My Atypical Son

IMG_7619Social media is fake. I truly hope this is not an epiphany for any of you.  I don’t think we intend for it to be that way, but let’s be honest. I try to only post pictures that I have one chin. You won’t see pics of my ample backside or on the days my adult acne can rival that of a 15 year old. I try to be real and transparent, but I’m still human.  We only put out there what we choose for the world to see. I’m all for it!! I don’t want to read about your husband’s affair or your daughter’s jailed boyfriend (as entertaining as a front row seat to the drama may be). But this altered reality can also skew how we see life.

I tend to think everyone has it together, except of course, me. Everyone makes their children super nutritious, organic meals and they never yell. Parents spend hours with their children playing minecraft or playing legos and never complain. Faces and marriages and childrens’ behaviors are always perfect. My feelings of inadequacy, especially as a parent, can hang on me like a hair in a biscuit. It’s a thing…have you ever seen a hair cooked into a biscuit??

Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like surely everyone else has this parenting thing in the bag and I am left paying for the therapy bills for the kids I have screwed up. In these situations, what you really need is someone to say, “I see you. I’ve been there. I know what you’re going through.” You need someone to say, “Me too.”

This is how I feel as I am watching the new Netflix series Atypical.  Let’s start with a disclaimer. My son is not exactly like Sam, from the show. But both having ASD, they are more similar than not. People with ASD usually have a particular fascination with something. Sam’s is arctic penguins or something like that. It’s hard to hear the whole dialogue through my sobs. My little has a slightly cooler fascination which is music. He is completely obsessed. It’s like his body has to play an instrument or he will simply die. I’m known to be dramatic but this is legit. As I watch Sam navigate the dating world with all of the misguided (at best) and profoundly ridiculous (at worst) advice that he receives from his peers, I vow to never stop homeschooling him for the duration of exactly forever. As I watch the heartache and ridicule he goes through, my shoulders heave and the ugly cry is unstoppable. As if my poor child has not already endured enough.

I know my little is only 8. But I have literally prayed for his wife since he was in the womb. I prayed that she would love him and accept him for who he is and appreciate his talents. That was before I knew he had autism and before I even knew what his talents were. Before I knew that he had the most precious curly hair or that his entire face lights up when he is laughs. Before I knew that his brain worked differently and his talents would far exceed my own.

I have heard it said that I can’t shield him from the world forever. Hear me when I say that is and never will be my intention. But I would like him to go into the world on the same playing field. With the same skills and coping mechanisms that others are equipped with. That only seems fair.

My sadness with ASD lies here…Will he ever be on the same playing field?

I think the mother on the show was written after my life. Well, take out the adultery thing but let’s not split hairs. She has arranged her entire life to make her son’s life as normal as possible. Always trying to prevent that next meltdown or heartache or disappointment. She becomes neurotic and slightly crazy.  Most importantly, she has lost herself. She is an autism mom. She has thrown her life into that role and all others fall below. I would be willing to bet this is the story for most moms (or dads) of kids with special needs.

We all want our children to succeed. We all want to send them into this world with all the tools they need to be productive little humans that aren’t a drain on society. I want to raise my children to be leaders, to love others above themselves, and most importantly, to put God first in all they do. Some days I wonder if I’m even making a dent.

Is it fair to pray for his wife when I am unsure that his anxiety will ever allow him to live alone, or drive a car, or (for the love of humanity and all things good) to even sleep in his own bed?  It’s daunting, if I’m being honest.

But let me tell you about the flip side to that coin. My little fuzzy headed, perfect boy has taught me the importance of celebrating victories, no matter how small. He has taught me the importance of unconditional love. I know the importance of not worrying about tomorrow, although I continue to struggle. I know that God has a plan. His kisses and hugs and snuggles are even more precious because I don’t get them often.  He has taught me that I am strong. I can endure far more than I thought I could. He has taught me that my struggles seem minuscule in comparison to his own. And he has taught me to never put a limit on progress.

I may never be able to tell my son that I understand how he sees the world. I may never be able to give him that, “me too”. But I can promise him that I will be beside him through it all.

 

Our Wild Ride

The most well thought out plans are still basically water in a bucket with a hole in the bottom.   Sometimes the hole is big, sometimes small but inevitably parts of the plan starts to slip through. You may be able to patch the hole and continue on. Sometimes you’ve lost so much of the original plan, you can hardly recognize it. I ramble to say this;  We plan and God laughs. 

As I write this, I’m on my way back from a road trip with 2 rambunctious (read:crazy) kids and a husband that recently ditched his colon (read: we have to stop every 1.4 miles for a bathroom). At some point we thought it was a brilliant idea to travel 11 states in 10 days to see every family member we have ever had in one fell swoop.  And no I’m not driving and blogging.  

