Twisted Up Newspaper Thoughts

 

 

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I remember sitting by the fire as a scrawny kid listening to it pop and crackle, watching the electric blue, yellowish orange and red hot flames burn. I would sit really close and my back would get hotter and hotter until I couldn’t take it. I had to stand up and walk away. I used to love twisting and wadding up pieces of newspaper, then I would ask my dad if I could throw them into the fire. Carefully, of course. There was something thrilling in that experiment. It never got old. Watching the flames jump higher after I threw my pieces of twisted paper in. Instantly the newspaper ads disappeared into glowing ashes.

Over the past few days, I’ve been throwing crinkled-up, nasty little self-defeating thoughts on the insecure fire that burns from time to time. In my head. Sometimes in my heart. I lost my husband’s passport. I’ve searched for hours upon hours for two days. I’ve found things I wasn’t even looking for. I’ve organized areas. I’ve sifted through all of our drawers, mail piles, shredded papers, our recycling can and through all of our disgusting trash. Because we eat food and we have guinea pigs. And a dog that wears a diaper.

The entire time, despite my efforts to distract myself with positive thoughts or praying to the saint who helps find lost things, I should know his name. He probably knows mine. Or searching while listening to music or drinking tea, I’ve beat myself up. Over and over. Hard enough that I know if it were someone else’s head, and I held the power, I would step in and pull that person out of the ring, doctor their wounds and encourage them with some truths. Unfortunately, in these times, I don’t offer myself this same grace. And the fire burns on.

With a little hindsight, I recognize that I can be a real irrational jerk. To myself. And I don’t like that mean, self-defeating person inside of me.

When other people are jerks or say something rude, hurtful or offensive to us, we can walk away. Or fight back. When we do it to ourselves, we have to let somebody in. Somebody who will take away the stack of newspaper that we were planning on crinkling up. Because well, we tend to know ourselves best. We possess an arsenal of imperfections. We can crinkle up a lot of nasty, devaluing, hurtful pitiful little thoughts. And we can hide more newspapers. For a later time.

I sat at the table silently big tear crying as I filled out the paperwork for my husband to receive a new passport. Not because he made me cry or made me fill out the paperwork. On the contrary, he has been completely forgiving and kind. Saying, “it’s okay.” I cried because I was exhausted. I had failed and I was so sorry. I said the words, they pushed desperately against the inside of my jaws, trying to stay in. I needed to say them. Admit my mistake. The thing is that I think he knows I’ve been up too close, throwing those crinkled up newspapers in, watching the flames temporarily grow in my head. I think he would go buy all of the newspapers from the local good-for-nothing thought store. If he could. Isn’t that what we should do for the people we love? Offer each other forgiveness, understanding, mercy and love. At the times that we need it the very most. The times when we mess up, lose stuff or fail. And then it’s amazing. And completely humbling. We see a tiny, tiny glimpse of God’s love for us. And it’s a beautifully painful feeling to know that we are accepted. Just the way we are.

On top of losing my husband’s passport, I recently turned one of my boys school library books into the county library. He worries too. And he can’t check out as many books as he would like, because of my mistake. He keeps asking me, in a sweet, innocent and kind way, if I could go try and get it back from the library. I also had a doctor’s appointment yesterday that made me worry like some doctor’s appointments do. While I was at it, I have a sensitive son that I decided to extra worry about today too. I’m worried and sad about my Grandma. And I forgot that my windshield is cracked too. When writing, I know I sound a little bit like a pitiful adult version of Peggy Ann McKay. Since I was already throwing shriveled up, twisted little papers into that fire, I decided to just keep on going. Because that’s what we do to ourselves. It’s really awful. That’s why we desperately need people. Kind, loving people who know we stink at some things but who also know that we’re pretty good at some things too. So they remind us of those really good things. They hold our hand. Hug us. Accept us, flaws and all.

My husband showed me this morning and in so many words told me that I needed to just walk away. Stop. Forgive myself. And move on. Afterall, the fire will eventually die out. Especially if we stop adding crinkled up newspaper to it.

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I love this idea of two wolves inside of us. It was first introduced to me through hearing Richard Rohr speak.

An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me…It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride and superiority. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.” They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied… “The one I feed.

2015: 95 Blogs

I am thankful for you. Yes, you. The one reading this. It can be tricky navigating the world wide web. That’s right, the big ole’ “www.” It’s just plain crazy sometimes to think of others out there taking the time to read something that I wrote. Me. Silly old scatter-brained me. I know that time is so precious. Your time is valuable. But for a reason that may never be known to me, you have chosen to use a little of your time to read my blog. I truly appreciate you. For reasons that I will try to explain but I warn you, I may fail miserably.

