Oh, Christmas Tree

4114CCAC-091D-440A-83A2-18A21B46F0E1

One of my boys asked me how I hurt my forehead. Oh. Ouch. Sweet compassionate boy. However, it’s not quite the story he might have hoped for. The knot protruding from my forehead is the result of what I’m assuming is wacky hormones in the form of a megazit, (not a “megabit”, spellcheck) a zit that shames all others. No filter can hide the new life force that has landed on my face. It may have a tiny brain but I don’t feel like getting a CT scan. What if my baby zit brain has a sympathy baby tumor on its pituitary gland? That would be a real pain.

I know I’m not the only one who gets gigantic hormonal zits. As a grown ass woman.

Wait. What? But who cares? What’s the point? The other night I was feeling joyful about our Christmas tree and our life. But it’s not perfect. It’s a bit weighed down, a bit crooked. It’s really messy, literally and figuratively. “The Christmas room” has all sorts of stuff in it. I wanted to take a picture and write a brief post, but then I got to feeling inadequate. It seems like this is the time of year when everybody posts these pictures of perfectly clean rooms with runway model Christmas trees. Perfect family photos. Sometimes, I tend to care more about the zits. Of life. The imperfections. The messes.

Our house is a mess. I can’t seem to get it all cleaned up. What a satisfactory homemaker I make.

I try my best but I get so easily distracted by people. So, I leave the house. Strangely, when I come home, the secret cleaning, organizing fairies have not come. I told a few new small group friends that I thought if I could just get all my messes cleaned up and organized, surely some transformation would occur. But I think that’s a lie.

I sat with the sweetest woman today who constantly reminds me of what life really is about: helping each other out. She lets me give her a hand massage and rub the old nail polish off of her nails. She tells me beautiful love stories. She speaks to me gently and genuinely. She matters and she reminds me that every small act of kindness and love matters. She has experienced loss. So much loss in her life. But she keeps on living and saying, “thank you” to those who surround her. Everybody wants her to live forever. How do I get so lucky to know so many heart filling people? I always wish I could give her a giant hug but I would hurt her. Yet, again, she teaches me how to be more gentle. More present. More aware.

She teaches me to be kind. Always. She unknowingly reminds me of my freedom, my gifts. And I love her for who she is and I love her for loving me, a stranger who turned into a friend. She asked me, “did you know you were going to help take care of another child when you signed up for this?” I laughed and told her that it’s my pleasure, that I don’t have a daughter. She smiled. God continually stirs up this beautiful pot of Love stew.

It’s heart work. Soul shaping. People work. And so I will boast of my insecurities, my uncertainties, and my fears because I know God moves in these times. He shifts the fragile ground on which we all walk. He moves us in the direction of love if we let him. He crosses our paths with people who teach us, guide us, help us and love us.

God loves me. Imperfect, messy and easily distracted me. God loves me more than I love my joyful, dancing tree decorators. Hard to believe because I love those boys in heart pounding, heart stopping ways. I look up at our Christmas tree. We are the the most weighed down branches. He is the tree. He holds us up. He carries us through. He shines light and love in our lives. No matter what.

God’s pulse. Ever present. Strong as ever. Never leaving. Steady. If you slow down, place two fingers on your wrist. You can feel it. It’s fascinating. Your heart pumping blood throughout your entire body. God’s working a never ending shift out of the love He has for you and your life.

Keep up the good work.

Lithotripsy Semi-truck

4AE7928E-01BA-4FEF-B947-A927A419508F

“The Crohn’s is probably enough.”

A kind and sympathetic nurse conversed with me in (a semi truck)* lithotripsy procedure while my doctor figured out the best way to blast my sneaky large kidney stones. This nurse was right. The Crohn’s disease is probably enough. The extra specialists that I have added over the years sometimes feel like too much. The Crohn’s makes me prone to lung problems. The Crohn’s makes me prone to kidney stones. The Crohn’s depletes me physically yet somehow continues to recharge me emotionally and spiritually.

