I used my yoga pants and yoga mat to take…..yoga classes. Say what? I love that standing tree pose and happy baby. The end meditation nap is amazing too. Namaste.
My poor knees and I played basketball on a co-ed basketball team. I missed a lot of shots, said cuss words, but I had a lot of fun. My boys asked me if I could dunk. I told them “not in this league, it’s illegal.” That’s all they need to know about that.
Oh man. What a year of stellar concerts. U2 with my big boys and Cory. Amazing. Ani Defranco with my hubs. Diana Krall and her busy tapping stilettos with my hubs. Brandy Carlile with some dear friends.
I coached two of my sons’ basketball teams. I learned that I’m a loud fighter for injustice when a team, um, or Coach breaks the rules by running a zone. And don’t call me “sweetie.” I learned that some egotistical male coaches have a hard time shaking hands at the end of the game after losing to a female coach. Because of the beautiful, kindhearted, never-stopping fighting spirits of my players, we lost a lot of games but we won the sportsmanship award. The biggest win. I said, “chin the ball” about a million times.
I held a fish. With it’s squirming rainbow scales.
I lead a small group, met amazing women who shared their stories, months of life, and helped my family so much during surgery.
We went to Disney world! We shared so many fun memories. Holy smokes, that Avatar ride. I felt like we could all say we rode on a banshee. Except Colby, please don’t talk about it to him. He feared for his life. Rightfully so. It seemed so real.
I taught half-day momergarten which consisted of so many unforgettable moments with my youngest boy. We found deer antlers in the woods. We stalked-in a nice way- bald eagles and even saw one poop. We rode the Adams tag along bike to get lunch. I could go on and on. It was the best year!
I learned that when my body makes something, it makes it strong, difficult to reach, and indestructible. My kidney stones would not be blasted by the lithotripsy semi-truck. $20,000 later.
I learned that if there is a rare complication to be had with kidney stone surgery, my body will teach and humble the most intelligent and experienced of surgeons. I learned (again) that a mom’s instincts last long after the years that your child lives in the same home with you. My right kidney doesn’t have a big ass kidney stone living in it anymore. We’re still paying for the cost of it’s removal. I have a few more scars. I feel incredibly loved.
I touched a stingray, mainly because my boys wanted me to.
I volunteered with hospice. I prayed every time before I entered the doors. I painted nails, held hands, listened, cried, laughed, and also advocated for my patient to meet my boys before she died. So shut your face, HIPPA. If I’m in my nineties and dying, please bring all the children to me.
I accidentally yet magically made eye contact with a hummingbird. It wasn’t a stare contest because I would have won. I had just put the feeders back up and she buzzed right up to get a drink. She looked at me. I froze. Then, she took a drink. Best moment of that day.
My son and I blew up the inflatable kayak, aka “The Banana Boat.” My boys floated down the creek and I could have cried if I wasn’t so focused on making sure a snake wasn’t going to get me. They paddled and our dog swam beside them. It was a heaven on earth moment.
We went to the roller derby! I asked so many questions to a roller derby girl. It was awesome. I decided my derby name would be “ Body Bag”
The boys and I went to “Mother/Son Prom.” It involved lots of soda pop and dancing!
We had a night at The Raphael and a downtown date night. A gift for my husband for ten years of employment.
We took the train to St. Louis. We went up in the St. Loius Arch, not for those with fear of height and claustrophobic tendencies. We also spent a day at The City Museum, where we all got to be kids exploring, climbing and having so much fun!
I dressed up as a unicorn, Skittles, with the help of my mom and sons. One of my son’s was the rear end and he sprayed silly string out because I was a shy unicorn that pooped when I got nervous. Unicorns are real.
I got up on water skis. Water sports can be nerve wracking with an ileostomy. But they’re so much fun. I’m grateful to have patient and generous in-laws. My knees and back wondered what the hell I thought I was doing.
I had acupuncture done to ameliorate my kidney pain. It was a pretty awesome experience. We have the most compassionate and kind-hearted healing chiropractor. She has helped me so much.
