By popular demand ...

Clara Kitty on her favorite resting spot... My peticure (who needs a pedicure?).

Kittidita (a play on queridita, little love).

Clara in action, with Rock

We all adore Clara. She's a snuggly little thing who loves to be held and purrs a little storm, and like all kittens, she's active and great fun to watch and play with. Everyone is so happy.

Lost and found

Lost: My mind

I went to the UPS Store to send a fax and had an hour before needing to pick the boys up at school.

Next door was a nail salon, so I thought I'd get a pedicure (which I have NEEDED for ages). They were too busy for a walk-in, and I really didn't like the smell of the place. So I went to the NEXT store and walked out with ... a 4-month-old kitten!

I must be crazy bringing yet another smelly attention-seeking beast into my house. Two boys should be enough for anyone!

I am so happy! The moment I saw her, I knew that she was mine and that I needed to bring her home with me. I cannot believe I did this!

Found: Clara Kitty

Dear God

I know I'm supposed to be here. I know this is what you want me to do.

But I can't do it all by myself. Really. I can't.

You've got to help me. Please, help me. Please.

Which is it?

They say there are two kinds of people:

Those who see the glass half empty

and those who see the glass half full.

I realized this morning

I see no glass at all.

Who am I?

That's the question, isn't it?

It's a question that comes up on the widow board fairly often. It came up last week in my mentioning Babylon 5. It shows up on blogs of widowed and nonwidowed alike. It is the thrust of our journey through life.

Who am I?

For the widowed, it's near the core of our grief: We gave our heart and soul to another and the two became one. And then one of the two is gone. So what happens to the one remaining? It's a messy part of grief, sorting through the shredded debris of two hearts become one, torn asunder.

People who don't understand tend to belittle widowed who say that they don't know who they are anymore: What? You're a nobody if you're not married? Your identity depended on him? They don't realize that it goes so much deeper than that.

As Christians, Nick and I knew beyond question or pause that we were called to be married to each other. It was a true vocation, a calling from God to love and serve each other and the world in a special way. What happened to my vocation when Nick died? One day I'm called into marriage and the next day I'm not?

I know, I know: My children are my vocation. I love and serve God and the world by being the best mom I can be, by helping them become the best men they can be. I know that. Butbutbutbut...

Who am I?

I had a meltdown yesterday. In the course of my errands, I found myself near our church, so I went to talk to the priest. He wasn't in, but I went into the sanctuary and knelt prostrate, forehead to the ground as we do during Great Lent. And I sobbed and shook and prayed and wept and cried out to Nick and God and the Theotokos and all the saints.

Driving home, I called one of my widows who's a little ahead of me on timeline. She was having the same thoughts and feelings: Neither of us thought we'd still be having these identity crises and emotional breakdowns this long after our husband's death. We're both strong and capable women, and we thought we'd be on firmer footing by now.

She said that she's just going through the motions, that there is no real purpose to her life, that it all seems so empty. That made me think about when I was 29 and single, and Nick was nowhere on the horizon. I realized then that I couldn't put my life on hold "until I get married," that I needed to start living my life the way I wanted to live it. So I bought a condo in the suburbs and built myself a nice little life that Nick stepped into and fell in love with.

I feel somewhat the same way now: My life has no direction or purpose beyond being mother to my kids and caretaker of my mother. My life feels like it's on hold "until mother doesn't need me anymore" or "until the kids are grown" or "until I go back to Maryland" or "until I decide to stay in Arizona."

And that's no way to live. But unlike when I was 29 and single with no family responsibilities, I can't just "live my life the way I want to live it" -- which would be in a comfortable cabin somewhere on the northern coast of California. Given the constraints of my family obligations, how do I want to live my life? I need to figure that out; but I can't do that until I answer a much more fundamental question.

Who am I?

