Untangling

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I fought the wind unsuccessfully. It’s Kansas, after all. The wind tends to win most days. I escaped to the refuge of my mini van. A moment of quiet accompanied me as I sat untangling all the strings and colorful ribbons of my son’s kite. He patiently waited outside watching his brothers and the dog.
 
I remember asking for help untangling things as a child. And teen. And adult. I blamed my inability to loosen the knots on my constantly bitten nails. “Do you have any nails? Can you help me with this?” I asked those near me.
 
Wait a second. When did I become the untangler?
 
I suppose at the precise moment when I became “the mother.” I became the one my flailing children needed. I quickly learned to untangle footed pajamas and wet wipes in the night. I routinely untangled the tubing to my breast pump. As my children grew, I’ve bent over a million times or so to untangle their knotted shoestrings. “Come sit down. Watch a show,” I would often say as I untangled the back of my toddler boys’ heads of matted blonde hair. Their rabbit fine blonde hair has championed the greatest or worst bed head title for years.
 
It’s an art form: untangling. I never imagined I would be any good at it. I guess it takes practice. And patience. A willingness to pull, tug and gently make a difference. Sometimes, you’re thrown into situations and you’re the only one seemingly capable enough. You’re suddenly “the most grown up” in the room. With all the giant greenish brown eyes looking up to you, you have to do something. You adapt. You must be willing to learn on the job. In the midst of the tangles. The many different tangles of parenting.
 
Some knots are trickier than others. Some knots require more time, more experience, and a bigger investment. Some produce more tears of frustration and confusion. Untangling words and heated arguments between brothers, while remaining every boy’s loving mother, puts even the baddest ugliest quadruple knot to shame. A mama has to learn to tap into her emotional savings account: the wisdom and advice and encouragement of others. Thank, God for their listening ears, their stories, and their graceful ability to resuscitate my mothering soul.
 
Am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Will tomorrow be better? Less competitive? Holy moly. This is hard. Can I have my grabby toothless babies back for a few moments? Just for a moment of bliss. A moment of mundane. And a moment of hard to remind me that it’s not all rainbows in the past either. My mothering moments seem all tangled up in my thoughts and the steady beating of my heart. Ten years and three boys full of moments. Raw moments. Heavenly moments. Silly moments. Growing moments. Perhaps if they’re all tangled together, I won’t lose them as easily.
 
The other day I walked down to my in-law’s dock to grab the leftover towels and shoes. I looked down and noticed a struggling sky-blue dragonfly trapped in a sticky spiderweb. Lake spiders don’t mess around with their giant intricately designed webs. “Oh, you poor, dragonfly. I will help you,” I said.  I think he understood or he thought I was the spider. I gently pulled the googley-eyed dragonfly out of the sticky web. I held him in the palm of my hand. Then, I used my giant fingers to delicately untangle the web from the dragonfly’s wings. He couldn’t fly. The sticky web clung to his feet and his four wings, but he only squirmed a bit while I performed a webectomy. Then, just like that, he flew off. “Oh, goodbye,” I said. It was a magical moment. I thought I should hop into the kayak and get to work, untangling all of the webs off of the backs of the trapped dragonflies before the sun set. But I needed to get my own dragonfly boys home to bed.
 
When we learn the beauty of untangling life’s knots in one area, perhaps we give ourselves the confidence to attempt to untangle knots outside of our typical comfort zone. I’m grateful to untangle yo-yo strings, matted hair, my husband’s cables, the dog’s clumped up ear hair, and dragonfly wings. How strange and magnificent are the lessons we learn when things get knotted up.

Heavy Pretty Trees

I’ve spent hours plowing the snow this weekend. I feel strong and productive when I can hurl, shove, and carry the snow across the driveway. It’s rather hard work, yet mostly calming for me. This snowfall landed hard and heavy. It knocked our power out. My boys got to experience how many of our luxuries require electricity. All. The lights. “The TV?” Yes. “The heater?” Yep.
Looking outside, my old tree loving self had conflicting emotions. It was gorgeous yet sad. The beautiful mature trees in our neighborhood looked exhausted as they held up the weight of the snow on their branches the best that they could. All the neighborhood creatures hid silently below the pure white blanket of snow. Interupting the winter silence, I could hear the tree branches crack, snap, fall and I often heard them land on the hard surfaces below.
After one large tree branch fell, my son asked me,
“Mom, should we go tell (our neighbor) that tree just fell?”
When we embrace the life that surrounds us, we all have the tendencies to snow coat our hardships or dwell on how heavy our branches feel. It’s a difficult balance to hold the beauty and acknowledge the pain. Sometimes, I hide from people because I don’t like faking how I feel. Sometimes, I do my best to show that my branches are purely beautiful not heavy. Just like yours, right? But that’s not the truth. If I can be honest and vulnerable then I put out a welcome mat that allows those around me to do the same.
I wanted to share a picture of myself feeling confident and proud of braving the storm. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Or maybe longer than that. I’ve got a pocket full of hope though. And we’ve got a shoveled driveway and my boys got the sidewalks. We’ve also got our power back on. Lights and heat and dishwashers and dryers are pretty darn nice things to have.
Hold on, heavy pretty trees, I think you’re going to be alright.

