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.

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.

Why I Love Messy People

I need people. Not that I want to be that needy friend that takes up all your time, but I need other humans in my life. I could never be the reclusive, crazy cat lady. Well, also because I hate cats. They’re sneaky and antisocial and poke you with needle like weapons that shoot from their paws.  I’ll pass. I moved to this house in March, 1400 miles from my tribe.  I broke before I was even halfway through the trip.

I have always been outgoing, an over communicator if you will. I tell too much about myself and am known to be an open book. This is been lauded as brave, for being willing to tell my story. I am learning that it’s a coping mechanism for controlling my level of vulnerability. It’s like coming clean when you know you’re about to get caught. It’s like quitting before you get fired.  I’m telling you up front, putting it all on the table so that you can run before the relationship moves forward. My brand of crazy isn’t for everyone. It’s better to know up front because what I’ve learned,  is that people just want to feel like they belong, somewhere.

We decided to downsize when we moved for simplicity’s sake. My husband and I had a conversation that no matter what, we would have an open door policy. If we were crowded and sitting on floors, our house would be filled with people. We would use it for bible studies and church groups, birthday parties and playdates for the boys, barbecues and cook outs.  It would be a safe place for people to land. A welcoming place for anyone that needed love. Because isn’t that what our houses are for?

The bible says Christians should be set apart by their LOVE. Unfortunately that is simply not the case. We judge to make ourselves feel better and only accept the people into our lives that don’t push our comfort level. When we wanted to start a life group at our house in Texas, I literally said (out loud), “But what if I don’t like them? What if we don’t get along?” Just wow. Pretty sure that is not “love” that is setting me apart.

I left a large group of support when we moved. I had family, church friends, church acquaintances, work friends, friends from the school my children went to, and even what my Pastor refers to as 2am friends. Those are the roses among the thorns. Those are the ones that drive 45 minutes to hold your hand and let you cry in the middle of the night. The ones that are faithful until the end. The ones that help you hide the body. Ok, just kidding but if there was a body…. just sayin.

I got here and my life fell apart. Everything was perfect except the hole I was falling deeper into. I’m not meant to be without people. So I joined a bible study and a church and a support group for parents with children on the autism spectrum and tried to find a homeschool co-op for my oldest. Something was still missing. I took a girl home one night I barely knew from church. As she was sitting next to me, she casually mentioned she wanted to have a bible study but didn’t know where to do it. “DO IT AT MY HOUSE!” I blurted out. Wait, what??? I barely know you and I don’t know who would come?? What if I don’t even like them?? Nope…that’s not love. The co-op for my son fell through so I decided to start my own. 50 moms later (not including the kids), I had to close the group. I invited them all over for a swim party before school started. Hubs gave me the look…I’ve seen the “look” multiple times in the last 16 years. It’s the “what were you thinking” look. He asked, “Have you ever met these people? Do you know how many are coming?” Nope, sure didn’t. But it has been a beautiful experience.

Here is what I know. People parent differently, come from different backgrounds, have different morals and religions (or lack thereof), different baggage and trauma and grief. They deal with life differently and do things out of desperation and utter despair. People turn away from religion because of past hurts or experiences and turn to other things that fill the void. But you know what is the same? We all want to feel like we are welcomed, accepted, and loved.

We didn’t (only by sheer circumstance) down size when we moved. I think God had bigger plans for my mission to be that 2am friend. I look back and think maybe that’s why I have loved being a psych nurse for all those years. A lot of my patients (at the hospital I worked at the most) were homeless. They didn’t always smell the best, or have the most pleasant communicable diseases;) But they were all shocked when you would treat them with love. When you would hold their hand and listen to their story. We are all messy if you think about it. Some can just hide it better than others.  Don’t we all just need to feel accepted? Just the way we are?  I hope at my funeral, someone says I stood out because of the way I loved, for being a 2am friend. I have a long way to go, but it’s a goal worth trying for.  Nobody cares if you can cook because everyone can attest that I can’t. No Pinterest inspired hors d’oeuvres at this house. I’m so classy I had to google how to spell that.And nobody cares if there are dishes in your sink, invite them over anyway. You’ll be glad you did.

