March 6

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It is frigid once again here in Lima. I’ve consulted several 10 day weather forecasts, and I think this may be the last cold snap of the season.

There are plenty of overexposure spots in the photo above. I like how the winter morning sun dazzles the eyes when there is snow or ice to reflect it. If I let my camera meter the picture for the bright spots, I get all sorts of weird colors in the snow. If the sun were dim enough to permit our gaze, snow would include all the variations within mother of pearl.

I don’t have long to write this morning. There is a thought flitting through my mind, and it is this: in what ways do we hold onto pain because it has become useful?

Still Winter

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March is here, and the snow is still with us. Recently I overcame a decade-long phobia of driving over snow and ice, but I still don’t relish winter storms. I read the Book of Job in its entirety for the first time this week as part of Nicky and Pippa Gumbel’s Bible in One Year program available through the free Bible.com reading app. Near the close of Job, God mentions something about snow that resonated so deeply for me that I decided to superimpose the verses on one of my snow photos:

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Job 38:22-24

The idea that snow could be associated with perilous times is not alien to me at all. For nearly ten years, the mere presence of snow was a peril unto itself. I had the unfortunate experience of having the brakes of a now-defunct van give out while I was driving in snow. It wasn’t a matter of the brakes locking up because I wasn’t allowing enough stopping distance in the snow. Unknown to me at the time, the van had been leaking brake fluid, and I had no fluid left at all by the time I started up the van on that snowy day. I drove a mile through town and coasted through four stop signs (thank God I was the only who happened to be driving through those intersections at the time!). I managed to get the van stopped at my parent’s house, and those tense moments of sailing through the stop signs in the snow haunted me entirely too many times over the next ten years.

I tried getting past this phobia in many ways. Brief therapy. Rides from friends and family during snowstorms (in all honesty, sometimes when there was just the mere threat of snowfall). I even bought a SUV with all wheel drive. Still, I’d despair at the prospect of driving in winter weather, even though I’d gradually been doing better with driving myself though ice or snow. It’s not that I was quaking with the the physical signs of fear. It was like a proverbial brick wall would appear that demanded I drive nowhere, that almost nothing was worth the risk of driving in snow.

Recently I tried something entirely different. I’ve been experiencing a renewal of my faith, inspired in part by my daughter’s sudden, unexplained decision to read the Bible from cover to cover. We’ve started attending our neighborhood Methodist church, and one of the women in the congregation was kind enough to give me a copy of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, a daily devotional that addresses anxiety among other issues that can erode one’s peace of mind. A few weeks ago, when I was doing the day’s reading from that book, I decided to try trusting that God could help me with my winter driving problem.

A few days later, we had a four-inch overnight snowfall, and almost none of our local streets had been cleared by the time I needed to leave for work. When I looked out of our front door at the snow, I felt no dread and no plot emerged in my mind to call someone to come and get me. I waited for news that my daughter’s school day would be cancelled, gathered my things for work and drove five miles through the snow with no resistance or anxiety whatsoever.

I’m glad that my snow phobia is over. Before the brake malfunction ten years ago, I seldom thought about winter driving, let alone agonize over it. It’s a relief to be back in that state of mind on the subject.

On a clear day you can see the end of winter

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The saga of my lying coworker continues, but compassion has calmed most of this storm. In borrowing from the losses and frustrations of those around her, she may be telling us, “I am no stranger to pain, but I cannot bring myself to tell anyone what wounded me.”

Half an eon ago in internet history, I read a superb parody tribute to Journey’s Steve Perry which listed bizarre fictional accomplishments. The feats included being locked in a sauna for seven years, which somehow destroyed his perceptions of the present tense. It’s like my coworker was locked in that sauna too and emerged with a faulty grasp of the past and the present.

I took the picture above the morning after last month’s storm. The beauty of that snow reminds me that I need to alter my attitude about winter. In the past ten years, I’ve felt like winter is at best a waiting room for spring. I’ve considered that this is a habit that could result in my wishing away 25% of the rest of my life.

Weekend Snow, January 20

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This weekend offered the first snow storm of the season. The snow has drifted too much for accurate measurement. Some patches of our yard show blades of grass, but other parts are buried beneath drifts 12-18″ deep.

Here in Lima we don’t suffer from the sometimes massive lake effect snowstorms well known in northern Ohio, so any projected storm with rumors of snowfall in excess of 3″ tends to inspire milk-and-bread stockpiles. Actually, one of our local restaurants shared a meme online that showed a weather map in which the inches of snow in the forecast were replaced with how many loaves of bread should be purchased in advance to endure the storm. According to the map, this weekend’s storm was a three loafer.

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The Thaw Begins

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The weather continues to vary, and the graph of its changes could stand for an equation not yet quantified. Last night the low was 30 degrees, but Tuesday’s forecast high is 71 with heavy rain. We have reached the point of winter that reminds me of that arcade game with the ever-growing row of quarters that inch ever slowly toward a jackpot that really is the watched pot that never boils.

Against the backdrop of disappearing and reappearing snow, there has been some movement forward in my family, but there are lingering frustrations. The boys who taunted my daughter at lunchtime have been moved to a different cafeteria at her school. As for me, I finally had my epidural injection for nerve pain arising from my L3/L4 disc.

The epidural has definitely helped with my nerve pain. Six days after the injection, it seems as if it resolved 80% of my pain and redistributed the rest in oddball locations like the toes and bridge of my right foot. Before the shot, almost all of my pain was on my left side. What matters at this point is that my pain is tolerable. I sure wish the cortisone shot hadn’t bloated me (hooray for elastic waist pants!), but that side effect should be gone within a week.

Eileen still is still not thrilled about attending school, but what teenager ever has been? There is still a moment every school morning when there is a possibility that things will fall apart, but I’m so proud of her when she overcomes that inertia and gets on the bus.

I’ve started reading In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donovan and Caren Zucker. I’m just a third of the way through this excellent book, but the experience has already been a bit cathartic, especially the passages about the “Refrigerator Mother” paradigm that reigned for entirely too long. Essentially, this theory insists that mothers create autism through poor parenting.

Unfortunately, my experiences suggest to me that this theory just formalizes a common layperson’s definition of autism, that the behavior of such children is nothing more than proof positive of a parent who is too lazy to raise a child properly. This has been the greatest frustration of my time as a mother. There have been a few people who shall remain unnamed, people who matter to me more than anyone else in this world, who in anger have told me that I created all of my daughter’s problems through my parenting. I have been hurt by such words, but there has also been the agony of knowing that I love some people who cling to ignorance despite all of the information I’ve given them, despite their witnessing firsthand many of the trials my daughter and I have endured and overcome together.

When my daughter turned two, a local hospital evaluated her intelligence as part of her intake for early childhood speech therapy. The staff informed me that their evaluation indicated that my daughter was “retarded.” Oh really? She learned to read less than two years later. She took the ACT in eighth grade and scored 31 in the English section.

Don’t believe what people tell you about your child and your parenting if it rings false.