Over the past year of blog posts, I have shared ridiculous bra stories or children stories or work stories or disease stories. In sharing my writing, I have opened a window and sometimes a door to a piece of my heart. And you have responded. Perhaps you somehow related to my feelings. Some of you have reached out to me. You have shared the most genuine and kind-hearted sentiments. You have shared a piece of your life with me. In doing so, we connected. You, perhaps unknowingly, have helped me heal from mothering blunders, work sadness, disease frustrations, and many other life lessons.

If ever something is going to be happy, silly, hard, painful, frustrating, debilitating, hopeful or sad, it’s best to learn and grow from it. The best way to learn and grow from experiences is to have others surround you. To cheer you on. To hug you. To encourage you. To relate with you. To cry with you. To laugh with you. To tell you the hard stuff gets better. To help you feel less alone.

I’ve always tried to find the good in the bad. No matter what. This can be extremely challenging sometimes in life. For all of us. Sometimes the good seems so light in comparison to the heaviness of the bad. The good can feel so fleeting, in fact, that it seems to disappear altogether. At times. It’s always there. It can get trapped behind the dark heavy shadows of gloom.

You will always be one of my many something goods. Because you’re a first responder. You’re here. You care. You matter to me. Even if I’ve never met you. You have encouraged me in gigantic ways. Thank you for believing in me.

Cheers to next year. Because….Something’s still burning.

 

WordPress sent me the link below. It was pretty humbling. And makes me proud to have such supportive friends.

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Monday Feels

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I walked into my closet. And sat down against the wall. I was officially overwhelmed. And I didn’t want to cry in front of my boys because I knew it might be hard to stop. I predicted it had the potential to be one of those downpours where it didn’t even matter if I had an umbrella. A lost cause. Between the wind and the crazy overwhelming tears coming from all directions, I knew I would be a mess. Drenched. I thought I should just try and be apathetic. Seemingly unphased on the surface but literally crumbling underneath. It’s a struggle. When everything seems to be happening at the same time. Mondays are just plain hard. On the body. All around.

I wake up and feel so exposed, unclothed and vulnerable because I don’t have to push down the feelings and pretend like the painful stuff doesn’t hurt. Not anymore. Outside of the walls of work, I am free to hurt. And be so sad. And pissed. And then damn sad again. My roles quickly change as I kick off my work shoes in the garage and enter the doors of my house. On Monday morning. At 2:00 am. In a few short hours, a healthy eager boy will need to get to school early. I want to talk with him and hug him longer before I drop him off and he walks up the stairs to his first grade classroom. There’s a sick boy that needs me at home. At the kitchen table, he handed me pictures he made for me while I was at work. I love his giving heart. I love that he draws pictures for me when I’m gone. He always wraps them up and tapes them together like a package. I love how excited and proud he is for me to open them.

I want to cry. Because I’m so happy to be home. I hate that I can’t be emotionally available yet. I feel so weak. And tired. Physically and emotionally. Thankfully, I have a husband whose compassion and patience for me overflows, especially on Mondays. Somehow it never runs out. He hugs me. It’s hard to hug him back because I don’t want to fall apart. Yet.

This work doesn’t make piles of laundry disappear. It doesn’t help the stacks of bills get magically paid. It doesn’t buy fancy vacations. It’s perks are few and include a discount that you don’t want to need to use. It’s a job that forces a continual reexamination of my faith in God and humanity. It strongly encourages the necessary prioritizing of what matters most and on some days, it triggers the unraveling of my heart. And as I pick up the string and slowly wind it back up, I feel overwhelmed. For good, really good, like gratitude-that-hurts kind of good. For my family. My home. My perspective. It overwhelms me for the uncomfortable too though. It makes it hard to fit in sometimes, hard to hold my tongue when someone says something so unimportant or worries about something that just doesn’t matter. When you’ve seen the wounded. The raw. The so completely and uncomprehensibly painful. And you wonder how will they ever pick up all the shattered pieces. When everything stops flying through the air. And you hope and pray that they have people that will stick around long enough to help them learn to fit all of the pieces back together. Somehow. The most important pieces. When I’m home, its difficult to just turn off my thinking and my feelings. I think if its ever too easy, or too comfortable then I will leave. Just quit. Some things should never be easy.

Today, instead of unraveling completely, I gave myself some time to process. Just to feel. On the ground in my closet. Then, I took a shower. A long one. Then, I made a promise to those I’ve worked with and myself that I will love abundantly, forgive constantly and appreciate the moments with those I missed all weekend. I will try my hardest. Because I’m here now. Today I owe the ones in front of me my focused yet imperfect, unconditional and overwhelming love. They get to have all of my Monday feels.

Full Moon

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There are thunderstorms. A lot of them happen right here in the midwest. We hear the sirens. Take cover. We anxiously or routinely wait it out. Feeling the thunder, winds and rain beat down.

