Forty Balloons

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I think it was right around 10:17 am when I looked at my van clock in near tears. I thought to myself, “you can’t give up on today. Not yet. It’s too early. Plus, it’s hard to blow up balloons when you’re crying.” I had to do something right. I had to blow up the forty balloons when I got home. For my husband’s birthday.
He doesn’t expect the crazy balloon and streamer decorations. He’s quite simplistic and grateful and rather content with a hug and a pseudo-shout of “Happy Birthday!”
But I needed to blow up the balloons for me, I think. I felt defeated. I had to accomplish a small victory.
My lungs felt great so I knew I could blow up the balloons if I only took some deep breaths. And turned on some music. One of my handy dandy Spotify playlists. My “churchy songs.” Then, while the music filled me, I let myself have a brief imaginary conversation with every impatient and apathetic front desk receptionist I’ve encountered in countless doctor’s offices. Over the past twenty years.
Keep it brief, Amelia. Nothing to see, folks. Just a brief imaginary one-sided conversation.
Because it’s not fair. And I don’t care if it’s a weather condition. It’s not fair that I can call my doctor’s office three separate times and ask for my records to be faxed, transferred, or copied. They can tell me they did it. Several times. Then, I can show up at my long awaited appointment and it hasn’t been done or somebody has misplaced my medical records. And it’s somehow my fault. Because I can’t go behind the desk and do it myself. It’s not fair that I have to drive from an imaging center to a specialist’s office and then I’m supposed to drive to another doctor’s office. It’s not fair that I could not be seen by the doctor because I left my insurance card at home. It’s not fair that everybody in the office has a driver or a companion or a helper and a good twenty to thirty years of age on me. Someone was snoring in the waiting room. Full on snoring.
Cue the off rhythm lap drum roll with cymbal finale. CRASH!….Life’s not always fair. One tear. Two tears. Three tears. Smeared mascara.
It seems like I wasted an entire morning. And I just want to go see my grandma.
But I can’t. Pause. Sit. Bend. And move forward.
I do what I can.
I’ve started to be more aware of how I talk to myself. My inner dialogue. I’ve tried to be better at treating myself like a friend. A good friend. A dear friend. I write the raw smeared ink thoughts down to myself. And for myself. I feel them. I read them. Then, I write down the motivational and encouraging ones too. Friends make mistakes. Friends forget things. And I readily forgive my friends. Should I not be so kind and compassionate as to allow myself to make mistakes from time to all-the-time too? I know the answer lies patiently in my heart. Well, it’s tossing and turning and restless sometimes too. In the fresh mess of my thoughts and emotions, I easily forget.
Be kind and patient and loving and forgiving of yourself. Then, you can be that way towards all those others too. All those others that you love so much. All those others who love you, too.
I did it today. Perhaps I can thank my husband’s fortieth birthday. Or God’s presence and all those churchy songs. I turned an upside down morning, a damn near sob fest, into a no-name small venue sort of opening act of tears. Then, I blew up all the balloons. The forty balloons. I wrote, I listened to music and my mood shifted. I inhaled and exhaled the air from my healthy lungs and transferred it into the brightly colored balloons. I escaped far away from the frustrations and uncertainties of my body’s physical malfunctions and the doctor’s office. ALL of the doctor’s offices. And it felt good.
I cleared my negative thoughts. Goodbye. They may have travelled into all of the balloons. I think when they’re airborne, they die pretty quickly. But I did it. I really did it. Later, I could have stayed home but I didn’t. I went and met a friend for a quick fifteen minute lunch before I picked up my son from kindergarten.
Today, I’m thankful that I chose to control the controllable. And cope using the best ways that I had in stock and ready to use. I’m grateful that I had the strength to blow up all of those silly balloons. Ahh. The healing power of latex. Balloons. Latex balloons.

Lucky #13

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I’m not going to go all Celine Dion song on you. I’m just going to say a few things about our “lucky number thirteen.” Wait. What! Thirteen years of marriage.

On the night of our wedding, you helped me get out of my beautiful dress and then you waited patiently for me and helped me as I handled the first of countless unpredictable effects of my chronic disease on our marriage. That’s what you have always done in the most loving and compassionate ways. You wait with me. You wait for me. You wait on me.

You willingly help me conquer some of my rational and irrational fears. Or you sometimes fight the tiny battles for me. You always do the weird gross things like reaching your hand down the garbage disposal when a super hero or spoon is stuck. Or some other strange object has journeyed to that fear-inducing land.

And you do other harder things too. You sit with me when I’m sad. You hold me. You hug me in the driveway. You gently help me find my laugh when I’ve misplaced it or purposely put it in a top secret hiding place. Why would I put it in the deep freezer? Weird.

