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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You are not alone. You never have been. You never will be.
Somebody always understands.
I’ve been writing in my head all week long. I thought I would actually put the words down about this once to hopefully get some of it out of my system. I have people that I love dearly that have voted on both sides of this election. Personally, I could not vote for Trump or Clinton. I understand why some people may say that to write-in a woman who you know is not running for president seems like a cop-out, but I am the only one who lives with my conscience and constant thoughts, feelings and emotions twenty four hours a day.
I chose to write-in a woman that I trusted and that has enormous loads of integrity. I typed in the name of a woman I believed in, knowing she would not win the presidency. I voted for local state representatives and senate. Then, I left the polls after a kind man made my day by asking if it was my first time to vote. Nope. I left without the looming feeling of having made the wrong decision with the minimal knowledge I have.
I understand some of the bigger issues and reasons why people I love voted for Trump, despite the ugly sides he flaunted throughout the election. But, I couldn’t vote for him. For numerous personal reasons. I have a hard time looking at him without getting disgusted. I have a disability, really several. I am sure Trump would make fun of someone like me, someone with a disease that makes them different. Someone with an ileostomy. I am also a woman. In my life, I have had men whistle, touch me without permission or stare at me like I am a piece of meat or an object for their consumption. It’s sickening and demoralizing. It’s one of the worst feelings. The fact that a man running for president would not only think, but say and act on such vile thoughts about women disgusts me and infuriates me to a blood-boiling, heart racing level. I also love deeply my many friends who are gay, Muslim, Mexican, immigrants, etc. I love the strangers I have met that could be classified into one of these groups. I hurt for them knowing the pain Trump has caused, and may continue to cause. It’s absolutely mind-baffling in this day and age that Trump would promote fear, hate and a messed-up, racist, and exclusive America.
I understand why people, especially women, voted for Clinton. But I also couldn’t vote for her. She has extremely, ridiculously large amounts of experience. If the two president elects were doctors, I would go to her a million times over Trump. Or if they were painters, plumbers, or any other profession where you seek out a person with book smarts, street smarts and an overall understanding of the profession, she would be my choice. I have a hard time getting over the original Clinton presidency. I have a difficult time with the fact that Hillary Clinton stayed with Bill Clinton. Why would a strong woman not leave a man that disgraced and dishonored her and had public affairs with other women? In my mind, if a woman can fake a marriage, what else is she capable of faking? I can’t get over that, despite her experience. I know some may think that’s judgemental and none of my business. But it becomes a bit of my business when I have to choose who I can trust or who I can vote for for president.*
Also, I realize that each candidate is only human, far from perfect. I am thankful we have people who are willing to put themselves out there, and take all the risks and negativity that accompany running for public office. I’m not Pollyanna. I realize that the media and politics, in general, tend to be corrupt and full of cover-ups, misinformation, lies and tons of money.
I’m pretty certain that both of the president elects are millionaires or billionaires. I cannot relate to them. They most likely would scoff at the Costco dinner I might throw together for them if they came over, especially if I burned it. How awful would it be if one of them sat in our wobbly broken chair and if the dog jumped on their lap during dinner. Or what if one of the boys hit them with a ball or dart? Would secret service lose it? I typically am not inspired by many millionaires or billionaires, unless I have no clue that they are wealthy. Instead, I look up to teachers, doctors, nurses, single moms, social workers, construction workers, nuns, monks, mechanics, police officers, fire fighters, EMT workers and so many other professions that bust their tired asses to serve, protect and care for fellow humans. I did not go into the field of Child Life to make crazy amounts of money. I jumped into the hospital setting to help others going through crappy times. If helping others meant cleaning toys or vomit or blowing bubbles or playing Uno or hugging a parent or comforting a crying baby or encouraging a coworker, I would do it. These things made me feel valued, like a million bucks. Never my paycheck.
This brings me to my most important point. My kids learn how to love from those they’re immediately surrounded by. Not rock stars or politicians. My husband and I. Our families. Their teachers, even the grocery store cashier, people at church, neighbors, and friends. My boys naturally love innocently, unconditionally and beautifully. They love people of every skin color, heterosexuals and gay people, Hindu people and atheist people and they sure as hell love their mama who has disabilities.
I do not worry or fear for my children learning hate, exclusion, racism or intolerance from Trump. I fear they will learn hate or intolerance from classmates, teachers or others who directly influence their day to day lives. It’s our job as parents, teachers, people in the grocery store or traffic jams to teach love, patience, kindness, and acceptance of others, no matter what they look like. I am much more qualified that Trump or Clinton to teach my children how to treat others. I believe you are too.
So let’s love each other in the valleys and trenches and up in the treehouses and on the playgrounds. Don’t forget the offices, classrooms, hospitals, court rooms, mountains, desserts, beaches, classrooms and most importantly, our homes. Every day. Nonstop. All the time. No matter who the president is.
And here’s a funny video, just because.
I’ve gone to several new places over the past few weeks where I have been welcomed in an unforgetably good way, as a newcomer or stranger, kind of an outsider. I’ve been welcomed in that genuinely awesome sort of way that makes me want to go back. If you’ve ever gone to events or places before and felt awkward, out of place, or like you didn’t belong or weren’t supposed to be there, it can be one of the worst feelings. You definitely remember it. It grabs a hold of you and can take you straight back to the lunchroom or halls of middle school. You typically will not throw yourself into that environment again, if you don’t have to.
