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.

RIP “Rocky” the dead sidewalk squirrel

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Sometimes I write deep and plain sad shit. I know it. Whew. Then I feel like I need to write something funny. I actually have a blank blog post titled “Something Funny.” Tonight, I thought I could either do a birth announcement for one of my kidney stones or write about a dead sidewalk squirrel. Since I didn’t want Jesus to feel like my kidney stone was anywhere near as important as his upcoming birthday, and also Shutterfly is not running any specials on kidney stone birth announcements, I’ve decided to go with the dead rodent piece.

If I’m honest, I will admit to having had a bit of remorse for weeks about not writing an obituary and failing to have a ceremony for this unnamed neighborhood squirrel. If it makes me seem less cruel, I have been more kind lately to squirrels stealing our bird feed. I look at them with love instead of disgust. I feel like I want them to know I didn’t kill Rocky. I feel like if they saw me shoving Rocky into that Saltines box, they may have gotten the wrong idea about me. By the way, I just named him “Rocky” for this piece of writing. Prior to writing this story, based on a true story, I referred to him or her as “the dead squirrel in the Saltines box.”

I picture Rocky as a happy, young and carefree squirrel. Although I never knew him in this way. I only knew him as a bit creepy and a lot dead but I would like to imagine him alive for a few paragraphs.

Oh, Rocky. I can just see him being a big show-off climbing to the highest branches of gigantic trees, shouting,

“Hey! Look at me!” as he jumped from tree branch to tree branch. Rocky probably loved hiding his nuts in all kinds of crazy places. His acorns. Sheesh. Come on. Maybe the other squirrels resented him or absolutely adored him. Perhaps a bit of both.

The one thing that I think I know is that Rocky had one of those crazy awesome imaginations. Well, let’s face it, his creativity basically stemmed from the many hours he spent watching TV. He loved to sneak up to houses and peek in their windows. He pretended like he was looking for his nuts but he wasn’t. He always knew where his nuts were. Rocky absolutely loved watching TV. You would think Rocky liked funny shows like “Modern Family” or “Seinfeld” but he really gravatated towards the laughing, then tear jerking dramas. He liked to laugh, but he also loved a good cry. When “Parenthood” ended, Rocky didn’t come out of his tree for a few days. He was starting to get into “This is Us” before he died. Which is pretty sad in itself.

The night before he died, Rocky layed down on the highest branch of his favorite old Ash tree. Rocky always sprawled out on his belly and put his head in his tiny paws like he was laying on the floor watching TV. Every night to go to sleep, he would pretend he was watching a mini television set up in his tree and then he would doze off dreaming about where he hid his nuts and his favorite TV shows. Usually he would wake up in the morning when he heard the loud sound of the school bus’s engine flying down the hill. He thought the bus should probably slow down. Sometimes he even yelled, “HEY! Slow down, school bus!”

Something strange happened on the night Rocky died. The moon hit his eye like a big pizza pie. It’s like he had eaten a bad nut or something was in the air. He slept so hard that he fell right out of the tree, landing smack dab onto the ground beneath the tree, next to the sidewalk.

Tragically, he died on impact. (Sorry. The title warned you)

He rested on the cold ground. Dead but looking rather alive. Eerily alive.

My boys and I walk to school. Most times, we run to school. Because, well, we are always running late. One of my sons was running out in front. My other son and I chased him down the hill.

All of the sudden, the son in front stopped.

“MOM! Look. A squirrel.” (It was Rocky)

We made it to Rocky’s tree and looked down.

“Oh, no. He’s not moving. I think he’s dead.” I said. Although, he did look like he was happily watching cartoons on his belly. Or tear-jerking family dramas.

“That’s so sad,” he said.

“It is really sad. Poor squirrel. We will have to bury him.” Why did I say that, I immediately thought. We have a guinea pig cemetary in our backyard. What’s another rodent tombstone, right?

“Come on, guys, we gotta get to school!” I said.

I dropped my boys off at school, but I dreaded walking back up the hill. I hoped that maybe Rocky was a sick jokester and wanted to scare a lot of kids on their walks to school. It turns out he wasn’t or maybe he was. Not that day. He was dead.

I thought, “Surely the people who live in the house by Rocky’s tree will properly remove him and bury him or cremate him. Or maybe Viking funeral him.”

One time, I almost removed a dead opossum from the sidewalk far away from our house because it looked awfully sad and made my kids pretty sad, too. It’s not that I want to quickly remove or ignore or not grieve dead animals on sidewalks but it seems wrong walking past them time and time again. The problem is I scream a lot or squeal and my muscles tighten up and I freak myself out. I feel dead animals move or I trick myself into feeling dead animals move. Or strangely, I’m afraid other animals may be watching me remove the dead animal and they may think I killed the animal.