You generously donated to the cause of procreating. And you let me love on, worry about and (over)protect our three most precious gifts in crazy unconditional ways. You create with them. Laugh with them and play with them in face-hurting-from-smiling kind of ways.

I don’t quite understand how you can love me as much as you do and show it in such heart stopping ways. You think I’m beautiful when I’m a giant slobbering mess. Yet, you sometimes forget to tell me when I get all cleaned up. You encourage and support me and think I can damn near do anything. You probably think I can fly. Or you would watch a YouTube video on “how to fly” then show me that I could. Probably with the help of some wings, that you purchase from Amazon prime.

You put up with all my scatterbrained tendencies. The oh, so-many creative projects going on at the same time. You play the piano while I load the dishes and make me cry. Your music frees up the restrained feelings in my soul. Your enthusiasm for explaining a song makes me crave music like chocolate.

Your contagious love for others, even complete strangers, makes me feel closer to Jesus.

You urge me to keep writing. You give me the gift of time, always sweetly yet sternly telling me how much my voice matters.

After thirteen years, you still may not understand certain ways about me like why I would need to make the hummingbirds their dinner before our own but you don’t put up a fight about it.

Sorry for all of the sweaters I have shrunk over the years. Sorry for all of the smoke alarm dinners I’ve burned. Thanks for always making me laugh. Thanks for all of the kitchen hugs. Thanks for the ways that you father our boys. Thanks for petting Gizmo. Thanks for loving on those around you in inspiring and contagious ways. Thanks for thirteen years of pure awesome chaos.

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You’re my favorite.

I believe if everybody had this kind of love, the world would be different. Better. A million times better.

Words Will Hurt Me

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“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We used to say this during arguments as kids. Blah, blah, blah. It’s a total lie and/or I’ve grown a much thinner, more sensitive skin as I age because words will hurt. Especially when they tumble out of the mouths of those I love the most and bend over backwards for all day. Every day.

My six year has not felt well or slept well this week. He has a stinky fever and cough virus. I know this. I’ve dosed his Motrin and kept a running med time log on a post-it note. Nurse Fancy, I know. I’ve laid next to him in the middle of many nights to help prop up his head to alleviate his 2 am coughing fits. I’ve seen him shiver and watched him eat only a bite of his food and be “done.” Yet, still, in the midst of him whining or unintentionally ordering me around or not allowing his brothers to look in his general direction or touch him, I begin to get tired and then I drop my patience. Big surprise, it’s hard to find it on my dirty floor. There’s a fine line between kid-sick grouchiness and rudeness and downright meanness.

Today, I talked to my son after one of his spells where the virus took over, transforming him into a not nice boy. He hurt me with his words. Badly. I told him that he didn’t get to say mean things to me. I told him that he used his words like a weapon. They hurt my tired and sensitive heart. I then showed him a burn on my arm(the other night I flung the chicken into the hot, oil coated pan a bit too hard) I talked to him about how ouchies on your skin can heal and often go away but ouchies from someone’s words can take a longer time to heal. Heart wounds. Later on, he asked, “will you ever forget what I said?” And he also asked me if “your heart actually breaks when someone says something mean.”

I’m not happy that he’s been sick and tired. Or that I get to be one of the targets for his overly exhausted behaviors, but I will gladly accept the opportunity for teaching my typically kind-hearted boy about the misuse and the power of his words.

I knew that grease burn would come in handy.

I forgave him. As I always will a million times. I will probably soon forget his frustrated words like I hope, on my grouchy days, he forgets mine too. However, I hope I will not ever forget the restorative magic of him pointing to the moon tonight and quickly saying, “I love you to the moon and back!” There’s something undeniably peaceful and beautiful and gratifying about making it to the gorgeous time of day when the sun is slipping down and the moon has risen high.

Whew. If only I could give jump up and give the moon a hug..because I did it! Another gloriously long day in the books.

A twisting, turning,
super high and then
crying-under-my-sunglasses low
kind of day. All in a mother’s day.

Paralyzed Butterfly

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This morning on my walk, I stumbled upon a Monarch butterfly struggling in the grass. I wondered if she, too, had just dropped her kindergartner off at school. She kept reaching out with one of her legs to find the next piece of grass but she couldn’t quite get there. I pushed the piece of grass closer to her and she moved. She flopped her wings. I looked to see if one of them was broken. I pulled my dog away from her. Perhaps, she was dying. Did you know that Monarch butterflies have hairy backs?

