Fall, death, meltdowns and wine.


It’s fall now, I can feel it settling on us like gold dust, tipping the leaves in orange with a slow and steady rhythm.

Pumpkin spice everything is popping up everywhere and the apple orchards are staring to open their gates as the bushels come in empty and leave overflowing with green and red sweetness.

It’s my favorite season, even though at it’s core it was created to be the season where everything dies.  Where everything shrivels up and withers away to make room for something else to be born.

The ripeness of summer never lasts forever, everything in life, including life itself, has rotated in a seasonal march since the beginning of time.

So, is it ironic that the season of dying is my favorite one? The one in which my heart comes alive?  It doesn’t extend beyond the seasons, I assure you… I don’t like death in other areas of life.  (Except for earwigs, those can die, I’m good with that.)

Lately I’ve felt a hard truth start to settle onto my brain, filling in the cracks between the gray matter with an unpleasant reality, one I’ve tried to ignore for a while now.

I have some dying of my own to do.  

I’ve known it for a while, but it hit my like a frying pan in the face last Saturday night.

It was one of those moments that every parent dreads: a total kid meltdown in the middle of a quiet roomful of grownups.

I watched in horror as my four year old got up from her seat, yet again and ran between the tables of quiet adults, all of whom were trying to ignore her as they listened to their pastor talk about his recent sabbatical.

When I got up to retrieve her, she darted away from me with a grin on her face.  She thought it was a game and given the parameters of quiet in the room I couldn’t call after her.

I couldn’t use “that tone” to communicate to her that this was no game, that I was serious about her need to return. to. her. seat. for. the. love. of. God.

Finally a stranger grabbed her by the shoulders and restrained her as I walked over to collect her, red faced and on the verge of tears.  I knew it was time to go. Stat.

As I marched my children out of the room, they wailed over the forced exodus begged me to let them stay for a brownie.

I was crimson angry and mortified beyond words. There was no smacking or shouting, just the sounds of car seats clicking and preschoolers howling.

We took the long way home as I fumed, hot tears streaming down my cheeks.

All I could think was: “I need a drink.”

So, I got home and poured some wine, taking long sips between deep breaths. As I drank, Noelle finished her time out and Caedmon sent cars zooming down the hand rail of our staircase. (a banned activity that I didn’t have the energy to correct)

We dressed for bed and I got them tucked in their beds, Caedmon got out of his more than a dozen times before finally falling asleep two hours later.

Somewhere in there I poured a second glass of wine, because… you know… sanity.

When he finally fell asleep I made a sundae with cookies and chocolate sauce and watched TV until almost midnight.  I needed sleep, but with Caedmon’s bedtime shenanigans the “me time” came at the expense of my sleep.

After the ice cream and the wine a terrible feeling washed over me, not because I was sick to my stomach from the sugar, because I was sick in my soul over… all of it.

I had nasty feeling that I’d crosse some unhealthy line a while back. I knew on a deep, dark level that the ice cream and the wine had become too needed.  Too important.

I was using them to cobble together a sense of sanity that seemed to be elusive without the mind numbing practice of sugar, alcohol and television.

Wine and TV aren’t evil or sinful, it’s just that in my life they were frightfully misplaced.

I was using them to patch the holes and they weren’t holding.

I don’t need to throw them out and label them as evil.  This is where religion can screw you up and turn you into a burdened pharisee.  It’s not the thing itself it’s how we use it.  Where we place it in our hearts that becomes the issue.

That night I looked into the mirror and saw a women with bags under her eyes being held together by something that was never going to hold.

The wine wasn’t life giving and celebratory, it was a crutch, a mask.  I hoped it would wash away the heart of my issues with it’s warmth and detachment but everything was still there in the morning, all pent up inside me as I marched the empty bottle to the recycling bin.

So wine isn’t gone from my life, it’s just back on it’s correct shelf for a while.  It’s not the thing I want to use to get me through my life.

My faith and my soul are wise enough to know that there are better practices to engage in and I’m on the watch for them.

I’ve noticed that my fists have become tight with grasping, self-survival and that my soul has closed off a bit.

I have some dying to do, some demon to stab with point pitchforks.

Wine is one of them, but so is selfishness and self-reliance, and other nasty phrases that begin with self. me.

This season of dying is normal, the one that’s happening all around us and the one that’s falling upon my heart.

I’m giving in to it because I believe in what can be birthed when winter gives way to spring.

  • Amanda

    Oh, Leanne. I get this so much. Thank you for sharing your heart, because it makes me more brave to truly see mine. Ice cream, coffee, beer, Facebook, and TV are my crutches… I wouldn’t go so far as to call them addictions, but maybe they are in a sense. And anger is such a struggle in this season with two little boys and too much crazy. Father, give us more of You and less of us…. let us see our weakness as a channel to see your strength in us. Help us to come to you with our hurt and sins instead of shutting down. You are our healer and our savior, and we know we need you more than anything. Amen. ((hugs))

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Anger I understand as well, it’s a bad outlet for all my frustration and certainly one of the most harmful. Amen to your prayer.

  • Jessica Rozga-Deboni

    My initial gut response exactly Amanda – Leanna, I get this so much. In every single way. Soft addictions, so unrecognizable to the common eye and yet, so hurtful to the hidden heart. Thank you for your words.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you for your resonance!

  • Mark Allman


    Emily Wierenga wrote something very similar to what you write here and shared similar thoughts here on Prodigal Magazine: http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/i-had-a-drinking-problem: Both of you make excellent points!

    One of Emily’s writers quoted Thomas Merton who said “Your life is shaped by the ends you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

    The comment I made on her post was “It is a choice we all have…. what do we do with our pain… do we numb it…. or do we look at it and work through it. I numb it too much and I have several drugs of choice…… reading; sweets; working out; tv shows; and ones I don’t tell anyone about.

    Both of these posts are excellent and we all would do well to heed.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you Mark, I need to check that out immediately. Also, I sort of wish working out was one of my numbing practices because at least then I’d have good abs to go with my stress and hiding. (I understand this is a real issue though.)

  • Sydney Blanchard

    I’ve been reading for a bit but this is my first comment! I want to say thanks for your honesty here. I can totally relate to your experience, but as my first baby is still in utero, it’s usually my response to work that leaves me feeling somehow empty and ashamed of my attachments to / dependence on things that don’t really resolve any issues.

    Would love to hear practical ideas that you have about what to do when those moments happen and we’re all out of energy to respond the right way…. I think it feels so nebulous a lot of the time, we’re not sure WHAT to do but we have to do SOMEthing. I need more ideas about what to do instead (especially since drinking wine doesn’t happen much at the moment!).

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thanks for commenting! I love it when readers “un-lurk” makes my day.

      So practical ideas that I am finding are:
      1) Idle hands. I am an overly busy person and I think that to be okay I need to drink myself slower. I just need to slow. Reading is great for me, for this, especially a novel I can get lost it. When I put the novel down, a lot of times my issues are less pressing.
      2) Tea- Splurge on fancy and doll it up with honey if you like. It’s a healthy, soothing thing to sip and it unwinds me.
      3) Baths- Again, when I slow down I start to see things as they really are and not as I have perceived them to be. I can chat with God and fire off my anxieties one by one. Baths were a total lifesaver for me while pregnant- CONGRATS! When are you due?

  • Jennifer Fulwiler

    WOW, what a powerful and convicting post. Thank you so much for your vulnerability — you’ve given me a lot to think about, as I’m perhaps leaning too much on my own crutches after a rocky first half of this year.

    I just discovered your blog, and I look forward to reading more!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thanks Jennifer and welcome! Crutches are a slippery slope, because I think sometimes we need to limp but it’s hard to find the line between healthy limping and addiction / dependence isn’t it?