Tag Archives: love

The Vomit Diaries

I have two stories to tell. The first one is true. Not internet forward true, but really, truly true. I know because I was there.

The second is one our pastor told in church today. He read it from someone who heard it from someone else, so the thread of truth is slightly murky. But it’s a good story nonetheless.

Story One

Nine years ago, I found myself on a flight from Toronto to Calgary with my two small daughters. Armed with fishy crackers, colouring books and 14 pacifiers, I was sure I could handle a two-year-old and a five-month-old on my own.

By hour three, we were running perilously low on smarties and I had detected an unholy smell in our section. With a sigh and a prayer for strength, I buckled the baby into her carrier, grabbed the diaper bag and wrestled my overtired, and extremely ripe, toddler out of her seatbelt. As I stood, I lifted her up under her arms and propped her on my hip, then shuffled my way into the aisle.

The next part of this memory plays in slow motion. She leans forward slightly, just over the seat in front of us, opens her mouth, and vomits all over the poor man’s head. I spin her around as quick as I can, spewing vomit on myself, the baby and the seat behind us.

My eldest child is a prolific puker. It’s kind of amazing.

I’m sure it was an unpleasant awakening for the man in the front seat. And he was not impressed. He began yelling and cursing and screaming for the flight attendants. They rushed over to clean him up and tried to calm him down, while I apologized profusely.

He did not accept.

Standing there dripping vomit and smelling so bad, we all three started to cry.

Worst flight EVER.

Story Two

My second story is somewhat similar. A mother and infant boarded a plane wearing sparkling white dresses. The baby looked up eagerly with each person who walked by: “Dada?” As she began to fuss, Mom pulled out a bottle of orange juice. This apparently was the best way to pacifiy Baby Girl, especially when the plane hit some turbulance.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. As the flight grew increasingly choppy, the next part seems inevitable – sticky, orange vomit from head to toe.

I’m sure she wiped it up as best she could, but that didn’t help much. By the time the plane landed, Mom was frazzled and overwhelmed. As they disembarked, the baby looked across the tarmac and shouted “Dada!”

There stood a young man, also dressed in pristine white dress shirt and pants, waiting for his family. I imagine the handoff was a quick one, as Mom dashed off to clean herself up. Most of us would hold that smelly, sticky child at arm’s length; perhaps find some way to cover up the worst of it. But not this Dad.

He eagerly scooped that vomit covered child right into his arms and held her close. With a smile on his face, he kissed her head and snuggled her all the way through the airport.

I’m struck by the contrast in these two stories:

the censure of the disapproving man

VS.

the embrace of a loving parent

It reminds me of the two gods I have believed in.

The first is a distant stranger, angry and disgusted by my mess. This god requires polite, well-behaved followers. I must carefully control each word and action so as not to offend. Mistakes will not be tolerated. I am small, insignificant and afraid. I would never approach a god like this; instead I would hide, sit behind and desperately scrub everything clean. But it’s never good enough.

This is the god most good church people expect. And he makes sense to me.

The other guy, the one who barely notices the filth, seems weak and permissive. Isn’t God supposed to be pure and perfect? Aren’t we?

I am reminded of a third story.

I’m pretty sure vomit played a part in this one as well, so it fits. There were years of hard core partying, homelessness, depression and scrounging rotten food from the slop. It got messy.

The father in this story Jesus told had been rejected and publically humiliated. He had every right to be angry. But when the prodigal son slunk back home, his Dad ran to meet him, sweeping him up in his arms and holding him close.

The God of the story is a delighted Father who longs to hold me close, no matter what state I am in. This Daddy-God is not horrified by the ugly parts of me. Nor is he surprised when I screw up. He wants me at my best, even those clumsy attempts and lopsided efforts that don’t quite work. AND He wants me at my worst, with my slimy, sick failures and vomit encrusted regrets.

This is the God of the Bible.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.

Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.

Now we call him, “Abba (Daddy), Father.”

Romans 8:15

So here’s me, messy and screwed up… and loved, always.

How do I react to the mess of others? When life gets ugly, which story do I resemble?

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When I was 16…

Twenty years ago, the boy I had a huge crush on took me on my very first date. Turns out, it was my only ‘first date’. Because sometimes one is all you need.

When I was 16…

you took me on a walk at Glenmore resevoir. You told me you had a question for me, but you kept changing the subject and clearing your throat. We talked about exams and schoolwork. We talked about our friends. We talked about the gifts we had gotten at Christmas. We talked about the weather, for Pete’s sake. I wondered if you were ever going to get to the point. Finally, as we turned towards home you blurted out “doyouwantogooutwithme?”

Of course I said “YES!” and then tried desperately to act cool about the whole thing.