Staphylo-(you’re a)-COCC-us

If I could grow a rainbow mustache, I would do it. It would be beautiful, sparkling and shiny and super clean. Then, people would be fascinated with my colorful mustache and I would be less insecure about the impetigo sores on my face.
Call me crazy, nonsensical or ridiculously impractical (same thing) but I’ve got a problem. With the natural bacterial world. It’s with the seemingly annoying small things like impetigo, cracks in my fingers, and winter diarrhea bugs. Ughhh. Small things. That exist without sharing much great love. Perhaps, having part of my small intestine coming out of my body makes me feel like I should have some sort of super immunity Captain America type shield to the petty peck, peck, pecking away at my immuno-compromised body. It’s quite the opposite though.
Do you know who gets bright red, itchy, burnt pus filled sores on their bodies, faces and under their tiny noses? Children typically do. Sweet little babies who don’t understand. Oh, yes, and my grown ass adult face gets impetigo too.
Oh, how I understand the heinous contagious sores. I tend to them like a diligent gardener. Even though I’m unsure of how to diligently garden. I clean and clean and ointment the painful tender blisters that feel more like burns. OUCH! Mother@&$!€r! Who put their cigarette out under my nose? Who would do that? And in my sleep.
I’ll tell you who. An opportunistic staphylococcus bastard. If I could have negotiated with the bastard before he infected me, I would have said, “Hey, again. Listen, I already have Crohn’s disease and a big ass kidney stone camping out in my left kidney. Can you just leave me the hell alone? For today. Why don’t you go play with C-diff. Just don’t take advantage of my overly-snotted-on broken-down skin under my nose. Please. I beg you.”
Fine. Be that way. I hate you. Yep. I said it. And I do teach my kids not to say the word, “hate.” It’s a bad word and you’re a bad bacteria.
Who am I kidding? Then, I would probably get some aloe-infused Kleenex for Staph because I’ve taken the imaginary conversation too far.
But I’m pretty sure Staph doesn’t listen anyways. Bacteria can be so egotistical. Or is it narcissistic? Thinking they can go wherever they want. Infecting people, surfaces, whatever. It’s cool. They’ve got a confident “don’t fence me in” mentality. You’ve got to hand it to them. Just make sure you wash your hands after you do.
The redness under my nose makes you accidentally make that “ouch, what happened? Did a Kleenex try to kill you? That must hurt face.” You know the one. It’s fine to do it to babies but not so much grown-ups. I feel a bit better and I promise I won’t touch you. Unless I really don’t like you. You should be suspicious if I start doing awkward double face kisses like I’m from another country. Just kidding, I don’t think I’m contagious anymore.
Or am I? Insert evil laugh.
Whatever you do, just say no to “staphylo-(you’re-a)cocc-us.” And wash your hands for crying outloud. I see you, winter. Now, stop it.

 

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Baby Grass Resuscitation

I feel a bit absurd raking snowy leaves in November. I can think of other more productive things to do with my time. Raking and vacuuming must be best friends. It’s quite breathtaking though, all of the bright colors that I see when I pull the rake back and forth.
I’m resuscitating the new grass my husband planted. I imagine baby gasps when I shove a clump of reddish orange leaves off the fragile green life underneath. This is where my mind goes when I do yard work and house work. Fall grass shenanigans. By the way, Mother Nature may need some sort of autumn intervention. Really. Snowing when the leaves haven’t all fallen? But this is the Midwest. You can expect anything. Or you should. Our weather is truly phenomenal for elevator small talk.
I was counting but now I’ve lost track of how many balls and toys and yard surprises(dog poop) that I’ve discovered hiding under the leaves. I pause and stare at the fully clothed tree above me and wonder what the point of all this raking truly is. The newly planted grass. Oh yeah. I’m saving it’s life. “Hurry. I’m a late first responder.” That motivates me. It makes me feel like I’m back in the emergency department. Temporarily. A little bit. But I never had to resuscitate anybody. I usually sat outside in the inside waiting room with scared siblings and cousins.
Old work stories and thoughts hop in and out of my brain. I grow rather nostalgic. I try to remember it all. The good. And. The bad. The giggles. The cries. But some twelve hour shifts could feel so long. I have forgotten so many beautiful faces. I can always see and hear the feelings though when they decide to resurface.
I shove the leaves up against the back fence. I hear my boys laughing in the front yard, throwing dirt-filled snowballs at each other. It’s one of my absolute favorite sounds, the noises that accompany the three of them playing outside. I’d rather be heaving leafy snow balls with them then resuscitating grass. And thinking so much. Being a grown-up really has a few disadvantages. Less play, more worries and duties. All of those bills to keep track of. And pay. Neon notices. Dishes. Leaking ceilings. It all sounds so boring. I did forget R-rated movies and alcohol. Whoop. Whoop.
I’ll venture to the front yard, after all, since
we’re out of lawn bags. I’m thinking that it’s really not the best leaf collecting form to put sopping beautiful leaves in a brown paper bag. Shouldn’t they get brown and crunchy first?
Nonetheless, I succeeded. The new grass has a strong heartbeat again. Or perhaps I’ve removed its colorful blanket and now it will shiver all night. I don’t know. I suppose I did my job. Maybe.
I’m definitely not a grass life Specialist.