I always get teary eyed when I go “home”. I wrote about that here: http://wp.me/p7rGXX-8B

As I was visiting family in Louisiana, I got word that a dear family friend passed away unexpectedly. She was one of those women that I want to be when I grow up. You can’t NOT be drawn to her and her infectious smile and her love for others, her family, her God. I find myself wondering how this could happen. WHY this happens.  I can only take peace from the fact that we are not the ones in control. 

Now on to the picture…. We passed it on the way to the wake. She’s a beaut isn’t she? A real classy place. A place where dreams come true. The place I met my husband almost 17 years ago. Only one of those previous statements is true. It’s not called the same thing, it’s slightly run down (I wish I could say it was drastically run down but….), and it’s much more disgusting in the daytime, but otherwise, not much has changed.  I don’t think this is how little girls dreams play out. Nonetheless, it’s where my love story starts, I’ll wait for the judgement and laughter to subside.  (Along with my embarrassment.) 

I took my kids to the house on the lake that I lived in as a child. I told the stories of how I broke my arm, learned how to ride a bike, swam in a swampy, snake infested lake right where we stood. I kept thinking, I never imagined I would bring my own kids back to this very spot.  I started thinking what my life would have been like had I never moved from that tiny town. 

We laughed at old, family stories. Some I’d heard a hundred times but were still just as funny. We visited my father in laws grave, with my curious children in tow. I asked my husband how he felt having his family visit his dad, in the only way available this side of heaven. Needless to say, by the time we got to Dallas, I was a wreck. We were a couple of miles from our first house we bought together when he got out of the Army. It was supposed to be our forever home. The one we brought the boys home from the hospital. It’s also where I planned every detail of my future out. 

So there we were, at Uncle Julio’s to get our fix of good Mexican food because Virginia is amazing but has the worst Mexican food on the face of the planet. (Seriously, stick with seafood if you visit.) But it felt so familiar…well it was familiar. I missed my friends, being close to my family, I missed Texas.  The tears fell. Yes, at the restaurant. 

So Virginia is unmistakably where God has led us.  I never would have guessed that a country girl would marry an Army man and live in Dallas. I never knew I would follow said man to the ends of the earth. I never imagined I would struggle with pregnancy loss, or have a child with autism,  and I would have PROMISED you I wouldn’t be one of those Moms that homeschool. I definitely never thought I would live, and be happy, in Virginia. Not because it’s not perfect, but because it was never in my plan. When I get a glimpse of the big world outside my tiny plans, I get excited and feel like I’m going to throw up all at the same time. I get asked often if we are in Virginia to stay. I could definitely live there and be happy. But my plans tend to sway towards being a bucket with the big hole in the bottom. So for now, I’ll try to push the nostalgia aside, and enjoy the ride. My super classy Wild Ride…

What Not to Say to a Parent of a Child With Autism.

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I was always the girl who didn’t care what people thought of me. I liked being different. I liked not following the crowd. Then I became a mother. I have never felt so judged or scrutinized for all the things by all the people, in all the places.  I too had many lengthy talks with my husband about how we were going to raise our children. We had seven years as a married couple before God blessed us with our oldest. Seven years is a long time to discuss parenting conundrums and use others’ bad booty kids as examples of how we would not parent.  Ok fine, it was mostly me. Husband loved these conversations as much as he loves root canals but my persistence for late night talks usually result in an apprehensive listener. I am the queen of these ridiculous conversations. They may start off like, “If our daughter comes home 15 minutes after curfew, what would you do?” Remember we were still childless at this time. I may even throw in a, “If I was addicted to cocaine for 10 years and my dad was in the Mexican Mafia, would you still have married me?” Ahhhhh poor husband….

I love to plan. It’s my way of feeling like I have some type of control. And I loved to think of any and all scenarios they may or may not arise as parents to see if we were on the same page. You never know when your  teenage son’s head may or may not get stuck in the bars of the window when attempting to sneak out. I mean we would need to be a united force with a punishment. I think the saying goes, “We plan, and God laughs.” This could not be more true than when I became a mother.  Almost none of my super mommy skills worked. The unsolicited advice that came from the moms that had acquired the real super mommy skills were in such abundance, it kept me secluded from the world for far longer than necessary. I just couldn’t handle another stare, another look of disapproval, another well meaning mom offering the cure. I resigned to the fact that my child was just not ready for public, of any kind.

