Paralyzed Butterfly

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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.

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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.

Spring Break Snowflakes

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I held our new shivering puppy, Patch, tightly as I watched and listened to my boys race up and down the slippery slides at the school playground. They all giggled nonstop as the cold wet slides launched their bodies onto the turf below. Time and time again.

“This is FUN, Mama!” they shouted.

I looked down in amazement and wonder at the beauty of the snowflakes that landed on Patch’s black fur. How can each one be so different? So beautiful. So perfect. The tiny, intricate, unique patterns and designs of the snowflakes that became gently trapped into the hairs on his back. He nuzzled his nose under my arm.

Each of my boys ran over to pet him or attempt to temporarily shield him from the snow. Their pink cheeks, grown-up front teeth and their bright eyes quickly peered into mine from beneath their stocking caps. They each tried to tell me something different. I can’t remember what. They looked so happy, so perfect. And then they each ran off.

I sat there, temporarily stuck in the moment, mesmerized and overwhelmed by their existence and the beauty held in their precious freckled faces. I will never tire of looking into their big brown innocent and smiling eyes, framed by their gigantic snowflake-trapping eyelashes.

“Do you feel the snowflakes trapped in your eyelashes?” I asked one of my boys.

He responded by blinking. The snowflakes melted or disappeared. Gone.

I will always thank God in these outside, overwhelmingly peaceful and joyfilled moments. I will count them. My boys. My blessings. Over and over and over again. I will marvel and wonder and nearly implode with thankfulness for the gifts of their lives. I can’t help but feel a varying combination of being utterly humbled, confused, worried, imperfect and beyond grateful for the privilege, the honor, and the responsibility of being their “mama.”

And then, most likely, later in the day, I may be tired or short-fused, perhaps even close to near-exploding at their fighting or complaining. But I promise myself that I will take a deep breath. I will gently tap myself on the shoulder and whisper in my head,

“Hey, you tired mama. Remember sitting at the picnic table earlier watching your boys like the most proud mom in the universe? With the spring snow flurries drifting down. And a new puppy on your lap as the confused birds sang, the highway traffic buzzed, and the irresistible sounds of those three rosy cheeked, giggling boys bounced around….”

I will tell myself to remember the powerful moments and my prayer of thanks. And I will shape up. I may even need to take an extra deep breath or two to activate my secret stash of patience.

Spring break snowflakes.

Remember their beauty, the quiet power they possess. They disappear too quickly.

I will slow down and remind myself to notice, to pause and to embrace the ever changing, beautiful and raw moments of motherhood.

“The Birds”

*This is a guest post written by my eight year old son, Asher. I sat across the table from him this morning as he gripped his pencil tightly and excitedly wrote and wrote these words down. I felt my eyes well up and my mama heart nearly explode with joy and pride as he passionately filled his page. Please leave any comments you have and I will happily share with him.

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The birds have colors that are mixed together like yellow and orange. Mixed it makes beautiful. The colors make you feel relaxed. Have you wished to fly? I have wished if I could fly. Soaring through the air, the wind up in the sky is soft. And the birds make a great song. It calms you down. It makes you come outside. It is high.

We have a big window and tons of birds come to the window to get some seeds and sugar water. My favorite bird is the hummingbird. It is one of the coolest birds to me. It has beautiful colors like red, orange, yellow together. One time, my mom had one fly so close to her.

The hummingbird could hover. I think that it is cooler that it could fly upside down. But keep bees away from hummingbirds because if a bee stung a hummingbird, it would die. So keep bees away from hummingbirds. One time, a dog saw a hummingbird on the sidewalk. The dog wouldn’t let his owner go so the owner picked up the hummingbird and took the hummingbird home. They found out the hummingbird was alive but he wanted the hummingbird to stay. He feeded the hummingbird sugar water. He trained the hummingbird. I was so amazed. I could watch it again.