My youngest son and I untangled a steel blue dragonfly that was trapped in a spiderweb. It looked hopeless but she sat on me for nearly ten minutes and allowed me to gently pull the sticky web off of her wings. She happily flew away when we got all of the spiderweb off of her. My son said she “peed a lot on me.” It’s not the first time I’ve been peed on.
I have made beautiful life giving, soul-expanding friends who have helped me feel less alone and more comfortable being ever-changing, ever-feeling me. They have walked with me, talked with me, laughed with me, cried with me, sat with me and cared for me in such tender ways you wouldn’t know we weren’t boood sisters.
I have cherished the time with my children and the unwrapped daily gifts they constantly give me. All of the kitchen table moments, playground moments, couch cuddling moments, basketball court moments, treehouse moments, the nighttime conversations, the hugs, the giggles, open mouth laughs, the tears. The questions. The answers. I love being their mother. Somehow as seemingly impossible as it is, I find the space to love them even more so than I did the last year.
We said goodbye to our fourteen year old Gizmo dog. He’s been through so much with our family over the years. He loved us all and entertained the boys for years. We all sat together at the vet. We made slideshows and have cried many tears for him. We planted a tree in his honor.
I got stuck in a dress (or two) in a tiny Nordstrom rack dressing room while my three boys laughed and laughed some of the greatest laughs I’ve ever heard. I ended up borrowing a dress from my mom. The problem with broad shoulders and three little boys as dress shopping mates is that you will probably not find a wedding dress.
We danced and danced at one of the most fun weddings we’ve been to. During “Shout” when I was laying down on the floor, a woman asked me if I was hurt. Nope. Just getting realllllly into the “a little but softer now…” if somebody’s not ready to call 9-1-1, are you really dancing as hard as you can? Probably not.
I read so many books this year. Oh, how I love to read. I should have written all of the titles down. I will try to do that in my 39th year. One of my favorite’s was “The Rabbi’s Heartbeat” because it spoke to my soul.
A dear friend and I accidentally summoned the police for our mom shenanigans. Unbeknownst to us, a walker had called the Overland Park police on our attempts at a “first annual glow in the dark” nighttime Easter egg hunt. Apparently, it looked like we were lighting tiny fires in the woods (as we hid the lit-up eggs) The police didn’t end up coming. Another walker called them back. And our kids loved finding the glowing eggs. The forest looked absolutely magical as the eggs flickered in the night.
We’ve had countless memorable late night dinners, goodbye dinners, birthday dinners, celebratory dinners, just because get-togethers. We have such a diverse group of fun, loving, laughing friends and family.
We survived Cory’s Doctor prescribed vocal rest. I never knew how hard it would be on all of us not being able to talk to Cory for two weeks.
We walked up and down the hill hundreds of times. Back and forth to the school, the playground, the baseball field, the creek. This quote from “UP” resonates with me. “That might sound boring but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.”
I’ve looked for lost boys’ shoes countless times. I’ve held too many sticks to count (that’s what she said.) I’ve been a bar back/sous chef/LEGO assistant specializing in organizing the Legos by color. I’ve played dodge ball, dog monster, knock out, Sandlot baseball, and candy poker, of course.
- I, along with my six siblings, surprised my dad to be present for a huge award he received honoring the work and time he has devoted and volunteered for the Nonprofit business alliance. We were all so proud to sit at that table front center. We also laughed a lot. I may have made my sister wet her pantyhose. I won’t say which one.
- I feel like I should give myself credit every year for all of the pain, hardships, uncertainty of my physical health, Crohn’s disease and it’s tag-along friends. I’ve changed my ileostomy bag too many times to count. I’ve opened medical bills. So many medical bills. I’ve taken a lot of trips to the ostomy care center. It’s all I know but it’s still hard sometimes. And tricky. And never ending. Day by day. Thanks, Ben Stiller.
- I admired the Kansas sunsets and the cotton candy clouds. The double rainbows. The wild flowers. The birds of all the seasons. The deer. The slap happy butterflies. I fed a baby rabbit. I love and appreciate the complexity and mesmerizing beauty of nature more every year. It’s such a quiet constant whisper of God’s presence and love.