Now, I have said some pretty ignorant things in my 35 years. Seriously, an alarming number of dumb things have spewed from my larger than normal mouth.  However, nothing gets me hotter under the collar than parents judging my mad skills…and I don’t even wear collared shirts… Please understand, this title is misleading. It appears to only concern parents or caregivers of children with autism.  Let’s just stop the insanity with all of the parenting high horses. Let me give you a few examples:

  • You fix what everyone else eats and, when he/she gets hungry enough, they will eat.”   This is a super favorite one in our house, until we realized our child would starve. For the same reasons that he doesn’t have the same perception of hot and cold, he does not have the same perception of hunger and full. He has swam in icy water and we have to be very careful with the water temperature in the shower because he will burn his skin. He’s the kid with a short sleeved shirt in the middle of a snowstorm. He graciously puts on a coat after I beg and plead and tell him everyone will think momma is a terrible mother for freezing my children…bless him. I don’t need any more ammunition. Eat this or eat nothing? No problem. My child would starve. We also have to watch how much he eats because he doesn’t have a “full sensation” until he feels sick. So yes, I make different meals in my house. No I don’t make my kid eat whatever I cook for the rest of the family. Trust me on this one, this battle is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I mean this in the most sugary sweet southern tea sort of way but, You don’t know my life.  Yes, you just saw me feed my child cornbread for dinner….move along.

 

  • Nothing a good old fashioned spanking wouldn’t fix.”  For the love… Remember that lack of sensation thing? Spanking has zero affect on a child that doesn’t feel pain appropriately. Oh, I’m not spanking hard enough, you say? Beating your child is generally frowned upon. Trust me, I always said I would spank my children. However, I was given a ninja as a child that would make an excellent UFC fighter. Please pray for his safety…

 

  • You really shouldn’t let your child sleep with you in your bed.”  I can’t even with this one. He has had problems with sleeping since he was born. He will not sleep unless he gets melatonin and this is not an exaggeration, hence the 3 am trips to Walmart to pick up a new bottle, proving ‘one night will be fine without it’ was WRONG. He has fallen asleep in public less than 5 times in his life. The first was in his stroller, at the State Fair. He was 2. Add anxiety on top of these issues makes for a less than optimal bed time routine. If he wanted to sleep on the roof on a bed made of slug trails, I’m in.  You do what you have to do to live…and sleep.

 

  • Just take away (insert tangible privilege) and he will stop.” Let me explain. My child wants to please you, me , his friends, etc. His brain does not work on the same wavelength. He doesn’t want to be in trouble any more than I want to catch up on my laundry but sometimes, it is not under his control. Does that give him a free for all excuse? Absolutely not. Punishments are not black and white. You mean what you say and you say what you mean but you also learn to adjust and learn what works, then mourn when it stops working two days later. This is an absolute guarantee. I am super glad (and slightly jealous) that these techniques work for your little angel, but it’s ok that we don’t all operate the same. It actually makes it worse that autism is not a facial expression. You see, you can’t tell by looking at him that anything is amiss.  You can’t see heart conditions either, however they still exist…just saying.

 

  • Just put him in his room and shut the door until he can calm down.”  Last year, our move was the hardest for our oldest. Moving, loss of normalcy and routine, a death in the family, all led to what I affectionately refer to as the epitome of hell. These meltdowns were not simply tantrums fueled by not getting his way. Actually, he was never trying to gain something when they began. His extreme terror of not being able to see me caused what looked like a need for an exorcist. There was bloodshed and it was heartbreaking. A six year old should never experience this type of fear.

 

Psychology and development are not pure sciences. Not only are there always outliers and anomalies, but as intricate as God has made our brains, only proves the vast number of differences that need to be taken into consideration when raising a child.  I guess what I’m saying is, “You do you, Boo!” In a perfect world all parents would be there cheering each other on like the dude with wings in the red bull commercial (look it up, it’s hilarious).  I am super excited for you that you have it all figured out. But for the rest of us, we are doing the best we can with what we have been given.  And I promise I am just as horrified when my son tells you your breath stinks.  This is not a testament to my parenting skills. Maybe just grab a mint and move on. We are working on it. Also, maybe remember that children are not trained monkeys. I grew up in a generation where children were seen and not heard. Those children that were not heard did not have autism. I am the first to say that I don’t have all the answers. But I can guarantee that I have tried everything, this is to include lots of crying, praying, and wine. Don’t judge.

What my boys want you to know about Autism.