I decided to pick her up without touching her beautiful wings. So delicate and vibrantly patterned. As I held her on my hand, she flew away. I nearly cried. Then, I started thinking about how God is here. In everything. He sees the broken-hearted mamas and he lifts us up. He changes our perspective. He shows us that we weren’t meant to be down in the grass. We are meant to fly.

For nearly twelve years, I worked with hospitalized kids and families enduring horrible traumas, never-ending sicknesses, and unimaginable accidents. I’ve played with orphaned siblings and cried with grieving mothers. I’ve found blankets for lifeless children. I know for a fact that every single one of these families would have given anything to see their children walk into elementary school, middle school, and high school. Growth is a beautiful thing. Growth is an honor. It’s a privilege.

But growth is still hard on a mama’s heart.

Especially this mama’s.

My older sons walked their little brother into his kindergarten classroom today. He didn’t need me, his mama. On day two. I watched their three backpacked bodies walk away. Their little healthy lives flashed before me. Their giggles. Their first steps. The enthusiastic ways that they jump off of the couch onto the pillow forts they have created below. Suddenly, as I walked away, I laughed at the goofy way Patch, our dog, runs through tall grass. I smiled.

Then, I looked down and saw the struggling butterfly.

One of mine and my boys’ favorite memories of my grandma is when she held a flower from my mom’s garden and suddenly, a butterfly landed on that flower. Today, a struggling mother, me, held a struggling butterfly. It’s undeniable proof that God can use the most fragile and tiny creatures of this world to shift our perspective from the dirt to the clouds.

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I have broken into the extra school supplies, especially the boxes of Kirkland kleenex. I have sat in my Grandma’s chair and cried with the dog staring awkwardly at me. Yesterday, I  told my husband that I was not going to share my writings because when you’re vulnerable and raw with your emotions, some people try to proofread your feelings or predict or edit them altogether. This really  hurts and can feel like someone is rubbing alcohol or lemon juice on an open wound. He said that’s not everybody and that’s not fair and that I have to keep writing. He’s right, I suppose. Thank you for those of you who say comforting things like, “I’m sitting beside my mama. The mother/child bond sure is a strong one.” I will keep sharing for those of you who do the hard work of feeling emotions deeply and as a result, sometimes feel like a paralyzed butterfly.

You’re not. You may just need to be gently lifted up. You’re beautiful and capable. You have unique and extraordinary wings and you will be flying again soon.

Peter Pan

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I tend to get a little sentimental and/or sad on my children’s first and last days. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the birth of my third son. But tonight, I’m secretly grieving the last day of having a five year old. He came running into the kitchen with his older brother’s costume on. Ahhhh. Peter Pan. Well, it was supposed to be Robin Hood but he changed it to Peter Pan. It was a bit too much on my aching mama heart. He proudly placed the blue heron feather in his hat that we found at the creek. I took a picture of him standing in the kitchen. His shadow even hopped into the shot. All I could think of was Peter Pan and why, oh why does this sweet one-dimpled smiling boy standing in front of me need to grow up?

Because “All children, except one grow up.” Thanks, J.M. Barrie.

Every birthday, starting school year, or developmental milestone, we, as parents, are reminded that our child will not be the exception. Growing up is extraordinarily beautiful. It’s a joyful ever-changing gift. A privilege. Yet, I still console myself. Because it’s also tricky. Unknown. Ever changing. New. Challenging. A bit heart grasping, tugging, pulling, and twisting. How many ways will my beautiful boy change and grow over the next year? Will he stop saying, “You blunked!” when he wins a staring contest. Will my right hip finally get a break because he won’t need me to carry him when his “legs are too tired to walk.” Will his smile forever change with the loss of his baby teeth? Will he lose a bit more of his innocence as he encounters unkind children or adults at school? Most likely yes. And yes. I know this.

As he proudly holds up another finger on his second hand to tell his age, six, we will keep on loving him and encouraging him and praying for him. We will continue to do our best to protect him and teach him and learn from him. We will hope and pray that we provide an environment where he will grow to his potential. In the midst of the long, short, chaotic or melancholy days, we will never cease to be fascinated, humbled and completely overwhelmed by him and by his growth.

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Happy two handed birthday to the most persistent little(big) mama’s right hip hitchhiker, the always eager to sit-on-the-kitchen counter helper, the first to volunteer for any-boring-old errand runner, the greatest question asker and late night conversationalist, the sweetest middle-of-the-night snuggler, the most perfectly timed one-dimple smile-turned-giggler, and the most accommodating little brother. And even though he sometimes claims he doesn’t like to “always be third,” he’s a better third than we could have ever imagined.