- Lots of pressure for my last thing. I loved those around me in the best ways I could. I tried to be present, I prayed to be more. I hoped and dreamed and tried to be grateful even in the midst of the ditchy moments. I’m thankful for those who give me room to grow and patience for all of the ways I fall short. I’m the luckiest.
Unicorns and Sharks
Play typically comes naturally to me. I have always loved climbing trees, goofing off, and making up games. Spinning in circles. Rolling down hills. Riding my bike. As a kid, I played nonstop until I HAD to eat dinner or until it got dark. Then, I ran home as fast as I could past the scary enormous weeping willow into our backyard. I still play until it gets dark as an adult, as a mother. I’m still pretty horrible about dinner. I walk, run, chase, and hide with my children and oftentimes, other children, on the playground. Last spring, a sweet inquisitive classmate of my son’s asked me, “Why are you a grown up and you’re playing?” My response, “Because I like to and my kids asked me to be the dog monster.”
Children fascinate me, mesmerize me and inspire me with their perspectives, curiosity, their creativity, their resilience and determination to keep playing. Two weeks ago, my youngest son fractured his fibula and had to get a cast. My grown-up self proceeded to over think his future weeks and the difficulties he may face with starting school. He, on the other hand, walked right out of the office and has not complained once except when he had an itch underneath his cast. “Can I use a stick to itch my leg?” He has altered and adapted his play, yet he has not stopped. He has not asked for a pinata for his pity party and he has not begged for trouble and uncertainty from the future.
He lives perfectly and rather magically in the present moment. That’s one of the most beautiful things about kids. But yet, we, adults, often push, elbow and encourage them to change. Hurry up. Grow up. Too fast. We take away play opportunities because we think they need to be more serious, more adult-like. Meh. They have so long to be grown ups and such a very short time to be children.
Every day, children and grown-ups need to play. Life can be so serious and sad and downright bumpy, twisty and scary to navigate through sometimes. We desperately need our imaginations to help us find our way through this life. We need laughter, silliness, fun and learning through challenging ourselves. Come on, walk up the slide sometime. Remember when you would swing so high your belly would “get scared” as my son says?
After I took a few pictures of my boys, I put on the snorkel mask this afternoon. I pretended I was a shark. When I jumped into the water, a million bubbles raced to the top of the water. The water was clear and the sun’s rays burst through and danced on the bright blue bottom of the pool. I watched my boys’ long legs kick below the surface. I usually swim with my eyes closed. And I miss so much. Not today. I wore the equivalent of a bike helmet under water: goggles with a nose piece. I loved playing and watching my boys work together to save a water unicorn from me, a mom shark. They devised a plan while I went under water. They outsmart me. No surprise there. We played. We laughed. And we happily escaped to the glorious land of imagination.
Lately, my guts have been grumbling and achy. I’ve tried eating this or not eating that. Ugh. I’ve been annoyed, frustrated and uncertain. But today, I told my husband that I will not let my Crohn’s tell me how I should feel mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. I will treat myself kindly but I will still play. Because I need to. I will smile or make goofy faces at myself for 30 seconds in the mirror. I will tell myself that I’m doing really great today. And it won’t be a lie. I will play. In my house. Outside. In church. And everywhere else that I go because that’s what I do. I will blow bubbles in my van with my air conditioner on high. I will use angel hair pasta for light saber fights. And I will watch in awe as the hummingbirds whiz by.
I will try my best to live in the present moment. And strive to act more like a child. My children.
No Time to Play
I have a difficult time preparing for temporary separations, like hospitalizations, between myself and my children. I typically have plenty of time to prepare: do laundry, help with schedules and school projects. I tend to stay busy so I don’t panic and drift away on the river of worries. I want to stay present with my boys. I want to savor good night rituals, hugs, and giggles. I want to gently trap the sounds of their voices echoing and competing with one another to love me to the most distant place and back, “I love you, Mom. To Saturn and back…..”
Oh, how my heart aches when I peek down on their precious sleeping faces one last time before I go. I watch their chests rise and fall. I am mesmerized yet, again, by their beautiful eyelashes. I kiss them on their soft cheeks. I draw a heart on their wrists. It feels close to impossible to say my temporary goodbyes. Yet, I know that I will be back home with them soon. Just a few days, I whisper this to myself. I hope with all the strength in my heart that I will be back home soon. Soon. Yes. Very soon.