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I have read many books, followed several blogs, joined a plethora of groups, and talked to a multitude of moms regarding autism.  While I love learning about the topic and truly need the solidarity the groups and other moms provide, I have learned the most about autism from simply listening to my son. You can’t help it really. He talks incessantly and sometimes, it takes awhile to fully get his sentences out. He stutters and repeats words and looks back and forth in the air as if he is literally (and frantically) looking for something.  I have fought the urge to finish his sentences and snap my fingers with an impatient, “Focus! Son! Finish your sentence!!!”  Most of the time I’m looking around for some holy water to sprinkle on the situation. Im pretty sure that’s not how that works…

He loves dates. He says it helps him to organize things in his brain.  Sounds great, in theory, but I can’t remember what month it is. He knows the year every movie was made. If he has seen it, he knows the year. There are several he knows that he has not seen. In homeschool, we were doing an exercise where I gave him an answer and he had to come up with a question. For example; I say, “Fall.” And he will respond, “What is one of the four seasons?” In response to the answer, “1988,” he quickly said, “What is the year after that movie came out that you love with the princess and the giant and there is sword fighting?” He is referring to Princess Bride. He has seen it once 2 years ago.

Thankfully my mom put this together and asked him why he was always looking in the air, as if he was trying to find something. He explained that he was looking for the right file. I will never take for granted that my son is verbal when others with autism are not. However, he still has a communication disorder. Our words flow automatically, without thought. Trust me, I know all about this automatic talking, no thinking thing. I have gotten in a lot of trouble over the years for speaking without thinking. People with autism do not have the words and complete thoughts readily available. They know what they want to say, but it is sometimes lost in translation or simply hard to get out. To have such an amazing brain, he is a prisoner to it.  The more severe the diagnosis is on the spectrum, the more trapped they become. Unable to communicate or deal with the world around them. This doesn’t mean there isn’t beautiful thoughts and ideas in those brains, but they are simply unable to be released for the rest of us to enjoy.

I asked my oldest what he wanted everyone to know about autism. This was his response…

“I want people to know that autism makes your brain different. I want them to know that I have it.  I like having it because it makes you awesome. Well Daddy is awesome and he doesn’t have autism….Oh and people don’t really know that much about it. I guess you need to tell them. It makes you different than everyone else and it makes some things hard to do. Like school, Momma! And writing! Tell them it’s hard to concentrate. But I like it because my body has to move a lot so we always have more fun. Oh!!! And it makes me really smart!!! Tell them all that.”

Notice he said exactly zero about momma being awesome. What a butthole  blessing that angel is…(insert eye roll).  My littlest little was asked how it felt to have a brother with autism….

I still have a really good big brother. He’s not really that different. He’s still fun and stuff. Maybe autism makes him a good big brother. I don’t know, can I go play now??”

Be! Still! My! Heart! And also, is it too much to ask for them to answer a few questions? I only got fat and ravaged my body carrying you little heathens. No big…

My littlest little doesn’t know any different. He accepts his brother for who he is. When the meltdowns used to be downright scary to witness, I would ask my littlest if they frightened him. He said, “No, I just know he gets a little crazy sometimes.” Don’t we all son, don’t we all.

Our point is this: Ask questions. If you are unsure about something that makes you uncomfortable or that confuses you, ask.  You might want to extend a little grace as well. Grace to the child for the behavior or words that you think are not ok. If they tell you that you smell like bug spray,  it is simply an observation. I can also guarantee you that you do, in fact, smell like bug spray and they are not trying to be mean. On a side note, you might want to take care of that mess… And please, give grace to the parent or caregivers that are doing the absolute best they know how. Our parenting may look a little different but mother of baby J, hold your tongue. (That blog post is next…there may or may not be a little hostility in those words, Lord help me.) Lastly, try to understand. Everyone is not walking the same path.  Some people soar above it, looking for their files.

 

Code Purple, Davis House

 

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I have seen a lot of things as a psychiatric nurse.  Six of my ten year nursing career was spent at a prominent hospital in Dallas.  This means that we were one of the hospitals that the police brought you to when you were picked up naked and obstructing traffic. Perhaps someone called the police reporting that he had six hostages, some of which he had already killed, in his basement, only for the police to show up to a man with a gun talking to people that weren’t there. And bless his heart, the poor guy didn’t even have a basement. He earned himself a VIP trip to our psychiatric emergency room. Hearing things in change of shift report with sentences like, “Pt ‘Bob’ (HIPAA and all) castrated himself on a camping trip” or “Don’t give ‘Suzy’ anything that can fit in her rectum” seemed totally normal. I guess that really is a relative term.  But we had a system in place at this particular hospital called a code purple. This meant anyone and everyone run to that location because somebody has lost their itshay and things are about to get real. You never knew what exactly you were running to but you knew it wasn’t going to be boring. It was honestly exciting and terrifying at the same time. It was also wonderful knowing that if I ever found myself on the wrong end of someone else’s wrath, help would be coming soon.