Ground(ed) rules for today

  1. No television
  2. No computer
  3. No swimming
  4. No junk food or sweet treats
  5. Rock will write two apology notes, one to Regan and one to Sister W
  6. Rock will do anything I ask him to, when I ask him to, without complaint (and yes, I have several chores in mind for him)
  7. If he wants to play with blocks or toys, he may do so in his room.
  8. If he wants to color, he may do so at the kitchen table or in his room.
  9. If he wants to read, he may do so in the living room or in his room.
  10. His room will be as spotless at the end of the day as it is right now.

Since this is a day of being suspended from school, these rules apply to the school day and are lifted (except for numbers 6 and 10) at the end of the school day, when HardPlace is home from school.

Wish me luck.


Yup. Suspended.

Rock -- my FIVE-YEAR-OLD -- has been suspended from school for one day (Monday).

Here's what happened.

Rock saved his cookies from lunch to eat after school. He started eating them while waiting for me after school. Sister W told him to put them away (I don't know why, it's not important); as soon as she turned her back, he pulled them out again. Sister W gave him a little lecture about obeying teachers. When she walked away, Rock turned and BIT the kid standing next to him on the arm, leaving deep teeth marks.

Holy cow.

I pulled up in the pickup line and Sister W told me I had to get Rock from the office, because he'd bit a student. As I walked from the car to the office, the other kindergarten teacher was coming out and I asked what happened. She gave me the summary I just gave you.

I get to the office and the principal is waiting for me, with Rock seated on a chair. I ask Rock to tell me what happened, why he thought this was an acceptable thing. Silence. Principal and I try to convey the seriousness of what he did. MEANWHILE ...

The other boy's mom has arrived to pick him up (he was given an ice pack to ease the pain). She pushes her son over to Rock and makes her son tell Rock that it's okay, that he understands these things happen. WTF? I say, It's NOT okay. I DON'T understand that these things happen! I mean really, what kind of message is she giving, first to her son, who has been hurt for no reason, and second to my son, who did something beyond the pale. It's okay. I have four boys. This stuff happens. Yeah, but it's different when siblings hurt each other -- that happens. And when it does happen, you tell them that it's NOT okay, that the aggressor has to apologize and some consequences will follow.

Okay, back to the principal. She imposes the suspension, which I agree with completely. And we make sure Rock realizes that this will not be a vacation day, that I am not going to spend the day playing games with him, that there will be no TV or computer or screen time of any kind, that he will spend the day being helpful to me around the house, that he will write a letter of apology to the boy he hurt. He's still silent.

In walks his teacher, who had heard what had happened. Mrs L is absolutely WONDERFUL. She kneels down and asks him what happened and why. I don't know. Of course you do. You don't just do things for no reason. Why did you bite Regan? (aside from the fact that he has a dorky name?) Because I was mad. At him? No. Whom were you mad at? Sister. Ugh. Misdirected anger. Ugh ugh ugh. MEANWHILE...

The school nurse walked by and stopped to introduce herself to me. We'd spoken on the phone but never met. She asked for a private moment suggesting we let the teacher and principal deal with Rock, without my presence. This isn't the end of the world. Don't be too upset about it. I wanted to talk to you because I had a chance to talk with your other son today. Oh crap. I really don't need this right now. He's a great kid. Yes, he really is. But I think he's depressed, and I think he could really benefit from counseling. Okay. Things have been hard. I know he's been struggling, but he hasn't wanted me to find someone for him to talk to. But I will. Good. He'll be fine. Don't worry about him too much, but he needs a safe place to talk. And it's going to be really hard for him this summer when school is out. He really likes it here and is going to miss it when classes are done. Sighs. Teary eyes. It's gonna be fine. And really -- what Rock did is not the end of the world.

Back to Rock. I sign the suspension slip and the principal tells me to put it in his baby book, that she has a whole collection of them from her kids. I think this suspension will make a difference for him. He really likes being at school -- and we love him. But he has to learn that hurting other students crosses a line we can't allow to be crossed.

