via Super-glued Soul
After having an amazingly simple birthday without parades or “over the hill” signs, one of my twin boys came to me crying at bedtime. He sobbed and said, “what did you mean when you said that this morning?” I quickly tried to remember what I may have said in a hurried morning state of mind. My son responded, “You said you were happy you made it to 40.”
Oh. That. I still felt a bit confused as to why my tender-hearted boy couldn’t contain his sobs beside me. Through his snot and tears, he continued, “What does that mean? That you made it to 40.” I began to understand that he may have thought I had an expiration date. And I got it. I understood his worries.
One of my biggest fears as a woman and mom who has Crohn’s disease and has experienced countless surgeries, procedures and complications is that I will not live to see my boys grow up. All the way up.
I’ve been in many hospital rooms in a desperate, totally dependent state. My boys have happily visited me, sat gently on my bed, and eaten the nurse-issued hospital popsicles. Still, it tears a hole in my mothering soul not being able to care for my children when my own health takes center stage. I’m pretty certain it’s because of those difficult times that I play harder, hold on longer and love the best and most that I can. When I can.
I worked for years in the pediatric emergency department, an environment where you can’t help but learn how terrifyingly fleeting and fragile life can be. In an attempt to somehow honor those who died too soon, I try to live my life without regrets, albeit imperfectly. It’s not possible to do this every moment of every day because bills, stress, mean people and life can get loud and my inner voice doesn’t like to scream.
My youngest boy studied my pearl necklace at dinner last night. He asked, “How do you make a pearl?” My husband and I explained how a piece of sand gets into the oyster shell and how the oyster works hard to get the sand out. In the process, the oyster makes a pearl. We explained how it’s rare, but it creates a beautiful masterpiece. In the process, I’m sure the oyster isn’t stoked about the dirt in its cramped space. (As it turns out, after some five minute Wikipedia pearl research, it’s more of a microscopic parasite or tiny crab invasion that makes the mollusk work to protect itself, thus creating a pearl to envelop the invader. Still, pretty dang awesome)
One of my hopes and life goals is to find the pearls amidst the pain. I’m aware that my life and perspective has been altered time and time again by laying on too many doctor’s tables to count and waiting to get better. I fight. I grumble. I cry. Then, I guess I try my best to envelop these intruders in something beautiful. Like a mollusk. Who can forget those paper sheets and backless hospital gowns? We cannot control all that happens to us in life. Sometimes it feels like we can’t control much at all. But I do believe in the great power we hold to choose our perspective. Make our pearls.
If we can take the time to recognize the tiny moments filled with so much beauty and love, it’s impossible to deny the gift of the life we have. Our lungs. Our breaths. Our hearts beating. We get to live amongst belly-laughing, freckle-faced kids, hummingbirds and weird mushrooms. If you buy a pair of binoculars, and use them correctly, suddenly you can feel like you’re riding on the wings of a great blue heron. We live in a amazingly simple yet fascinatingly complicated world. If you look gently and persistently, you will find that beauty often surrounds the pain.
Last night, I held my ten year old boy, snuggled up to him. I apologized if I made him worry. I helped calm his fears and my own and I tried to help him understand the best I could how extremely grateful I felt to turn 40 yesterday. I let him know that I hope to live forty more years. I cannot begin to enunciate the echoes of love in my heart for the life I get to live. I am so deeply grateful for those who hear me, see me, love me and cushion the blows that sometime come my way. No matter the extent of my pain, God has always provided me with the greatest, most supportive human pain relievers, helping me create funky shaped pearls.
Here’s to a new decade of playing in the water and probably falling repeatedly on my ass. And getting back up, over and over again, whole-body laughing all the way.
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.
“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 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.
I’m trying, God.
But you’re going to need to help me out tonight. Right now.
This is a really long shift.
How am I doing?
I feel like I’m flailing. Tumbling. Or failing. Maybe all three.
Where do I need to improve? It seems like everywhere.
I prayed as I loaded the dirty dishes. Tears dripped down my face. Below freezing temps give me the never ending chills. The winter funk. I thought about stepping outside to see if my tears would freeze. They’re probably too salty. Maybe the bitter air would numb my overfeeling heart. And solidify my tears. A cool crying experiment of sorts. My dog would probably come lick my face repeatedly and ruin my weird backyard science lab.
Why do the smallest things ignite the fastest growing fires?
I need a winter hummingbird, God. Please. Send one.
Spilled hot chocolate. Rejection. Dishes everywhere. Insecurities fall onto the floor. I sop them up with a small stained dishcloth. Back and forth I walk to the sink to wring out the mess.