When we saw hummingbirds, we would call them super heroes like Flash and Green Lantern and Batman and Robin. We called them those names because they had red and yellow for Flash and green for Green Lantern. Black for Batman.

DSC09510My second favorite is the cardinal. It has light red and black. It is funny that some male cardinals have mohawks. I think it makes them look cool. Some of them have black spots on them. My favorite colors are red and blue. Red and black are cool mixed together.

The blue jay is light blue with some white and some black. It has a cool beak. It has black close to its eyeballs. It looks like it has pretty scales on its wings. It has cool designs. The white with the blue looks beautiful.

I have seen a ton of birds in my life. Some are blue, red, green, yellow, pink, purple and a ton of colors that are beautiful. One of the hummingbirds has light colors. How hummingbirds got their name is because when you listen closely, you hear a humming sound.

Some woodpeckers sometimes peck on our house. Do you know why? Because they get worms out of trees. Have you went on a trail? You see tons of birds and you hear tons of sounds. But when it becomes winter, all of the birds have to go because they can’t survive in winter. Its too cold. But in a couple months, they’re back and maybe you see the same ones!

 

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.

Thanksgiving Day Birds

imageMy rational thinking mind knows that it’s pretty selfish to assume that God sent hundreds of different kinds of birds to my backyard this morning. It felt like a beautiful gift. Just for me. Perhaps, He sent them to bring me hope or joy or to peck away at my grief or sorrows, my heartaches and hopelessness.

Despite my disbelieving mind, my spirit-filled heart completely trusts and believes in a God that hears my cries and hates for me to feel the heavy burden of grief, loss and heartache. I believe that He hates for me to be trapped in my feelings. Isolated. All alone. I believe He lifts my chin and helps me see the beauty, the freedom outside my window.

So, as I sat staring out my kitchen window in amazement and wonder at the sudden appearance of all of the Thanksgiving Day birds, my soul surrendered to the simplicity, the beauty, and the ease at which His tiny creatures fly from branch to feeder to fence post. I made eye contact with one of my favorites, the yellow finch, “my Grandma bird,” whose feathers have transformed to accommodate the next dreary season. No longer the striking, bright yellow summer feathers. I sat close enough, only a few feet way, separated by glass. I could barely see the pale yellow neck feathers hidden beneath the new tree trunk-brown winter feathers.

In moments like these, I feel my Grandma and I miss her in an indescribable way. I want to be in her presence. I want to hear her voice. I want to feel like everything is going to be okay. I don’t know that she understood the secret gentle power she possessed. The ability to heal my aching heart.

She had this instinctual ability to relate to me on a level that few can. I miss her honesty. I miss her openness with her feelings, the joyful and sad, painful-to-hear ones and all of the complicated ones in between. I miss the little things, like sitting next to her and filling her cup up with fresh iced water. I miss watching my boys run down the hall to swing open her door and surprise her. I miss her sweet voice telling me some powerfully encouraging words. I miss hugging her and telling her, “I love you, Grandma.” I miss her habitual response, “I know you do. I love you, too.”

Holidays are typically supposed to be happy times but they can be so hard when you’re missing a person. They can serve as a painful reminder that someone who was always around is not here anymore. Just gone. The robins, blue jays, yellow finch, doves, cardinals, and all the other birds flying around today reminded me of my Grandma. I like to think of her as strong and totally freed from pain. I like to think of her. I’m grateful that the zipping crowds of birds outside my window helped remind me of her and her never ending love.

Accidental Litter

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I accidentally littered. It’s embarrassing. Humiliating. It’s not what I stand for. I hate littering. I will routinely, yet awkwardly, chase trash down that I’ve dropped. Or that one of my kids has dropped. Tiny Smartie or gum wrappers. Or other absurd pieces of trash. And for the record, I classify used gum as trash. It goes in the trash can. Not on the bottom of a shoe. Or in a curious or hungry kid’s mouth. Yep. That’s happened. One of the things that irritates me the most is when I see a car driving and trash starts flying out the window. What?!!! Un-freakin’-believable. Oh. Was that Taco Bell cup junking up your car? The audacity. Who do you think is going to pick that up? I want to pull up next to them and come up with something really clever and powerful to say. But I don’t want to get road raged. So I just make a really mean face as I nod my head back and forth with a “you oughta be ashamed of yourself” kind of disappointed face. And I vent in my car. “We don’t litter….” And so on. The nerve of some people.