Update On My House Arrest

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The setting is nursing school and the main character is a hypochondriac with anxiety and OCD. We will call her Courtney, because that is her name. In nursing school you learn about most disease processes, and as a person riddled with worry anyway, I undoubtedly had every disease we studied (with the exception of prostate, testicular, fontanel malformations, and maybe cleft lip/palate….yep, the rest were fair game). This hypochondriasis was not unique to me alone. My best friend was convinced she had AIDS without any symptoms or exposure. But this isn’t a blog about her so let’s move on.  During third semester (give or take, this is my story) I became convinced I had lymphoma. The symptoms, albeit vague, were there and my lymph nodes were, in fact, enlarged. No big deal, I’ll just go to the Dr and let them tell me how utterly ridiculous I am and I will then find something else to worry about. The kink in my plan started when the Dr agreed with my diagnosis and thought that my theory was actually likely! After a plethora of labs were drawn and a biopsy was done to find the culprit of my symptoms, I was told, “We will let you know the results in 2 weeks.” Two….WEEKS.  As the days grew longer it consumed my every thought to the point that, not only did I have lymphoma, but I was dying. Part of me knew this was ludicrous (not to be confused with Ludacris). But those thoughts set up camp in my brain just to make sure that any rational thoughts on the subject were redirected back to Crazy Town.

So one night I remember going into the bathroom to wash my face. I don’t remember being sad or upset but when I looked in the mirror, I had this crushing thought. This overwhelming dread and fear that I was dying. Newly married, in nursing school, never having kids.  As the tears began to flow, I became angry that my life was over before it even started. I literally kneeled on the floor, in the dirty bathroom (the military housing was super old and never actually looked or felt clean), with the water still running (sorry Mother Earth, I do better now at conserving water), and I sobbed. Like the ugly Kim Kardashian cry (My bad, I will never reference them again, forgive me). I prayed, “God, WHY?!?”

And as instantly as this cockamamie debacle started, it stopped. I was jolted to my senses and God said to me (not audibly but just as evident), “Don’t you trust me?”  I couldn’t move. I felt a peace that I hadn’t felt in months and I felt so silly for letting something consume my every thought that wasn’t even reality (spoiler alert, I did not have lymphoma). “Don’t you trust me?”

When you are in the middle of the battle, real or perceived, you think it will never end. When I cried day after day that God would give me a baby (that would stay in my womb)….He did. When my first born only slept through (up to) one hour at a time for the first year with no naps and a need for constant movement, I tried to accept my fate. This is it, I will never sleep again. But I did. When a heartache from a broken marriage consumed me and I just knew that not even God could fix this one. He did, and made it better. When a family member was so lost in the throes of mental anguish for TEN YEARS and I thought she was gone forever. Her mind was restored. When I fell into the deepest pit because I was a prisoner in my own home (read my other posts for our family’s autism journey)…I see light at the end of the tunnel.

This Saturday, we have a babysitter coming for the first time in a year and 2 months. This Saturday, I will be in the same room with my husband in the dead middle of the day, without my kids. And not only can I go to the bathroom by myself without meltdowns and fear and panic, but I can go freely from one room to the next without a single scream. This Saturday my son will not see me and will not even know where I am. With a hesitancy and an inkling of a tear, he proudly said, “I’m ready. I can do this.” This may not seem like much to you. But to our family, this victory is monumental.

I say all of this because I talk too much….Oh and also to say this… Mark 4:40 says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Still after being pulled from the rubble so many times? Still after turning devastation into beauty? Still after He has proved His grace time and again….”Don’t you trust me?”

I don’t know what will happen on Saturday. Honestly, I don’t care. The progress we have seen is so huge that I am ecstatic knowing there’s hope. There is a way out of that pit. No matter how deep or how far you’ve fallen. “Don’t you trust me?”…..

A White Woman’s Thoughts on Black Lives Matter

I have written and deleted this first sentence about 50 times. I don’t know where to start, and in this politically correct world, I don’t want anyone to misread my intentions. After the shootings in Minnesota, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, my heart aches.  I just read a Facebook post from an old friend that was talking about Black Lives Matter. Honestly, I rarely read the rants and generally scroll through. Not because I am insensitive, but because it feels like I am being prodded to pick a side. I can either stand with law enforcement or I can stand with the black community. Pardon the pun, but the issue is not black and white. Some may say it’s not about race. I learned something about relationships a long time ago. If someone in the relationship thinks there is a problem, there is a problem. This is regardless of whether or not the other party agrees. If my best friend feels that I am disregarding her feelings, the issue should be addressed. If I don’t feel my husband is listening to me, the problem needs to be discussed. If my sons say I am not spending enough time with them, I should take their pleas seriously and adjust accordingly. You see, saying, “Well you’re looking at it wrong” and moving on only fuels the fire, sets the problem in concrete only to come back later, unresolved. The preface to the above mentioned Facebook post read, *Empathy Wanted*.

Wait. I understand that I am not exactly an expert on this topic. I am a privileged white woman in suburbia and have never been a victim of racism. The truth is, I probably never will. I do not have grandparents that can tell me horrendous stories of unthinkable cruelty they endured simply because of the color of their skin.  But I do know what it’s like to feel like you aren’t being heard. I know the frustration of not having your feelings acknowledged. I switch from heartache to anger when someone downplays my struggle.

I also know what fear feels like. Working in a psychiatric hospital with a large, protruding pregnant belly with a very psychotic patient fixated on your unborn baby, knowing others that have lost their babies from kicks to the stomach in the same situation will evoke both terror and anger at the possibility. With a heightened startle reflex and my jaw sore from being unknowingly clenched for an entire shift, I drive home numb.

I believe that hatred is fueled by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of violence. Ironically, this same fear can turn into irrational thinking, hatred, unnecessary anxiety, and more of the very violence that you fear.

But what if….just what if, we tried to hear the cries of the unheard. We acknowledged that people in this relationship we call humanity are being cast aside because the other party simply doesn’t understand. My heart aches for the people that live in fear. My heart aches for the people that don’t feel heard. My heart aches for the police officers that want to serve and protect but are targeted by misguided people that have let the hatred take over. My heart aches for the black community that endures prejudice and preconceived stereotypes every day. My heart aches for the people that can’t see that the hatred that we have let creep into our hearts is from ignorance.

Did you know there are protests that are peaceful? That don’t involve violence or looting? I witnessed the protests in Mckinney, Texas where the people were plentiful, but the violence was absent. Did you know that these horrific events have led to many races coming together in prayer?  Did you know all police officers aren’t hotheaded bigots? That all muslims aren’t suicide bombers or member of ISIS and are just as repulsed by the violence as you are? Did you know all Christians aren’t two faced hypocrites that use their faith as a way to cast judgment and feel superior to others? Did you know that if we just listened to each other we would see that while we have vastly different life experiences, we share the same human race? We share the same emotions (even if they are regarding different things) and we share the same need to be heard?

My sons idolize law enforcement. When they see a policeman or woman, their eyes get big and their faces light up. It’s like they are seeing a real life super hero that they’ve only read about or seen on tv. My heart would be broken if their wonder was replaced with fear, panic, or hatred.

I will never know what it’s like to be a black man. I will never know what it’s like to be a police officer. But I know what it’s like to need empathy. I know what it’s like to need to feel loved and heard. I know what it’s like to experience fear.  We have people in this relationship that are saying there is a problem. I pray we learn to listen. I pray we learn to give empathy.  Above all, I pray we can remember that we are all in this together. Or at least we should be…

Dear Younger Me

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I have seen so many of those articles or blogs about “What I Would Tell My 16 (or any younger age) Year Old Self.” I have always been intrigued by these and have halfway wondered what I would tell my younger, clueless, drifting, often downright lost, insecure, broken, super fun, skinny, but thought I was fat with an eating disorder, still trying to find myself and figure it all out 16 year old self.  But most of the time, I would rather not rehash the past. Some things are just better left buried and dead where they belong. Make no mistake, I have wonderful memories of childhood and high school that could fit into any Lifetime movie of the week. But you will never hear me say, “those were the good ole days.”

Honestly, if I could, there is a lot I would say to that naive girl that was so desperately trying to find her way. For example;

“I know that you are making your brand. I know that telling people exactly how you feel without regard to any type of social norms or consideration for how they make others feel makes you feel liberated and strong. But in reality, it is incredibly immature and is not biblical or even ok. Basically it makes you uncaring and mean. (That’s a nice way of putting it, my mom reads these.)

Hey news alert…You aren’t going to marry him. You’re life isn’t over and it actually gets better.

Real friends are still there 20 years later. Gray hair and maybe a couple a wrinkles starting to form but nothing else has changed. Let the others go.

What you are doing right now DOES MATTER. Be a good friend, have the hard conversations, be a good listener, say ‘I love you’ but only if you mean it, go visit your grandparents every chance you get because they won’t be there forever, don’t date your friend’s ex-boyfriend even if she says it’s ok, don’t skip school more than once, ok for sure no more than twice, don’t put your happiness in that boy  (you’ll need to remember this one for the rest of your life), pay more attention in church, read your bible more, don’t put on your makeup while you’re driving, and for the love STOP smoking. ”

Ok all of that is legit. That’s sound advice, right up there with “don’t eat yellow snow.” But if I could tell my younger self one thing. JUST. ONE. It would be to “love them anyway.”

You see, people are human. Duh, right? We all make mistakes. Some of the pain we endure in this lifetime is intentional, some not. The message is the same. Love them anyway. Harboring anger and resentment and bitterness is a cancer. The saying goes that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We were never promised a life without pain, without heartache, without loss, without injustice. To feel entitled to a life to the contrary doesn’t even make sense. What we were promised was direction for the lost, wisdom for the ones that seek knowledge, rest for the weary, peace in the midst of chaos, calm in the storm, strength for the weak, sure footing for the unsteady, comfort for the brokenhearted, and above all LOVE AND GRACE.

So…..

“That friend will stab you in the back, that boy will cheat, that family member will do something that, to this day, you won’t understand. Love them anyway. You will feel scammed, deceived, tricked, and bamboozled, by the most unlikely of sources. Your heart will be utterly broken. Love them anyway. You will be defiled and left and want to die. Love them anyway. Your marriage will one day come under such attack that surely it will not survive. You will lose not one, but two babies before you hold your first precious son. Love the man you chose anyway. Your mom with go through the fight of her life and it will be so difficult to even be in her presence, love…her…anyway. Your parents will go through a nasty and bitter divorce after almost 40 years of marriage and your loyalties will be torn. Love them anyway. Your friends will leave you. You will feel alone. Love them anyway. Love your enemies and look for ways to bless the ones that persecute you. Nothing puts out a fire faster than when you refuse to fight. Try it. You only live once, on earth at least. Our time is so finite but our ability to learn and stretch and grow and give and be a blessing is limitless. Look for ways to let that happen. Oh! And calm down! Seriously, if you think you’re stressed now, just wait until you’re in your 30’s! (I have never been much for pep talks;) ”

P.S. That senior ring you lost for years is behind Daddy’s dresser. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet My Monster

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I love to be the first one in the house to get up.  If you know me at all, you probably think that is, at the very least, sarcasm or just a downright lie. I love to sleep. I can’t for the life of me understand why it isn’t one of the 5 love languages. (If you haven’t read that book, do it now. If you have kids, read the one for kids too. Life changers. You’re welcome.) On the weekends when my beloved says, “hey why don’t you go take a nap?”, my love for him at that moment is so strong that I might just explode. This alone is a good enough reason to have married this man. And I don’t even care if he is offering/strongly suggesting because I am hard to deal with and he can’t take me another second. Or maybe he just wants to play Halo 5 without my incessant talking. Motives makes no difference to me, he said the word “nap”. Sometimes I think I could sleep 24 hours straight. I even amaze myself at my mad sleeping skills and have often wondered if maybe I have mono or something. No one should be as tired as I am. My husband assures me that whatever mysterious sleeping sickness I have, I have had for the 15 years he has known me. My mom says it has been all 34 years she has known me.  So it seems to defy the laws of logic that I have been choosing to get up earlier than the fam. But it’s true.

My monster has done this to me. I wake up every morning with this looming dread that has set up camp in my chest. The kind of dread the happens just after the worst case scenario (whatever that may be). This causes my insides to revolt in the most unpleasant way. Dread, panic, fear, frustration…they are all piled on top of each other in my chest competing for thoughts in my head. I absolutely hate starting my day like this. Every! Single! Day! My interactions with my family suffer because of this intruder.  It makes my startle response rival that of someone with PTSD and when my son wakes me up to come with him to the bathroom because he’s scared, I just feel down right angry.