When I’m away, my boys are taken care of ever so lovingly, patiently and gently by their father. Their grandparents. Their aunts. Their teachers. Their friends. My friends. But, still, I worry. Because I am their mother. And I know that no one can replace me. My presence. Our relationships. No one else loves them quite like I do.
I worked for nearly nine years in a pediatric emergency department. If you’ve ever had to witness one child being unexpectedly separated from their mother, father, or caregiver then you understand the agony, the pain, and the unfairness. Torture. I’ve held sobbing children until their exhausted bodies could cry no more. I’ve sat for hours in hospital rooms holding babies, blowing bubbles for toddlers, playing games with children and listening to teens because of some awful circumstance that required them to be separated from their family. I worked with some of the most enormous hearted, unconditionally loving, and self sacrificing people that would stay hours past their already-long shifts to fight for innocent children.
I know how resilient children can be. I have seen them struggle and overcome horrific, unfair, cruel and unimaginable situations. I just wish they didn’t have to be so damn resilient. Doesn’t every child deserve a chance to laugh and play and be a kid?
I wish the kids in the detention centers could play in creeks and run and laugh and feel safe and loved. Here. Like my children get to do. I wish they didn’t have to be introduced to overwhelming fears at such young ages. I wish I could be there to hold them since their mamas can’t.
But I am not their mother.
My heart breaks reading the stories. Seeing the photos. I have to catch my breath between sobs. My head aches thinking on all of the wounds. So much pain. Those grieving mothers who want desperately to hold their children. All of the precious scared babies, toddlers, children and teens. They couldn’t choose where they were born.
Neither could I.
I catch my breath. And I know my long distance sympathy is not enough. My prayers churn in my head and push the blood more quickly through my beating heart. I will not be paralyzed by the atrocity and the great big beast of an issue. I have to do something. Some thing. One thing.
Sign a petition.
They need us all. They need our help. We have to use our strength to fight for them. Like we would want other human beings to fight for us. We have to do our small part, whatever that may be, because this is not right. It’s so very wrong and we have to change this.
It’s a privilege to be born in a country where we don’t have to flee violence. It’s a damn privilege that we get to play in creeks and driveways and bake cookies and kiss our babies goodnight tonight.
How will you use your privilege to help those struggling to survive? Those dying not to give up, fighting against the pain and the hurt of this world. The hurt we often cause each other. Please tell me how you’re using your wounded heart in some small big way to help heal this broken world.
I need to hear it.
I think we all do.
What We Know: Family Separation And ‘Zero Tolerance’ At The Border – NPR
The Great Carriers
“Mom, can you carry my……”
Stick. Backpack. Shoes. Water bottle. Glove. Coat. Trash. Sweatshirt. Books. Ball. Gum. Ripstick. Scooter. Skates. Hockey stick. Socks. Deer antler. Bug. Feather. Half-eaten food.
(Newly designed cardboard) robot?
Please don’t drop it. Or lose it. Or break it, ok? Just carry it all around downtown Kansas City for me. Please?
When they’re babies, we, parents, hold our kids. We carry them. They ask or demand, “Hold you, Mama?” Or “Hold-you-me?” On our hips. On our chests. On our backs. In car seats. In expensive back-saving Ergo baby carriers. But then, something changes, all of the sudden, they want to use their legs to walk. Run. Jump. Fall. They don’t need us to carry them anymore. Most of the time. But, they definitely need us to be the great carriers.
The holders of important stuff. The grown-up, living, moving trapper keepers of their kid adventures. All sorts of day-to-day things. There’s nothing too great or seemingly too unimportant for a parent to carry. Our hands are bigger. Stronger. And less preoccupied by the next activity. We are highly intelligent when it comes to knowing where trash cans are. Oh. “Right there.” We aren’t planning on using our arms to climb across monkey bars or break our wreckless falls attempting to parkour or climb a random pole.
“Mom, can you carry this? Pleeeeeease?”
Ok. Fine. Yes.
And so we do. We carry their stuff.