When I was 18, you took me on a walk at Glenmore resevoir after dinner. You put your suit jacket over my shoulders to keep me warm. You were fidgety and nervous. I wondered what was wrong with you. You got down on one knee, right in the snow, and blurted out “willyoumarryme?”.

I think there was some stuff about how much you loved me et cetera… but I was crying and laughing and entirely giving up any pretense of coolness, so I don’t really remember.

When I was 16…

you reached over and took my hand for the first time. It was a bit awkward. We hadn’t figured out how to fit our fingers together just right, but you didn’t let go all the way back home.

When I was 23, you held my hand while we waited for the results of the pregnancy test. You held my hand in the hospital waiting room. You held my hand when the doctors told us our baby had died, and during labour and delivery. You held my hand when they took him away. You didn’t let go, not then and not through the sad, sad months to come.

You held my hand through 4 more children. Two girls, another stillborn baby boy, and our youngest who came one month early with a little extra in the DNA department.

Our hands fit together perfectly now; we don’t even have to think about it.

When I was 16…

we played Monopoly and you tried to slip me money so that I would win. You crushed me. I was embarrassed because I wanted you to think I was smart and capable, and because I really, really like to win.

When I was 30, we started family games night. Candyland, then Trouble and Sorry, eventually chess, Scrabble and Monopoly. You help the girls here and there, you give them tips, but we don’t let them win every game. It’s more fun that way, a real challenge. Because we all really, really like to win.

When I was 16…

we went to A&W for dinner, then to see Beauty and the Beast in the theatre. I was skeptical that anything could compete with Little Mermaid. We shared popcorn, and halfway through the movie you put your arm around me in one quick, smooth motion, and then let out a sigh of relief.

You were so cute! I couldn’t believe how fun this dating thing was turning out to be.

When I was 36, you took me to A&W for dinner, then to the movies for our 20 year “anniversary”. Beauty and the Beast 3D was playing and that seemed romantic, but we decided to see Sherlock Holmes instead. We’ve seen enough kids movies to last 3 lifetimes. I ate all the popcorn and you drank a huge pop. You had to go to the bathroom 3 times and I teased you mercilessly about it.

We still laugh and act like teenagers when we are on a date. I have more fun with you than anyone else.

When I was 16…

you walked me to the LRT station. I leaned in to hug you and you stole your first kiss. I was shocked. Church girls like me didn’t expect that on a first date. But you were worldly and wild like that.

When I was 22, you decided you wanted to serve God with your life. Your family thought we were crazy. Mine thought we were saints. They were both wrong. I knew our life wouldn’t be normal or easy; it wasn’t what I expected. But you were brave and devoted like that.

Now we live in the real world, and that ministry life is a memory. We’ve learned a lot since then. And the kissing has just gotten better and better.

When I was 16…

we had our first fight. My friend Claire and I smoked a cigarette in the alley behind my house. The next week I drank half a pitcher of real margaritas at a restaurant and got a little tipsy. You were appalled when you found out. You wondered who I was. I called you a stuffed shirt.

When I was 19, we had our first married fight – day one of our honeymoon, at the breakfast table. I ordered Eggs Benedict and you had the pancakes platter. I snagged a piece of bacon and popped it in my mouth. You looked at me like I had kicked your puppy. Apparently, you do not share food. This has not changed.

But you’ve shared everything else with me for the past 20 years, so I’m not going to complain. You can have all the bacon.

I picked the best man in the world when I was 16. I let you think it was all your idea, but I knew what I wanted. And I really, really like to win.

So here’s me, SO incredibly grateful that I got to grow up with you by my side.


The “F” Word

It’s a bad word. I get after my kids for using it. So I should definitely know better, but I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. I don’t often say it out loud, at least, not so anyone can hear. Nevertheless, it is frequently used vocabulary in my internal dialogue.

Failure.

It’s my personal kryptonite. I recently organized a large event for the church where I work. I worked with some amazing people and the evening was a huge success. But even weeks later I can give you a long list of my failures. Small things that no one even noticed. Problems that may very well exist only in my mind.

Last night I organized another event and it also went remarkably well. Yet the same mantra is playing in my head… a list of all the little things that went wrong and that F word over and over again.

It could be that birth order phenomenon – I am the oldest and hold myself to impossible standards, wanting to control things that I can’t possibly predict. It’s a twisted form of pride (all insecurity is). I don’t expect as much from others as I do myself.

Perhaps it is temperament. I am conscientious and responsible. I am detail-oriented and task-focused. According to Myers-Briggs, I am INFJ, which is psycho-babble for “perfectionist control-freak”.

Maybe it’s my religious up-bringing. Plymouth Brethren (think semi-Amish city folk) can give the Catholics and the Jews a run for their money in the guilt department. My parents were definitely moving towards a faith of grace and forgiveness when I was a child, but I seem to have picked up the self-flagellating attitude somewhere along the way. Jonathan Edwards wrote a very famous (and in my opinion quite horrible) sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. For me a scarier title would have been “Sinners in the Hands of a Disapproving God”.