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We all love you so dang much, Colbs. Thanks for giving me the best job in the world, being your mama.

 

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Patty Griffin helps me work through my kids birthdays. All the feels.

Healing Crohn’s Disease

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I’ve had Crohn’s disease for nearly twenty years. Even, at times, when the disease is in remission physically, it never lies dormant in my thoughts, emotions, or in my soul. It alters how I live my life in both the beautiful positive ways and the ugly and debilitating ways.

A chronic disease can be completely overwhelming at times. It can feel like being trapped in a prison cell. It never goes away. That piece of knowledge can haunt you and capture you. It can  make you feel alienated, confused and depressed sometimes. It can feel like nobody truly understands. Maybe they don’t.

I’ve had to get creative and find ways to escape the lifelong sentence of my chronic disease. I wasn’t made to be imprisoned. I force myself to look outside, make a plan and know that I will do great things once I’m free. I find ways to sneak past the warden, who I’ve  gotten to know pretty damn well over the years. It’s myself. No matter how many things in my body get scarred, altered, rearranged, or broken, I will forever hold the key to my freedom. Resilience, perseverance, humor, faith and hope help me dig the tunnel out. Sometimes, I force myself to follow the tiniest glimpse of light.

Healing is an ongoing process.

Healing is acknowledging my fears but not inviting them in for dinner. Healing is exterminating shame. Healing is letting myself feel the weight of it all: the unfairness, pain, loss, anger, and sadness. Healing is sharing my story and listening to other’s stories. Healing is giving myself the same extraordinary compassion I so freely give to others. Healing is forgiveness. Healing is changing, growing and evolving into a different person. Healing is allowing the hundreds of disease-related experiences to affect me. Healing is granting myself the permission to be different. Healing is acceptance.

Healing is always searching. Healing is often found in helping others. Healing is possessing a willingness to go back the opposite way through the tunnel I’ve dug, back to the darkness, to the prison cell of another. Healing is holding another’s hand, looking into another’s eyes. Healing is seeing a glimpse of myself in a hurting child, a lonely mother and a dependent elderly patient.

Healing is a gift that I open over and over again throughout my journey.

Healing is finding and seeing the beauty in the closing of wounds or watching the water run over the bright red flesh sutured outside of my abdomen. Healing is standing outside and staring up at the mesmerizing flight patterns of the barn sparrows. Healing is hearing my children’s laughter, holding their hands and answering their innocent questions.

Healing is my husband’s relentless, supportive, unconditional proud love for me. Healing is loving him.

Healing is everywhere.

Healing is found in accepting encouragement, love, support, bear hugs and help from those who surround me.

Crohn’s disease is healing.

I am healing.

 

 

 

Dragonflies

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I wanted to say that I am sorry. But I didn’t want to become a sobbing mess. I wanted to tell you that I am sorry for a thousand different things. I’m pretty sure its the mother in me.

I am sorry that your mother never got to proudly walk you into school and be there waiting and smiling for you at the end of the day. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to grow up with her sitting next to you on the couch. Or that you didn’t get to watch her make a mess in the kitchen. I’m sorry if you ever were scared during thunderstorms and needed the comfort of your mom.

I’m sorry if the tooth fairy never came. Or Santa. Or the Easter bunny.

I’m sorry if you wore dirty clothes or needed someone to braid your hair. I’m sorry that your mom couldn’t be there for your birthdays, graduations and your wedding. I’m sorry that you couldn’t call her or just show up at home when you didn’t feel right, when you needed the reassurance of her presence.

I’m sorry for the far too many times that life was harder for you. I’m sorry for your pain. I’m sorry for the hundreds of responses you’ve buffered when people found out that your mom died. I’m sorry that you never got to sing her a “Happy Birthday” song or make her homemade cards or cake. I’m sorry that “Mother’s Day” is so damn hard.

I’m sorry that you had to search and search to grow up and be like your mother. I’m sorry for all of the insensitive comments you’ve endured as others complain about their mothers.

It’s not fair.

Life can be cruel and uncertain and unfair. But you know that.

You learned that lesson.

You’ve lived that lesson.

It doesn’t change her death. It changes the way you live. Her life runs through yours. She lives in you. The same way that you lived in her. You are forever her daughter.

And she will be forever your mom. And she will be proud of you forever. And always.
I will always remember that you love dragonflies.

You may truly never comprehend the gift that you gave me when you shared your story with me. You may never understand how beautifully weighted your words are to me. You gave me one of the most amazing gifts when you compared me to your mother. You unknowingly gave me strength and hope to push through the grueling moments of life. Thank you. I will forever be grateful for you.

I hope to do something as courageous as you one day.