Jaren's Blog

December 13, 2010

Naïveté at the Nativity – Revisited

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 9:07 pm

This is one of my favorite holiday posts, because it demonstrates so perfectly the dynamics of my family. In fact, it may just become an annual post. Enjoy, and please feel free to share your holiday program mishaps… You know, so I don’t feel so dysfunctional and whatnot.


My kids make up eighty percent of the children and youth in our church, so there’s little question that they will be cast in the Christmas production each year. The competition for roles is—what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yes… “nonexistent.” In fact, it’s not unusual for a single child to play two or thirteen different roles in each year’s program.

In 2006, a three-month-old Snugglebug made her stage debut as baby Jesus. During rehearsals, we’d placed her in the wooden manger (filled with shredded paper instead of hay, due to her asthma) several times so that she wouldn’t be startled by the sensation. There was some discussion of a song that would be sung during the manger scene, but we never ran the scene with the music. Our director said things like, “This is where everyone is gathered around baby Jesus in the manger. Is the baby in the manger? Okay. Now, there will be music here, so everyone will just be still and look at the baby, okay? Okay! When the music is over, the curtains will close, and the baby can come out of the manger.”

We actually didn’t hear the music until the performance. Mr. Wright and I were backstage, assisting with costume changes. There were many. Shepherds became angels who became sheep who became shepherds, and so on. Snugglebug was napping in her infant carrier, and I held out hope that she’d stay that way through her big scene. Naturally, just before her cue, she woke up, hungry and fussy.

A volley of urgent whispering took place behind the drawn curtain, with Princess (“Mary”) asking, “What do I do? She’s crying. I can’t take her out there while she’s crying,” and me thrusting a bottle into her hand and directing her to “wing it.”

Nestled into the manger with Princess holding the bottle for her, Snugglebug calmed down, and no one even brought up the anachronistic use of the plastic bottle that fed the infant savior. Then, the song started. It was “What Child is This?” With two verses down and just the slightest discontent stirrings from Snugglebug, I thought we were in the clear. I prepared for the curtain to close, planning to whisk her offstage before she let loose with any serious wailing, but the music went on. And on. There must be thirty-seven verses of “What Child is This?” that I have never heard.

Snugglebug began making the small whimpering sound I recognized as the prelude to full-volume, fist-clenching, rage-filled screaming. Mr. Wright heard it, too. We looked at each other. “What do we do?” we mouthed.

As luck would have it, I married a genius. Mr. Wright grabbed a pair of donkey ears from the pile of costume accessories, put them on, and entered the stage. What’s one more donkey, in a manger scene?

It did raise a few eyebrows when the large donkey stole the baby Jesus from the manger, but I’m sure the wisemen would have called in an Amber Alert if they truly thought there was cause for alarm.

This year, Curlytop and Snugglebug couldn’t wait for their cue to enter as angels and followed “Joseph” and “Mary” on the road to Jerusalem. “Oh, look!” a chuckling Joseph ad-libbed. “The Lord has sent guardian angels to watch over us on our journey. God is so good!”

The unscripted guardian angels appeared in several scenes, including the manger scene. When Snugglebug saw her Cabbage Patch doll resting in the wooden trough, she shouted, “That’s not baby Jesus!” over the playing of “Mary Did You Know?” With haste, our precious cherub yanked the doll from the manger and tossed it across the stage.

Taking note of the empty manger, Curlytop pulled off her wings and crawled inside. “I’m not baby Jesus,” she announced to those who may have been confused. “I’m not an angel now. I’m a little girl. I’m gonna use the baby Jesus bed, okay?”

In fact, the only scene Curlytop and Snugglebug didn’t participate in was the Choir of Angels scene they were cast in. Instead, they ran, screaming, down the aisles of the church. It’s tough raising divas.

Call me naïve. Call me an optimist. Call me out of touch with reality. The fact is, the church Christmas program only happens once a year. That means I have ample time to forget everything that went wrong with the previous year’s program, and get excited about the current year’s performance.

Merry Christmas, and may the Lord richly bless you in the coming year!

