Friday, November 8, 2013

A Chance and a Rock - Thoughts on Hope

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."  Proverbs 13:12

"Given a chance and a rock see which one breaks a window, see which one keeps me up all night and into the day." - Caedmon's Call, Table for Two

Hope is a tricky thing.  It lends a stunning amount of strength and energy to the soul...for good or ill.

Mark has pointed out, very accurately, that one reason consistency in disciplining children is so critical, is that it is human nature to not give up if we can detect any hope of success in achieving a desired goal.  So if a child knows that 9 times out of 10, an action will be disciplined, he also knows that he's got a shot at getting away with it.  I don't know about your kids, but mine are constitutionally unable to resist taking that chance!  Consistency extinguishes the hope that poor behavior will go unpunished, and consequently the child is far less tempted to give it a shot.

The same thing has applied to Mark's search for a full time teaching position.  It is a terrible time to need to land a job.  It is a really terrible time to need a college teaching job.  Make it in the humanities, and one begins to feel that entering Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes might be a better use of one's time.  He has been on the market for 5 very long years - since 2008.  Great timing, we know.

This trial has held many challenges for us personally.  For my part I have struggled with frustration, contentment, worry, frustration, fear, shame (how many people outside academia really get how a job search can take 5 years?  Not many), frustration, and frustration.  But over all that (even the frustration!) is the hope.  If there was literally no hope, we could just quit, and leave this messy part-time job of applying for jobs behind us.  But there is hope.  And with passing years, as he accumulates more and more teaching experience from his part time purgatory adjuncting, and as the economy supposedly stumbles toward recovery, there is more hope.  But hope can be a bittersweet companion in trials.  It can be the carrot in front of a very weary horse.  It can build up a sense of optimism, only to be crushed down again.  You can try to contain it with realism, try to be a pessimist for your own sanity, but it wiggles free again, rising up and whispering, "What if?  What if?"

We have an application out right now that we would very much like to bear fruit.  For me this means that for the next few weeks, I will be constantly trying to keep embers of hope alive without allowing them to rage out of control - because hope out of control is a setup for a fall.

Proverbs 13:12, quoted above, is a comfort to me in trials, in two ways.  First, the reassurance that my heartsickness is okay.  It is alright that this is hard for me.  It's not a sin, it's not lack of faith.  Sometimes, there is sin involved, when worry and fear take over for a time, but the difficulty, the heartsickness, they are normal and a part of the human condition in this sinful world.  It reminds me of another favorite passage that is an anchor for me, Psalm 103:13-14:

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."

I cling to that passage when I feel weak and afraid.  It is a huge solace to me to remember that God already knows how frail I am, that I am just dust, blown about in this fearful place.  That doesn't anger Him, but rather, He has pity on me.  

The second comfort of the passage in Proverbs, to come back to that, is to remember where hope belongs.  When we hope for earthly good, when we put our hope in our own solutions to our problems, when we hope in the whim of an academic bureaucrat (or the skill of a surgeon, the strength of an army, the survival of a nation), that hope may or may not be fulfilled.  When our true hope and our ultimate desire is in God and His purpose, there can be no heartsickness over that.  Our hearts can rest, hoping in safety, knowing in advance that all will be as it should be. 


photo credit: nationalrural via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Good Food, Cheap Food, Easy Food

I think about food a lot.

It's part of my job, after all.  All these people we've produced keep wanting it, and they're always lookin' at me at mealtime.  And snack time.  And almost snack time.  And I know it's not snack time but Mom, I'm STARVING!!!!  I am certifiably neurotic about only letting the kids eat at specified times; otherwise, I would literally do nothing but feed somebody All Day.  Not to mention the mysterious habit of begging for snacks all day, and then the appetite vanishes come dinnertime...even if said snacks were never granted.

But I digress.

Anyone who cares about health and has limited resources can probably relate to what I am about to say.

Good food isn't cheap.  And it isn't easy.

And I venture to say: it shouldn't be.  At least not in the sense we see around us.

In the past, people usually raised or bought staples, and made what they wanted or needed from that.  Now I don't have any secret desire to be Ma Ingalls, much as I love to read about her, don't get me wrong.  But I think that our cheap, easy food culture has created a monster, where one (among many) reason we struggle with our weight is because many of us have access to cheap, rich foods whenever we want.  Pies, pastries, cakes, cookies, chips, ice cream,  Easy.

What if we had to make it all from scratch?  Most people wouldn't have time.  Many people wouldn't have the money.  Yes, it can be cheaper to cook from scratch for a comparable item, but since homemade foods are often made from, oh I don't know, FOOD, they tend to be more costly than the latest concoction of Red 5.

I'm not announcing any sort of dietary perfection.  A glance in my freezer will always reveal some purchased ice cream.  Why?  We like it.  A lot.  Homemade ice cream costs a fortune, and is a pain to make even with an automatic churn.  (Any Trim Healthy Mama friends who may be reading this...fear not.  Mine's low carb. ;))  I'm not immune.

I am saying that I firmly believe that the industrialization of our food has been a terrible mistake.   We took food production away from people who cared about feeding their families, and gave it to people who cared about the bottom line.  The result?  Cheap, easy convenience food, full of cheap and tasty junk.  The kind of junk that makes you crave it - and it's so cheap and easy, why not have another?

We were all better off when food was harder to prepare. Those foods can be profoundly nourishing - and less tempting to go crazy on.  They are made to fill and nurture, not tantalize with fake flavor, in the hopes of making a buck.

Just something to chew on.

Be Blessed,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coping with a Nursing Strike

Note the date. I have come back in time...
The Strike

When Alex was 11 months old, he went on a nursing strike.

He had always been an incorrigible biter.  One day, once he had all his front teeth, he chomped down hard.

He wouldn't let go.  The pain was horrible and I couldn't get him off.

I screamed in pain and surprise.  Terrified at my shriek, he let go and wailed.  We both cried, and then we got over it - or so I thought.

The next time I tried to feed him, he bit me again.  This time, before I could react, he cried and pulled away, and refused to eat.  We repeated this unpleasant scenario over and over again that day, until I was horribly sore.  I suppose the memory of my scream was just so upsetting, he couldn't handle it.

The strike stretched on into day 2.  We were both miserable.  In the middle of a nursing strike, there are a few things you are likely to run into:
  • Pain.  Even this late in our nursing relationship, I became painfully engorged.  I didn't own a pump, but on Day 2, I went and bought one, frantic to relieve the pain.  Pumping both relieves the pain and maintains your milk supply.
  • Worry.  Baby needs to eat and drink, and when he refuses, mama gets worried and rightly so.
  • Doubt.  Is nursing over?  Are we weaning?  This is not how I wanted to wean! (A nursing strike is rarely permanent).
  • Rejection.  I was completely unprepared for the emotional side of a nursing strike.  My head knew that Alex was rejecting my milk, not me.  But, nursing is such a close and tender relationship, and so much a part of the love between a nursing mom and her baby, that the rejection hurt me deeply anyway.
How we ended it

There are a lot of wonderful resources available to help with a nursing strike.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

La Leche League, International
Mayo Clinic

Those pages are full of wonderful suggestions to get things going again.  None of them worked for Alex and I, though.  Here's what did work:  I took that breast pump I bought to relieve engorgement, and I put a little bit of milk in a cup.  I gave the cup to Alex and let him drink from it.  When he got a taste of breast milk again, he started to cry, and crawled over to me, up in my lap, and began to nurse.  I hardly dared breathe, lest I disturb him, but he seemed to decide he'd had enough, and our strike was over.  He was breastfed for 6 more months after that with no more issues.

If you have dealt with this problem, please share how you solved it!