We are in serious need of a code purple at the Davis house. I may or may not be the one that is losing my religion because of the stress but it is definitely taking a toll on the whole family.  Let me explain. After 20 years of suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, my husband has decided to take out the beast that has tried to kill him and make his life a living hell.  He had his colon completely taken out. No biggie. I mean it’s just a colon, right? Apparently it’s kind of a big deal.  I felt the need to get the surgeon to take pictures of his colon to show me. I guess I wanted to confront this tormentor. We also found out that he has an abnormally large set of intestines. Of course he loves to tell the joke, “You know what they say about guys with big colons.” (insert eye roll) His friend, Nick gave the epic answer of, “they have big poops.”

Ok,  I’ll try to start at the beginning. I have been with my husband for 16 years. I have never known him without Ulcerative Colitis.  In the beginning, we were able to have periods of remission. For the last couple of years, there has been no relief. Every drug and natural remedy and diet known to man has been tried to no avail. The problem with this horrendous disease is that it affects everything, not just your colon. UC is an autoimmune disease so his body decided that his colon was the devil and it needed to go back to the pits of hell where it came from. Unfortunately, it brings lots of other body systems down with it.  As scary as it was, I was beyond ready to get the offending culprit out, ASAP.  But it’s not my body. Apparently I don’t get to decide. I had to watch him suffer until he decided the surgery was, in fact, worth it.

Although he should have been discharged a week ago, he has endured one complication after the next, LIKE A BOSS. I would rather give birth 10 more times with no anesthesia, while getting my toenails ripped off and simultaneously have acupuncture be performed on my eyeball than have to go through what he has gone through. He has not eaten or drank anything in over a week….except for the popsicle he manipulated some poor nurse into bringing him. The problem is he has a nasogastric tube from his nose into his stomach, set to suction to let his intestines rest until they decide to stop being assholes and work again…..see what I did there? He got his colon out?? Ahhhh I’m hilarious. But I digress.  The RED popsicle sits in the tube and makes the container look like he is bleeding out but he will still deny his rebellion. Even despite his red lips. I guess with all the man has gone through, he deserves a popsicle.

That army man I married has always been stoic. But the irony that his father went through this exact surgery at this exact age is not lost on any of us. He lost his dad to colon cancer 3 years later. This has been an emotional ride for his entire family.  Seriously, get your colons checked.

As we speak, his blood cultures have grown boogeymen, meaning he has an infection somewhere that has gone to his blood.  With all the tubes and hoses and instruments that have poked holes in his body, there is no telling where it originated from.

As you know, my oldest doesn’t do well with change. Having their superman in the hospital this long is hard to take. Homeschool has been disrupted, any type of normalcy is gone, and momma has to go see daddy and can’t figure out why he can’t go.  With all things considered, I am very proud of both of my kids. Our last therapist told us, “Never put a limit on progress.” I know this could have been so much worse.

This is what I have learned. I love my husband more than I ever even thought that I could.  Not just because he laid on a table for over 6 hours having a major surgery, or realizing how much I miss him when every single day is uncertain, or seeing what an impact he has on our beautiful boys, but because I have never been so proud of him in 16 years.  Trust me, he has done some pretty amazing things. But as I watch him as he has given his all in every aspect of this recovery even when he has nothing left to give,  it makes my heart both hurt and swell with pride.  He has never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him or think that his situation is serious. I’m pretty sure he told his job he’d be back this week. Lord Jesus, I hope they know what a total colectomy entailed and that he was full of poop…well not anymore….OMG I’m hilarious! All I know is that I want him home, by my side, every day for the rest of my life. Not that I didn’t know that before, but it is more vital and urgent now than ever before. God put me on this earth to love that man.  It is only secondary that I hate taking out the trash and cleaning the turtle aquarium. I swear those things are secondary.

I have also learned that my oldest little can pull through for you sometimes at the exact right time. Nevermind that it is probably because momma’s mood swings lately are terrifying…hey whatever works. The boy that wouldn’t allow me to leave the room has been left with my mom every single day during this poop storm that is my life right now. God is good.

I covet your prayers. Some people say they will ‘send good vibes’ but I don’t even know what that means.  Family has come from over a thousand miles away just to take a shift in the hospital or watch the boys just so I can.  That’s what real family does and I will never take that for granted.  We fight, but we love hard and we always stick together.  My friends have offered countless times just to bring me coffee or sit with me. Then there’s the friend who brought me food at 2 pm because she figured I hadn’t had a chance to eat that day (she was right). Love, love her. God has put wonderful people in my life since we have moved to Virginia and I am beyond grateful.