We also carry loads that our kids don’t see. We carry the enormous weight of being a parent. We carry our hopes, our concerns, and our worries for our children. We carry or perhaps, drag our fears. We carry our struggles, our insecurities. We carry the uncertainties of other children who don’t live in our homes. We carry the past, our own childhoods. We carry our constantly evolving parenting selves the best ways that we can.
Sometimes, we carry far too much for one worn-out body to hold. That’s when we need help. When we’re holding too much to manage on our own. We need those who walk alongside of us. We need those who see us and graciously reach out to help us clean up our messes. They recognize our hunched over backs and tired eyes. They say, “I’ve been in a hurry” or “I’ve carried too much before, too. Let me help you.”
Isn’t that what we’re all here to do: Love each other and help each other get through. Life can be heavy and lonely and overwhelming. We can make it less heavy, less lonely and maybe underwhelming if we take a second or minute or hour to stop and recognize each other’s eyes and the weights we all carry.
“Let me help you.”
And we do.
I remember Grandpa calling you that, “Georgie.” I can’t begin to tell you the countless happy memories birthed and held gently here in your room.
From the moment we drive up and park the car, my boys, your great grandsons, run up the sidewalks sneaking behind the bushes, beating me to the door. Always. They fight over who gets to push the button outside the doors to the building, then they happily argue over who gets to push the button on the outside and who gets to push the button on the inside. Oh, to possess the power to tell the elevator where to go. The coveted button pushing position. Floor Number 3? Yes, that’s your floor.
The elevator takes a little time going up, the boys hop around, bouncing all over the place until the elevator stops. When the doors open, they escape and start sprinting down the long hallway to your room. I can’t begin to keep up with them. So I just watch them excitedly chase each other. It’s a race to get to your door. I barely ever got to watch your face upon seeing one, two or the three of their faces. It always brought me such joy watching them and hearing their six feet pounding down the halls. I loved seeing the other residents smile and reach out to them. I wish every resident had as many happy, life-filled visitors as you.
“Hi, Grandma. How are you doing?” I always said, loudly, when I made it inside your door. You usually sat in your chair. “I’m doing pretty good.” You would often say. Or sometimes, “I’ve got the blues.” The boys would begin playing with toys or tell you something. I loved the time when Julian told you he lost his first tooth. The excitement you both shared melted my heart. You always told me how good my boys are, how sweet they are and how I needed to get a bigger lap. You always told me something kind about me, “you have really pretty legs.” Or “I like your hair.” Even though I have needed to get it cut for a year.
It was an honor to sleep next to you last night. I will always hold on tightly to the memories with you over the past few years. I loved our Easter egg hunt. I loved sharing a bottled coke with you on Christmas Day. I always loved hearing your stories of growing up on the farm. Your sister stories. I’m so thankful that my boys have gotten to know you, truly know who you are and how you love others. I will never forget the time that they picked you a flower and as you held it, a butterfly landed on it. The boys talk about you holding a butterfly. They have been trying to recreate that moment for years by picking flowers and holding them up in the air, in attempts to persuade a butterfly to land on them.
You have always had the magic touch.
I want you to die peacefully, knowing how enormously loved you are. As I have watched so many employees, nurses, techs, and waiters, come say goodbye to you, I have been overwhelmed with how many people have been touched by your presence, your kindness, your love, both young and old. Nobody wants you to die. But yet, everybody wants you to be free of pain. We all want you to get to Heaven.
We’ve cried, sang to you, held your hands, rubbed your hair, told you why we love you so much, sat next to you and shared stories. We’ve laughed with you, smiled with you, encouraged you, and truly cherished every last moment with you. It’s so hard to let you go. Because you’ve always been here. Before all of us. You loved us all. You loved the party. You loved the sounds of children playing, “Where are the children?” You said one day when it was too quiet.
You have shown others what a beautiful life looks like right up to your last day. You have inspired us to live beautifully. To notice and praise the tiny bit of the world happening right before our eyes. You’ve always chosen to fully engage with those right in front of your face. Thank you for humbly and happily teaching us all the most valuable lesson without even knowing it. That’s always how the greatest teachers do it. Your example of how to truly live has paved the way for all of us. We will remember you. And try our very best to honor your legacy in the ways that we love those around us.