There are winterstorms. We occasionally get a few of these in the midwest too. Crazy amounts of snow and ice dumped in a short amount of time. Everything quietly blanketed in bright white. Snow shoveling galore.

And then, there is a whole different kind of storm. It’s a kind that even the most accurate meterologist cannot predict. You can’t take cover. You have to work through it despite the damage it may cause.

These are the shitstorms.

They tend to happen most of the time at work. Especially if you work in the hospital setting. You can casually clock into work and have no clue what the next twelve hours will bring. You may have a feeling, but there are often no signs outside of the hospital to warn you of the impending doom. The heinous stressful atmosphere inside. Somedays, you would be willing to put your paycheck on the fact that it will be a full moon tonight. You walk outside at the end of your shift and look up. Case in point. Hello there, you big bright moon.

There’s no announcement. No watch. No warnings. No code. And no denying the full force of the shitstorm touching down inside of the walls of the place you don’t like today. Not at all. You actually decided you hate it. You hate it’s sole existence. It doesn’t matter how many brightly colored murals and amusing elevator animals decorate it’s many walls. It’s an easy place to hate on days like today. When you’re caught smack dab in the eye of a shitstorm. Stuck with some of the biggest hearted, most self-sacrificing people you know. And also some of the most vulnerable and dependent children and families. You wish you could protect them all. And if every work day was like today, you would just take cover and never come out. Ever. You would clock out for the last time. It really doesn’t make any kind of sense that you can love a place that you hate so much. And still come back. Over and over. Again. And again.

But you will come back tomorrow.

Today you’ve had many opportunities to master the art of compartmentalizing. Sadly, you’ve created several new compartments. You’re strangely equipped and fully capable of walking into one happy alive room then quickly switching gears as you close the door and walk the halls to slowly open the door to an eerily silent room. It’s what you have to do. Keep going. Don’t feel that feeling.

Especially that one feeling.

Chest throbbing emptiness smothered in disbelief and surreal sadness.

How could you not go home and immediately search for another job? Like tonight. Maybe stocking the shelves somewhere. Serving kids somewhere else. Some place where nobody cries. Some place where no one screams. Or bleeds. Or dies. A place where horrible accidents and non-accidents don’t happen. A place. Any place. Somewhere else.

You’re still close to happy-tear-crying grateful. Because you’re in good company. You’re constantly rescued by the familiarity and love for the people who you have briefly talked with today. Your coworkers. Held captive in the storm with you. You’ve gotten to make eye contact, subtle faces back and forth. Eyes that could say a million words. And express a hundred different emotions. In just one glance. It’s solidarity at it’s finest. Strength, love, comraderie and hope shoved down, yet not buried beneath the darkness. You will find it later. You have to. It’s still there. Always.

It can be hard to break past the debris, the damage, the misplaced, scattered, torn and the forever lost. The forever changed. The anger. The sadness. Disbelief. Disgust. Pain. The unexplainable.

You have the intermittent overthinking moments. Wresting with the overwhelming feeling of trying to lift the invisible gargantuan weight of another’s pain. And knowing that you can only do so much. Or so little. You can’t reveal that sometimes it’s too difficult to carry. Not here. Not yet. Switch gears again. Focus on stopping the heavy incessant thoughts of your own world outside of these walls.

There’s a constant struggle with hospital work. It’s internal. A good versus evil tug-of-war going on inside of your heart. And in your head. Throughout the days. And nights. A brain overfilled with thoughts. A heart bursting with emotions. Temporarily tied up. It’s bulging at the seams. When you drive home, you will began to untangle the knotted twine capturing the feelings that have not been felt yet. It often gets messier before you get the knots out. You know you should try to feel the feelings now. While you’re in control. Outside of the walls. While everyone sleeps.

You survived. Again. Most will not know tomorrow what you’ve endured these past two shifts. Because you will do what you’ve learned to do. Cope. Compartmentalize. Keep on keeping on. And hope for tomorrow. Then wake up to a new day with a post-shitstorm perspective. Grateful and readily available to engage in the life-filled moments with those you love the most. Because you’re resilient. You’re a survivor. And for today, the shitstorm is over.

That Old Loyal Bra

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I know it’s a little strange to think that an inanimate object, like a bra, has feelings but that doesn’t change my irrational thinking. I can’t help but feel sorry for replacing my old loyal bra. I really detest clothes shopping. I don’t like the process of trying things on that don’t fit. Repeatedly. And clothes are expensive. I get a little claustrophobic in the changing rooms. Especially when three little boys are with me, bumping into the door or curtain, mirror and walls. A few months ago, I had to abandon the ill-fitting bras at Kohl’s and get the heck out of there. My youngest boy gave me about a thirty second warning. He had to go to the bathroom. BAD. I knew that I could just keep wearing my old loyal bra.