Rock cries all the way home. And sits on his bed crying. I've been struggling with how to handle this. All the way home, I tried to figure it out. So I review things with him, all the stuff the teacher and principal and I had said. He nods his head miserably, not looking at me. Okay, your punishment is on Monday. For right now, I want you to take off your uniform, tell me you're sorry, and give me a big hug. I already said I was sorry. True. Okay. I want you to take off your uniform and let ME give YOU a big hug. Teary face looks up at me. Okay.

Prolonged heavy sighs.

So... time for family counseling, counseling for all of us, individually and together.

As I wrote the previous sentence, I realized that even though Rock's behavior and HardPlaces' depression are not my "fault," I am responsible. They reflect what they see in me; they are barometers of my state of being. I have to confess that I am both angry and depressed. Rock resonates with the anger; HardPlace, with the depression.

Damn. Damn damn damn-damn damn.

The strength to say, "No"

My sister has been out of town for 2 weeks, and won't be back until Saturday, which means that I have had sole responsibility for my mother and her needs. My husband has been dead for 195 weeks, and won't be back anytime soon, which means that I have had sole responsibility for my sons and their needs.

Today was the first day in over a week that I have not had some obligation to be somewhere or do something for someone. I was able to drop the boys off at school and come home and just be. By myself.

8:30 a.m. phone call

Alicia: Hi. How are you doing this morning?
Mother: Pretty well. I had a good night's sleep.
Oh, I'm glad.
What time are you coming to pick me up?
Before or after lunch?
Gee, I was hoping for the day off.
No, I really need to get out of the house.
Oh. After lunch then.

12:00N phone call

It's me.
You've been picking up my vibes!
Not so much. [laughing]
I was going to call and ask you to get me as soon as you can.
I was calling to see if I had to.
Yes you do! I've been counting the minutes.
But I just ...
I don't want to make you feel guilty, but I was really looking forward to going over there.
I don't want to make YOU feel guilty, but I was really looking forward to being ALONE.
Look, I'll just come sit in the big chair and watch a movie on TV.
Fine. Whatever.
Why? What's the difference to you?
Nothing. I'll be there in 20 minutes.

12:15 p.m. phone call

I'm sorry. I just can't do this.
Okay. I'll be okay.
Look, I'll pick you up after school if you want, when there are other bodies around anyway.
No, I just need this part of the afternoon.
Well, I need this part of the afternoon, too.

How do you spell relief?......N - O .

In the interest of full disclosure:

12:35 p.m. phone call

You have reached the Rxxxx residence. Leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.
You really should have picked up the phone. I don't want you to feel too bad -- just a little bad. You spent all last week tending to my needs and my requirements. And you didn't complain at all. So I don't want you to feel too bad. ... You really should have picked up the phone.

As well as the birds and fishes below, I spotted these three happy punters as well.

Rock pooling

We've been to the seaside, Filey to be precise. The top picture is a Dunlin (I think), the middle picture is a Curlew and the thing that looks like an eel in the bucket is actually a butter fish. It was a bit cold at first with a wind coming off the sea, but it soon warmed up, and a great time was had by all.

What do you want?

I've been watching Babylon 5, one of Nick's and my favorite shows. Its five-season arc tells the ancient story of good versus evil: the fear, the hope, the horror, the beauty. In one episode, an emissary from the Enemy comes and asks different people a simple question: What do you want? After dismissive laughter, those inclined to align with evil spew an angry litany of vengeance and violence, power and glory; those inclined to align with good shudder and send the emissary away.

I have always wanted two things in my life, and both seem hopelessly out of my grasp.

The white picket fence
is gone and now I yearn for
peace and repentance.
Litany of supplication from the vespers for Sundays and Feasts:

An angel of peace, a faithful guide, a guardian of our souls and bodies, let us ask of the Lord.
Pardon and forgiveness of our sins and offenses, let us ask of the Lord.
Things good and profitable for our souls, and peace for the world, let us ask of the Lord.
That we may live out the rest of our days in peace and repentance, let us ask of the Lord.
A Christian end to our life, painless, unashamed and peaceful, and a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ, let us ask.

Commemorating our all-holy, pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, with all the Saints, let us entrust ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.