I get it. I sound a little crazy. Crazy is a relative term. I have been a Psych nurse for 10 years and have seen crazy. Wrapping your own poop neatly in towels and keeping them inside your shirt is crazy. Sawing off  most of your fingers and your own foot with a hand held saw is crazy.  Don’t get me started on the lady that ate most of her face…. I am assuming this is not acceptable conversation so I’ll move on.  I’ll wear the crazy label if I must. Any kind of deviation from Stepford Wife tends to be frowned upon.  My dear husband seems to think there are lots of my kind of crazy but they don’t write blogs about it;)

Whatever you call it, I hate it. And even more than the monster, I hate that my family has to suffer because I can’t handle my emotions. I would do anything! Rub Cheetos on my third toe?? Sure, if you say it might work.  By trial and error, I have tried getting up early. Trying to get my hot mess of a mom self together before the boys wake up. Prayer, yoga, reading, repeat. Whatever it takes. This actually works really well. This morning I got up at 6am and had coffee by the pool. All….by….myself.  When you don’t get a moment to yourself, ever, and you’re surrounded my mass chaos, being by yourself is like winning the lottery…and not even having to pay taxes.

I am strangely drawn to and terrified by nature. They say everything is bigger in Texas but I beg to differ. Behind my house is nothing but woods, and this swamp, river, creek thing.  This makes for a breeding ground (literally) for some strange animal sightings and some of the biggest insects I have ever seen. I am sure my small dogs could be carried off by some of these spiders and my husband and oldest little have reported a “huge cat thing bigger than our dog climbing up a tree.”  I try not to make eye contact with the forest. Maybe it will take this as a sign of respect and not send its tenants into my yard to eat me. I check the pool skimmer and, when I see fur, I close my eyes and replace the lid. I have no problem taking care of the pool and I have already rescued a turtle, a duck, and 13 baby chicks. What more do you want?? There are these huge pterodactyl bird looking things that I am certain could take on a coyote…one of which I saw brazenly walking down my street. No doubt trying to make a snack out of the geese that run the neighborhood. And go ahead and google “hellbender”.  I am certain it is called this because it is a literal  demon sent from the pits of hell to take your first born.  I saw something that looked like this come out of the ground right in front of me while I was pulling weeds from my flower beds.  It looked like a giant pickle with wrinkles like a Shar-Pei and a weird tail but moves as fast as those tiny geckos. I also learned that I am a freezer. You know, your fight or flight response? I don’t know where my fight went but my flight most definitely didn’t operate properly. I froze for what seemed like an hour and tried to figure out if I was still alive and if I still had control of my bodily functions.

But as I sat there this morning, I could smell the honeysuckle that is growing with abandon on the back fence. I could hear the owls talking to each other in perfect sequence. I could hear large “beasts” (???) running through the woods (I’m assuming modern day dinosaurs but again, no eye contact). The wind from the trees and the sun and 55 degree weather was absolutely perfect. I was scared and completely in awe at the same time. It was glorious. A testament to God’s greatness. A gift. Then I realized that I would have never been outside to witness any of it without the monster. I was forced to give up my beloved sleep to fight this monster and, in return, learned that my mornings to myself hold some of my favorite parts of the day. You will be amazed at what God reveals to you when you are quiet and still. It makes me wonder what else I am missing out on because I am so concerned with my own discomfort.  It makes me want to try new things and take more chances. Who knows, maybe I’ll run a marathon! Hahahaha that’s totally a lie. If you see me running, you should probably run too. Something is most definitely chasing me. It’s probably one of those dinosaur birds…or those hellbender things they said were “very rare”. Liars…. Regardless, I will keep trying to count my blessings in the most unlikely of places. Even if that means I lose my precious sleep. RIP old friend;)

 

 

 

How To See The World Through My Son’s Eyes

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Let me start this post by saying that this is not a post about  viewing the world through an autistic lens.  I try to be very real and raw and honest but the last thing I want to do is try to portray something that I have no idea how to accept as reality. This is about what I have learned through my neurotypical-filtered brain. Some of these things I will tell you may or may not have a direct correlation to my son’s autism. What I do know is that he has some amazing characteristics that I wish I possessed.  Before I get to that, let me paint you a picture of some of the struggles my son faces each day.