I’ve been putting off or neglecting the task of shopping for a new bra for a while. Like several years. I’ve had this one loyal bra that was there for me a long time ago, before I got pregnant with twins. Eight years ago. It patiently hung out in my drawer as my breasts grew to gigantor twin pregnancy and post-pregnancy nursing sized breasts. Then, the nursing bras took the reins. I never knew my entire teenage and adulthood life the trials of running with bouncing breasts or the bother of strapping down milk jugs, for fear of the let-down. More accurately described as the milk sprinkler system. Holy cow. Look out below.

All the while, my temporarily forgotten sad loyal bra waited patiently in my drawer. It even got repeatedly shoved to the back by the bigger, fancier role players.

When you get done nursing several kids, sometimes you look down in the shower. What the heck happened? Gravity? Age? Nope. Kids. Straight up kids. There’s no denying the changes in your once small, yet full-of-life before pregnancy and nursing breasts. And with most potentially self-esteem lowering body issues, I try to find the positive. Love on myself. Especially my imperfections. I nursed three dependent scrawny babies into walking, talking boys. That’s pretty huge and amazing. And as you endure anything time consuming, sacrificing and hard in life, there are going to be scars on the inside and outside. Mother battle wounds. Tired nipples that literally have had the life sucked out of them.

There were so many challenging moments of trying to get preemie twin boys to latch on to my cantaloupes, maybe they were more like small watermelons. It was me crying, the boys crying, milk dripping or spraying everywhere. A luke-warm mess. Literally and emotionally. If not for numerous lactation consultants, my mother and sisters, and my uber encouraging and supportive husband, I would have never made it past the insanity to the beautiful gift of breastfeeding. The moments where my infant twin boys would hold hands. The moments where my third baby boy would look up at me and grab my mouth. Or my hand. All of the middle of the night moments where I could comfort and feed my children because my body did this crazy and amazing thing of making the exact nourishment my children needed. My broken and diseased body did something so perfectly and beautifully right. That’s a gift. Something to be proud of. No matter what.

I headed to the mall last week by myself. I took a detour from my search to buy some pants for my boys that would not get holes in the knees. That really was an impossible endeavor anyway. I bypassed the shoe section and rode the escalator up to the third floor of Nordstrom’s. The kids section. And the lingerie section. Honestly, I was a little hesitant when the kind, young bra fitting woman asked me if I needed to be fitted. I wish they had a designated tired mom employed there that had nursed a boatload of kids and would kindly share that with you when you got that insecure look. Time to be fitted. Strip down. Oh, man. Cue the diarrhea of the mouth. I think this exact moment was why I had tried on awful fitting bras in Kohl’s with my three boys. By myself. I know she recognized the hesitancy in my voice. “You can turn and face the wall, if you want,” she said. Okay. Less awkward than looking her in the eyes as she measured me. She left and came back with several really cute bras. Three of them fit. I put my loyal old school bra back on. Then, I felt a sense of conquering a beast and a sense of sadness for my bra that I don’t even know the size or brand of anymore because it’s so worn out.

Shhh. I do have to admit that I feel proud to wear my new bras. Accomplished. Impressed that I finally went shopping for something for myself. Even though, it’s not a new pair of shoes or anything visible that anybody except my husband sees. But, a part of me also feels a little sad to shove my old bra to the back of my drawer. Again. I know it’s absurd, but I’m not throwing that bra away. I just can’t. Who knows how long these new ones will last anyways? They just don’t make stuff like they used to. I may just need that old loyal bra again someday. You never know.

Golden Sevens

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It’s really a win-win situation. We buy Costco amounts of produce and we need help eating it. Also, I have stacks of papers I need to shred. If I know two guinea pigs desperately need some bedding or a comfy place to take a dump, surely that will motivate me to get organized. Lastly, and most importantly, my boys have been begging for hamsters. I can’t. Just too many traumatic hamster stories growing up. Like the time our babysitter tried to kill our hamster with a broom. She thought it was a mouse, despite our yelling that it was our pet. They also ate their babies. And constantly escaped into the bathtub, of all places.

So, guinea pigs it is for the seven-year old boys on their golden birthdays. Since we’re a little crazy. I promised them last summer in a weak moment. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. Especially not with a child. Or twin children. You will be reminded. Times two.

My twin boys are different in so many awesome and beautiful ways, but they also have similar characteristics and interests too. Maybe that has to do with their ages, their innocence, their creativity or their rapidly pounding hearts. They were born only a minute apart (maybe less)on the seventh day of the eleventh month of the year, 2008. I will never forgot the happy tear eruption that filled the operating room when we heard their itty bitty, yet loud cries. They came early. We were scared, nervous, and excited. They entered the world and it’s as if they were saying, “Hello, everybody, Mom, Dad. Since there’s a crowd, we thought we should do our best, in our tiny five- pound bodies, to let you know that we are here. We have arrived.” And our hearts swelled up and grew a million sizes bigger that morning. They continue to grow to this day. Overflowing with mad love for our seven-year old boys. Our lucky number sevens.