Be sure to check out my site to order your copy of my book, Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House, the perfect stocking stuffer or office gift exchange item at just $10.00!

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August 26, 2010

The Beginning – and End – of My Fishing Career

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 10:16 pm

By Christina-Marie “The Gonzo Mama” Wright

My parents are nutty about camping. Seriously, I don’t know how I ended up with such distaste for sleeping, cooking, eating and bathing in the out-of-doors, considering my parents are such fanatics. Here’s just a sampling of phrases you’ll never hear come out of my mouth:

Bring on the mosquitoes! Mmmm… hot dog on a stick! A thin layer of nylon is all I need between me and the elements – and the bears!

Unfortunately, my parents were as adamant about exposing their offspring to the wilderness as I am about staying out of it. Clearly, there was a major conflict of interest and opinion in regard to how my childhood vacations should be spent.

That difference of opinion is how I ended up stuffed into a tent in an eastern Washington campground while it rained for something just shy of the fabled forty days and nights. I think I was about nine years old at the time, though I could swear I was six when we began the trip. When the rain stopped falling, Dad asked if I wanted to go fishing with him. “Heck, yes!” I shouted. At that point, I would have followed him into a sewage treatment facility, if it meant getting out of that tent.

Dad grabbed the poles and led my brother and me approximately eleventy million soggy miles away (on foot) to “this fishin’ hole I know about.” It turned out to be a secluded waterfall, with a wide pool at the foot. My brother and I half-heartedly cast into the pool, while Dad headed closer to the waterfall, expertly landing a cast at the base.

A near-eternity passed, with none of us getting so much as a bite. I didn’t mind much – it was better than being cooped up in a tent the size of my closet. The sun warmed my shoulders and danced on the water, sending blazing starbursts of light in every direction. The waterfall crashed into the pool, its song echoing off the rock walls that enclosed the pool.

Ah, sweet serenity.

“Hey… Hey! I got a bite!” The peaceful scene was shattered by Dad’s yell. He was pulling hard on his fishing pole, reeling and straining for all he was worth. Below the falls, the tail of a massive salmon breached the surface of the pool, fighting and twisting in an effort to escape.

It was a battle of endurance, and I wasn’t laying money on either one as the clear favorite – man and fish appeared fairly evenly matched. Dad struggled for several more suspenseful minutes, then landed the monstrosity.

Well… almost.

“Sonofabeaver! He spit the hook!”

(Leave it to Dad to teach his progeny the ever-important vocabulary of fishing. I believe that particular phrase is actually mandated by federal law – and enforced by game wardens – anytime a nice catch spits the hook.)

“No, Dad—LOOK!” My brother pointed to a cluster of rocks a mere yard from Dad’s feet. The fish’s thought stream must have read something like this:

Puh-toooie! Yeah! I’m off the hook! I’m flying… flying… Look out, water! Heeeere I COME! Yeah, baby! Oh, crap… SONOFABEAVER! I’m gonna fall, headfirst, into those rocks!

The fish landed, head wedged between two large stones. For a moment we all stared, dumbfounded, at the furiously wriggling salmon, which was determined to squirm its way back to the pool.

“EEEEEEEIIIIIIYAAAAAAAAAAH!” Dad’s battle cry could have splintered wood. He launched from the ground—head lifted, arms and legs spread, leaping toward the fish. (For a moment, he resembled a five-pointed star, flying through the air, surrounded by golden glimmering starbursts darting off the water’s surface.) With both hands, he reached for the fish tail as his feet hit the ground. With puma-like instincts, Dad bent down to get more leverage and…

RIIIIIIP! Dad’s jeans split from zipper to back belt buckle, but he didn’t let the phenomena of his underwear suddenly becoming outerwear deter him. He yanked the fish from the rocks and hefted it backward, over his shoulder. The salmon smacked the rock wall. I expected it to be stunned or killed, but the battle only seemed to make it stronger.

For a nanosecond, I wondered exactly how far we were from the Hanford nuclear facility, and if the government knew about the radioactive, mutant-powered salmon running amok in the area.

Dad, too, seemed to draw strength from the war, and he spun around, pouncing on top of the flailing fish. He pinned his opponent for a full three counts, proving once and for all who the champ was.