I hear the dragging sound of a nine year old boy’s house shoes behind me. He doesn’t pick up his feet, much like his mother.
“Mom? Sorry your day was stressful.”
Oh, he noticed. Perhaps he sees my smeared eye makeup. Or did I remove my heavy daytime armor revealing my worn-out nighttime emotions and feelings underneath?
My sensitive-souled boy hugs me. I rest my head on his. A few tears slowly sneak out. I don’t let go. Not yet.
“I love you the morst, Mom.”
I know in my thirty eight year old heart. It’s not possible.
“I love you the morst, buddy.”
My winter hummingbird stares me in the eyes. Hanging in my kitchen window. Sheltered from the snow. A reminder of my Grandma’s love. Given to me by a dear friend who sees, hears and listens with her heart.
I am trying. And some days my trying is better than others. You know this, God.
Thank you for moving me. Past my fears, insecurities, failures and doubts for tonight. Thank you for helping me notice the fluttering boy that entered the room.
I trust that God sees me. He grabs the paddles and resuscitates me with endless love and ever-present hope. Fills me with a warm peace. He surrounds me with tiny moments that reveal the love tucked away, sometimes under the snow. He hears my cries, the silent and the loud ones, in between the running water and the dishes clanging. He holds a place for my busy thoughts, slithering worries, constant questions and my hopes that get trapped, forgotten or lost in my heart-mind translation. He gently transforms my defeated thoughts.
Please send me a winter hummingbird.
I asked for one. And I had the honor of saying “goodnight” to three.
Oh, my beating heart. Thank you for those hummingbird boys of mine. They love with an energy and passion and joy that leaves me humbled. Inspired.
I’m trying, God.
I will keep trying.
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.
This morning on my walk, I stumbled upon a Monarch butterfly struggling in the grass. I wondered if she, too, had just dropped her kindergartner off at school. She kept reaching out with one of her legs to find the next piece of grass but she couldn’t quite get there. I pushed the piece of grass closer to her and she moved. She flopped her wings. I looked to see if one of them was broken. I pulled my dog away from her. Perhaps, she was dying. Did you know that Monarch butterflies have hairy backs?
I decided to pick her up without touching her beautiful wings. So delicate and vibrantly patterned. As I held her on my hand, she flew away. I nearly cried. Then, I started thinking about how God is here. In everything. He sees the broken-hearted mamas and he lifts us up. He changes our perspective. He shows us that we weren’t meant to be down in the grass. We are meant to fly.
For nearly twelve years, I worked with hospitalized kids and families enduring horrible traumas, never-ending sicknesses, and unimaginable accidents. I’ve played with orphaned siblings and cried with grieving mothers. I’ve found blankets for lifeless children. I know for a fact that every single one of these families would have given anything to see their children walk into elementary school, middle school, and high school. Growth is a beautiful thing. Growth is an honor. It’s a privilege.
But growth is still hard on a mama’s heart.
Especially this mama’s.
My older sons walked their little brother into his kindergarten classroom today. He didn’t need me, his mama. On day two. I watched their three backpacked bodies walk away. Their little healthy lives flashed before me. Their giggles. Their first steps. The enthusiastic ways that they jump off of the couch onto the pillow forts they have created below. Suddenly, as I walked away, I laughed at the goofy way Patch, our dog, runs through tall grass. I smiled.
Then, I looked down and saw the struggling butterfly.
One of mine and my boys’ favorite memories of my grandma is when she held a flower from my mom’s garden and suddenly, a butterfly landed on that flower. Today, a struggling mother, me, held a struggling butterfly. It’s undeniable proof that God can use the most fragile and tiny creatures of this world to shift our perspective from the dirt to the clouds.
I have broken into the extra school supplies, especially the boxes of Kirkland kleenex. I have sat in my Grandma’s chair and cried with the dog staring awkwardly at me. Yesterday, I told my husband that I was not going to share my writings because when you’re vulnerable and raw with your emotions, some people try to proofread your feelings or predict or edit them altogether. This really hurts and can feel like someone is rubbing alcohol or lemon juice on an open wound. He said that’s not everybody and that’s not fair and that I have to keep writing. He’s right, I suppose. Thank you for those of you who say comforting things like, “I’m sitting beside my mama. The mother/child bond sure is a strong one.” I will keep sharing for those of you who do the hard work of feeling emotions deeply and as a result, sometimes feel like a paralyzed butterfly.
You’re not. You may just need to be gently lifted up. You’re beautiful and capable. You have unique and extraordinary wings and you will be flying again soon.