If I had the power to pause time, I could make a strong case for keeping them seven forever. I can tell you exactly why. Their thoughts literally leave me speechless at times. The things they say and genuinely feel dance freely out of their mouths. They don’t hold back. They will stop and point out the beautiful fall leaves or talk about a project they’re working on with this endless passion, persistence and tone of voice that you just can’t resist. “I love this day,” one of them said yesterday. They will spontaneously ask to hold my hand or say totally out of the blue while we’re driving, “I love you, Mom.” For no reason. Except I guess that the thought popped into their heads. So they said it. And it’s like a surprise delivery knocking on the door of my heart. Every single time. Because they’re old enough to know what it means and if they say it, you can believe it. It’s pure joy to both unexpectedly and knowingly receive their sentiments.

They’re fearless climbers. Both of them. You turn your head for a moment and they’ve shimmied up the door frames in our house or a tree or onto a wall or up a slide. “Hey Mom! Look fast!” They say in their proud voices. They’re multi-talented at trying and figuring things out, but they will still ask for help too. They aspire to be restaurant owners, police officers, road builders, drummers, musicians and they’ve told me they want to work at the hospital too. “Can I have five jobs, Mom?” They see no reason why they can’t hold all of these jobs at the same time. Their imaginations and creativity captivate, inspire and overwhelm me. I can’t help but feel so damn lucky and proud to be their mother.

They giggle and belly laugh every day at  words pronounced in a funny way or silly poop jokes. One of my favorite things is how they both get to laughing so hard that they can’t talk or breathe really well. It takes a moment for them to recover. And it’s awesome. They’re overly genuinely happy. And caring. And kind-hearted most of the time. They believe in things they can’t see. Like God’s strength and power. And love. They simplify and explain enormous concepts in a way that stops me in my tracks. To say that I love them seems like an understatement. Not quite enough.

We used to say at bedtime, “I love you.”
“No, I love you more.”
“I love you the most.”

Now, we compete to see who can say, “I love you the morst!”

We have a bedtime ritual of playfully arguing about who loves who more. I will love them to infinity and beyond. As far and wide as the ocean. To all of the stars and moon and back. And I tell them since my hands are bigger, then my heart is bigger. So, naturally, I have more room to love them the morst. And thats what I tell them. They usually outsmart me with some reason how their hearts can hold more love than mine. I don’t know if they will ever truly be able to fathom just how constant, unconditional, never ending, always growing and readily available my love for them is. Those two wrestling, giggling, crying, running, snuggling, loving boys unexpectedly made me a mother seven plus years ago. Their sole existence, dependence on me and unconditional love for me has shifted how I view and care for others. They’ve unintentionally adjusted my perspective and my priorities. They have stretched my heart to experience, feel and love in ways I could have never imagined. Thank God for my golden boys. My lucky number sevens.

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Fear Less

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The fears that I have for myself in this world do not begin to compare to the fears I carry for my children. The truth is I really don’t like fear. I typically don’t engage in fear-promoting activities like watching scary movies. Or jumping out of planes. Especially since I became a mother. I don’t like the unexpected. It’s uncertain. And nerve wracking. It makes me feel a little hopeless. Or maybe helpless. Fear grabs the wheel in my head and turns my thoughts in a direction I don’t like to go. I feel kind of trapped. And I just want out of the worry-filled, overthinking, false predicting, pseudo-powerful fearmobile.

I worry for my kids, as I imagine every parent does. Sometimes my worries come from a place of experience, like my own experiences as a kid. Things I did. Things I saw. Or things that happened to me. Sometimes my fears come from hearing other parent’s painful stories. Just today a friend told me how classmates would regularly put trash in her daughter’s lunch. In kindergarten. I know I can’t bubble wrap, stand guard or hover over my children. I’ve learned when they leave my home, there are great unknowns past the front door and down the hill. And so I do a little worrying from time to time. I worry about the power of their peers’ words to rattle their emotions and shake their self-confidence. And I think I worry for good reason. One of my boys didn’t want to wear the tail on his costume to school because he said, “I think kids will laugh at it.” This stopped me in my breakfast making tracks. And it kind of pissed me off. A lot.