When I’m on a walk or bike ride and I see trash all in the banks of the creek, I get pissed for the ducks. Or turtles or frogs. Or trees or grass or anything living. Like they want to swim around in your trash. I think I’m going to get one of those trash pick-up sticks and get to work around the Indian Creek.

But I have a confession.

Yesterday, I unintentionally joined the club. My van door opened up and two precious papers flew out. Like a prison break escape kind-of-flying out. Maybe they didn’t like the less than desirable living conditions of my van. Maybe they deserved a museum type of environment. A fancy frame, a wall, and some peace and quiet. Anyhow, the Kansas winds blew those water color paintings clear across the parking lot in less than two seconds. I was faced with a bit of a dilemma as I watched the painted rainbow pictures bounce across the pavement. Should I leave my child (in front of the preschool administration) and chase after the “accidental litter” or watch as those caffeinated winds carried the two pieces of artwork north of the river. Or maybe to the Nelson? Only a slight exaggeration. I’m sure someone has found them and put them where they rightfully belong: on a refrigerator. Hopefully, it’s a nice grandma of sorts type of person and not a creeper.

Since my house is totally under control, I’m going to head out to pick up some trash. I feel like I owe it to the environment. Maybe I will try and keep my van a bit cleaner too, so it will pose less of a risk of accidentally littering. See that. I blamed my poor van. I feel like such a jerk, but I’m gonna use all my feels to save the earth or at least the Indian trails.

Where do I get one of those trash pick-up sticks? I should probably wear an orange vest too. When we drove by a federal prison last week, my seven year son casually and confidentially said, “you’ve been there before, right?” Nope. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to federal prison, son. Let’s not go spreading that rumor to your first grade class, ok? However, if your classmates do see me picking up trash on the side of the road, you can tell them it’s an “Accidental Littering voluntary mother’s guilty conscious program” that I started. If there are any other parents who have unexpectedly lost trash due to the unfortunate combination of children opening car doors and the Midwest winds, feel free to join my non-profit organization. I’ll meet you at the creek. I’ve got garbage bags galore.  Bring a trash pick up stick. Or maybe just borrow one from the creek. It won’t mind since its for a good cause.

Paper or Plastic?

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I want to be a responsible human being. I grocery shop a lot. Too much. When I make it to the front of the check-out line and the cashier asks, “Paper or plastic?” I want paper, usually. It feels more “Whole Foodsy.” I really wish I would bring several of the many reusable bags I have at home. However, that would require me to think ahead, a more premeditated grocery shopping trip. Forget about it. Yet, it would make me feel less destructive to the earth. I take certain earthly responsibilities very seriously. For instance, I have started cutting the plastic eight pack Sprite rings at work because someone posted a picture outside of the refrigerator of a sea turtle swimming or trying to with the plastic wrapped around it’s leg. Apparently, scare tactics work well on me. Unfortunately, much like my tendency to routinely take the last piece of toilet paper, I seem to always take the last Sprite at work, leaving the plastic ring screaming at me or maybe it’s the turtle. I can’t feel responsible for that sea turtle’s life of overcoming tortured leg adversity. I can almost hear him, looking down at the foreign non-ocean related thingamabob around his leg, “Why me, God? Why me?” Not on my watch, Mr. Sea turtle. I will carry the plastic rings around in my scrub pants all shift, if I have to, before cutting the rings apart. Multiple times into multiple pieces.