Emotions are running high and we are all about one catastrophe away from a code purple. I’m sorry if I am not returning texts or answering calls. I literally forgot the entire week last week that my 4 year old goes to school.  I went an entire day with silly putty stuck to my butt and knew it but didn’t care. My son just informed me last night that he hadn’t bathed in awhile. That assessment is probably accurate. Thanks again for the ones that have checked on us and please extend a little grace if I am extra grouchy or cry because I ran out of my favorite coffee creamer.  But do know that my husband is a rockstar and that he is the toughest man I know.  Thanks again for your prayers.

I Live With Terrorists!

 

 

 

img_7332This wouldn’t be the first time that I have been accused of dramatics.  I can assure you, this is not exaggerated. I looked it up, so it has to be legit. Terrorism is the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion or to achieve a goal.  Two blonde, curly headed terrorist are coercing their way through my life.  It is not only of little importance, but it is no less terrifying that they are four and seven.

Now before you go judging and telling me that “I am the mother” and “I should have more control over my house,” I would first like to say, “You don’t know me” and dare I say, “The chances that you are living with terrorists as well are pretty darn high.”  These tricky little devils somehow manipulate you into thinking that you, in fact, are in control and that it’s not so bad. I think this is called Stockholm Syndrome, which is where the hostages (us) start to express empathy and have positive feelings toward their captors (them).  Ya’ll can live with your head in the clouds if you wish, but it’s a thing. And it’s real.

Are you one of those that put your kids to bed at the exact same time every single night? Because you are in control and they need routine? I hear what you say…but is it possible that they turn into tiny monsters from the Netherworld when they are up past their bedtime? Is it possible that the very thought of having to deal with that is too much to comprehend? Don’t roll your eyes. I am not saying you are a bad parent. I have been trying desperately for the last 7 years and 9 months to put these tiny insurgents to bed on time. This has gone smoothly exactly zero times. I wish I was lying. #truth

Parents do all kinds of things to keep the peace. Ever see that little girl in the grocery store that is wearing a pink tutu, rain boots, and a gorilla hat? That parent lost the good fight. The kid that ate red dye number 40 with gluten and dairy and high fructose corn syrup?? You don’t know my life. I try. But I’m tired and sometimes it’s just whatever.

As I have blogged about frequently, my oldest has autism. Basically this is like a weapon of mass destruction that he carries around. The rest of the family lives in fear that he may unleash this terror at any moment. It’s been a long road, but I am now able to take a shower…with him awake, with the door shut and locked, and no bloodshed occurs. This is still a new phenomenon so I’m not trying to act all badass about my new found freedom. The last time I took a shower with my husband out of town, I flew through that shower like a murderer was beating down the door. As I got out, soap and conditioner not fully rinsed off,  clothes flung on, not looking to see if they were clean or dirty, much less inside out or backwards. I opened the door and breathlessly yelled, “I’m done!” like I was the first to the finish line of an epic race.  He looked at me all, “Why are you telling me that?” I think I have PTSD.

This is all fun and games (kind of) except for that it’s true.  I am not scared to tell my children no. I know they will have lots of disappointment in life. But I have come to realize I am terrified of certain responses. The ones that make me dread my day. The ones that make me wonder if my child is legit possessed. The ones where I  wonder where exactly did I go wrong.

I’m hoping this will all come out in the wash. (Are my deep south roots showing?) I want to raise boys that are productive members of society. I want to raise boys that love their momma fiercely and their God even more. I want to raise good daddys and good husbands. Leaders, thinkers, givers. Men who put others first and always come visit their momma, often. It’s important, for real. This has it’s own set of problems, raising a son that doesn’t fully understand the whole empathy thing. A son that thinks saying, “I don’t want to hug you because you stink” is completely acceptable if it is, in fact true…well that’s for another day.

So know I am trying. I, in fact, do negotiate with them and sometimes, they win. Do me a favor. Don’t offer advice. Don’t judge me or talk about my mad parenting skills. You can, however, pray for me. Maybe a high five with a side of “ME TOO!” because parents just don’t stick together like they should. I am a work in progress. And also I am terrified.

Day 5: My Stinking Thinking

 

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I stroll through Kirklands without a care in the world. My children were at home with baby daddy and no one was trying to break anything or poke each other in the eye or play tag amongst the breakables. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I was looking at horse manure. I was kidless and it was quiet and it was glorious. Out of nowhere I caught a glimpse of a figure.  A slim but shapely, beautiful figure.  For a brief second I didn’t realize that the figure was me…but distorted. I stood there with my head slightly tilted trying to make out my own reflection. This was magnificent! It was like the best Instagram filter ever right in front of me. I couldn’t stop staring at my thighs, they were so thin! I can’t imagine how I must have looked to the other customers.  I soon realized that this full length voodoo mirror was tilted upward. It was an optical illusion and I LOVED it. I immediately thought, “Ahhhhh if only that were real. If only that were my true reflection.” I felt deflated as I walked away…and my thighs inflated back to their normal, fleshy reality.

