Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Border

Soooo, I've mentioned a time or five that our family loves Taco Bell. The winning combination of cheese and thrift is impossible for us to resist. The fact that Jack refused to eat french fries, chicken nuggets, or ketchup sealed the deal years ago.

Since Jack's death, Margaret has noticed a few interesting menu developments at Taco Bell, all of which she attributes to her big brother.

First there was the Doritos Loco Taco, a regular hard taco with a Dorito shell. Tacos coupled with Doritoes? He loved them both! Add a Dr. Pepper and Jack would have died and gone to heaven. Okay, you know what I mean.

There's also the Beefy Nacho Burrito-- a burrito stuffed with NACHOS!. Can you say salty orange processed cheese food goodness? Making nachos and popcorn are the only two reasons I even own a microwave.

And now? There's the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, which is basically a hard taco INSIDE a soft tortilla. This is Jack's own invention he ate at home and at Taco Day at school. When we saw that one, we knew something was afoot. Oh, it also comes with "zesty pepper JACK" sauce!

Margaret figures Jack must be infiltrating a Taco Bell exec's dreams and leading to the invention of these yummy delights. I'm with her on this one. I wonder if his next invention will have something to do with Dill Pickles.

Sooo, on the last day of school we were going through the Taco Bell drive through and she was pointing all this out to me. We were laughing about it, and I decided to take a picture of the menu board with my phone. Oh how much we all missed before I finally got a camera phone! I took a couple of shots and then pulled forward.

When I got to the pick-up the window, I discovered I had forgotten to order! Ooops.

Laughing, I apologized to the worker. He replied, "That's okay. I saw you guys taking pictures back there. I told the others this must be your first drive through experience."

As if.

More laughter.

Loving, laughing and missing you, Jack! Wonder what you'll do next!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Transitory Joy

When Jack was 6, in first grade, I saw him standing by the window, a distraught look on his face. As you remember, Jack felt things deeply. I figured he was having friend trouble, perhaps being made fun of because of some of his quirky behaviors.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"I'm just so sad people choose transitory joy over what's important," he said.

Whoah...WHAT???? Insert screetchy needle being lifted from a record player sound here unless you are too young to remember what I'm talking about.

What did my little six year old know about transitory joy? What did I know about it? And why was it getting him down?

Turns out his class had memorized this (not uplifting but timelessly apt) poem:

The Flies and the Honey Pot
by Aesop

A jar of honey chanced to spill
Its contents on the windowsill
In many a viscous pool and rill.

The flies, attracted by the sweet,
Began so greedily to eat,
They smeared their fragile wings and feet.

With many a twitch and pull in vain
They gasped to get away again,
And died in aromatic pain.


O foolish creatures that destroy
Themselves for transitory joy.

Even at 6, Jack was a patient person. He was not given to greed or excess in his desires or appetites. He could understood this poem and could already recognize how many people could be drawn in by what appeared to be seemingly sweet, but was in truth harmful.

Fortunately for us, this was about the time Lindsay Lohan started going off the rails post "Parent Trap" so we always had a tangible example on hand.

I tell you this story not because Jack didn't himself enjoy the transitory joy of a cold Dr. Pepper, a great joke, getting to one more level on a video game, or staying out extra late on a warm summer night. He enjoyed all of those things and more, and that was good.

But Jack also saw the appeal of boundaries and restraint. And even as a six year old, it appears he was beginning to understand that real joy comes from the eternal, not the transitory.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oozing with Love

Margaret has been away for a week having a blast with her cousins in Ohio. She comes home today, and I'm eager to see her. Not only because I missed my sweet girl a ton, which I did, but also because it's been a little weird not having someone around to comment on my appearance, my clothing, and especially my acne.

When I was growing up, that role was fulfilled by my older brother John. "Hey Schween-bag, can I carry your zit?" he would ask with a smile/sneer, stretching his arms out in front of him as if he carried a boulder. I think the proper grammar would have been, "May I carry your zit?" but he certainly made his point.

On the other hand, Tim could see an oozing pustule akin to Mt. Vesuvius on my face and say nary a word. I think he lives in fear of my reaction.

Before I married him, I informed him that while I would be a certain size on our wedding day, I wanted NO comments about weight throughout our marriage, either to me or to any of our future daughters. I had seen too many friends deal with the crushing burden of eating disorders and poor body image to tolerate any nonsense from a man who I believed, from peering into the crystal ball of my father-in-law's physique, would always hover around a spry 145 lbs and would never experience the bodily havoc of birthin' babies.

Knowing my penchant for jumbo bags of Twizzlers and Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls, this promise could have bothered Tim, but he never let on, nor has he EVER commented on my weight, positively or negatively, in the past 20 years...even when I outweighed him by more than 40 lbs before (and after!) the birth of our scrawny baby Jack.

Sooooooo, I guess it's no surprise he does not dare comment on my adult acne.

Neither did Jack, who got many of his mild-mannered traits from his dear dad. I must tell you that a peri-pubescent (new word?) Jack did once say to me, "That shirt makes your boobs look big. But in a good way" which made me chuckle.

But from Margaret, who as a speech impaired toddler caressed my thigh and said, "'Dat bumpy MaMa," I can always count on a little zit commentary when applicable.

Which seems to be more and more often as I get older.

So I've missed her, of course. And I'm counting down the hours until I can give her a hug, at which point she can weigh in on the constellation of pimples on my chin and forehead and any/all embarrassing habits I may have picked up while she was gone.