I love you so much, Grandma.
We have these crazy fast growing, never-stopping, always-multiplying vines in our yard. They spring up in the front and back and everystinkingwhere. They taunt the pseudo-gardener in me. They seem to snicker and stick their leafy little tongues out at me as I walk out the front door past the bushes.
Some of them are so easy to pull out of the dirt. I reach down quickly in the middle of taking the recycling out. I feel strong. Proud. Accomplished. Other vines are a bit more established and sneaky too. They strategically tangle themselves up in flowers or bushes in difficult to reach places. I want to grab them at their roots so I’m not repeating this process every week or so. But this can be an awkward task and falling-into-the-bushes hard.
Lately, I have had the most challenging time pulling these vines out of our rosebushes. It’s a tedious and painful process, especially for a woman who never wears gloves. Every time I have tried to help the rose bushes, I end up bleeding. Poke. Ouch. Stab. Stab. Ouch. Cuss. Those thorns don’t mess around. They hurt. I suppose they are fulfilling their purpose. They are the aggressive protectors of some of the most brightly colored and fragrant flowers. I investigate and interrogate the thorns but they don’t care that I’m trying to help the beautiful flowers too. Our rose bushes are getting all choked up, literally, by the sneaky vines that wrap up and around their delicate branches and stems.
I sow some of my deepest thoughts outside. While I am bleeding from the thorn attacks, it occurs to me that we, beautiful and complex humans, have our own thorns. We often overprotect ourselves from things that may hinder our growth. We want to keep moving in the direction of light but sometimes our thorns injure those who want to help. Those trying to clean up our vines or prune our branches. Thankfully, if we are lucky, we have those relentless green thumb kind of people who won’t let a little flesh wound stop the weeding.
Those loyal and faithful friend, sister, and mother gardeners don’t give up. They keep after us even while we poke them, sometimes purposely, sometimes unknowingly with our ever-present thorns. Oftentimes, these vine gardeners are the people who know us the very best and still love us the most. They possess the instinctual power to feel the vines choking us. They show up at the times when we are trying our hardest to stop growing through the pain. Or stop growing altogether. Or perhaps we momentarily surrendered to letting our prickly thorns do all the talking.
It’s not so bad to have the thorns. After all, we are each such beautiful complex creatures. But, we have to recognize the potential of our thorns. To hurt. Isolate. And create physical and emotional distance from those who wear gloves and come ready to gently untangle the vines that surround us.
Letting others help us is one of love’s most humbling and delicate tasks. The practice takes root with a wheel barrow full of patience and our willingness to surrender control. I recently read one of Brennan Manning’s books, The Rabbi’s Heartbeat. I nearly copied the entire book since I borrowed it from the library. I highly recommend it. Among so many others, I love this excerpt,
“The child spontaneously expresses emotions; the Pharisee carefully represses them. To open yourself to another person…is a sign of the Holy Spirit. To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life. Jesus listened, cried, got frustrated, righteously angry, and felt sorrow for people in pain.”
When I untangled the vines creeping up their fragile branches, the roses didn’t say “thank you.” They didn’t need to. Their beauty, their fragrance, and their mere existence is enough. Just as giving and surrendering our entire selves for each other is enough. More than enough.
I may not recognize the constellations in tonight’s sky but I’ve seen the Little Dipper on your cheeks. As you tell me things like, “I really want a rhino to lick my face,” I trace an imaginary line back and forth between each freckle on your nose. I can’t help but soak in the beauty of your eyelashes, your freckles, your oversized grown-up teeth, a sweet new addition to your innocent six-and-a-half year old face. You may not remember these moments forever but I will hold onto them tight enough for the both of us.
I snapped a picture when you weren’t looking. While our brightly colored toenails dried. I’m so grateful and proud to be your mom. I will attempt the monkey bars, see saw, and superman swing with you on any beautiful spring day of the week. I love you a million, bazillion, beyond Pluto and back. I will dot to dot all the stars tonight and think of how grateful I am for your sun-kissed face. Your curious brain. Your welcoming, friendly, kind and inclusive heart. Your inquisitive and complimentary soul. Your strong monkey arms and your “supa fast” legs. Oh, and today, your perfectly mismatched pink, blue and purple toenails. I love every little beautiful thing that makes you special and unique and 100% pure therapeutic grade-Colby. I loved all of today. Every single drop.
Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for dropping pine cone bases for me so I wouldn’t touch the mulch. Thank you for waiting on me. Thank you for stopping and noticing so many gifts of new people, flowers, trees and the great outdoors. Thank you for loving the simple, wild and free things in life. Thank you for going to school in the morning and unknowingly becoming one of my wisest teachers in the afternoon.
Mother, May I?
“Everything is hard.”
I told my husband as tears rolled down my face. I sat at the kitchen table and watched the frantic and confused April birds hide seeds surrounded by a dusting of snow.
“Like what?” My husband asked.
“Like everything. Walking up the stairs, bending over, getting up, helping the boys….”
“You did just have several surgeries. You did just get back from being in the hospital for five days.” He reminded/scolded me.
I know. But somehow it doesn’t help. These are the lowly moments I remember later. These are the moments that spring me into action later. Remember when you actually physically couldn’t? I remind myself. Remember when it felt like any strength you had evaporated into the dry air of room 408? Yes. Remember when you couldn’t lift a laundry basket or one of your children? Yes. Remember when you desperately needed help and you accepted it? Yes. Remember when you couldn’t eat for days? How could I forget?
Last week, I ran. I walked strongly. I laughed. I danced in the kitchen. I watched the roller derby and drafted my future derby name. I played with my kids on the playground. I chased them around as fast as my thirty eight year old body could go.
This week is quite different. My body aches. I have new marks, scars, leftover medical tape gunk, a drain, a stint, fragile guts, and a healing kidney. All of my post-surgical hospital wounds.
Recovery sucks for an impatient patient like me. It strangely feels like I’m playing the childhood game of “Mother May I?” Two baby steps forward and then four shuffle steps backward. Side step. Wait. Mother may I take off my own socks today? No, you may not. Ask your husband for help. Mother may I stare at my boys’ eyelashes and freckled faces in the kitchen sunlight? Yes, you may. Mother may I feel a little better today? Yes, you may. Mother may I get my drain removed today? No, you may not. Please wait longer.
I use these fragile moments as future motivational fuel. I store these weakened moments in an easily accessible place. I will use them for compassionate strength down the road. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day, I will get stronger physically. Mentally. Emotionally. I must promise myself to be patient, never give up, and let others help me. I must put tight reins on my pride and my ego. I will not compare myself to others. Even myself last week. I will send myself compassion. Every hour, every day. I will give thanks for all the hands I hold. I will give God all the glory because Jesus knows I could never endure this alone. I’m too weak and tired.
Father, may I cry on Easter when I’m alone and exhausted? Yes you may, my sweet child.
Easter tears will not drown out my hope.
You may cry. But you may also remember all these brightly colored flowers that sprang up this hospital week, despite the cold:
*Countless dinners and breakfasts provided by thoughtful friends and family
*Bouquets of flowers spread throughout your home
*Overflowing Easter baskets for your boys
*Hospital visits from family and friends
*Milk in the fridge, Cocoa Puffs on the counter
*Compassionate nurses who advocated for you
*A Team of doctors and surgeons who reacted quickly and worked together to help
*Cards, care packages, and texts sent to let you know you were loved
*Prayers that calmed your fears and steadied your anxious mother’s heart
*Three compassionate boys who gently nudged their way next to your good side to hold your hand or hug you or sit beside you (and also control the hospital bed)
*Your solid oak tree of a husband who sways gracefully and can be a million different people in a day
*Your ever-present mom whose instincts knew to kick in and also call her long-distance sister nurse sidekick about your deteriorating post-surgical state
*Your family who worries and cares and prays so overwhelmingly much for you
*Your kind-hearted sister who took your boys to Easter service
*Your dear friend who FaceTimed church for you and whose husband videotaped the music for you
*All the other helpful things others did out of love for you and your husband and children and dogs while you were in the hospital
*Friends who hosted play dates for your boys so you could recover
My hospital week garden is beautiful and in full bloom. It’s overflowing with the love that we’re constantly surrounded by. Moments of grief, shuffle steps backwards, and taking the extra space to heal grant me time, perspective and gratefulness in my heart.
Mother, may I sit in this garden and have a cup of tea?
Yes you may.
I flung open the door and reached into the overcrowded laundry room closet of my brain. I grabbed my humor poncho and then ran out the garage door. I’m always running late. I hear it means I’m optimistic. I read that in an article on the internet: a most reliable source, so it must be true.
I thought I might need a lightweight, easy-to-carry coping mechanism for my doctor’s appointment.
Better to be safe than soggy.
I’ve cried in front of many doctors and nurses over the years. I don’t like to do it. Especially not in those awfully patterned, poorly designed oversized hospital gowns. It’s just that I’ve had so many difficult appointments. It’s awkward. Most of the doctors I’ve had don’t quite know how to handle the slow trickle of tears or a sobbing mess of a patient.
Although, one time, my favorite surgeon sat down next to me on my hospital bed. I could tell that she hurt for me by the look in her big brown sympathetic eyes. That kind of response helped ease my sadness, my pain and frustration and oh, the crying weirdness. Crying in front of medical strangers? I highly don’t recommend it. But, sometimes, you can’t prepare for how your mind, body or spirit will handle certain settings, unexpected pain or the news of a failed procedure or a delayed discharge date or another surgery.
I recently met with my new urologist. Bad news. After a $20,000 lithotripsy procedure, straining my urine for a week (so fun!) and hanging upside down two times a day, my kidney stones didn’t budge. Unphased. Because, of course, my kidneys grow what I call “strong ass kidney stones.” The kind you would want to make a wedding ring out of. If you wanted to stay married forever. I knew I needed to go to a funny place. I thought about bringing a couple of rocks from our backyard garden to my appointment. “Here, Doctor, I passed these bad boys.” But, there’s nothing like doctor’s office stage fright or the potential for an audience of one to lack a sense of humor. Or perhaps, walk in unprepared for the “comedic patient” or be afraid to laugh. The list goes on. I get it.
Humor tends to be my buffer, my go-to move. It helps me momentarily cope. It’s my fast-acting short-term ability. It acts as a cheap, easy-to-carry poncho to temporarily protect me from the harsh realities of life. It’s lightweight, easily accessible. No phone booth necessary. “Ha. Ha. Ha. You’re making truly fluorescent light of the situation.” My funny self talk. Humor: it’s typically well-received. Because people like to laugh. Laugh, don’t cry. Repeat. Just laugh, don’t cry. People like funny. Don’t bring any of that sad shit news, right? Don’t go around ruining people’s sunshiney days.
But sometimes, life rains down. Nope. It pours. Sadness. Frustration. Loss. Disappointment blows and anger and fear strike hard. A poncho can only offer brief protection. Most of us don’t want to feel the chilling hard rains of life seep into our bones. Yet, you can only ignore it for so long when you’re sopping wet.
I walk to the car or get to my house and I peel that humor poncho off. I let it dry out on the garage floor. Dare I let myself go to the ugly crying places? Dare I let myself ask, “Why?” and “Why?” and “Why?” again. I texted my husband. He helped me laugh. And process. Dry off.
I remembered all of the ways my stubborn, strong-willed spirit and body has helped me over the years. I remembered my perseverance. I remembered my three sons and how it took two doctors to get my third boy delivered because my body was so damn strong. And stubborn. God gives me this crazy strength from time to time and I’m certain it’s contributed to who I am and what I’m capable of today. Naturally, my self-manufactured kidney stones will not be moved. They will put up a good fight. They’re not quite pearls but that doesn’t mean I can’t pretend they are when they surgically remove them.
Perhaps you could say a few prayers for my surgeon and the nurses and crew. They have a difficult job especially when it comes to a well-seasoned stubborn patient like me. You may be so kind as to include my husband and my tender-hearted boys. While you’re at it, you might as well pray for me, my kidneys, especially the right one, and my weary anesthesitized soul. Thank you for caring.
Also, be on the lookout for my Etsy shop. “Strong Ass Kidney Stone Jewelry” I may work on the name a little. Limited supply, factory closing down. They won’t be cheap so you may want to start saving your change.