But I’m A Nurse Not A Teacher

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I have had to eat crow many times in my life.  Some much bigger and harder to swallow than others. I once said I could handle anything as long as I didn’t have a child with autism. That was before I had a child with autism. In my ignorance, I thought all kids with autism wouldn’t let you touch them or hold them and couldn’t communicate. My son is articulate and loving and though he doesn’t want others to hug him, gives the best bear hugs in the world. For the record, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I also said I would never jump on the gluten free bandwagon because nursing school (10 years ago) clearly stated only those with celiac should exclude gluten from their diet. 3 out of the 4 in our household can’t tolerate gluten. I’m the mom I made fun of when bringing my gluten free cupcake to the birthday party so my son can participate. Eating crow is better than a sick kid.

I made strong statements about wearing leggings as pants. They are not, and should never be worn as pants!  But then I met Lularoe (I do not sell it and no I do not want to host a party). These leggings are made by angels and fairy dust and have made me rethink my whole life. How have I lived without this silky, soft goodness for 35 years? No worries, I still cover my robust backside and my rotund hips but if wearing a long shirt/sweater with these magical garments are wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

The last thing I said NUMEROUS times in my life was this: “Why do people homeschool? Why do people think they can do the job of someone who went to school at least 4 years to master? I’m a nurse. You don’t come to the hospital and play nurse and I won’t play Teacher.” This is my second year homeschooling my 2nd grader full time.

Homeschooling has been a life changer in so many ways. I have learned more about my son and how his beautiful brain works than I would have ever been able to do otherwise. HE teaches me daily. He shows me the world through a different lens and it opens up beautiful conversations and experiences for both of us. He has taught me how he learns. As I conform to his way of thinking, his mind is able to soar. He literally amazes me everyday. As I’m reading to him, he’s running in circles, he’s rolling back and forth on the floor, he’s picking up anything he can to look at, squeeze, toss in the air. He interrupts me for seemingly nonsense like, “Can we have bacon for breakfast tomorrow?”. He looks out the window while jumping up and down. At the end of the book (a few hundred page chapter book) I ask him cumulative questions for comprehension. He knows EVERY SINGLE ONE. Some of them, I have to look up to see if he’s right. Fine details that I completely looked over, he can recall in vivid detail. The first time this happened, I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said, “I thought you weren’t listening!” He looked at my like I was so silly and said, “Of course I’m listening! But I have to move a lot or my brain doesn’t work.”

I will never say homeschooling is easy. But my son has excelled in every area as a result. Not because I’m a good teacher, but because I allow his brain to function the way it was created. I want to empower him, for him to feel safe to be himself, and to foster a love of learning. If spinning, running, and jumping off of anything in sight is part of that process, so be it.  I love the flexibility and the times we can stop when I see his brain is saturated for the day. Or when we can go off on tangents by looking up every video and article imaginable on astronauts.  This is something I fell into by necessity, but I am falling deeper and deeper in love with the experience. Some days end in tears, sometimes from both of us. But I will never regret this decision.

However, there’s this one lingering pit in my stomach that I can’t seem to shake.  I AM A NURSE. I am a GOOD nurse with a passion for the mentally ill. I spent 10 years doing something I loved and filled a part of my soul that was otherwise empty. I went to school for 5 years with one goal in mind. When I got to write ‘RN’ behind my name for the first time was one of the proudest moments in my life. That may sound silly, but I believe I was put on this earth to work with psychiatric patients. My family always says it’s because I understand them because, “you are them.” (insert eye roll but also #truth) I love being able to show love to a population that is shunned. A population that is so deeply misunderstood yet is in need of empathy and understanding just like the rest of us.  It doesn’t matter that they will throw every bodily fluid on you (including breast milk…shout out to Green Oaks-Adult 2), call you every name imaginable and then some you’ve never heard of. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen more naked people quoting scripture than I care to remember. I still don’t know what makes psychotic people want to be hypersexual, hyperreligious, or violent. Either way, naked people quoting scripture while throwing a chair at your face need love too. I’ve always been up for the challenge.

Homeschooling, along with our circumstances surrounding our inability to have someone else regularly watch our oldest, prevents me from working at all. I can’t do what I love, what I worked so hard to do. I feel slighted. Like a limb has been cut off but I am supposed to carry on, business as usual. So here I am. Devastated at the career I have lost but positive that God wants me to teach my child at home. How does that make sense??

I am doing a bible study called ‘Captivating’ and I read something today that left me in tears. It talks about a women that had a great education and career with hopes and desires to continue. But then she decided to give up her own life to bring life to her son.  This required more of her heart and soul than she ever thought possible. This is the kicker; “God called (her) to the high position of mothering, and she is choosing to die a thousand small deaths to her self every single day while at the same time falling ever more in love with her son.” And you know what? God is meeting her there. God is meeting me there. He is stretching me and molding me and making me realize that that emptiness can be filled by taking on an irreplaceable role to my son. G.K. Chesterston wrote, “How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children the Rule of Three’s, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone but narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it’s gigantic, not because it’s minute.”