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Warm Blankets

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My soul exhales. My soul writes.
My inner critic says in a snarky tone of voice, “what’s so special about what you have to say?” Yet, secretly, I still write perhaps when my grouchy inner critic takes a nap. Just as I breathe. Just as I pray. Everyday, I write.
I recently have had the privilege and honor of taking a class(again) with Ginger Rothhaas, a remarkably inspiring woman, overflowing with hope and love. She kindly spills herself onto all of us as she coaches our souls. You should check her out @ compassionfix.com or ManyOpenGates.com Ginger gently leads, turning my head in a direction that I often avoid. Walking before me, loosely holding the reins, she escorts me down the gravel road of self-compassion. I look ahead and I see the beautiful mountains of God’s overflowing love, grace and patience. For me. I have not travelled this road often enough in my past. This road has not been paved. Yet.
I trust in Ginger’s guidance. She believes in me, probably more than I believe in myself. She has spoken truth to me at such hard times in my life. Times when my inner lies were playing a seemingly endless game of tag in my head. “You’re it. No, you’re it. No tag backs!” She gracefully teaches me how to delicately tend to myself like I would care for a dear loved one.
Today, in class, she asked us to describe what images come to mind when we think of God. I have many loving images and deep feelings that accompany my understanding of God. Feeling safe. Protected. Hugging my children when they’re excitedly running up the hill after school. I watch the hummingbirds and feel God’s love through their beauty and the complexity in their mere existence. I marvel at a creation so tiny yet so breathtakingly mesmerizing. God’s presence seems to accompany me when I’m stuck in the bathroom for the nine millionth time in my life. God has never gone to get me another roll of toilet paper. That would be weird. And hard to believe probably. Thank goodness for my husband. He certainly helps me feel God’s love.
I raised my hand in class today and said that God feels like warm blankets to me. One of the small joys I had when I worked in the pediatric emergency department was bringing warm blankets to kids and sometimes parents too. I loved tucking the warm blanket around their anxious, shivering bodies.
I have also had so many surgeries for Crohn’s disease. I’ve sat in my hospital gown waiting for hours before surgery. I have felt cold, shaky, worried and afraid. But yet, when a kind nurse covers me with warm blankets, their warmth has helped calm me and allowed me to feel less affected by the sterile walls, the bright lights and the hospital smells. Sometimes the nurses have piled multiple warm blankets on top of me to help me. It’s a seemingly small act that I remember vividly despite the memory erasing medicines.
Warm blankets.
My sons have always loved when I preheat their pajamas or towels in the dryer. I love watching the joy on their faces when they hold their warm clothes. “They’re sooooooo warm!” I rarely get to wrap them up in their warm towels anymore, but it’s a beloved bath time ritual that has brought me such joy over the bathtub years.
It’s the beautiful love-fueled and love-filled protected moments like these that help me understand God’s love. For me. And I feel special. And I want to share that feeling. It’s funny how writing works. God’s influence on my snarky thoughts can be pretty overwhelming too.
Thank you, dear Ginger, for the tender construction work that you do on our souls.

