Friday, March 16, 2012

Where It's Safe

So Curtis and I have bad luck with cats, it seems. We can't seem to keep them at our house or alive for longer than about six months. Currently, we have two black cats we're trying to keep around and alive but they're not making it easy. Otis picks on Simon, even though Simon was there first. Simon's a timid cat so he runs away to avoid confrontation with Otis. Whenever he does come back he looks worse than the time before. This last time he came home we kicked Otis out for a few days so Simon could heal and rest. But Simon took off again after a few days and then Otis left, too. We were completely cat-less for about two-and-a-half weeks.

But then Otis appeared on our porch swing the other morning looking about three steps from death's doorstep. And his meow was the saddest, softest, raspiest sound I'd ever heard. So I put him in the garage for a couple of days with food and water, hoping he'd rest and get better. It started to work, his meow started to get strong again. But he left on Thursday morning when I took the car out of the garage. I found him later that afternoon across the ditch at the neighbor's house completely tangled in burrs and brush. He was lethargic and listless, other than meowing frantically at the site of me. So here I am, 7 months pregnant, climbing through the brush to loosen my darn cat. I went to get my neighbor to carry Otis back to our house (I had visions of me toppling forward into the ditch if I tried to pick him up, given the angle he was laying at and my rather large belly), but when I came back...Otis had disappeared again.

Bode and I looked for him last night and this morning. I worried all through the thunderstorms last night. Fact of the matter is, I don't know if he's strong enough to survive the kind of wind and heavy rains we had. My vet  said she'd take him as a good Samaritan case because we don't have extra money right now--but I have to have him first. I have to get him to come home before I can take him to her office.

I don't know if he'll be back. I don't know if he's still alive. And I really have no idea where Simon is or if he's alive. I tried to help them both. I put them where they were safe and had their needs met. But they both left, despite knowing that I equal safety. I know that they know that because when they see me, they come to me, they perk up, they meow. They know that if I see them, I'll help them, and that if they are where I am that they'll be okay. And yet...they left.

I was lamenting my frustrations the other night and realized...God does this with people all the time. We leave the place of safety, where all our needs are met. Sometimes we leave because we can't get along with the other people there (like Simon avoiding Otis). Sometimes we leave because it looks more interesting or exciting elsewhere (which is how we lost Felix, Luckey, and Milo). Sometimes we leave because we're just wild and refuse to be tamed (which was the case with Fiyero). And sometimes we come back, beat up, mangy, and dirty. When Simon came home last he stunk to high heaven because some other male had sprayed him. His ear was mangled. Otis has patches of fur missing and he lost about half of his body weight. We come back to God this way--a stinky, ugly mess and often too spiritually sick and starved to make it another day.

He puts us where we're safe. He cleans us up and gives us food and water. And if we'd just stay put, we'd be okay. In the Gospel of Luke we're led to believe that the prodigal son does just that. When he comes home, he stays put. He learned his lesson. But this is a parable and not a true story. And the true story often is that we stray again. We leave, for whatever reason. Sometimes we just think we're going out to enjoy the sunshine but we get caught in the brambles. Or side-swiped by life. We can't seem to just stay where it's safe.

Sometimes people leave God's safety and they never find their way back. They think they find something better or they think they've gone too far and can't come back. I think we've all known people that fall into this category. They give up on God because they believe He's given up on them. They keep leaving safety and there's nothing we can do to help them. Nothing but pray. But prayer is powerful, so it can be enough.

One comforting thing for us but perhaps even more heartbreaking for God is that He always knows where we are. Right now I have no idea where Otis is. I'm hoping he's next door somewhere and my neighbor finds him alive. But God always knows right where we are. He knows what we're up to and just how much danger or trouble we're in. I think this is more heart-wrenching for Him to watch us get beat up by life and make damaging choices. He doesn't force us to come back. He never will. That wouldn't be love. Jesus longs to shelter Jerusalem as a mother hen does her chicks, but the people refuse to be saved. The people refuse to be helped, loved, cared for. It breaks His heart. You can hear the lament in His voice. They just won't stay where it's safe.

So I'm not sure what's going to happen with my cats. I'm really hoping that Otis turns up again in the next couple days and I can take him to the vet. And maybe he'll learn to stay where it's safe, to stop straying so far or staying away for so long. And if you have a Simon or Otis in your life, a person like that, then I pray that they come back, too, and let God heal them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's In A Name?

I wrote this letter to my grandparents for their Christmas gift this year. They already knew the baby's name but I wanted to give them the story behind it. I know they've shared it with their guests and visitors so they won't mind my sharing it with my blog guests and visitors. This is the story of my son's name. 

Grammy and PapPap,

When Curtis and I began talking about names for children, which was long before this one was conceived, we knew we wanted to use the name Dayton somewhere. Overtime we decided it would be our first son’s first name, should we have a boy.