Because I know. Because I’ve heard the stories. Because I’ve been there when a child couldn’t take the pain of being bullied anymore. I’ve talked to beautiful kids, life-filled kids of all ages who have confessed that they have no friends. And I’ve believed them. I’ve experienced the awkward pause, the silence when I ask kids questions about school and friends. I’ve heard the gut-punching answer slowly and sadly escape, “Nobody likes me” or “I don’t have any friends.” I worry when my own children come home and tell me playground stories of children being cruel. I worry about the other kids. The victims. And I worry about my own. The bystanders. “It’s too soon, they’re too young,” I think. I feel like we’ve been thrown in deep waters and my kids are still doggy paddling. Sometimes, I learn it’s the most “popular” children. Yuck. And this is first grade. This hurts my heart in a way that is hard to handle in a calm, level-headed rational way.

It’s hard to not get angry. It’s hard not to march through the doors of the school and demand better. To be honest, I know my children have witnessed unkind behavior outside of the school walls, even from me before. I know I’m far from, dare I even type the word, perfect. Parenting is hard. Really. Really. Hard. And demanding. And life-sucking at times. But I know if our children are not learning how to treat one another with respect, kindness, love and forgiveness at home, will they even recognize or embrace these lessons elsewhere? Or will they bounce right off of their fake tough skin? Coloring a worksheet is not going to change hearts, attitudes or minds. I know if I’m not teaching my children to accept and appreciate diversity at home, the school counselor’s lesson may fall on plugged ears.

Somehow, I keep having to help my children understand really difficult lessons. After school. Lessons learned from kids acting in cruel and intentionally unkind ways. Honestly, like little punks. And unfortunately, I’m not blindfolded to the misbehaved and unkind adults that exist in this world too. I’m well aware of the deep cutting power of nasty looks or hurtful words. The excluding attitudes. Fake nice grown-ups. Or just plain mean ones. So naturally I think about kids’ home lives. I understand that kids may be the recipients of mean words and unloving treatment. They may be under appreciated, unheard and disrespected in the place where these lessons matter the most.

One of the most intentional reasons I drive my kids to parks and playgrounds all over town is because I hope that my kids will to learn to play, include and get along with kids everywhere. Not just on our street. In our neighborhood. Or at our church. A few months ago, one of my boys got called a “butthead” by another kid at one our favorite playgrounds. My son ran over to me visibly upset and told me what happened. He asked this boy if he could move from blocking the slide so he could go down. The boy didn’t want to move, I assume, so he called my son a “butthead.” And stayed right where he was. The boy probably got the reaction he hoped for, since my son came over to me in tears, asking me through labored crying breaths if I was going to go talk to his mom. I didn’t see this boy’s mom or dad around and I didn’t plan on addressing this name-calling episode with a complete stranger. I told my son maybe he could play in a different area. (Later, when that kid was throwing rocks at my kids and other kids, I did address him in a calm yet firm tone.)

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When we got home from the park, I thought of something I could show my boys to explain what happened using nature, specifically a fish’s defense mechanism. We talked about how the boy didn’t want to move from the slide, so he puffed up. Like a pufferfish. I showed them a video of a pufferfish getting agitated then blowing up. I explained that some kids and adults don’t like being asked to do something they don’t want to do, so they get mad. They puff up. Call people names. Push. Shove. Try and make themselves look bigger. My boys wanted to watch the video of the pufferfish blowing up over and over again. Thanks, YouTube. So, now I can say,”remember the pufferfish?” It helps to know that sometimes you just have to leave some kids and people alone. They’re gonna puff up. No matter what.

The truth is a lot of times I hope and try to help my kids understand why things happen or why people may act a certain way. But I’m at a loss for words sometimes especially when it comes to people’s behavior. It seems to me like we’re all on the same team. Team Human Beings. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to accept and appreciate the many different roles we all play. We’re all working towards some pretty complicated goals like the feelings of belonging, acceptance, and being unconditionally loved. These come easier for some than others. I realize that I can be an example of acceptance, love, strength, and hope for my kids in the walls of our home, our van, and any other place they are with me. They’re watching me. Listening to me. Learning from me. Especially at the most unlikely times, when I may not even recognize it. Until a later time when they bring up that something they saw or heard me say. Or do. It’s quite unnerving to physically feel the loss of control that accompanies your children growing up and experiencing both the beauty, the good, the ugly and painful of this world. Without you there carrying them or walking by their sides. Shielding them, when possible from some of the pain their little hearts aren’t prepared for. Not yet. But will they ever be?

When I’m up late thinking about how much it hurts to know that my son sat crying at his desk because of false accusations of kids in his class, I have these slow sad, yet motivated and passionate tears that urge me to do something. For my son. And for other children not equipped to handle tough peer situations. What can I teach my son from this, besides the fact that sometimes kids and people will be mean and cruel? I can build my son back up. Speak truth into his tiny ears. I can try to explain kids’ behavior. I can teach him how to be the one that encourages others, looks out for others. And I can continue to teach him empathy. It’s hard because what I really want is for this not to happen. Ever. But especially not in first grade. And I want to have a conversation with a parent or bring that kid to my house and teach him how to love, respect and care for others. Repeatedly. Until he gets it.

