Friday, February 27, 2009


We came home from forgiveness vespers Sunday afternoon - ready (in theory) to begin Great Lent. I had been shopping at Costco, purchased my weight in hummus, and felt almost "prepared" for the 40 days without meat and dairy. (Mise en place as Martha Condra explains on this weeks WHEAT WINE AND OIL.

Forgiveness Vespers is both my favorite and least favorite service. For those who haven't experienced it, it's a beautiful but rather chaotic service that ends with each of us asking forgiveness of EVERY other parishioner. It's kind of embarrassing and sometimes you bump heads (because there's bowing and kissing of cheeks). You invade one another's space and smell their breath - and it nearly paralyzes my daughter Isabelle with fear (she's not a hugger), while two year old Jane can't get enough. "Forgive me, dada" she repeated all afternoon - in a regal Audrey Hepburn sort of voice.

So I came home, ate approximately 25 milk chocolate candies and fell asleep. Not the "mmm really needed that rest" kind of nap, but a "block out the hideous mess around me" type. When I awoke, I felt worse. There's something so utterly humbling about apologizing to so many people - it forces you to look a little deeper. There's something about looking your husband, your children in the eyes and publicly asking for their forgiveness that causes you to forget the petty grudges you've held and realize how you may have injured them. In short, I came home and saw things more clearly.

Not to "confess" here on the blog - but I did realize that I have really fallen short particularly in the homemaking department. I mean I bake bread and do fun domestic things - but the daily tasks (the unseen ones that require patience and discipline and servant hood - like laundry) are really sub par. I mean I can't even tell you about my library fines. There's a lack of structure and order in my home that is inefficient if not destructive.

But as I picked myself up after that nap, I thought of Jonah - first running away from God and then returning. I thought of how Fr. Bill told us today to forgive one another but also to forgive ourselves - because there's work to be done.

Man, there is so much work to be done! Good work - His work. I used to think that I was only doing God's work if I was a missionary in Africa or working in a homeless shelter. While those can be so valuable, I've got plenty to do right here. And so my struggle this Lent is to do my daily work more patiently, more thoroughly...

For some Christians, it seems the temptation is to get lost in details of the fast - almost obsessively checking labels for hidden dairy - and forgetting that the Resurrection is always close by. I have the opposite problem. From my Calvinist and rebellious roots, I remember the Resurrection, but struggle with the discipline and patience needed to participate in this beautiful season. I'm quick to cut corners, make exceptions, and excuse myself from obligation - justifying my behavior - I mean I wouldn't want to be a Pharisee! What I'm starting to realize, however, is that the more excuses I make, the more I miss out. Or in other words, the more I participate - give myself over to the rules and details, the more I gain! I gain not from pride at my own minuscule successes, but because my own arrogance and "logic" is put aside.

Last week, the girls and I started a garden. Ha Ha - it's 20 degrees outside - what we started looks nothing like a garden. Tiny little seeds were placed in a smidgen of dirt in egg cartons. These little guys require a lot of work - I mean they are constantly drying out and they need the light of my sun porch, without the freezing temperatures. But now I am starting to see why my past gardening attempts have failed. See, I want THIS (my garden blogging expert) without all the fuss. But do I? Just as in my spiritual life, I'm starting to realize that my peace and satisfaction directly correlate with the style and amount of work I put in. Maybe that's why my mother-in-law irons her sheets or my mom separates her laundry so completely (I mean she has off-white loads - whatever Martha). I know there is balance here - I know from my therapist days that there are those who struggle with perfectionism and OCD. At this point in my life, however, I am not one of those people.

So, we at the Maddex home are going to garden - planting tiny seeds in pots indoors (Some of us like to wear hats when we garden and some of us prefer to garden in the buff). We are also going to (God help us) turn off the t.v., say our prayers, attend Church (on time) and participate in the fast. We are going to do this because we believe in home grown, organic vegetables. We "...look for the Resurrection and the life of the world to come...." But we also do this because we believe that how we live now has meaning and importance. That we can experience God and His peace today - as the sun shines through the windows of my porch and the hymns of St. Andrews Canon are sung.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great Expectations

so this is kindof a sad post. I'm just warnin ya - i don't necessarily enjoy sharing personal details - especially in writing - especially when they aren't cute or funny - but I've kindof gotten into the blogging thing and it seems like it might help.

See, I've been wracking my brain - trying to understand why I would discard three years of grad school, three more years of supervision, a year of test taking and licensure craziness (in three different states, mind you) and then a bunch of paperwork to be able to accept insurance. Why won't I practice? I thought I would love being a therapist. Even though I chickened out and applied for my MSW instead of a PhD in clinical Pych, I thought all along that I wanted to be a therapist. I knew clinicians with social work backgrounds and couldn't wait to get to that point. Family therapy, couples counseling - it all sounded facinating and helpful and lucrative.