Today’s challenge was to identify the negative self talk that plays in our head and begin a 5 step process to change it. I immediately thought about my encounter with the magic mirror. The truth is, I have been much thinner than the mirror portrayed. Unfortunately, I can’t remember a time when have I been satisfied with my body.  If I actually had the thighs in the mirror, would I have been satisfied?

I remember going through nursing school, learning in depth details of the human body. I was shocked that anyone could know the intricacies of how our anatomy worked continuously in perfect harmony to sustain life and not believe in God. Our bodies are perhaps the greatest work of art ever created.  We have been given a gift far better than all the riches in the world.  My eyes have seen the most beautiful scenery from nature. I have visited ancient castles and tasted the best wine from their sprawling vineyards. I have felt the ocean waves and enjoyed the sun’s warmth on my skin. My nose has been able to smell the natural sweetness of my son’s skin where his forehead meets his thick, curly hair.  My eyes have seen the beauty of a baby coming into this world. My body has carried 4 humans.  I will forever cherish the privilege of seeing my husband’s face as the church doors opened and my daddy walked me down the isle. I watched him mouth, “I love you” and saw him biting his cheek…a trick I knew he used to hold back tears. Almost 15 years later, I’m hoping those were happy tears. I have used my hands to give life saving treatments and  provide comfort and care to my patients as a nurse. My body has never failed me. It is truly a gift. A gift that I have never fully appreciated. I can only imagine giving someone the most amazing gift my human hands could muster, only to repeatedly hear complaints about the way it was made. My body is so much more than what society has brainwashed me to believe is acceptable.

My plan of action seems simple, although I know this will not happen overnight. I will catch these negative thoughts as the first step in the process suggests, and I will slowly but deliberately change my flaws. Not the dimpled flaws on my thighs, but the thinking that has caused me to see my life giving, beautiful gift as less than.

Day 3: Mirror Work

Ummmm I kind of wanted to skip this day.  My relationship with the mirror is much like my relationship with the scale. It’s a necessary evil.  I weigh too much…that is, too often. I get anxiety when I can’t have access to a scale, i.e. vacation. My self worth has been tied to the scale and the mirror for quite some time.  There are times when I realize this flawed way of thinking and can kick it’s arse. However, most of the time it happens subconsciously and I only reap the aftermath it has on my day like the destruction of a tornado.  I can be having a perfectly fine day until the number on a small box tells me I am not up to par. I immediately think I’m a failure and the tidal wave of negativity snow balls. I know, how dare I allow a number to dictate my mood. I have even taken the battery out and placed the scale in the back of my closet so it would be difficult to pull out and put back together. Turns out it isn’t that much of a nuisance to put a battery back in.

The same goes for the mirror. Small glances from afar are usually not a problem. Most of the time, I can appreciate the image that stares back briefly. It has taken a long time to appreciate that reflection. From a very young age, I vowed to get my nose fixed as soon as I graduated high school.  Thankfully I have decided that my nose makes me look like…well…me. Changing it would feel like putting on someone else’s face, which just didn’t feel right for me. But my battle with acne has been an ugly one.  You would think at 35, I could catch a break. Not so much.

I feel guilty to admit these insecurities. I know I am a beautiful woman. Apparently that is a taboo thing to admit, but every woman has a beauty to reveal. I know this to be true. God created women and yes, he created them to be beautiful. If you haven’t read ‘Captivating’ by Stasi Eldredge, I would highly recommend it.

So today’s challenge to do “mirror work” seems a little daunting.  To look into my eyes, past my eyes, and to not focus on my face?  The directions are to say out loud, “I am lovable. I am worthy. My worth is not connected to the size of my body (or the clearness of my skin). I have purpose.” I have come a long way from the chubby middle school girl that was ridiculed for my weight. Or the dangerously thin high school freshman with an eating disorder.   My stretch marks that I once despised, I no longer notice.  They signify the strength of my body as it stretched to carry and nourish the children I so desperately prayed for.  I wear my scars as badges of honor. Some make for good stories like the huge one on my leg from flipping a three wheeler.  And of course my C section scars from which my babies were brought into the world. I have a long way to go. I want to accept it all. I want to love it all and appreciate what I see in the mirror in it’s entirity. I am lovable. I am worthy. And my God given purpose can not be wavered by a number or a reflection.

Day 2: What Would Love Do?