First a little background on obsessions. Darn you basil ganglia! Did you know that OCD is a biological disorder? Because I need you to know this. This (and most) mental disorder is not something that you snap out of. You can’t tell someone with obsessive, intrusive, ruminating thoughts to simply, “stop thinking about that.” If only it were that easy. It is an actual disturbance in the pathways of your brain. Pretend someone puts you in one of those revolving doors. I seriously hate those things. (It takes me back to elementary P.E. class where you do this awkward rocking motion to pick your perfect time to jump into the swinging jumprope.) Now pretend someone has played a cruel joke and closed all the openings to get out. You begin to panic because….hello, you’re in a hamster wheel. Now imagine a loud speaker shouting at you to exit. My claustrophobia is causing some serious heart palpitations right now (have I mentioned I have my own issues?).  This is kinda how those with OCD are forced to operate.  Trust me, they would love to stop the insanity.

My son tends to ruminate on certain subjects, as many with autism do. He can tell you anything you want to know about superheroes, MMA fighters, and Minecraft.  After a particularly long day (literally this can be ALL day) of hearing all things superheroes, I sarcastically asked when the first Batman was made. I was referring to the one with Michael Keaton although I have no idea the year. He didn’t skip a beat while answering, “1966 starring Adam West.” Wait, huh?? I had to look that one up. This caused a rapid fire session of his new party trick. I stared blankly after I asked him when the first Avenger movie was made and he responded, “Animation or real life?”

One reason that my son sticks to things he knows so well, is because he loves routine. This is his comfort zone. He doesn’t have to be faced with new input to his already haywire system. This is his safe place. But sometimes the revolving door/hamster wheel gets stuck on things that aren’t so “safe”.  This is not only frightening for him but heartbreaking (and if I’m honest extremely frustrating) to watch.  After playing with a caterpillar in the yard, my son went into full blown panic mode for seemingly no reason because he was afraid it somehow went into his eye, traveled to his heart, and was going to kill him. Let me preface this by saying my son most likely has a higher IQ than I do. He knows this is not rational. But at that moment, it is not only probable to him that this will occur, it is all he can think about. I would imagine this is like hitting your toe as hard as you can with a hammer and then being told to pretend it isn’t hurting and, to add to that, carry on a conversation as if your toe is not black, bleeding, and throbbing like a duck’s butt (I have no earthly idea what that means but my parents say it. Come to think of it, that might not even be the correct saying. I like it, so I’m leaving it. Let’s move on.).  Some of these fears become so overwhelming that the ability to have rational thought completely leaves him. Coupled with flailing arms, screaming, lots of tears, and incessant begging just to feel safe.  It is the most helpless feeling to see your child in so much distress and not be able to comfort him or help him feel secure.

Sometimes he gets in these moods (I have no idea what to call them). Let’s call them wild-eyed episodes that can last for hours. This is when he complains about his brain shaking violently. He runs, he screams, he laughs and can’t focus his eyes,  almost like he is dizzy.  He makes bizarre facial expressions and literally and continuously moves every muscle in his body. Just watching it is exhausting.

I tell you these things to tell you this. My son is my hero. He is the happiest boy I know. His laugh and smile are contagious. He will find a way to play, have fun, love life. He takes opportunities that I would have completely missed. He reminds me to never take myself too seriously. He plays with wild abandon and gets so lost in his pretend worlds that I almost believe he’s there. He looks at the world with wonder and amazement. He forgives and drops it, immediately. He asks far too philosophical questions that are beyond my capabilities to answer which only attest to his beautiful mind. He suffers but he doesn’t let it define him. He lives in a world he doesn’t understand but tries so hard to make it work. He loves simple pleasures like tickle fights and family meals together and can play Legos for hours and say it was the best day ever.  He sees wonder in an odd shaped pinecone and splendor in a full moon. He is devastatingly aware of his battles but always remains positive and quick to remind me, “I will be able to do this one day.” His insight goes far beyond his 7 years and his soul is a thing of beauty. His unyielding belief in the power of prayer makes my heart happy.  I wish I could imprint these lessons on my DNA. I wish I had his strength. His will to do better and be better. To find happiness despite circumstances or the toll they take on your mind.  It’s not an easy journey. But as Dr Seuss says, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So….get on your way!” Yep, you’ll go far kid. I believe in you.