're a Miami fan, I guess. I am not a Miami fan. 

In the absence of any interesting football news to discuss, & because I know you so hope I'll balance my wordiness with pictures, & because some of you are new around here, here's autumn as it has unfolded since the arrival of my children.

Reagan's first Halloween was in 2011. She begged to be an LSU cheerleader, & so I relented.

Reagan visited the pumpkin patch for the first time in 2012. I vividly remember the trip because I was newly pregnant with Henry. If I look at these pictures too long I'll be able to feel the bile rising in my throat.

In 2012, Reagan was a witch for Halloween (as was I!).

This is Henry in late 2012:

Halloween 2013 was our first as a family of four. Reagan was a fairy. 

Henry was a five-month-old whose Nana bought him a Wal-Mart onesie featuring a skull & crossbones. 

Post trick-or-treating with Miss Ava. 

Last year's Halloween was our first post-diagnosis. She was diagnosed in January of 2014, so I had a good many months to mentally prepare myself, & we'd begun pumping in the interim, so that helped. 

Reagan was Princess Ana & Henry was a sad, sad Olaf. We took them to my parents' neighborhood to trick-or-treat because the absolute last place I want to be on Halloween is my own home. The past two years I've turned on the front porch light, left a few buckets of candy on the steps, & hightailed it to my parents' neighborhood, where there are fewer houses & an overall calmer nature to the trick-or-treating ordeal. Were Reagan to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood, the candy yield would be considerably more than her body or my nerves could handle. 

This year I was determined to get another year out of the Olaf costume that was too big for Henry last year. Now that she's a year older & wiser, Reagan knows it is Queen Elsa who sings "Let It Go," & so exchanging Ana's gown for Elsa's came naturally. 

Olaf, Part Deux was eerily similar to last year's experience. He's considerably larger & has ditched the pacifier, but Henry will just never shine as Olaf. 

My attitude about Halloween is just not the best. In fact, it stinks. I approach it as a chore, something I must manage & endure. I know that may sound awful, but candy is just the worst possible thing for Reagan, aside from, like, arsenic. A pumpkin full of candy is the surest way to drive a wedge between me & my daughter.

When she was diagnosed, Halloween was one of the first things that crossed my mind. When I say I view it as something to be managed, I mean that on Halloween (& thereafter until all the candy is gone), Reagan wants to eat the candy, & I have to tell her no. She gets one piece, maybe two, with her meals. She can't sit & eat mounds of it per Halloween tradition. Her sugars are harder to manage while the candy's around, & she & I both suffer frequent foul moods as we go round & round over why she can't eat the candy when she wants to eat the candy. I battle fits of internal rage. I cry. I eat candy, which I'm so tempted to do not only because when you're emotionally frustrated you want to eat candy, but because if I eat it, the stockpile disappears faster. I can literally eat my troubles away. 

When we returned home from my parents' house Saturday night, there were several bags I had to haul inside & unpack. I'd packed the kids' costumes, as well as what I needed to bathe them at my parents' house. All day I'd assumed my reward for my long day of cleaning & my Halloween-mom-efforts would be some hot chocolate, a handful of Halloween candy, & a few episodes of Gilmore Girls or maybe Bridget Jones's Diary, which, despite many, many other movies available on Netflix, I cannot seem to stop watching. Before I ever made it to the bed & the hot chocolate & the candy & Colin Firth, I found an invaluable puzzle piece in the bottom of the bag I'd packed for Reagan. 

She has a fifty-piece Frozen puzzle she loves. She put it together maybe eighty times last week. Friday afternoon, I heard a wail from her bedroom & soon discovered a piece was missing. Reagan & I looked for it briefly, to no avail. The pieces are tiny, & I needed to shower in order to make it to book club on time, & so I told her it would eventually turn up, hoping Henry hadn't thrown it in the trash or buried it somewhere remote, as he has a habit of doing. 

Reagan shares my anal retentive obsessiveness with finding missing things, particularly things that are part of a set or puzzle pieces. She mentioned the missing piece a few times during the day Saturday but it still hadn't turned up. After going a few rounds over candy with her post-trick-or-treating Saturday, I was so happy to see that puzzle piece in the bottom of her bag I almost cried. I took it to her, & she was so happy I almost cried again. 

After finding the missing puzzle piece & settling in bed with a handful of Laffy Taffy, hot chocolate, & an extra hour on my hands, I was feeling good. I congratulated myself on barreling through another Halloween. I didn't do much reflecting on or praying about my Halloween hatred.

Yesterday morning my preacher began a month-long series of sermons on thankfulness. He spent considerable time in the book of James.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
James 1:2 

Oy. Suddenly my regret over all the Laffy Taffy was eclipsed by deeper feelings of shame about my horrible, horrible attitude about Halloween. 

Is Halloween a trial? For me it is. It's an extension of the trial that dominates my life, which is Reagan's diabetes. 

My dad was in trial last week. The jury returned in his favor on Friday, which is always nice, but especially so in this case. Let's just say if there'd been a theme song for last week's trial, it would have been Phil Collins's "Against All Odds." 

The traditional understanding of the word trial connotes finality, in my opinion. Trials begin, & at some point, they end. The jury returns a verdict, the estranged couple seeks therapy & reconciles, the alcoholic asks for help, the sick child recovers. A trial is so often spoken of as something you come through, a rainstorm that gives way to a rainbow, etc. 

Aside from the month of November & a series of sermons on thankfulness, something else began yesterday, & that is Diabetes Awareness Month (naturally Diabetes Awareness Month begins the day after Halloween). I think one thing most people don't at all understand about diabetes is its persistent nature. It never ends. There's no T-shirt for Diabetes Survivors. You can fight it, but you can't beat it. You can't win; you can only keep fighting. If, as Spurgeon eloquently asserts, the black horse of affliction is often the bearer of the Lord's mercy, I have to assume the Lord's mercy is with our family always, because the horse is parked at the door. 

I don't know how heavy-handed the Lord is in the day-to-day matters of our lives. Did He know that Reagan & I needed a happy moment of reconciliation Saturday night & plant the missing puzzle piece in her bag? I kind of doubt it. Did He lay Sunday morning's sermon on my preacher's heart knowing the embittered mother of a diabetic would show up Sunday morning, dragging Halloween hatred baggage with her? Maybe so. I look forward to the remainder of this month's sermons. I need them. I eagerly await all the patience that's surely coming my way. 

I hope your November is off to a good start. I'd stay & chit-chat longer, but the week ahead is shaping up to be a doozie & I'm ready to sign off & sit down with some coffee. Not only will I be in candy negotiations with Reagan, my speech students are slated to begin their informative speeches this week, which means my formerly healthy students & their formerly healthy relatives will be falling ill &/or dying. Sad times. The week will conclude, of course, with what might be the most important shave of my life. I may go select a razor now. I'm sure the Tan Man's busy this week, what with watching film & tanning & selecting a visor for Lane Kiffin, but what he doesn't know is that there's a crazy lady in Louisiana with a fresh pack of pink Daisy Razors.  


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