According to the internet Dayton means ‘sunny town’. This makes sense in light of the research Mom has done on our English roots. Deighton was a place in Yorkshire. We were De Deightons (of Dayton) for generations. Then, just Deighton, and upon coming to America we simplified the spelling to Dayton. But while we were Deightons we were Knights Templar, Keepers of the Great Seal of England, Lord Mayors of York, Sherriffs of Nottingham (but not bad guys, I checked), among other things. The Deightons may not have been important enough to make the history books, even in footnotes, but we have an interesting and prestigious past. It’s the stuff stories and legends are made of, and the kind of things little boys have pretended to be for centuries. I intend to raise my little boy reading him stories of knights, Robin Hood, and kings, weaving in our own family history. I imagine he will be proud of where we came from, and proud of his name. It’s a strong, noble name.

But I will also tell him about what the name Dayton means to me. It’s much more than a sunny town or a noble past. It’s generosity, gentleness, grace, and gratitude—the things I learned from my Grammy. I aspire to be like you someday when I’m a grown up. Sweet and tenderhearted and very giving. Giving of your time, your compassion, your talents. The world is becoming more and more selfish and there are fewer people like you. But it’s people like you, a ray of sunshine, that make the greatest difference. I want my son to be these things, to be a ray of sunshine. I guess the meaning ‘sunny town’ does fit after all. If we’re all supposed to be a city on a hill where people can see the light of Jesus, then we need to be sunny towns.

My son’s middle name is for his father, Curtis. And the funny thing about Curtis is that when I prayed for a husband I asked for a man just like my PapPap because he was the best man I’ve ever known. A man who would be hard-working, a man devoted to his family, a man who is generous and thoughtful. God took me quite seriously and delivered me a young man very much like my grandfather—down to his driving Fords, voting Republican, and having a unique sense of humor.

Our son will have a second middle name. Some people will think that’s silly, to give a boy two middle names. And some will think it’s weird when they find out that it’s Milford. But I like it. It’s my PapPap’s name. It only seemed right to include you in my son’s name. His name is about legacies and who I want him to grow up to be like. If my son grows up and reminds me at all of you, I will consider myself a success as a parent.

Dayton Curtis Milford Berry is a mouthful, I admit. But it’s really a reminder to my boy of who he is and where he came from. He may be a descendant of people who served and knew English kings, but he is also a descendent of people who served and knew the King of Kings. Ultimately, it’s the example of Christian faith that has inspired me so much throughout the years. It’s the same faith that I aspire to have and that I want to raise my son to have.

I will tell my son about both of you and the fun things we did together. I imagine that in his world the Deightons of old and the Buterbaughs of not so long ago will mold together. Children have a way of blurring the lines that way. But that’s okay. I don’t see many differences between Sherwood Forest and your backyard, between royal feasts and Jean-o’s Pizza. For my son, it’s all part of the same story of where he came from.

May will be here before we know it and so will Dayton. I’m so anxious to meet him and find out who this little person is that God is knitting inside of me. I wonder if he will look like me or like Curtis, and if we’ll be able to pick out little pieces of each of you. There are times when I think Marissa Jane looks just like one of you, and I hope that’s the case with Dayton¸too. I’m excited to bring him to visit Bald Eagle and for you to be able to hold him. I want to take pictures so I can show him as he gets older who we named him after and tell him about how much you loved him.

I’m so grateful that you’re my grandparents. Most people I know don’t have grandparents like mine. Their grandparents are nice people, but they’re just not like the two of you. I’m honored to be able to have a son to name for two of the people that I love most and have loved me the most. Yes, his name is undoubtedly a legacy of love.

PS for my readers...I feel the need to assure everyone that the use of the name 'Milford' will be very limited. I figure one way kids know just how much trouble they're in is based on how much of their name their mother uses. My degrees of trouble will be...Dayton!...Dayton Curtis!...Dayton Curtis Berry!....Dayton Curtis Milford Berry!! But other than the birth certificate and certain other legal documents, the name won't be used much, unless he chooses it for himself when he's older. But it is my gift to him, his whole name. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Few Brief Weeks

Last night I was sitting on the bed with Bode, he had just finished drinking the milk from my cereal bowl and was staring at me with his big brown goo-goo eyes. Bode has this way of looking at you with this expression that just says, "you're so pretty." There's a reason every girl that comes into our home falls in love with this furry rascal. But anyway, I was petting him and talking to him and I realized--in a few brief weeks I won't be doing that. In a few weeks Bode will be wondering what the heck in the world (a favorite phrase borrowed from one of my favorite five year olds) is going on. In eight weeks or less everything will change.

I have to admit I'm scared. Excited. But scared. I've never even held a brand new newborn, let alone diapered one or fed one. I know that no matter what happens--a natural birth or a c-section--I will not have experienced pain, adrenaline, and anxiety like that. It's all so new. We didn't end up taking birthing classes as our schedules conflicted with the only session our hospital offered. Part of me wishes that we could have and part of me thinks that maybe it's a good thing. There's enough for me to get wound up about and I tend to take information and run with it, rather than simply being informed.

As I'm writing this I'm getting ready to go see a hematologist because my blood work looked 'unusual'. On one level, I'm not worried and on a whole other level, I am. I don't really have enough information about what was unusual to be worried, but anytime a doctor is sending you to a specialist because they don't understand the results seems like an okay time to be at least a smidge concerned. I bring this up because it's these experiences and others that make me join the club of third trimester women who just want to have the baby and move on with life!