Two Banana Moons

0EF060B7-D0C3-4830-B717-43EBC7D58DD3If I ever get so old that I can’t remember much, I hope I never forget the sound of your deep sleep breathing as I stare at the two banana moons on your ceiling. Oh, how I cherish our good night chats when you ask me all the tricky questions that I don’t quite know how to answer. You see, my mom brain stops working at this time of night when I lay beside you, but my mama’s heart tries its hardest to remember every little thing.
I hear the rain outside your window. Drip. Drip. Dripping down the gutter. Your forehead rests underneath my chin. You’ve always been the greatest snuggly cuddle bug. On that first early August morning when you were born, you claimed a perfect resting place right there on the left side of my chest. You’ve always been ever-so-slow to wake up. The nurses were worried about you in the hospital. You had a rough start. I wasn’t worried, I don’t think. You just needed some time to rest. You like your sleep, much like your mama. Each morning, when you’re not quite awake, you ask or demand for a ride down the stairs. My creaky knees shout “he’s too big!” but my strong mama’s heart says, “a million times, yes.”
You and your big brothers make me so proud. Every single day. Your tender, adventurous spirits teach me how to love without limits and laugh with pure open mouth joy. The weight of taking good care of you guides me to set boundaries to protect you, life’s most precious gifts. It’s an enormous responsibility for your Dad and I. Fortunately, it’s a job that comes with quite a few perks.
You train me to be strong and confident and humble and weak. Your enormous eyes and beautiful freckles capture and remind me of such endless beauty and never ceasing wonder. That of a creator whose love cannot be denied. I’m a better person because of you. I’m able to experience the world through three different sets of eyes. Six gigantic ones, thick lashed and bleached out on the tips. All of your beautiful brown eyes looking out at the world and up at me. One day, I suppose, I will be looking up at you.
 I’m grateful. I’m humbled. I’m mesmerized. I’m usually overwhelmed. Thank you for being my boys. I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest mom on the planet. Especially the planet inside your rooms. The one with the blue or green ceiling stars and two banana moons.
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Pinkie Rings

301A1984-A8AD-4A71-8183-1AD19F754415As we sit together in the waiting room, I hand him my wedding rings. It’s our pre-surgery ritual of sorts. He delicately slips them onto his pinkie finger. Well, not really, he shoves them down over his knobby knuckle. His fingers are strong and wider than mine, probably from playing all of the instruments.
He will proudly wear my wedding rings as I fall into an anesthesia-induced sleep. He will wait and pace and drink bad coffee and then wait some more for the surgeon to be done. He will anxiously wait for me to come to the recovery room.
Over the years, he has unexpectedly become an expert hospital cafeteria food critic. He has gotten lost in far too many hospital hallways. He has spent hours upon hours in the waiting room. And I know he would do it all over again.
He would choose me. Complicated old me. He would marry me all over again tomorrow.
I slowly open my eyes. I’m confused. And sleepy. He is there. I relax and close them again because I still feel so sleepy. I’m awake. Again. I’m hurting. So badly. He quickly gets the nurse. I hear him talking to her. He knows I’m not one to complain. He knows me. He knows that I need more pain medicine.
He is hurting, too.
In a different way than me.
He gets no narcotics.
He won’t leave me. He stays right beside me in all of the tiny hospital rooms. He holds my hand. Or he rests his arm gently on the bed because he doesn’t want to hurt my fragile body.
This is hard. This is selfless. This is not me dancing in a silk wedding dress. This is me writhing in pain in an oversized unisex hospital gown. It seems that there is nothing in this for him.
I’ve lived long enough to know that this kind of love is rare.
This is a small glimpse of my husband’s love for me.
When I’m more alert and my pain is not controlling my mind, I tell him that he can go. He doesn’t want to but I need him to make sure our kids are doing okay too. He is pulled in a million different directions but he manages to handle the uncertainty, the chaos, and the unfairness of it all with an unearthly amount of patience, and the most delicate form of kindness and grace. Gut-wrenching grace. I love him every day of the week but the days I spend in the hospital and in recovery, I somehow love him so much more.
He fills me up when I am empty. Tired. Worn out and in too much pain to be mad. When all of my dignity has been scattered throughout that hospital, he searches patiently and always finds it. Then, he secretly delivers it back to me without making a big scene.
I can try but his faithfulness and his love for me is hard to describe in words. I feel it. He carries me through, somehow without ever needing to lift my aching body.
Could the greatest gift to our marriage be this never-stopping, forever humbling, life-altering, soul-shaking disease? I don’t know. It’s probably not fair for me to answer for the both of us.
I’m not the one wearing the pinkie wedding rings.
What I do know is that God has these sneaky beautiful soul-capturing ways to show his love and tenderness through the worst and most unfair situations. Failed surgeries. Complications. Loss. Pain. Uncertainty. But yet, Hope with a capital “H” has taught us how to be honest, forgiving, humble, patient and ever grateful for the days we get to spend together.
Fourteen years of marriage. Together. A twisting, turning, chaotic, unpredictable, beautiful and hard journey that we have learned to embrace together.
I’m forever grateful and proud of the husband he is. I’m honored that he is willing to wear my wedding rings on the days when I can’t.
Oh, how I love you, Cory. The morst. To the moon and back. To infinity and beyond. A million billion.