I guess the long and short of it is that I didn't know my sister would die.

That's awful, isn't it? But the truth is, I've pretty much always had to work at staying above the depression line and all the pain shared in the course of therapy - combined with my own grief - made it really difficult. Pain doesn't always remind me of her - but it reminds me of the feelings I feel about her; because of her death.

My friend Jenny just wrote a book about parents grieving the death of their children - thru miscarraige, stillbirth, or infant death. She talks about grief - the kindof pain that hurts so bad at first - she compares the initial pain to labor - it's that intense. But later - weeks, months, years later - the pain hangs around. It levels your insides and although you can rebuild them, they show the cracks. I'm much more fearful now. I know how bad things can get and there's never a day that I don't recognize what's possible.

The gift in this - and I know this doesn't happen for everyone - is that I feel desperate for Christ. There was some weird comforting peace I experienced in the midst of Tiffany's death - especially in that first week - like someone was helping me hold up my head. It was God, I have no doubt.

But without that - without God - it would have been torture. That veil between heaven and earth seems thin to me now - and so to go to Church - to participate in the Liturgy - to remember all of those who have suffered - to be reminded of a purpose! That's really what keeps me above that depression line.

So how could I practice therapy and see people in that despair and not offer them that life raft? What other hope is there? Friends definitely help as does my wonderful family - but if you feel life is meaningless, they only go so far.

Ok - so I realize now that I can't be a therapist. But, even that makes me sad. The truth is that I really love people and wanted to be able to sit with them in that painful place. I thought that was my gift - I thought my grief would help! But I can now admit that despite the time and money invested, it is not the career for me - at least not now. And not without being able to offer the Church as a refuge!

So... I embark on a new career. One in which I have no schooling or experience - but one that I enjoy. I want to promote books. Specifically, I want to promote my husband's books. And those of precious sister-in-law - and hopefully more. I've asked my genius brother to move up here temporarily and help me get started. I've asked my artist sister for graphic design input, my business sister for contacts, and for advice from my other sister who just has an eye for beauty and balance.

Anyway - I write this, I guess, as a turning point. The permission to officially let go of the guilt and weirdness tied up in not practicing therapy. I thought, for a while, that I just had a problem "working." That I just really wanted and needed to stay home. This is in part, true. But it's also true that having something else besides parenting to think about seems to help me think about parenting (and actually parent) better. Anyway - I'm going to give it a shot. And I'm thinking about calling it, "Great Expectations."


So on February 25th, Tiffany would be 34. A healthy Tiffany would have had kids near my girls' age. We could have called each other and laughed about the ridiculous things our 2 year olds did today (mine refused to wear a coat, boots, and seatbelt - despite doing these things no problem everyday for the past 40 days). I like to think what I would have gotten for her for her birthday - morbid, I guess - but I know she would have loved Anthropology.

But even as I write this sad post, I feel a little bit grateful - that I got sick and had to rethink things. That I'm not sitting in a therapy office with people I don't know - but am instead at home, with my family, a part of my church, closer to my friends, more full of love and respect for my precious parents and in-laws. I also think that this time in Bobby's and my life is kind of exciting. It's fun to start a new business - Bobby's new job with AFR is amazing. The girls are growing and learning. In many respects, It is a hopeful time.

I guess it's just that, as the years pass, the pain of grief - although lighter - comes along, too. And while I am no longer a therapist - perhaps because of that sting, I can be a bit more present to friends/family/neighbors in need than I otherwise would have been.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


For heaven's sake, the snow is FINALLY MELTING. Isabelle woke me up this morning yelling that the snow was shrinking. And true enough - the snow mounds were being replaced by icy puddles (the down side being that about 50 piles of Lola's poop were now mushy and visible). But focusing on the half-full glass, we embraced the "warm" day - and headed out for gymnasics/ballet without coats!

See, this was an especially glorious day, because in addition to bright sunshine, we were hosting a "Fancy Nancy" party. Big times here at the Maddex home. We sent out fancy pink evites to the two families we know (one being our relatives) and prepared by reading the Fancy Nancy book and making tiny pink cakes. Now I know that Martha Stewart actutally hosted Jane O'Connor (Fancy nancy's author) and discussed proper ways of hosting Fancy Nancy themed birthday parties. But really - our party was out of desperation. The girls and I were so tired of being stuck here in the house - and we had just received a huge bag of fancy dress-up clothes from our priest's wife. What else were we supposed to do?

Here is some more evidence of our fanciness: