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.

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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No Time to Play

IMG_0719I 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.
Donate money.
Write.

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.

Informative links:

https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/18/heres-list-organizations-are-mobilizing-help-separated-immigrant-child/?utm_campaign=trib-social&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=1529361248

https://theartofsimple.net/borderseparation/

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/03/09/peds.2017-0483

https://childsworldamerica.org/stop-border-separation/stop-border-separation-text-preview/

What We Know: Family Separation And ‘Zero Tolerance’ At The Border – NPR
https://apple.news/AI9pNswnFQ3exvNSZvan46Q

 

 

Human Thorns

IMG_9083We 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.

Magic Dog Poop Trick

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I have this pretty fancy trick up my sleeve or at the bottom of my pant leg. I think it could totally become a dog walking trend. I walk my boys and dog to school most days. I get pretty crotchety old-man irritated by dog poop on the sidewalk or right next to the sidewalk because that’s also a danger zone for three running boys. Or me. I typically try to carry a plastic bag for my dog’s poop. Because, inevitably, if I don’t have a bag, he will poop… two times. If you’re like me, you may not have the best memory. Or you may get easily distracted when you enter your house to grab a poop bag and accidentally may never return to find your dog’s poop. You had the best intentions, right?
Here’s a simple way that you can prevent this poop faux-pas from never happening again. Never. I guarantee it. Drum roll.
May I introduce the idea of taking off your shoe as a poop marker? Say what? That’s absurd. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a bit awkward walking the rest of the way home with one shoe on. And your neighbors or spouse may think or say, “where’s your other shoe?” But, you will not forget where your dog pooped. You will be able to walk back with a plastic poop bag, pick up your dog’s poop and then put your shoe back on.
Ba-da-bing. Ba-da-boom.
“But how did you think of this? This is amazing,” you may be thinking.
One day, my pre-coffee morning brain came up with this “poop shoe” idea when I had taken my dog for a long walk. Basically, I was in my head feeling like I needed to contribute to society more. So I decided to start picking up some of the trash everywhere.  I let my dog off of his leash to run around. I never seem to be able to go to those “clean up the creek” days so I thought I would just use a previously found mulch bag and start filling it with trash. I seized the moment. I cleaned up the creek. Well, not all the way. It was too easy to fill up the mulch bag with empty cigarette packs, 40’s, snack wrappers, etc. Littering. Ugh. Another thing that gets me ready to take my shoes off. I don’t even know what that means but it did sound serious. Don’t litter. End of story.
After I filled my trash-mulch bag, I realized I had lost my dog’s leash. Somewhere in the woods. Dang-it. Well, good thing I had my handy dandy plastic bag. I went all boy-scoutsy and tied the plastic bag to my dog’s collar and used it as a very short leash on our walk home. You’ll never guess what my dog did about five houses away from home?
He pooped.
Crap. Literally.
I couldn’t use the plastic bag that was now being used as a leash. I decided to take my shoe off to mark the poop. A committed move. I was dedicated to the cause of picking up my dog’s poop. I one-shoed my way home, took my dog off of his plastic bag leash and went back to reclaim my shoe and clean up the dog poop like a good citizen who detests stepping in dog poop.
You will most likely be surprised to learn that there was not a choir of angels in my driveway upon returning home. However, in my head, there were a lot of crotchety old folks giving me high-fives.
I’ve used the poop shoe trick several times since this first “losing the leash” occurrence. I’ve tried to persuade my husband but he would rather use those gas flags or other random items. I know he put a gas flag next to a dog poop the other day. You will have to ask him if he remembered to go back and pick up said poop. If it’s not your shoe and you’re easily distracted, chances are, that poop is going to end up making someone say, “SHIT!”
Poop Shoe Disclaimers:
*I can’t be held responsible if you have a funny neighbor that goes and gets your shoe out of their yard while you head home for a plastic bag. I do love that neighbor, though, so send them my way.
*It stinks if the ground is wet. Wet socks are the worst. One wet sock is pretty annoying. NO, actually, leaving your dog’s poop in somebody else’s yard is the worst and the most annoying.
*Why don’t you just take two plastic bags? Oh, stop, with your simple-mindedness.
*Dog diarrhea….this is a difficult subject matter. I’m not ready to talk about this yet. Please wait for a future blog post addressing this challenging situation.

Oh, Christmas Tree

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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.

Shattered. The healing place.

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I will meet you at the place. The place where it hurts.

I will meet you in your pain. I will hold you through your grief.

I will meet you in the place where your dreams shattered off the wall.

I will join you in your tears. I will drop my hand gently on your back when you’re sobbing. When you’re curled up into a ball with your back turned away from the world.

I get it. I understand. The rest of the world should be crying too.

I will journey to that place with you.

The hurting place.

That place where I have been before.

I know the way.

I don’t need a map.

I see you. Your eyes. I hear you. The words you don’t have to say. I feel you. Your pain. The after shock.

I recognize your broken eyes. I can sense your empty, crowded brain.

I can help you take a breath.

I can tightly hold your hand.

I can hug your shaking body.

I can sit up against the wall with you.

If you only will let me in.

I’ve been to the hurting place many times before.

I know it can be an awful, lonely and scary place especially if no one ever comes to knock on the door.

Let me help you. Hold you. Hear you.

Let me in.

When you’re ready, I will lift you up. We can take one step and then another. Or we can stop and take a break.

I will be with you. You don’t have to look up. Yet. You will know that I’m there. We can journey to the healing place.

I’ve been there before too.

I will show you the different paths that I have tried.

Maybe you will see a different way. We can journey together.

Next to each other.

We will make it to the healing place.