Talk about poor sportsmanship… Instead of graciously accepting his belt and title, Dad drew his hunting knife and began thwacking the fish’s head with the heavy handle end. Over and over—thwack thwack, thwackthwack… until there was no more fight in the fish.

Then, all was silent. Well… almost. One angry, horrified little girl sobbed and hiccupped and cried out through the quivering fingers held over her mouth, “Dad? How COULD you? How could you DO that? How could you beat that POOR FISH like that?”

The girl turned and ran in the direction of camp, followed by a small giggling boy and a bewildered man who muttered, “Are you kidding me?” as his boxer shorts flapped in the breeze behind him.

* * *

You’ll find the story above, plus many more in the newest issue of my parenting zine, Gonzo Parenting.

What’s a “zine?” It’s an independently published magazine. 🙂

I’m always looking for new contributors, so if you’re handy with words, a sketchbook or a camera, send stuff my way! Submission guidelines are on the zine’s site, linked above.

Enjoy!

August 25, 2010

How to Help Me (Or Any Author) Become a Bestseller

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 3:22 am

Signing books at a recent appearance

 

As I’ve learned recently, writing the book is just the first part. After that, there’s the marketing – and it’s a full-time job. 

It’s not enough that I agonized over each and every word contained within the precious bound pages of my tome – now I have to beg people to buy it. The good news, friends and fans, is that you can help me – or any other author with a book you love! 

My inbox today contained a link to a very useful blog post by author Eileen Flanagan, titled, “If You Love a Writer.” And, well, you love me – or, at least, you love Jaren – right? RIGHT? 

*Ahem* 

Fans, friends and family members often ask me how they can help me to promote my book, now that it’s been released. These are some of the ways you can help me to get the word out about my (or anyone else’s – *points at Jaren*) book (I’m going to hit on the high points of Eileen’s post):
  1. Buy the book, and buy often. If you haven’t bought your copy of Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House yet, please take the leap and do so, here. If you’re already the proud owner of your very own copy, buy a copy for each of your friends and family members. If you can’t afford that, at least recommend it to each of them.
  2. Ask your library to carry the book. This is something you can do to help me gain exposure and boost sales – and it’s absolutely FREE.
  3. Buy local! I’m a huge proponent of feeding local economies (and so are you, right?), so I always recommend that folks order through their local independent bookseller, via IndieBound. You can connect to a local indie bookstore to order my book here.
  4. Do a review! If you’ve read Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House and loved it, please review it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, or all of the above. Reviews help to boost my “cred” as an author, and help others to realize they must. read. the. book.
  5. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it! Mention the book on your blog, and link to it, or embed the video book trailer on your blog, if you think it’s nifty. Or, interview me for your blog, so I can talk about my book. Send out a tweet with a link to the book’s page/trailer video, or post the links on your Facebook profile. The more mentions out there, the more the word spreads! Blogging and social media not your bag? That’s cool… you can send an email to all your friends, instead, telling them your friend just published a book and would love some support. Be sure to include relevant links (trailer and ordering info) in your email.
  6. Book me… and my book. If you own a bookstore, coffeehouse or winery (or are good friends with someone who does), consider booking me for a reading and book signing. I promise to make people laugh! I’m also available to speak to your writers’ group, book club, mommy group or girls’ night out posse.
  7. By all means… Yes, if you know Oprah, send her my book, along with my telephone number.
  8. Don’t forget to pray! Pray that the Lord will allow me to use the talent He blessed me with to be a shining example of His glory.

Of course, I won’t tell if you pray that I get on Oprah, too… 

June 17, 2010

A Family is Only as Well as the Mama – Part 2

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 5:39 pm

Whew! After Part 1, you probably thought I died, didn’t you?

Well, I didn’t, praise the Lord! I rose from my death bed to get things in order for the launch of my book, “Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House.” My first reading and book signing is TOMORROW! I’m pretty doggone nervous about it, too!