I dropped my son off at school today and I watched him walk up the steps inside as sat in my van. He waved at me. I couldn’t see the hallways that lie ahead. I couldn’t be there to build him up if someone’s words broke him down. That’s really hard. But I have to make a choice. We won’t let the unkind, cruel people win. I know that I have to keep teaching my children about who they are and about the phenomenal gifts that they possess, despite what any child may say or do to shake their confidence. I believe that it is our job to invest in our children’s emotional intelligence. We have to be conscious and go out of our way to be kind, loving, accepting, forgiving and compassionate towards one another. Little eyes are always watching. Learning and growing. It’s our responsibility to provide the curriculum of our kid’s home lives.

In our house, we will not let unkindness alter us and we won’t let fear win.  Or people who puff up. They will not get to determine or influence our thoughts, actions or the decisions we make in regards to what’s best for our children and their future. Our end goal in raising our kids is to put more grown-up human beings out into the world that love on, care for and help others. Because this world is good, beautiful even but it’s also hard and complicated. And we need each other. We all need the high fives, the hugs, and the encouraging chants. We need to recognize that we’re all wearing the same colors on the inside.

Sixty Five Year Old Watch

The first time I met you, you sat there a little frustrated trying to get the doors open. They wouldn’t work. You asked my son if he would open the door for you. And then you gently asked me if I would push your wheelchair outside to the curb. I asked where you were going. To pick up your watch, you said. Then, you told me all about your watch. How the battery finally died after sixty-five years. They had to find a part for it in Europe. You bought it as a college graduation present from the bookstore at Georgetown University. I was impressed with both your ability to keep a watch for sixty-five years and the watch’s ability to keep working. My four-year old anxiously waited for me as I listened to you tell me a few more stories. You told me about watching Joe DiMaggio play baseball. How you and your wealthy friend chose to sit out in the outfield just to be near Joe. Then, your ride pulled up to the curb. You looked up at me and said, “thanks for talking with me.” And I could have cried because I felt the sincerity and appreciation in your voice. I also felt the loneliness. I could tell that you have a lot of pent-up stories. Really great stories. Waiting to be told. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I wanted to buy you a Royals shirt. And visit with you again next time I came to see my grandma.

Yesterday, as I walked up with my three boys dressed in their Halloween costumes, I recognized you. You sat there in your wheelchair, again, waiting at the curb for your ride. I remembered and looked down at your wrist. You were wearing your Georgetown University watch. How could a sixty-five year old watch still look so good? I reached down. You touched my hand. And I felt the loneliness again. You took your watch off for me to hold. I admired it as my three boys bounced around in their costumes. I handed it back to you and touched your hands again. On purpose. You were going out for Italian food. You asked me if I knew you were Italian. Nope, I said. I told you that I liked Italian food too. You told me your favorite pasta to order. I needed to get my busy boys inside to go see their great Grandma. Your ride pulled up. Perfect timing. You told me I should come have a drink with you guys sometime. I said that sounded good. I should probably let my husband know.

I hope if I live long enough to need help getting out to the curb in my wheelchair or need someone to talk to that somebody will be there. And stop. And listen. And touch my hand. I began overthinking and feeling so spoiled by all of the touch I receive. On a daily basis. From my three little dependents. One four-year old boy constantly wanting to be held. Bear hugging me. Climbing on me. Grabbing my hair, my face, everything. And two nearly seven-year old boys who will ask regularly to sit next to me or will reach up and say, “Mommy, could you hold my hand?” I got to thinking that I have enough touch that I could probably share some of it. Or at the very least, try to cherish and appreciate this fleeting over-touching phase of motherhood. I have felt the enormous power in gentle, loving, and meaningful touch. I feel it every time I hug my grandma before I leave. I see it as my grandma and other residents reach out to touch my boys’ hair or hands. It’s hard to imagine a day where I won’t reach down a hundred times and touch my sons’ hair or hands or where they won’t climb on my lap or jump onto my back. Over and over again. The reality is that it’s a short stage in my life and theirs comparitively speaking. And as hard as it may be on some long and exhausting days, I’m going to try harder to appreciate and remember the feeling of a full lap, a held hand, and the abundance of touch in this phase of my life. I was reminded of the gift as I placed a sixty five year old watch on a new friend’s wrist.

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The Blood Drive

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There was a time last September when the cold lake water combined with my junked up lungs proved to be a near deadly combination. My three year old son wore a life jacket in the water, holding onto me. In hindsight, I realize I should have worn a life jacket too that day. As we waited in the water and the boat circled around, I began having an increasingly more difficult time treading water. And breathing got so hard. I felt like all of the air was gone every time I desperately tried to suck some of it in. It was a horribly scary feeling. Suffocating somehow yet out in the middle of a lake. I knew I could not go under water. For fear of not coming back up. In a short amount of time, I began feeling desperate. My three year old knew I was scared. I started pushing him off of me. I could not take the added weight of him holding onto me. Onto my lungs. My oldest sister, Anna, watched nervously from the boat. She knew my capabilities, my strength, and my ability to persevere. But she saw me struggling. She knew the kind of mother I am. She knew I would never push my child away from me. Unless I had to.

It’s a painful moment to remember and write about. I can still see his face. And feel him desperately grabbing for me and crying in the freezing September water. Scared. Cold. Sensing my fear. My older sister’s instinct kicked in, as it has so many times before. She jumped from the boat and swam out to me. She’s strong. Fierce. A protector. A mother to her own five children. And she also mothers the world. And that day, she mothered me and my son. I will never know for sure, but she may have saved my life.

Anna quickly swam out to my son and I. She took my son which helped me focus on getting to the boat that pulled up along side of us. I swam, rather doggy paddled to the boat. I held on to the side and did not, would not let go. I vividly remember stretching both arms towards the boat. Holding onto it. So relieved, breathing the hardest and best I could, yet I just could not catch my breath. I felt like I had never been so exhausted. And scared for my life. In my life.

Fast forward to today. I anxiously sat across from a community blood drive employee and pleaded with him to let me give blood. My lungs are doing great or else I wouldn’t be here attempting to give blood, I told him. They’re not flared up. I’m not having to do treatments. He called his supervisor. He has never met someone with “bronchiectasis.” My four year old son sat on my lap. The same son who was in the water with me that day. I wanted him to witness me being strong, healthy and humbly giving blood that may help save somebody’s life. Like the blood that somebody gave years ago that helped save my life when I was dying as an eighteen year old. I knew the employee was going to say I couldn’t give blood. And he did. It hurt. I carried my son as we walked to the car.

When you want so badly to do something and you can’t, that hurts. When you have a reason, a really meaningful reason why you want to do something, but you can’t because of a disease you have, it’s really difficult to accept. I will anxiously wait to hear back from New York to learn if I ever will be able to give blood. If you can give blood, even if you don’t want to, would you consider doing it for me? Or more importantly, would you do it for all the kids and adults who are too sick to ask you to give blood for them? Because you can. Because you won’t be denied. Because you’re healthy enough. Because you possess an abundance of life pumping through your beating heart, healthy lungs and body. Somebody else just needs a little. And like I tell kids every weekend when we do a blood draw, “the awesome and cool thing about your body is that it will make more blood.” Please donate.❤️

Invisible Burdens

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I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell you this the other night. I couldn’t be responsible for your feelings. Not that night. I sat at the kitchen table in the dark. Paralysed. Consumed. Affected. Hurting. Decompressing after a horribly long and painful day at work. You wanted to help me. I knew I was hungry. And that I needed to eat something. I just didn’t know what. I felt like I was going to throw up. Or was my stomach in knots. I was just so sad. Eating seemed like such a trivial thing to do. I was short. I was rude. I was broken. And you stood there as long as you could. I’m sorry again.

I didn’t know what I needed from you. I didn’t want to expose you to the painful reality of life. Inside of those hospital walls. I wanted to protect you but I needed to tell you. I needed to say the words. I needed to cry. Hard. I needed to feel like you would hold me. I needed you to say that as much as I hurt, I helped in some small way today. I needed you to say that as hard as my job is sometimes, I have to keep on doing it. Because of how much it hurts. Because of how much I care. Because of how much I love people that I just met. I needed you to tell me that you love me. That you love my broken heart. I needed you to say, “I’m so sorry. So very sorry for what you saw. What you heard. What you had to do.” Even if you couldn’t begin to know how awful it was. Because I didn’t want you to know.

I’m sorry that you often witness me carrying the heavy, seemingly invisible burdens of a helping profession. The burdens that you know are not invisible. You witness my dark eyes stained with the mascara that has run all over the place. And also somehow lingered underneath my eyes. You witness me struggling, hurting, and questioning. I’m sorry that you get ignored or mistreated sometimes because I just can’t help one more person. And so you temporarily get the short end of the stick. Until I have cried. Until I have tried to make sense of it. Until I have come to peace with my small role.

Thank you for loving me through the hard stuff. Thank you for not wanting me to quit. Thank you for holding my shaking body. Thank you for waiting up for me. Even though it may have seemed pointless. Thank you for encouraging me. Even when I seemed distant. Thank you for the burdens that you gracefully carry as a result of the work that I do. I couldn’t do it without your support. Without you stepping up when I don’t know how to ask for help. I couldn’t do it without your strength. Thank you for helping me and always building me back up. So that I can help others. Others that you will never meet.