So I am trying to rest in the knowledge that seasons change and there is a time for everything. I hope that one day I can return to my first love of nursing. But right now, I have the privilege to help my son grow in the best environment I can provide. To watch his eyes light up with excitement and wonder. To watch a brilliant mind be able to function on different, but beautiful terms. Both jobs I will never regret. But one thing I have learned is that broad, uneducated statements should not be made without research and realizing that each situation is different. Cause, I mean, those leggings ya’ll….

Eucharisteo

I love that word. It comes from the gospel of Luke when it talks about Jesus breaking bread and giving thanks. The original word for “giving thanks” was eucharisteo. I read an entire book on this called ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp. I would say it is one of my favorite books but it got a little weird for me there at the end. But up until Ann went off the deep end, the book was literally life changing. Basically she surmises, and I agree, that eucharisteo is the secret to life.  A life we were meant to live. Let me explain…

I wish I had a cool hidden talent or a party trick that I could tell you about but I do have a gift. I see beauty everywhere. I guess that’s better than the little boy in the Sixth Sense… I can honestly say, I have never had an ugly friend. My husband vehemently disagrees. I can’t possibly see you as my friend and not see your beauty. I don’t see beauty as the world defines it. But I see a giver, or an encourager, a listener, a welcoming heart, an accepting spirit. These things make you beautiful. You see, we are all drawn to beauty. Every single one of us.  It may be art, nature, a beautiful home, a woman. We strive to make ourselves beautiful. We worry that our beauty is fading and we always feel that it is right out of our reach. But what if our search for beauty is actually a gift. A taste of what God has to offer when our time on earth is finished. Eucharisteo changes everything. The word is used 39 times in the new testament. Our command, not polite suggestion, is to give thanks.

Eucharisteo is like a filter. A gift from God as we pass through this world. So many times we look at the negative, and there is plenty to choose from. But His gifts are everywhere, like treasure just waiting to be seen. This world is not the way God intended. But that is not to say there isn’t wonderful, beautiful, perfection all around us. In the book, Ann writes 1000 gifts, things she is thankful for in a journal. Sounds daunting. I mean, this is exactly what happens at Thanksgiving when you go around the table and say what you’re thankful for. Ummmm family, food, shelter, lycra in my pants so they stretch, and I can eat all this food….But I quickly learned there is so much more, right in front of you.

A funny thing happens when you decide to look for things to be thankful for. The more you look, the more you find, and the easier you see why this command is one that changes your life. We rush through life and forget to look at…well, life. It’s being thankful for the smell of a baby. It’s my son’s belly laugh that comes from his toes, his whole body shows joy. The colors changing in the fall. The way that the most beautiful colors in nature can’t be replicated. The vibrant reds with hints of gold in the trees. The blues and greens and purples in the coral reefs. God’s artwork is everywhere and we walk right by it. The sunlight on hardwood floors in the early morning. The precious curls that perfectly frame his face, the face that is almost identical to his daddy. A first kiss, a long embrace, the way he looks at me. The first pretzel from a fresh bag. I don’t know why but there is something about that first one. Don’t judge, this is my blog.

The point is that being thankful is a continuous mission. God gives us so many gifts and we don’t even stop to notice.  The best part is that as you begin to see them, look for them, the world becomes different. The filter is in place. Even during wars, famines, divorce, lost love ones, violence, depression, and all the anguish that comes with this fallen world, His gifts are abundant.

I think the story that made me really understand this concept is when Jesus is traveling and comes across 10 men with leprosy. Of course He healed them, cause He’s Jesus and all. But out of the 10, only one “threw himself at His feet and thanked Him”. Jesus asked, (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) Dude? Weren’t there 10 of you?? Where are the others? “Rise and go, your faith has healed you”. Here’s the thing. They were already healed. All of them. So why did he tell the ONE that came back to thank Him that he was healed. It’s because he knew the secret to eucharisteo. He was healed from a life filled with worry and dread and hopelessness. He was healed from relying on others for his joy. The leper that came back knew the blessings that follow giving thanks. “In EVERYTHING, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  Everything. This is the secret to an abundant life. One filled with a glimpse of what is to come.

I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful lady a few years ago. Her laugh was contagious. She found joy in the mundane and had a heart for others that was probably the most evident of her gifts.  She never met a stranger and was the first to offer encouragement, support, or a laugh when needed. This story doesn’t end well. It happened so fast and my head is still trying to understand. Cancer is ugly and tries to take everything you have; your strength, your hope, your health, your will, your joy, and even your beauty is affected by this disease. But from the moment of diagnosis, to the time she drew her last breath, her joy never wavered. When her pain was unbearable and she could barely breath, she would ask to be taken out to the porch to enjoy the fresh air. As she physically deteriorated, her spirit stayed strong. She knew the secret of eucharisteo. To give thanks in everything. To see the light in the midst of the darkest days.  That is a life I want to live. To find joy and hope and peace in the midst of the chaos. So I will continue my journey to see the gifts, the beauty, the treasure. In EVERYTHING give thanks.