If you don’t happen to be in the vicinity of Chelan, Washington tomorrow, and can’t attend my book signing, you can watch the trailer and pretend like you’re there! (I do have to give the trailer a PG rating, due to one brief, colloquial phrase… but if you’ve ever used the term “LMAO,” you probably won’t be offended.)

If you want a signed book of your very own, just click on over to TheGonzoMama.com and order one by PayPal! Use the “leave instructions to seller” feature to tell me who to inscribe the book to.

But enough about that happy news… You really came here to hear about my duel with death, right? Let’s get on with it, then…

***

I wasn’t better. In fact, I actually felt worse. I tried to drink as much water as I could, but promptly threw it back up.

Wednesday, the brakes on both our rigs needed to be changed. Mr. Wright got Curlytop off to school, then jacked the cars up and went to work, leaving Snugglebug in bed with me.

Upon waking, my thoughtful Snugglebug, not wanting to wake her poor, sick mama (who, at this point, was beginning to resemble a mass of butterscotch pudding; yellow, quivering and completely incapable of rational thought), helped herself to breakfast and set about her planned activities for the day. Snugglebug is three years old. What she considers acceptable creative activities and those her parents consider acceptable are not exactly on the same page. In fact, they’re not found in the same book.

The first car’s brakes installed, Mr. Wright came inside, pulled me out of bed, and carried me outside. “I need you to help me bleed the brakes,” he said. With my head propped up on the steering wheel, I dutifully pumped the brakes when he instructed. “Okay, this car is done. You can go get Curlytop at the bus stop now.” He had to be kidding. Curlytop’s school bus stops a mile up the hill.

“Look,” I said, teeth chattering. “I have a fever of 104, tunnel vision, and I’ve been hallucinating.”

He considered my condition for a moment, then said, “You’re right. You’d better drive slowly. You should probably leave now, so you aren’t late.”

Parenting from one’s deathbed is as difficult as it sounds, and I do not recommend it to anyone. If you see light, just go through the tunnel. I mean, really… it may be a bright light or a keychain flashlight. See the light? GO FOR IT. Run. If you have more than one toddler and you’ve been extremely ill, you know what I’m talking about.

My mother took pity on me and picked up the toddlers.

I regained consciousness long enough Wednesday night to tell Mr. Wright I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it to the gala, three hours away, we’d purchased tickets for on Thursday. I added that it would mean a lot to me if he’d stay home with me.

“You don’t want me to go because you’re sick?” he asked.

“No, I don’t want you to want to go.”

What is it with men? Don’t they get it?

My fever was continuing to spike. It would come down to a reasonable 99.1, then shoot up to 103.6, 103.9, 104.1… Thursday morning, Mr. Wright said, “If your fever doesn’t stay down today, maybe you should go to the doctor.”

Really.

I opened one eye, grabbed my digital thermometer, and put it under my tongue. Mr. Wright was packing an overnight bag. “Whur ur oo o-ing?” I asked, trying not to gag on the thermometer.

“To the gala. I have a house to show, an offer to write, some errands to run, and then I’m heading over.”

*beep*

I looked at the thermometer. 99.5. That was encouraging, and the pain in my ribs had greatly subsided. Maybe it was a 48-hour flu, and I was through the worst of it.

Mr. Wright really was planning to go to the gala without me. I couldn’t believe it. “Look! I’m under 100 degrees! I can go! I’ll just get up, get in the shower, and…” I stood, swayed, and collapsed to the floor. “Maybe a little more rest, then. I’ll rest a little more, and I’ll be fine by the afternoon.” With great effort, I crawled to the side of the bed, not quite ready to pull myself onto it. “Just lay out my gown, will you? I’ll be fine…”

By afternoon, I was back up to 104. I lay in a growing pool of sweat while the room spun. I called Mr. Wright at his office to give him the update, and informed him I’d decided to take his advice and see the doctor.

“Good idea,” he said. “Drive carefully, okay?”

“No, you don’t understand,” I moaned. “I can’t drive. In fact, I can’t even get up. I have a large bowl by the side of the bed because I can’t make the three steps to the bathroom. I really need you to come get me.”