This question almost seems to be rhetorical. Mostly because it comes with such a loaded response, it can’t possibly be able to be answered. Not fully. My short answer would be that LOVE WOULD CHANGE EVERYTHING. Yes, I mean everything. The bible says that christians will be set apart by the way they love. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. Hypocrisy and judgment and exclusion are not loving nor are they biblical. But I digress. this post is not about the actions of the misguided…or is it?

My oldest son has autism. One of the most heartbreaking realizations was that, while you can teach someone what to do in a given situation in order to be socially acceptable, you can’t teach emotions. Once when I told him I loved him, he responded with, “I love you too…I think…I mean I think I love you. It’s hard! How am I supposed to know what love is? What does that even mean? What does it feel like?” Heartbroken, I didn’t really have an answer, other than tears. My son doesn’t even know whether or not he loves me.  After a lot of thought and prayer and acceptance and mommy tantrums, I think I have made sense of his questions. Love is not an emotion at all. It evokes emotions that are wonderful and euphoric. But loving someone also unleashes a passion which means that person can also hurt you the most, even cause anger or rage. Someone that means nothing to you can not cause such responses, not on the same level.  Anyone that has been married for any length of time can surely attest to this.

Love is a verb. Love is an action, a continuous and conscious effort that doesn’t always come easy. It takes maturity, self awareness, and most importantly, it takes selflessness. To imagine a world filled with love would be to imagine a Utopia. Something that surely won’t be seen this side of heaven. But what if love started with me, with you? Can we change our world for the better with love? Would it even make a difference? The bible says that without love, you are nothing, it’s all in vain.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1Corinthians 13:2-3)

So I get it, love is important. But what does that mean? How do you show love, exude love, emanate  love in our daily life. Apart from His love, our love will never be perfect. But how do we strive for this magical potion that changes the world? In 1 Corinthians it goes on to say that love is patient, kind, humble, selfless, honorable, is not easily angered and does not hold grudges (emphasis mine because I may or may not have…ummm…issues with the latter two…uh, let’s move on).

If love embodied every person on this earth, truly filling their heart to the brim, overflowing to their actions, wouldn’t that change every single wrong doing?  But what if we showed ourselves these same mercies. What if we were patient and kind to ourselves? I can only imagine that it would put us in a different headspace. A space that could repel and forgive the negativity even if it came from our own thoughts. A space that could love the unloveable and allow past transgressions to melt away, including our own. This isn’t something that can fully be achieved, but the journey can be encouraging, empowering, rejuvenating, and all together lovely.

 

Day One: New Year, New Me

I was invited to a Facebook group which gives you writing prompts for 31 days and calls itself the 31 Day Self Love Diet Writing Challenge.  I love to write…I could use some self love….why not?

Day One: Write a self love letter or prayer or mantra (whatever that means).

It is New Year’s Eve which is basically a giant Sunday before the Monday that you start something big. Isn’t that always how it happens? “I’ll start my (diet/behavior/exercise program/project, etc) on Monday.” The New Year always comes with such hope and longing for new beginnings.  It’s a giant reset button to finally get your hot mess self together and act like an adult.

I always say I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because it’s so cliché.  This could also possibly be a cop out because I won’t have to face failures. However, one thing I would love to, no NEED to do differently this year is to love myself.  Not just accept but love. Not just resolving to be okay with myself, but learn to give grace every step of the way.  So on this new journey to love me, here is my letter to myself…

First of all breath. This mothering, wifing, friending, life-ing thing is hard. Just because it seems like everyone else feeds their kids kale smoothies after waking them up post 5 am workout, no one has it all together.  If everyone threw their problems in a pile, you would want to take yours back. Your littles won’t be little for long and you will mourn those hand prints on the mirror and the legos left on every square inch of the house. You will miss the incessant questions because they show the innocent wonder of a child. You will miss the tiny socks on the floor and even the big ones from your husband.

You know how you look at old picture and miss THAT body? Remember how you felt about your body when the picture was taken? We never enjoy or love what we have. Beauty seems to be something that is right out of our grasp. But what if you already possess it. Not past tense, but right now.  Not when you lose 20 more pounds, or when you get your sagging boobs fixed from nursing two babies, or when you repair your diastasis from carrying those miracles you so vigilantly prayed for. But right now. You ARE beautiful. You are a good mother. You are a good wife. You are a good friend. You are enough. You have abilities and gifts that God has given you that no one else was granted. Not in the exact same way, at least. You were put on this earth for a purpose and only YOU can fulfill it. Give grace as you go through this journey to love YOU. Look for the blessings and give thanks for them often. Gratitude  is what leads the way to having a life that you love. Being in a body that you love.  Accepting your destiny and the roles you were born to fill.  Focus on the beauty, focus on the love, the rest will fall into place.