Going Home

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In a few days, I’m going home.  Just typing those words evoke more nostalgia than my Teddy Ruxpin bear, cabbage patch kids, sleepovers, first car, subsequent first wreck (Louisiana used to give you a license at 15, what in the all out….), first boyfriend, prom, graduation, all combined. Especially since I lived in the same house since I was in 7th grade.  Almost nothing is the same, yet for some reason I get all misty eyed the more things change. My high school has been renovated to accommodate double the students, yet it seems much smaller than I remember. The bank I worked at right after I graduated was bought out years ago. The roads that were once surrounded by trees and the occasional gas station is now miles of stores and restaurants with bumper to bumper traffic. Highways are widened, shopping malls are changed to churches, and areas I drove hundreds of times look foreign and unfamiliar. The entire city feels like a scrapbook where everyone can see the backdrop, but I am the only one that can see the pictures. The parking lot I learned to drive a stick shift, the house my best friend used to live in, the pier I used to go to with my friends when I skipped school. Even my childhood home seems to stand as a caricature of what it once was.

When you’re little you dream of growing up (whatever that means), going to college, becoming that thing/person  you always said you would be one day, getting married, having a kid or three (more than that is just ludicrous), and maybe even a dog. Never a cat because nobody has time for that. But then life happens.  The real life, not the one you assumed you would have, but the one God said you needed. I once dreamed of Sunday dinners at my parents house with the kids playing in the garage with all of Papa’s toys, riding four wheelers until the Louisiana state birds (mosquitos) nearly took us away. My big, goofy brother would be there too, with his wife and kids who obviously grew up with mine and were the best of friends.  The crawfish boils would be plentiful except for my mom, she always gets shrimp.  I don’t know when I realized my white-picket-fence fantasy was not going to happen. Or maybe it did…Just drastically different than what I expected.

I never expected to meet a handsome soldier at a bar with my fake ID. My momma said you’d never meet the person you’re going to marry in a bar. In general, she’s right, but I’m so glad she was wrong this time.  We tried telling people we met at church camp but then realized since he’s so much older, he would have had to be my counselor, and, well…that’s creepy.  I never knew someone could make me fall in love with him from, “What’s your name?” Our story hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s my favorite and I wouldn’t change it for the world. He whisked me away to far away places (not even cool ones) even though it never occurred to me I would not live in the same town my whole life.  We have been together 16 years and, as I type this, I live over 1,000 miles away. I told him when we got married that I would follow him anywhere, and I still mean it. Love does crazy things to your plans.

I never took into account that babies would be a struggle to bring into this world, or that the loss would still hurt 10 years later. I also saw motherhood much less of a hot mess and more Donna Reed, except with yoga pants and a messy bun, of course. I would cook amazing dinners and be the best wife ever (I don’t know what that even means), and we would spend evenings doing crafts or having family game nights. While we do those things, occasionally, they usually don’t end well, especially the dinners. And with a son that has autism and about 5 foods he’ll eat…Well I’m glad I met hubs after he had already spent years on his own, therefore he can fend for himself.  And as for those crafts, at the moment my two boys are running through the house in their underwear in what looks like an attempt to kill each other. I’m hoping they’re just playing, but the last thing I would do right now is hand them some scissors. I learned my lesson with glitter a long time ago.

I never expected my parents to get a divorce after almost 40 years of marriage. I told them they should have just done it when I was in 4th grade like my friend’s parents did. No family get togethers will ever be quite the same. I’m still settling in to my new normal.

Even the event I am going home for is quite different than what I imagined. A family member is getting married and the drama is in full force.  The bride will be beautiful, the wedding will be perfect, but someone’s feeling will inevitably get hurt.

My husband doesn’t like it when I call the city I grew up in, “home”. He likes to remind me that I’m married now and my home is with him, my rambunctious boys, and our 2 aging, incontinent weinie dogs…bless their little hearts. But if they pee on my rug one more time….

My life is good. I have all the material things I could want, a wonderful man and the cutest boys I know (notice I didn’t say most well behaved). I am blessed enough to have been a nurse for the last 10 years and even more blessed that I get to stay home with my boys during their challenges we never saw coming.  I live by the ocean in the cutest farmhouse ever.  The snakes can suck it but I have yet to see a mouse.  I have met some of the nicest people in the last 8 months that I can see being lifelong friends. But I won’t make too many plans for the future.  I think the saying goes that we make plans, and God laughs.  So as I go to pack in anticipation of seeing family and celebrating a marriage, I’m even excited I get to stay in my childhood house. But my heart is here. It’s uncertain at times and it’s always crazy but it’s mine. And if all else fails, at least I have cute kids…and I don’t own a cat.