I have a theory about husbands; one I have to believe for the sake of my own sanity. I have to believe that the reason some husbands are so cavalier about their wives’ illnesses is that the men are so terrified of the prospect of losing their mates that they simply refuse to acknowledge any threat to their wives’ health.

I have to believe, for the sake of my own sanity – and in order to keep Mr. Wright’s hard-earned money out of the pocket of a divorce attorney – that he just couldn’t bring himself to believe that I was really, truly, very seriously ill.

He sighed. He whined. He complained, and he shouted his annoyance that I was ruining his plans for the evening. He came home from the office, yelled some more, picked me up and put me in the car, and yelled some more.

It’s twenty-five minutes to the clinic. That’s a lot of yelling.

The receptionist took one look at me and went in the back to tell the on-call nurse practitioner to drop everything – there was a woman on the brink of death in the waiting room.

My temperature read 105 degrees. Medical people were scurrying in and out of the room, talking about scary things like “potential for brain seizure” and whatnot. I was curled into a ball on the floor because I couldn’t make it onto the exam table, or even a chair.

I got a shot. And a pill. And a couple more pills. They were trying to bring my temperature down as quickly as possible, but they really wanted to load me into the ambulance and take me to the hospital.

“I don’t have time for that,” I protested. “You’re going to have to fix me here, because I just don’t have time for a hospital. I have seven kids, you see, and…”

Mr. Wright was beginning to look a little bit scared, even though he was saying things like, “Calm down. You’re not going to have a brain seizure,” and “Hey, I dropped a quarter. Since you’re down there on the floor, could you look under the exam table?”

My lungs sounded clear. I didn’t have any abdominal pain. I just had that sharp pain in my ribs, and that was a mystery.

An x-ray solved the mystery. Even thought I didn’t have a cough, and even though my lungs sounded clear, I had collapsed lung tissue in my left lung, caused by bacterial pneumonia. The doctor sent me home with some extra-high-powered antibiotics and promised I’d feel better in a couple days.

You know what? He was right.

Mr. Wright broke down a little bit later and apologized for all that yelling business and the whole “you’re doing this on purpose to ruin my plans” thing. Through tears, he told me he doesn’t know what he’d do if I died… which only cemented my theory about husbands and the reason for their refusal to acknowledge severe illness in their wives.

Just goes to show – I’m always right. Mr. Wright shouldn’t forget that.

I won’t let him.

When I got out of bed the next day, I actually GOT OUT OF BED! I didn’t crawl out. I didn’t roll out. I actually sat up, and got out of bed like a quasi-healthy person. Four-year-old Curlytop said, “Mommy, you’re not sick anymore?” I answered, “I’m feeling better, but I still need rest.”

“Okay, Mommy,” she said. “I’ll be gentle with you.”

The day after that, I felt almost normal. I made it all the way down the stairs, and noticed the pain in my side was gone. I even managed a cup of coffee. While I waited for the magic machine to brew my caffeine, I poked around in the kitchen, noticing that all the dishes were put away in the wrong cabinets… but they were put away. Evidence of pre-teens preparing meals (a jar of peanut butter left on the counter, an empty mac ‘n’ cheese box on the stove) littered the kitchen, but I knew my kids had been fed.

The older kids all needed something… money for an after-school activity, help with a project, a ride somewhere… “Why did you all wait until the last minute to ask me?” I cried.

“Well, you were sick all last week, and we talked to Dad, but…”

“But what?”

“…but he’s not you.

That, my friends, is reason enough not to run through the tunnel to the keychain flashlight. For all that Mr. Wright is – handyman, provider, spiritual leader, dad, and husband – he just isn’t the mama, and our family needs both of us.

We’re like gears. Together, we mesh, and as long as we’re turning in the right direction, we make things happen.

I’m so grateful for the lessons I received during my illness:

1. If I need help, I need to ask for it. If I don’t get it right away, I need to keep asking.

2. Fear and stress come out in different ways in different people. Sometimes, waiting until a high-stress situation has subsided to react to another’s behavior can save everyone a lot of sorrow.

3. Things that can hurt or destroy us aren’t always obvious. Sometimes, we don’t take notice of them until they become impossible to live with.