P.S. If she asks you if I played with her hamster, Bear, while she was away, please say YES. Thanks.

Friday, June 15, 2012

We are doing okay. I promise. Not much to write today, but I thought I'd ask for special prayers for Tim on Father's Day. I know I can count on you!

I thought I'd leave you with some Friday eye candy of the cute kid variety:

Have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Voices of the Year

Honored doesn't even begin to cut it for how I feel to have had one of my posts selected as an honoree for the BlogHer 2012 Voices of the Year! A HUGE thanks to several kind readers who nominated posts from An Inch of Gray.

The one that was selected, Wednesday "Wramblings" and Walmart, in which I write about how even the mundane task of going to the store can send a bereaved mom into a tailspin, is honored in the "Heart" category. I'm excited and grateful to have that post "out there" in another venue, and I look forward to reading ALL of the amazing posts that were selected. These funny, hard, topical stories and snapshots of life should keep me busy for quite a while!

Check them all out here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Musings and the Little Things

Soooo, it turns out that profound loss does not make a girl so virtuous and otherworldly and oozing with perspective that she never again lets the little things get her down. Despite the fact that I know we should LIVE, LOVE and NEVER GIVE UP, I still get grumpy, irritable and small, allowing petty things to bug me. Like the way Tim chews. The tufts of hair that fly unceasingly off of Shadow right onto the kitchen floor. The relentless chores of grocery shopping and finding something/anything for dinner. Yes, I KNOW that in the long-term not one of these "problems" has lasting significance, yet each still rankles.

I guess I thought you should know that.

It's like those poems about cute sticky-kid fingerprints on the wall and how we should treasure them because one day the kids will be grown and we will miss them. Okay. I get it. If ANYONE gets it, I get it. I mean back in September I was handed a heaping portion of perspective on a plate of steaming crap with a side order of "Are you f'ing KIDDING me?" But still, even with that perspective, I'm a fingerprint wiper, and because of that I don't judge folks who don't get what I've learned in the last 8 months:

Things change in an instant.
We need to focus on what's important.
This world is not our home.

My friend Glennon, right before her blog post "Don't Carpe Diem" went viral in January, was hesitant to post it at all because she thought the funny and irreverent idea of NOT cherishing the moments with our kids might offend me, a mom who would do anything to have just a few of those moments with Jack again. It didn't offend me. Not one bit.

Because as much as I wish I had a room full of loud, 13 year old boys messing up my house today, or at least ONE fast-talking, soft-cheeked boy leaving his socks wherever he pleased, and I do wish that, I recognize how very hard it is to keep our eyes on what's important when we are in the trenches of motherhood, of life. After all, I too get caught up in the daily grind, and I'm the one with the dead son.

I remember quite well what it was like to have a non-napping baby at home and a husband who worked all day in the city and went straight to school every night until 10. Even on Fridays. I remember how distressing the playground politics of preschool seemed. I remember 2 summers ago almost having a mental breakdown trying to decide whether to move my daughter back to private school. I remember.

As a bereaved mom, I do have a new perspective. I will always have one foot in this world, and one foot in the next. But even in this strange state of KNOWING that small things are small, and longing to tell people to cherish what they have, I still get annoyed when Margaret can't find her shin guards every darn week. I still live in fear at the thought of having to manhandle her into getting a throat swab, even though I know something like strep throat isn't even a blip compared to burying one's child. I remember. I forget.

I take comfort knowing that God's own chosen people had perspective yet were forgetful, too. They had been through so very much and were delivered from it. God freed them from slavery in Egypt and had Moses part the Red Sea just for them, but no sooner than they could say, "My feet hurt," or "Manna tastes like tofu," they were grumbling, forgetting their miracles, and melting down gold to see how fast they could make a little something-something for their worshipping pleasure.

So I forgive myself and others when we forget the significance of what we have learned and are learning these days-- when we are tempted to numb ourselves and just focus on the little things (like my frustrating morning, or Tim's chewing!)

And I'm so GRATEFUL to have this blog as a way to record/remember what God is teaching us, what our sweet Jack was/is like, and as a place to share with each other why any of this matters at all. It seems that our grief and our growth have a communal quality about them, because we are in this life together.

Thank YOU for being in this with me, even when it's hard!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Best Things in Life...

Here's a Friday God-wink courtesy of my dear friend Cindy.

Even though they didn't spend tons of time together, Cindy felt close to Jack. As a member of my small group Bible study for 8 years, she prayed for him faithfully as I grappled with how to best parent this smart, sensitive kid. I think Cindy and Jack were similar in a lot of ways, with big hearts committed to doing what's right. Cindy is one of those special adults who just "got" Jack, you know? I'll never forget the email of encouragement and support she sent him after he'd been shot down by a Sunday School teacher for an answer, that although different than the teacher's, was still correct.

Since the accident Cindy, like many of us, has been wrestling with God, crying out for answers, for comfort, for faith. Like others, Cindy has clearly felt Jack's presence on several occasions, which has helped her to know he is in heaven, and he is more than okay.

Let me share one example with you that Cindy emailed me recently:

"Just now, I was working at home and had the urge to turn on one of the music channels on my T.V. When I heard the lyrics to the song that was playing, my jaw dropped. Your favorite quote is the first line of the song! I have never heard this song before, nor have I even heard of this artist, but this song is from Jack."

I hope you'll give it a listen, as I think there may be wisdom in it for all of us today:

Here is the link

BTW, if you haven't been to my house (now that would be a party!), I need to show you what Jack saw every single morning when he came downstairs for breakfast: