Warm Blankets


I slowly woke up and got my boys ready for school. After breakfast, I stood outside watching them show me tricks on their new swing. I needed to quickly catch up for lost weekend time before I had to load them into the van.

It didn’t matter how many layers of clothes I had put on to try and block out the wind, none of them felt like enough. Not today. The cold winds blew right through me. I wrapped my arms tightly around my waist to try and keep myself warm. The thing is when I’m sensitive from the inside out, I don’t think it’s possible to fully insulate myself from feeling the hurt, the pain, the anger, and inevitably, the sadness. It’s just not fair. So many things that I saw on Sunday. It was too much brokenness. Too much wrong, not enough right. Unfortunate circumstances tangled up with loss. After loss. The good seemed so dim beneath the weight of the pure evil. The hope was drowning and there was nobody there to save it.

Everybody was too busy.

I don’t think I will ever forget the sound of the door to the blanket warmer opening and shutting, when I grab a few blankets for a patient. I think every one of us has wanted to stop at some point and curl up inside of there. Disappear and take a short nap in the middle of one of the shifts that feel more like twenty four hours. It’s sometimes the least and the most that you can do for a patient and family, go snag them a warm blanket. Or a cup of water. Because you can’t do anything about why they are there or how long they will wait, especially when there are real emergencies happening. Everywhere. You can’t tell them that it’s far better to wait impatiently alone than to have a swarm of doctors and nurses quickly take over your room. You can’t tell them that they should be grateful to leave, eventually, with their alive child.

This afternoon, at home, I grabbed a load of warm laundry from the dryer and remembered bits and pieces of the previous long work days. It all feels like a blur sometimes. The giggles. The tears. The loud cries. Infant cries. Toddler cries. School age cries. The silence before a procedure. The begging. The pleading. The lullaby music. The smells of different families, cleaning wipes, popcorn. The sadness or apathy lurking behind certain doors or curtains. The unknowns. All of the brief hallway conversations with co-workers. It all just makes me want to lay my tired body down. Then, I want someone to knock on my door and tuck me under a warm blanket so I will be temporarily sheltered from the harsh winds of sickness, the unknowns, evil, sadness, and pain.

Yet, unfortunately, a warm blanket will not make my work thoughts disappear.

After crazy weekends, there are far too many of my thoughts and feelings seemingly waiting loudly in line, bumping into one another, sharing with each other, asking to be heard, understood, or felt. All in my mind. When it gets too crowded, tears will be shed. My tears. Because I don’t know all the answers. I can’t begin to understand or solve the problems of our broken society. Tiny caskets. Shelters full. Psych facilities full. Hospitals full. It’s overwhelming. My heart can’t begin to fathom the atrocities that certain children see, hear, feel, or live through because of another human being’s ignorance, negligence, mistreatment, or selfishness. The one human being that should love and protect them the most.

I sometimes wonder what may trigger a child or family member to remember the painful moments, hours, or days spent in the hospital. Will a certain toy or TV show or sound or smell remind them of the painful times? Will it be something I said or did? Should I have them watch their favorite movie or not? I still can’t listen to certain songs or smell certain scents without being immediately taken back to specific hospital rooms, or the operating room, or the emergency department unexpectedly recalling my own medical experiences.

But somehow, despite all of my surgeries and recoveries, the warm blankets still always make me feel a little safer, a bit more comforted, and pretty warm too. There aren’t too many perks to being in the hospital. Loads of uncertainty, constant beeping, weird smells, awkward hospital gowns, and so on and so forth.

The warm blankets help.

They matter in a simple yet important way. Similar to a lot of the kind and thoughtful gestures in life, the times we go a bit out of our way to do some small act for another. Perhaps for someone we love or a complete stranger. I’m pretty sure we all possess the power to grab someone a warm blanket, wherever we are in life and whatever we’re doing. Or maybe we are the ones that need to graciously accept a warm blanket from time to time. Either way, the warmth wears off on both the giver and the receiver.

My Brush Pile


I semi-fled. Or retreated. Up the staircase. I plopped myself down with my back against the door. I stared out the window at a gigantic swaying tree. I took a few deep breaths. And I noticed my tiny closet window is the same shape as a stop sign. So, I stopped my overthinking. I stalled. Nobody was coming so I just didn’t move.

After I spent some time praying and looking out the window in my closet, I concluded that ultimately, I have to give somebody permission to hurt me. With their words or thoughts. I give them access to my brush pile. And if the conditions are right, they light me up and ignite a fire that has the potential to grow. And grow. Inside of my head. Trickling down to my heart. You see, it’s me, most of the time that gathers the fuel for the fire. I make a pile and stack it up. Nice and neat. The little insecure thoughts, the fallen twigs and sticks. The bigger, and much heavier branches also get thrown into my brush pile. They’re my doubts and fears. The fake truths. The lies I tell myself. My worries. All of the unknowns. In hindsight, it’s quite unfair to blame anybody but myself when my fire gets lit. Because I supplied the fuel. That was all on me. How could a person that loves me and that I love, too, know how big my brush pile had grown? If I didn’t tell them.

It’s not their fault.

Because it doesn’t matter how well you know a person or even how much you love them, it can be a tricky business knowing someone’s exact thoughts or fragile state at an exact moment in time. Or knowing their exact emotional or literal response to one of your thoughts. Ahhhh. Mind reading. If you could have any super power, would you choose the ability to fly or read someone’s thoughts? Could you help a loved one or even a complete stranger feel less insecure, perhaps more important if you knew exactly what she was thinking at a specific moment? Would we treat each other more gently and compassionately if we could slip past their outer appearance and sneak into their head to understand what they actually were thinking? What if we could know exactly how they felt? For better or worse.

I realize that I should have never been gathering sticks, stacking up all these bits of fuel. But I do. Like most people. And it’s extremely hard to let them go sometimes. We can oftentimes dodge or escape other people’s opinions or thoughts, but sometimes we are not as skilled in escaping our own negative thoughts.

We need help. With ourselves and each other. We all need the grace of God acting as the hose or the fire extinguisher, and we all need the type of person willing to stand there next to the flames helping us out. Or else we may continue to gather fuel, purposely or unintentionally causing our brush pile to grow. And grow. We may even go looking to pick a fight with someone with a torch who we know will happily light our fire. And not in the “C’mon baby, Light my Fire” Doors kind of way. In the self-defeating, humiliating sort of way.

It didn’t take a blow torch for me today. Just a few matches. My brush pile burned down. Which helped me learn that I need to stop gathering sticks, branches, etc. I need to be more kind and forgiving to myself. Maybe you do too.

Cream of Mushroom Soup


I vividly remember being an elementary school aged kid desperately searching the cabinets for canned goods. In the morning rush, before catching the bus,

“Ahhhhh! It’s the last day of the CANNED FOOD DRIVE!”

I couldn’t let my classmates down. I’m sure some sort of pizza party would be in the works for the class that brought in the most canned goods. I didn’t cook as a child so I had no idea what “Cream of Mushroom” soup was. Quite honestly, it sounded disgusting to me. Sure, grab that. Get it out. I would be happy to donate that one. That I didn’t purchase. No. Oh, don’t even think about it. Stay away from the fruit cocktail. Although, I really only endured the weird slimy grapes in hopes of the rare slice of a marachino cherry.

Yuck. I hated mushrooms as a child so I can imagine nothing more disgusting than eating a bowl of creamed mushroom soup. Or sitting at the table while every sibling left and I chose “not to eat it” and have a staring contest with my luke-warm milk. It always won. In a household of nine, with a mother who practically made everything from scratch, a couple cans of cream of mushroom soup missing surely would go unnoticed. Besides, it was all that I could offer in my last minute canned food drive efforts. Unfortunately, my home room was not going to benefit from my half-ass scrounging around.

I understand that my heart was in the vicinity of the right place as a child. I have learned and grown more as an adult who cooks. I know that Cream of Mushroom soup needs help or rather, it’s not a solo dish. It’s more of a canned good utility player. You’ve got to add it to green beans or hash browns or a million other things to make a casserole stick together or stand out. Well, as much as a casserole can.

I think I had a point with this blog. But I lost it somewhere in the fruit cocktail. With my marachino cherry.

Oh. Yeah. I think God nudges us to do better when we know better. I think he sees us as children, constantly developing, growing and maturing in our faith. I think he probably thought it was pretty cute that I wanted to give Cream of Mushroom soup as a kid. But I think he might tell me to head back to the pantry, as an adult, if I tried to pull some Cream of Mushroom soup shenanigans. Don’t justify it. Just don’t. You know better. So act accordingly. Go to the grocery store and buy some good stuff. The kind of stuff you would want to serve your guests. That’s what I picture God instilling in my grown-up thoughts and my heart. It’s about sacrificing more. Making a conscious effort. Going out of my way. It’s about forgetting about doing something for a pizza party or a high five. It’s about truly loving a complete stranger in the same way that I would love my best friends.

I think I do have some friends that would come over and eat Cream of Mushroom soup with me. But that’s another blog.

In the meantime, who wants to come over for some hash brown or green bean casserole? As it turns out, we’ve got a lot of Cream of Mushroom soup.

Defeated Moments


When I played basketball, I was annoyingly scrappy. A hustler. I wore floor burns with pride. I occasionally stole the ball from an opponent resulting in a break away lay-up. This meant that I had an opportunity to score two points practically without defense. I choked sometimes. A lot of times, actually. As in, I bricked the lay-up so hard off of the backboard that either the pissed-off opponent would get the rebound or sometimes one of my teammates would save the day following close behind for the put-back. Thank, goodness. I always enjoyed the steals, rebounds, assists, tips, blocked shots etc. a lot more than scoring.

I think about basketball a lot as a parent. It’s practically second nature to me. I often talk to myself like I used to on the basketball court. “Don’t lose your cool. Don’t show too many emotions. Don’t turnover the ball or lose the moment with your child,” I think. But parenting is a crud-ton harder than even playing collegiate basketball. It’s really harder than anything I’ve ever done. Even managing multiple chronic diseases can seem like a breeze when compared to the unpredictable, life stealing moments that mothering my sons can produce.

Don’t get me wrong. The last thing I want to sound like is a whining, complaining, ungrateful mother. I love the hell out of my kids. When they’re not wearing me out and oftentimes at the same time, they’re totally filling me up. I’m that crazy shaken up can of pop. I’m literally overflowing. They make me laugh and smile a million different smiles and they ignite this overwhelming and unexplainable sense of love, joy, hope and beauty that I otherwise may not have ever seen in this world. If not for their eyes, their hearts, and their ever growing inquisitive minds, I may be lacking something that I never knew existed.

For example. The other day, my husband trimmed the bushes. He found an empty bird nest. I saw it lying on the grass. It was beautiful but it made me a little sad. I wanted to take a picture. I knew I would be able to write about it later. I wanted to show a friend The empty nest. She unexpectedly had dropped by. We walked outside and it was gone. Disappeared. Later, I asked my boys if they had seen it. One of them replied, “Yeah. we put it back in the bushes.” I could have on-the-spot cried. For so many heart-exploding reasons. Of course, I thought and probably overthought their kindness. It was a simple gesture born out of an enormous love for tiny creatures and their importance. Their hard work. Not just an empty nest. They wanted birds to come back. They wanted to help. They did this thing without me ever prompting them. All by themselves, they did something so meaningful.

I love my boys.

Yet, I digress.

You can love the heck out of your kids and still have these moments of raw, ugly, and unexplainable defeat. I’m trying to tell myself. Like I used to do on the basketball court. It’s okay. You messed up. You’re not perfect. Neither are they. Mothering is not always going to be filled with these beautiful and proud moments. You’re going to need time-outs. You’re going to need to get back on defense. You’re going to feel like you’re outnumbered and failing at this zone defense. You’re going to lose some days. Some moments. Some arguments. But you will learn. You will grow. You will be stretched and pulled and strained in ways that you never could imagine. But, you can never give up. You must always recover. Get back. Keep your head up. Stack it up with your teammates. Those who know the caliber of mother you are. Who you strive to be. They know your potential. They’ve seen your best days and they have heard about your worst days too.

Accidents happen. Ugly moments happen. You can have both the gut-wrenching, mountain viewing beautiful moments and the dried up, hot-as-hell, dying of thirst valley moments. It’s okay. Your heart, your passion and your motivation to do better, grow stronger and learn from even the toughest moments will drive you to love in the most incredible ways.

Keep up the good yet hard work, teammates. Parenting friends. We are in this thing together. If I could stack it up with all of you in the center circle and smack all of your butts, I would.

Go! Fight! Win!
“I didn’t leave her there for long. When a player makes a mistake, you always want to put them back in quickly—you don’t just berate them and sit them down with no chance for redemption.” -Pat Summitt

Homeless. Not Hopeless.


I slowly drove past the building right off of the exit I take to get to work on Sunday mornings. The snow still gathered in the untrafficked places, on some of the sidewalks and at the corners of the abandoned downtown buildings. It rested on top of the hidden grass. Before the traffic light turned green, I looked up to the top of the steps. There. Sadness entered my heart. Cuddled up as close as possible to the entrance of the building. A homeless person still slept. Under a pile of blankets. I hurt. I wanted to stop and help. But I had to get to work. Knowing that he had slept outside all night long in the freezing cold downtown air made me feel helpless. And I thought my feet were cold last night. Under my blankets. In my bed. Under the roof of a safe and heated house.

I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Or her. Somebody’s son. Or daughter. Brother. Father. Or mother. Bundled underneath the dark blankets, most likely trying to get as close as physically possible to the warmth of the inside of that empty building. I thought how I would be scared. And cold. And confused. Alone. And hurt. If it were me lying there.
I don’t want to be homeless. I don’t want my children to ever be homeless. I began thinking and remembering many of the kids that I’ve met that have run away from their homes. The home that fostered abuse, hate, pain, lies, shame, violence and hopelessness. I thought about the choices a person makes that lead him or her to live without an address.


Then, I couldn’t help but think about my friend whose known on the streets of downtown Kansas City as “Amy the Angel.” She arrives in a Ford Fusion every Friday. Under the bridge. If she’s going to miss a week, she lets “her guys” know or she finds a friend to take her place. I’ve wanted to ask her why she invests so much of her time and energy into helping take care of homeless folks. Afterall, she’s an ER nurse so she already has earned a gold or platinum humanity badge for helping the littlest ones and their families in the scariest of times. Then, carrying the heavy emotional weight home with her exhausted self after she clocks out.

I couldn’t stop thinking about why she meets some of the downtown homeless every Friday with snacks, Mountain Dew, hand warmers, laundry detergent, shoes, etc. She looks them in the eye. She talks with them. She accepts hugs, long hugs. She offers them much more than a few snacks. She smiles. She serves. She unknowingly scatters hope, dignity and love in their ziplock bags full of necessities.

I think she sacrifices for them because they’re her fellow human beings. She loves them. Like her own.

If you’ve ever been bullied by somebody’s cruel actions or by your own thoughts or parents or life in general and you don’t possess the emotional skills or strength or people in your life to help you fight back, it’s really not difficult to imagine yourself lying on those steps. Without a home. Without food. Without a person to help you, to support and love you through it. Lying there without hope. Even if you can’t imagine yourself homeless or you would never be brave enough to meet homeless guys under a bridge with a car full of snacks, you can support a fellow human being. A thirsty, hungry, tired, cold, unstable or worried person that deserves kindness.

I’m privileged to know “Amy the Angel” and to call her my friend. She has changed my perspective. And she has unknowingly encouraged me to drive around with beef jerky snacks and protein bars in my car. Just in case. She has inspired me to stop, look, and smile and offer something that I would offer a friend.