When I made my very first foray into therapy, I was sure I knew which problems I needed to discuss. A gifted and insightful counselor knew different. About halfway through our second session, he looked me in the eye and said, “God is not disappointed in you.” I burst into tears and proceeded to blubber for the rest of the hour. After crying all the way home, it occurred to me that this may in fact be the real issue.

The God I picture in my head isn’t nearly as good as the real thing.

There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

No condemnation. No disappointed sighs. No disgusted eye rolls.

When I keep reading that same chapter of the bible it is clear that in God’s eyes I am not a failure. He made sure of it. It says:

I am free.

I am a beloved daughter.

I am forgiven.

I have purpose.

I am loved no matter what.

I am more than a conqueror!

And suddenly it doesn’t really matter that I miscounted the RSVP list and couldn’t figure out the coffee maker. Beating myself up over silly details does seem profane when I remember who I truly am and the God who made me. I make mistakes. I screw up. I may even fail from time to time. But I am not a failure. So bring on the cheesy affirmations; the “F” word has got to go.

So here’s me, and doggonnit, people like me!


The Silly Factor

We’re a family that likes to play games: Uno, Blokus, Sorry, Trouble, Charades… We try to make time at least once a week to play together. Another family tradition we have on these nights are the musical stylings of none other than… myself.

I’ve paid my dues, time after time.

So, I’m not exactly musical, at all. In fact, I’m rather tone deaf, but I more than compensate for this with sheer enthusiasm.

I’ve served my sentence, but committed no crime.

No, Mom, not again! Why must she keep doing this?”

And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few.

Cue the groaning and eye rolling. The occasional pillow is thrown my way, but don’t fear, I am spry. I don’t want to die with this music in me!

I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through!

This is where it gets loud!

Na-na-na-naaaaah-na

Naaaaaah-na

Naaaaaah-na

I AM THE CHAMPION MY FRIENDS

AND I’LL KEEP ON FIGHTING TO THE END!

I AM THE CHAMPION!

I AM THE CHAMPION!

NO TIME FOR LOSERS, CAUSE I AM THE CHAMPION…. OF THE WORLD!

In addition to illustrating what an incredibly gracious winner I am, this little conert is an example of one of our family’s greatest strengths. We are silly.

When the girls were little Glen use to tickle them while singing “May the bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caresse you with his toes…” I’m pretty sure HIS Dad used to sing it to him. My Dad preferred to make up his own words and was more likely to bellow bizarre phrases than sing. The words “Total Alabama!” were a frequent exclamation. I have no idea what it means, but it still makes me smile.

I don’t know what it is about kids that awaken the inner goofball. Both my husband and my father are fairly quiet and reserved people in most situations, but they can behave like complete nutbars with their children. It’s fun to laugh at and with each other, but it’s so much more than that.

Our absurd rituals and goofy traditions build intimacy. We create a weird and crazy world that is uniquely ours. Yes, we discipline, we fight, we build routines to make life run smoother… we love each other in hundreds of practical ways. But there’s something precious about the fun times when we truly LIKE each other too.

So here’s me, singing on and on and on and on.


The Flaw

I’ve kept quiet for many years about this. Okay, not exactly, but mostly I suffer in silence. Since I started this blog I have taken the opportunity to sing my husband’s praises through it. And he really is the best guy around – a wonderful father and human being. But sometimes he really bugs me.

It’s not a marriage thing; anyone you spend a lot of time with will find it. That thing, that seemingly insignificant, small thing that irritates you like nothing else. Other people may barely even notice, but this thing will drive you batty. Perhaps I am more neurotic than most, but I have quite a few pet peeves.

Thankfully, Glen does in fact understand the correct way to load toilet paper: from the TOP people! He understands the need to put the toilet seat DOWN (which makes my first thing in the morning dash to the bathroom much more pleasant). I am forever grateful to my mother-in-law for raising a son who puts his dirty dishes in the kitchen, dirty socks in the hamper and dirty self into the shower.

However… he does have one dark flaw, and it is something I “have a thing about”. Each week I collect, sort, wash, dry AND fold the laundry. I’m somewhat anal about it. Growing up, wash day was Monday, and I cannot feel quite right with the world if we have dirty clothes kicking around on Tuesday, or heaven forbid – Wednesday. The rest of my life may be descending into madness – dishes to the ceiling, crunchy floors and grimy bathrooms, but we WILL have clean clothes on Tuesday.