4. My husband and children love and value me; even when it doesn’t feel like they do!

5. The Lord is faithful, and He is good. Even when I feel like I’m dying and my husband is yelling at me and my kids are running wild… He is good.

May 30, 2010

A Family is Only as Well as the Mama – Part 1

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 5:19 pm

Monday night I woke with an excruciating pain in my left side, my pillow drenched in sweat. Even trying to breathe was an exercise in torture. It felt as if a belt were wrapped around my chest and tightening, squeezing every time I moved or took a breath — but only on my left side.

I knew enough to know it wasn’t a heart attack, and my husband, a former EMT, confirmed my initial diagnosis. He was also able to confirm for me, by visual examination, an elephant was not, in fact, standing on the left side of my rib cage.

With great difficulty, I swallowed some ibuprofen for the pain and fever, and tried to fall back asleep. Unable to sleep on my preferred left side, I rolled gingerly onto my right. Mr. Wright put his arm around me and I howled in pain. I eased onto my back; Mr. Wright draped his arm over me — I howled in pain.

Finally giving up, Mr. Wright rolled over, falling promptly asleep and leaving me alone, curled into a fetal position, teeth chattering with fever and howling. (Watch for my doll this Christmas season, Baby Chatter Wolf. I’ve developed an entire line of accessories, including a bed with multiple layers of blankets, an ice pack, and a snazzy vomit bucket! Meh… Maybe my best ideas aren’t induced by fevered hallucinations.)

When morning rolled around, my fever was back up — way up. It hit 103 and kept on going. I began alternating acetaminophen with ibuprofen to reduce the risk of overdose, but I also tend to trust my body to figure things out. If I have a fever, there’s a darned good chance that my body is trying to burn something out that doesn’t belong there. My ribs still hurt tremendously, and I couldn’t move my right arm without reprising my howling wolf role. “Maybe I pulled a muscle. In my sleep. At coincidentally the same moment I broke out in high fever,” I reasoned.

I spent the entire day in bed, feeling alternately like the lone survivor of a plane wreck in the Mojave Desert and a trout someone threw into the Sub-Zero.

The kids texted me at 3:30, asking why I hadn’t picked them up from the bus stop yet. I texted back — relying on memory for key placement on my Blackberry because I couldn’t actually see the buttons or the screen — telling them that I was really, really sick with a really, really high fever, and asking them to just please walk home.

You’d think I asked them to swab the decks of the Titanic — with Q-tips. “It’s like THREE miles! You expect us to walk? Not gonna happen. Besides, it’s about to rain.”

I didn’t even answer. I didn’t have the strength. I assure you, though, if I had, my response would have been decidedly more than 160 characters.

These children are 16, 15, 13 and 12. We live in one of the least populated counties in our state. We live on a dirt road. They could walk. And, I assume that’s what they did, because the next time I woke up to vomit, I heard their voices downstairs.

When Mr. Wright arrived home, he immediately began grousing about dinner not being prepared, the house not being clean, and the laundry not being done. You know — his daily speech. (Have I mentioned I’m the world’s worst housekeeper? Well, I am.) Then he climbed the stairs to our loft bedroom and, seeing me still in bed, impatiently asked, “Aren’t you better yet?”

To be continued…

_____________________________

Hi. I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Christina-Marie Wright, but most people know me as “The Gonzo Mama.” That’s the name of my newspaper column and my blog. It’s also my Twitter handle.

I’m mom to seven kids, including one bio child, four full-time step-children, and two toddlers who joined our family by adoption. I like to say my family isn’t blended; it’s pureed.

My first book is due to be out in the next couple of weeks. It’s called, “Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House,” and it’s a collection of essays, anecdotes and musings on marriage, womanhood and parenting.

As you can imagine, I’m really excited about that. I’m also really excited to be contributing to Jaren’s blog, and honored that he asked me to do so. I’ll be telling the rest of the story of my near-brush with death (not quite a “real” brush with death, depending on whether you ask me or my husband) over the coming week.

I hope to get to know some of the readers here, and hear about other parents’ experiences, as well.

Be blessed,

Christina-Marie

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