The Crohn’s also makes me prone to seeing the raw beauty amidst the unfair pain. The Crohn’s makes me more prone to routine feelings of overwhelming love and gratefulness for my concrete support system. The Crohn’s makes me prone to testing my faith and wearing my emotions on the outside, along with my bag. The Crohn’s makes me prone to being authentically myself because it’s too exhausting on my already-tired body to fake my way through life.

One of my boys worried about the medicine they would give me for my lithotripsy procedure. A few weeks ago, he wanted to learn how to do the moonwalk. We watched videos, listened to songs and talked about Michael Jackson’s life. Which also lead to a conversation on how he died. And so a week later, my son asked this question after he made this connection all by himself  (kids are so damn smart)

“Mama, will you get the same medicine Michael Jackson got?”

Ahhhh. I know this boy’s thinking all too well. An eight year old boy shouldn’t have to worry about his mama dying in a kidney stone procedure. We talked and I told him, “I will only be getting a little bit of medicine to help it not hurt. There will be nurses and a doctor to take care of me. Michael Jackson took way too much medicine.” I asked him if he was still worried a few days later. “No, cause you’re just getting a little medicine…for thirty minutes.”

I’ve had ongoing days and weeks and months of kidney pain. Some days are way better than others. On the hard days, it’s been me telling my boys too many times to count, “I can’t play right now. My back is hurting too badly.” I’m hopeful that I will get relief soon though I have unexpectedly acquired a pretty high tolerance for pain. Thankfully, I possess a stubborn, competitive spirit that keeps fighting back when one of the many side effects of my disease challenges me.

I’m convinced that yesterday my strong and worried mind kept me alert during my procedure, despite the valium, versed and fentynl, because I wanted to reassure my deep thinking and feeling son. Particularly, I didn’t want to die on a day that I had made the worst gluten-free waffles for breakfast. The. Worst. Though due to the nasty waffles, the breakfast dance party was pretty awesome.

After my procedure, all three of my boys came up to my room to check on me when they got home. They get me. Every single time. They have an abnormal amount of compassion for their ages, most likely learned through watching their daddy lovingly take care of me when I’m wounded. One of them brought me water and a pain pill. One of them asked if I would be able to come down and watch a movie and saved me a perfect spot, right next to him. He kept making sure he knew which side of me was hurting. The sweetest.

I woke up feeling pretty good today. I’m a little sore but it’s totally bearable without the obnoxious pain meds. I have to do these exercises where I drink a lot of water and then lay on an incline to help get the broken kidney stones out. My dog wanted to maul my hair, lick my face and then finally gave up and decided to lay down next to me. Moral support-ish. I’m not sure if his presence will help move the stones but it always helps my spirit to have a friend willing to hang out with me, right side up or upside down.

2728815E-1ABF-4488-B650-130F262BCF1A

As always, thanks for reading. Thanks for sending your prayers for my spirit to stay positive and hopeful. Thanks for supporting me and my family in too many ways to count. Thanks for caring, for dinner, for worrying, for checking in, or for talking with my husband or helping with our boys.

*Yes. Seriously. Who knew? Not me. I was raised up in my wheelchair onto a traveling semi-truck. The truck is cost effective in that it goes around from location to location doing lithotripsy procedures out back. Literally, out back, in a semi-truck. Crazy. My husband laughed when we arrived in the office and the nurse told us. Then, he didn’t believe her so I asked him to go take a picture of the truck. Here is living proof that you can pretty much do anything out of a truck. Anything. Buy tacos. Zap kidney stones. The mobile truck industry is strong. Just set your mind to it. Get going.

Forty Balloons

2354E700-3F5F-47BD-8CAC-DC128EF94300
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

8E2E0022-2D1C-4598-9634-11B949A9D797

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.

C45B7B15-4E3C-4A81-9AA7-CEDBB216E165

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

74B53BE4-B633-4DD9-85FD-E4ACB2DEABAF

“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

IMG_8668

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.

IMG_8670

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

IMG_8509

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.

IMG_7305

 

 

 

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.

IMG_8242

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

 

IMG_8433

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