After busting my butt to produce this minor housekeeping miracle, I expect the neatly folded piles of clean laundry, which have been conveniently delivered to each person’s room, to be PUT AWAY. Each of my children puts their own clothes away. It was one of the first chores they learned. Even the baby was doing her part (as soon as she was able to stand on her own – I’m not a monster). It could be because their mom is the laundry Nazi, but I like to think it’s because this incredibly simple task is the least they can do to assist me with my Very Important Work (aka: laundry).

We talked about it when we were first married and he agreed. Not a big deal… totally something he could do… he was happy to help, and yet it hardly ever happened. All week I would eye that basket of clothes on the floor while he rummaged through it for what he needed. Determined not to nag, I decided to just ignore it and see how long it took before he actually put his shirts IN the drawer. Five laundry baskets precariously stacked with a smattering of clean clothes in the bottom of each one and STILL he would rather hunt through the stacks than empty the things.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable, peace-loving human being, but this could very well have pushed me over the edge. He really wasn’t trying to be a jerk or disrespect me in any way. He just doesn’t see it. In fact, he floated the idea of doing away with drawers entirely, just living out of the baskets.

Eventually I realized that this little, but extremely crucial issue could cause our relationship serious stress. Relationships can be destroyed by the silliest things. Friends, siblings, co-workers, room-mates… pretty much anyone who is up in your face long enough for you to want to punch them in theirs. Of course, in the end it’s not about how to fold the towels or who is a better driver, but it can start there. The spark that starts the fire doesn’t need to be a big one. I watched a bitter divorce unfold with the major battle being who should clean out the garage.

I know wives all over the world have been putting clothes away for centuries without complaint, but somehow I got it in my head that I shouldn’t have to. And I don’t, I really don’t. But I decided that this would be my act of sacrificial love. It may not seem that romantic, but it is a marriage builder in our home.

For more than a decade I have been putting shirts, pants, socks and boxers away while repeating the mantra “an act of love, an act of love, an act of love.” To be honest, I don’t think he’s even noticed. Every once in a while that irritation sneaks up on me again, but it’s good for me. Glen says it all the time – love isn’t just a feeling, it is an act of the will. And in our house, that means drawers full of clean laundry.

So here’s me, grateful that he loves me by overlooking the garbage I leave in his car, clipping my toenails in front of the t.v. and even peanut butter breath.


the CAKE

Every year, since time began, the women in my husband’s family have prepared a 4 layer, boiled icing, chocolate drizzled, MADE FROM SCRATCH German Chocolate Cake in celebration of each person’s birth. It is tradition.

In my family of origin that means something we sometimes do, if we feel like it. In in-law”ese” it means, a task or experience which is absolutely required and essential. If you don’t do it, you are out of the family. Or will wish you could be.

Shortly before I was married my Mom-in-law sat me down to have “the talk”. No, not sex; I wish it were that simple. This was about the legendary family cake and my new responsibilities as both a wife and, someday, mother.

You have to understand. I am not what you would call “kitchen friendly.” I think it’s a complex recipe if it calls for a can of soup AND shredded cheese. As for baking – someone like me is why God created Duncan Hines cake mixes (or why God created Duncan Hines in order that some day he would create cake mixes). Why, oh why, couldn’t the family tradition be DQ ice cream cake?

I can regale you with tales over the years of my many struggles with “the cake.” There have been tears, muttered profanity, botched attempts hastily thrown in the garbage, desperate calls to my mother (what does “fold in” mean?) and some years it just hasn’t worked out. But I keep trying. I even sift the flour for pete’s sake.

This year was no exception. A clue as to how it went… here is my husband’s facebook post:

The more my wife curses the cake she’s making for me, the more I appreciate her for making it. She’s very appreciated at this moment…

The cake layers were uneven and gaped. So I put a lot of icing on. The icing didn’t work quite right – perhaps cooled too long (since last year it wasn’t not long enough). It was super sticky, so I piled extra on. It slid down the cake, pooled on the edge of the plate and onto the counter. So, I put more on.

Every year without fail, this project causes me stress and frustration. So I’ve been asking myself – why do I do it?

Because, he makes me laugh…every day, at least once, but usually more.

Because, when we argue he talks in outline format (A…, point 1, 2…) and it’s strangely endearing.

Because, he is crazy about his girls and enjoys being their dad so much he wants another daughter.

Because, he is brilliant (don’t tell him I said this – but he’s way smarter than me).

Because, he is sexy and makes me feel that way too.

Because, he is the first person I want to tell when something good happens.

Because, his is the hug I need when things go bad.

Because, he really, really, really likes the cake.

Marriage is about loving that other person in the way they actually need and want – not the way that is convenient or makes sense to me. Now, I may still moan about this cake with my sister-in-law and I doubt it’ll ever be my favourite thing to do. In 364 days I will re-read this post and hopefully I will have a better attitude for that cake, because he really is worth it.

So here’s to Glen – a better man than I deserve. Happy Birthday G!


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