But there is this other part of me, a larger part of me, that wants to hold on to this for as long as possible. Not only because I feel and fear that I'm not ready, but because I love knowing that he's so safe and secure in there. There's no doubt about it that my son is strong and healthy, all of the tests and double-checking is to make sure that I'm okay. And I feel okay most of the time, so I'm pretty sure I'm fine. So I like having him all safe and contained. And where my body just does what it's supposed to do to take care of him. Maybe that's the most incredible part of being pregnant. I don't have to think about it. Sure, I have to make some safe and smart choices, but it's not up to me to think about growing his spleen, or transporting food through the umbilical cord. I don't have to feed him, change him, or rock him to sleep--it just happens inside of me. And when this is over...when he's born and joins the human race...I will have to meet his every need.

Thank God (literally, not figuratively or flippantly) I have Curtis. I have no idea how single moms or military moms do this alone. Curtis has been and will continue to be this wonderful rock. Sure, he's made his fair share of dumb remarks, as all husbands do, but for the most part, he's kept his yap shut when I've been crazy and supported me when I've been scared. He's helped me get the nursery ready and gone to as many appointments with me as he could so far. That bit is getting harder because of his new job--in fact, I'm going to the specialist alone today--but I know if he could, he would go with me. And I know he's going to be an incredible father. New, like me, and probably unsure, like me, but he'll be hands-on and excited and exactly what our son needs. I just know it.

So maybe I have to give myself the same credit. Curtis has no more experience with babies than I do really but I know he'll be great. Because he loves him, he'll figure it out. Because we both love him, and we love each other, we'll figure it out together.

And poor Bode...I know that eventually he'll be crazy about his little baby brother. I figure when our son starts eating cheerios and throwing food everywhere. But until then, I might need to find some little doggy ear plugs...and write myself a few reminders to throw him an extra treat every now and then. He's such a good boy and I'll miss our cuddles, even if I am upgrading to baby cuddles.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Before the Baby Comes Bucket List

There's a list a mile long of things I still want to get done before the baby arrives. Most of it relates directly to his arrival. Things like organizing the craft room (i.e. getting rid of all the JUNK in there we don't need and won't have room for), getting the mudroom more functional and less of a dumping ground, and the obvious things like washing all of his clothes/linens, and finishing the nursery. But I thought of one thing I want to do today before he gets here.

Last April I flew all the way to Florida to baby-sit my niece. Spending all that time in the airport and airplanes by myself gave me time to start a book of sizable girth. A book I had started once before, ages ago in middle school, and didn't finish. I got frustrated with the author's style. He tends to ramble and get himself distracted with discourses in European & Ancient history and philosophy. Now that I'm older I got into the story more (and gave myself permission to skip some pages here or there of the rambling). But when the trip came to an end, I read a little bit at home and then came to a screeching halt...300 pages from the end.

When I had my glucose test I knew I'd be trapped in the waiting room for at least an hour so I dug the book out and brought it with me. Thanks to my memory and my cinema-like mind I got right back into the plot with hardly missing a beat. But busyness has been keeping me from reading more. Well, truth be told, busyness and my DVR. I've been reliving my middle school years by watching 'Boy Meets World' every evening when I could very well be reading. I guess I'm part of the TV generation I love to loathe after all.

But I want to finish this book before the baby gets here. First of all, it's just silly that I read over a 1,000 pages and have gotten stuck here with 300 pages to go. That's far more than half and to not finish would be a real biblio-failure. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly from a psychological point of view, if I take the time to finish this book, it's something just for me. This doesn't benefit the baby, Curtis, or anyone else. And while I most definitely do not fall into the 'it's okay to be selfish' camp, I do know that there are times when it is necessary to do something completely for yourself. And completely by myself. Unlike ladies' nights and craft nights at church which involve my 'soul sisters' (as we've decided to call ourselves) reading is solitary. It's me time and only me time.

I tried to come up with some other things to achieve before my son comes in and takes over my life. Maybe it's sad but I couldn't come up with anything else that really seems important to get done. I don't have much of a bucket list really anyway. So this is the one thing on my 'Before the Baby Comes Bucket List'. To finish a novel I started almost a year ago. And I feel that I must give myself permission to fail at this in case I don't find the time to read in the next 6-8 weeks. It's okay. Really, I think the idea of it is more important. It reminds me to not let my life get too wrapped up in my son. Ultimately that wouldn't be healthy for me, Curtis, or the baby. It would lead to a loss of my identity and smothering him with my plans for his life.

And for anyone who is wondering...the book is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I know, I know, it seems strange that someone like me who is OBSESSED with the show and has been quite the bookworm in the past has not read LesMis yet. Like I said, Hugo can be a smidge annoying at times (especially when I tried reading him as a 7th grader...geez louise, that was rough)...but hopefully my determination wins over his ADD style of writing and I manage to finish. Or not. Either way. At least I have my music.
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