Maybe it’s just me.
However, if you’ve ever had that out-of-place feeling, you can truly see or relate to others in a similar situation. You may be able to read a person’s body language or if they’re like me, they may just flat-out tell you, “Oh, man. I’m really uncomfortable here. I actually prefer wearing scrubs instead of a formal gown.” Been there, said that. I have awkward extroverted diarrhea of the mouth, self-diagnosed. All of this to say that I have gone to enough uncomfortable places that I know how to appreciate a genuine, honest welcome to a new place with unfamiliar faces.
The first new place I recently went was an urban, predominately African-American church. My husband and I drove out of our neighborhood to be a part of a forum entitled, “The Racial Divide” in Kansas City. Two of the largest local Methodist churches came together to discuss some pretty heavy issues regarding race. Our church participated and is located in the suburbs of Kansas with a predominately white congregation and the host church is located on the outskirts of downtown Kansas City with a predominately black congregation.
From the moment we drove into the parking lot, my husband and I were greeted in the most genuine, helpful and friendly ways by one after another after another of this church’s members. I was pretty convinced before walking in that this is where I want to go to church. The welcoming smiles and greetings were off the charts.
The two pastors, one white and one black, lead the discussion and spoke honestly in regards to their own experiences growing up and currently with racial issues. After they spoke, they would ask the audience, all of us, to engage in discussion with our neighbor. The ushers had spread members of the home congregation, black people, with those from the visiting congregation, white people. It was truly a privilige to have honest, open discussions with each other. I’m pretty sure God strategically put me next to the most amazing woman, who happened to be a hospital social worker. It was my birthday and I have been missing my social worker friends in a desperate way. A night out with my husband and the conversations I got to have with this woman stirred and filled my heart in an awesome way. There couldn’t have been a better birthday present.
Fast forward a few weeks to the second new place.
I was graciously invited to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. A dear friend of mine was speaking at the meeting. I was honored to walk in, albeit a bit awkwardly, because of my high heels and the new environment. Within moments, I was welcomed, with hands outstretched and I was greeted by a room full of people who didn’t know me, but seemed like they genuinely wanted to. As I sat in that room, I began feeling completely grateful for the lives I surrounding me, even though I had just met most of them. I was in a room full of people on a journey. Together. I laughed. I cried. There were moments when I felt a stabbing pain in my heart. I wanted to do more. I witnessed that people can change. It’s extremely difficult and hard to explain but I witnessed transformation. I was introduced as the “normal” one although I quickly defended myself and said, “I’m really not that normal.” But, once again, I received the gift of trust, unconditional love, and friendship.
I think we all crave the feeling of being important, loved, and overwhelmingly welcomed into a room. Like we truly matter. And I think we want to be sitting in a room with people who truly want to be near us. People who are seriously stoked and want us to be sitting next to them. We want people to listen and hear our story, our whole story, and we want people to love us through every chapter, especially the painful ones.
I will be the first to tell you that I regularly lose my temper, spill drinks, break glasses, mildew laundry, get pissed at my husband, and frustrated with my kids. I have a ton of imperfections or scars, physical, ones on the outside and emotional ones, the inside kind. I share them because I want you to know that I’m like you. You’re like me, too. We all have our scars. Some seem easier to talk about than others. Some seem more socially acceptable. But we all struggle. With some things.
Here’s another time. Another place.
I will never forget one specific time that I sat in a hospital room with a curled up, sleeping boy. His mother had to go to the bathroom. She didn’t want to leave him alone. I entered their room and introduced myself. I explained my job and said that I would stay with him. It always seems like a long time when you’re waiting an unknown amount of time for somebody to return. I didn’t want the boy to wake up and be scared since he had not met me. So, I sat quietly waiting. Minutes passed. And more minutes passed.
His mother walked back into the room and thanked me. I said that I was happy to help, that it was my job.
Then she said, “Sorry it took me so long. I have this bag.”
She lifted up her shirt to show me her colostomy bag.
“I have one too.” I replied, as I looked down and pointed in the direction of mine.
I thought it was a really brave thing for her to do. I don’t normally share my medical history with random people but I do when I feel God tap me or elbow me, like I’m supposed to.
“You do?” She asked, as she looked a little surprised.
“Yeah. How long have you had yours?” I responded.
“How long have you had yours?” She asked me.
I said, “For about eighteen years.”
“I still cry.” She said.
“So do I.”
Every day in each and every place, we welcome each other in a million different ways. Simple ways, like smiling or saying “hello.” Or bigger ways like pausing to talk or listen or sit with someone who looks like they need another human being to recognize that they have been sad, frustrated, let-down, or upset. Every time we stop and break past these barriers, we open ourselves up to love each other more deeply and recognize how very similar we all are.
It’s as if we all put our hands together, bringing and sharing our struggles, joys, and pain
with one another. We recognize that we all so different but we are also so very much alike. We feel the weight of one another and we work like the most efficient and beautiful team to get through this life together, strangers, friends and family alike.