I’m pretty certain the bagger guy gave me a sort of “are you fuckin’ kidding me?” look when I requested paper bags. I may have overreacted in my head but still, I didn’t want to ruin his day, so I said, “Maybe you could use both. I have a lot of drinks.” Like he cares about all those Gatorades. Indecisive much? I don’t think that my new decision helped ameliorate his unhappy disposition. I probably made it worse requesting two kinds of bags. Who do I think I am? Next, the cashier lady chimed in, maybe to help me feel empowered as a grocery shopper or a woman. She said, “Honey, you get whatever you want.” How kind. Thanks. Maybe she knew that her co-worker’s attitude had bullied my overly sensitive thoughts. She seemed pretty intuitive. And spunky. She even had a mini-rant after she charged me double for the yogurt. Since it was over $3, she put her light on, she needed the manager’s code. After he came over, she let me know how ridiculous it was that she needed a manager to let her undelete items over $3. I agreed with her. I didn’t want to not agree with her. She told me she rings up stuff twice a lot. Maybe she’s got fast hands, like “supa fast,” as my four year old would say.

After I loaded my paper and plastic bags into my van, I wanted to just sit in the parking lot for a minute. Because I could. I needed to pause. I had been going non-stop all day. Get the kids to school. Do laundry. Do dishes. Take the recycling. Drop another kid off at school. Grocery shop. Then, stop. Time out.

Later in the day, my husband told me to hurry and come outside. He thought he had found something I would want to see. He was right. From outside of our garage window, I peered in to see a butterfly flying spastically, bumping into the window over and over again. It’s wings, were black with bright orange splotches on the tips. But when it’s wings were closed, it looked more like a moth. Either way, I wanted to help free it from inside of the garage. It looked pitiful repeatedly flying into the tricky glass pane. How confusing for a simple moth-butterfly to understand. I trapped the moth in my son’s insect catching box. I wasn’t sure if I had hurt it’s wings or not. I felt bad so I asked my husband if I should get the moth-er-fly one of our sweaters to eat. Moths love our sweaters. He did not think this was a good idea. I wasn’t going to give him a brand new sweater, just one of the ones that a few of his cousins or friends had already feasted on. Forget about it. I won’t give it a sweater, I said. I will just go try and let it go outside. I showed our boys, they weren’t that interested, probably because it was more moth than butterfly. And because they were watching the boob tube.

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I layed down outside next to my moth-er-fly. I tried to shelter him a bit from the crazy winds knocking his wings back and forth. He probably hadn’t experienced these winds before living in our garage. I thought I may have done some wing damage in attempting to free him from the garage. I watched the moth-er-fly play dead for a while. Maybe he was shy or pissed that I rescued him. I got a bit bored, so I looked up into the sky and you will never believe what I saw stuck in a tree.

A damn plastic grocery sack.

I couldn’t even believe my eyes. Seriously. Life is just too weird sometimes. The wind filled the grocery sack with it’s strong breeze over and over again but that grocery sack was wrapped around a few branches. It was stuck. Oh, great, is this some sort of a sign? I would have never noticed the plastic sack if I wasn’t waiting for my moth-er-fly to escape. I got to thinking scare tactic thoughts. Is that grocery sack going to suffocate some innocent bird flying through the air? Great. I didn’t recognize the label on the bag without my glasses. But it was stuck in our tree. I watched the plastic bag for a minute or so, then I looked back to check on my rescued insect.

I peeked in. Holy cow! The moth-er-fly nearly hit me in the face as it flew out into the breeze. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. It wasn’t like “Free Willy” at all. Just gone like a kite in the wind. Or a plastic bag in the wind. That gets stuck in a tree.

My husband is going to think I’m crazy when I ask him to help me get that plastic bag down. It’s up really high, like above the roof. Maybe I will be better in the future about taking my resuable grocery bags afterall. Or perhaps I will ask for “paper” with a new sense of assertiveness. I could tell this really long story to the bagger guy. Surely, it would help him understand how difficult it can be to answer a simple question, “paper or plastic?”