I didn’t want to have to remove Rocky from the sidewalk and put him into a Saltines box but my conscience told me it was the right thing to do.

Long story short, I got the courage up to get him into the Saltines box with some sticks and a bag and I threw some acorns on top of him. I’m not sure if that’s cruel or not. I felt awful putting him in our trash can but the ground was frozen. I didn’t know if guinea pigs and squirrels got along.

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As it turns out that night, after removing Rocky, I had to do a bowel prep. I had to drink Go Lytely which some real sarcastic asshole named. It does not make you go lightly, and it tastes like an awful combination between another person’s sweat and straight-up-make-you-wanna vomit ingredient. I encouraged myself to keep drinking by reminding myself that I do hard things. Like remove dead squirrels from the sidewalk.

Did the nurse need to tell me that I didn’t need to do the bowel prep the next day? Probably not. Did the spirit of Rocky and Mother Teresa help me get the prep down? Most likely, yes.

RIP “Rocky” the dead sidewalk squirrel. I’m really sorry about your fall. But congrats on living life to the fullest.

P.S. A deeper life lesson from Rocky: You must first acknowledge the dead squirrel on the sidewalk. It’s really there. It exists. Quit walking past it. Or ignoring it. Breathe deeply, now deal with it. Build up the courage up to do something about it.

P.S.S. Did you know that they have black squirrels in Canada? I was a but obsessed with getting some video footage. I will try to upload since you probably care.

Nobody Understands Land

It’s a dark and lonely land. You don’t go there often because you know that not much good comes out of even a brief visit there. It’s totally quiet in the house. After bedtime. Outside your window, you can hear the crickets and locusts talking nonstop to the moon but that’s about all.

It’s nighttime.

You’ve somehow managed to make it through another day, but you’re so tired. More like exhausted. You desperately need rest. You crave sleep because your body keeps borrowing calories from itself to fight the diseases. Your diseases.

You let yourself think about it momentarily. Living with chronic illness. Even when the physical symptoms subside, the emotional and mental drain persist. The disabilities you think you disguise so well in attempts to not gain pity or unsolicited attention, worry or that look in another’s eyes.

But tonight, you let go. You give yourself the freedom to temporarily think about all of the hardships. The many ways your life is different, more difficult. How even now in the dark, by yourself, you’re afraid to take the deep breaths that you need because you may start coughing. Damn lungs. Then, your guts will ache. Damn guts.

Your sad late night thinking helps you catch the red-eye flight. Destination: “Nobody Understands Land.” You’re on the plane. Without flight attendants. All alone.

You arrive.

Hello, there.

Welcome to “Nobody Understands Land.”

Only nobody is there to greet you. It does not feel like an all-inclusive vacation. Or a romantic get-away. It feels cold. Empty. Desolate. It feels like you’re standing in an uncomfortable place. A place where your thoughts and feelings chose to go. But strangely, your weary body knew better. You don’t have a jacket. Big surprise: all of your luggage got lost.

Everyone you were traveling with must have hopped on a different plane. A plane that you could have caught a long time ago before your life changed forever. Before you got sick.

Your life is different now. From all of theirs.

Tonight, you’re right. Nobody understands the pain of living with the daily physical reminders of your fragility. Your broken guts. Your struggling lungs. Your twisting kidneys. And all of the other parts that ache or quietly whimper. Nobody could possibly understand the isolation associated with the millions of different directions your diseased thoughts can go.

Yet, somehow their favorite guilty pleasure and escape is, “Nobody Understands Land.”

Only, it feels hopeless there. It should never be a final stop. A brief lay-over might be okay. A place to sit for a moment. “Alonely,” as one of your boys might say. You stop, sit down. You think and think until you feel a tapping on your shoulder. That nudging. Oh. God interrupts you, picks you up and carries you to catch your flight back home. As you’re in God’s arms, you look around. Ahhhh. You see. It’s not empty. It’s not so dark anymore. There are others. Tons of others. All of them are looking down as they hold their heads in their hands. You can’t leave yet, you need them to know too. They are not so different. They are not all alone. You see them. You need them to see you too. You jump out of God’s arms to tell them that you understand. Because you do.

Every single time, He gets you out of “Nobody Understands Land.” Because it’s not true.

Somebody always understands. Somebody sits in the chair and aches right next to you. Perhaps a different physical hurt but somehow the same feeling. A universally understood hurt. Empathy can be real. There’s always someone somewhere who gets it. Someone who truly understands or wants to try and understand. Someone who feels your pain, recognizes the pain in your eyes and wants to take it all away. But since they cannot, they sit next to you. Holding your hand so you can feel their presence or so that they can feel yours.

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You are not alone. You never have been. You never will be.

Somebody always understands.