Friday, March 29, 2013

Heroes Among Us

Originally posted April 2012

"Even if he knew the outcome, he would have done the same thing." The family of Alan Hall (http://abcnews.go.com/US/heroic-man-dies-saving-child-powerful-rip-tide/story?id=16109957#.UVZJS5MsmSo )

"Carissa is and always will be my greatest inspiration and number one hero ... the only word that could ever define her is love. " Dan Pearce (http://www.danoah.com/2012/04/in-honor-of-carissa-2.html

Hero. A simple four-letter word that means so much. This word has popped up time and again in my life this week ... 

People gathered today to mourn the death and celebrate the life of a hero - a man who lost his own life saving the life of a child. His story has been on the news in Florida where the event occurred and family and friends have been sharing thoughts about him via the internet. The one phrase I've heard and read over and over is that even if he knew the outcome, he would have done the same thing. Alan Hall truly is a hero. 


On his blog, Single Dad Laughing, Dan Pearce honors the memory of his sister - his number one hero - by asking everyone to share something about their favorite people. His sister loved everyone she met. They were all her favorite people. Only heroes like Carissa have love that big!

Those examples and others filled my thoughts with all the heroes in our lives that go seemingly unnoticed or unrecognized. The people who save others’ lives, perhaps without even realizing it. The people who touch our lives, even for a moment, yet have a huge impact. There have been many such people in my life.


Years ago I was alone in my dorm room studying. My asthma had been bothering me and I was having an especially hard time. As I got up to get a drink of water, my chest constricted and the world started spinning. I grabbed the phone and hit redial – then passed out. When I awoke, my hero’s face was the first I saw. It had been his number that had been the number I’d dialed – but I’d passed out before saying a word. He came to my rescue anyway – intuition, not caller id, told him it was me who called and that I needed him. A few years after that incident, I married him. His care, concern, and our deep connection makes Jim my hero. 



There was a time in my life when I was wracked with anxiety and depression. Feeling as if I could no longer handle my life and thinking I was losing my mind, I didn't know where to go or what to do. I was in a very bad place. A friend took me by the hand, found someone who could help me, and had me admitted to a psychiatric facility where I got the counseling and medications I needed. Her commitment to our friendship and the fact that she saved my life makes Renee my hero.

Almost two years ago I was pregnant, but felt that there was something wrong with the pregnancy. It would be my last pregnancy, that I knew for sure. On the way to my ultrasound, we stopped to get gas. I went inside to pay, and the man ahead of me turned to me and said, “God is with you. Especially now. It will be ok...” He smiled, and walked out the door. At my ultrasound I learned I would miscarry. I miscarried twins. The words of a complete stranger echoed in my heart through that difficult time and gave me peace. This stranger's love and faith make him my hero.


Last year I was having a difficult time coming to terms with my diagnoses and  new limitations. A friend recognized my struggle and did something about it. Each day for about a week, I received cards in the mail with pictures of spoons in them. Those cards meant the world to me - I still have some of the spoons taped to the shelves near my bed. The love and care in her cards buoyed my spirits and touched my heart. Dawn's kindness and encouraging spirit make her my hero.
 
There are innumerable heroes in all of our lives. I urge you to take some time to recognize and honor the heroes in your lives. Perhaps Alan Hall's daughter knows the best way to do so: "Please do something, however small, for someone today. A kind word or action would honor my dad." Because her heart is as giving as her dad's, even in this time of mourning, Julie Hall is my hero.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings

These are a few of my favorite things...

It arrived in the mail, and upon removing it from its envelope, I was delighted to see it was a brown paper package tied up with string, really! I even took a picture of the fabulous package, but cannot find the file anywhere. Not only did receive a brown paper package tied up with string, but inside I discovered the most amazing smelling and the best working deodorant EVER. I usually don't rave about products, but this one, Mere's All Natural's doTerra Frankincense and Bergamot Naturally Absorbent Deodorant is by far the best smelling and best working deodorant I've ever used.  I've since purchased the Jasmine and Lime scent, and the unscented deodorant and one of the body balms - all heavenly! Go buy some. It's worth every penny!


I also love coming home to notes from friends. Missing homeschool co-op because I was at a conference, a friend sent a note home with my husband that really touched my heart, along with the hug pictured above. 

And upon arriving home from our Road Trip, I discovered a note and the awesome and incredibly thoughtful gift of pain-relieving patches from another friend, who had been taking care of our cats. 

Those two simple gestures made a world of difference for my emotional health, as well as my physical health. To know you are thought about and cared for is invaluable. 



And Tuesday Night Sunday School, a one-room church school that teaches what it is to be the church, to live the Word, and to share the Sacred Stories, is most definitely one of my favorite things. 

TNSS looks different, feels different, and works differently.It is not in any way your typical Sunday School experience. From solemn lessons in the darkened Sanctuary to spur of the moment skits performed in the Fellowship Hall, to gathering around a person from the Bible to learn about their life and times, Tuesday Night Sunday School is a unique and rich learning environment. We break bread together, sing together, teach and learn together, and bless each other. And have pancake races on Shrove Tuesday. 





Friends that write notes with a hug or some patches, Tuesday Night Sunday School's not-average classes, brown paper packages tied up with strings - these are a few of my favorite things.

If you didn't sing that to the tune of the Favorite Things song from The Sound of Music, I must insist that you go back and try again. I'll wait...











Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Road Trip

We journeyed backwards, my husband and I. From light to darkness. Just the two of us. Good music, like the old days ... but slightly healthier snacks and without the case of Mountain Dew as was typical of our college road trips. This a far cry from loading five kids into the van at 2am to journey to Grammy's house for Thanksgiving, too much stuff in tow. 

Peaceful. Joyful. Fun. A laid-back, throw-back adventure. We talked, uninterrupted. Reminisced. Made jokes that would not have been appropriate with children present. Laughed.

Until we saw the signs of bad things to come.  

And by signs I mean actual signs. Those big light-up road signs that warn of imminent danger. These signs said WINTER WEATHER FORECAST - TUNE IN TO 1670AM. So we did. The first four words I heard were "three to six inches." '

Snow. 

But...but...the forecast said temperatures in the forties and rain. And then it hit me, I hadn't checked the forecast for Pennsylvania since Thursday of last week. It was now Sunday evening, and my how things had changed. We pressed on. What else could we do? We needed the car our in-laws were gifting to us, as my husband's car would cost more to fix than it is worth. Their more than generous offer was worth the whirlwind trip- and braving the snow.

Exhausted upon arrival, we went to bed shortly thereafter. 

Upon dragging myself out of bed, there were a good three to four inches of snow on the ground already. By 8:30AM the roads looked clear despite the continued snow, so we ventured out for coffee, temporary plates and paperwork at the AAA office, and supplies from the Mennonite store. 

As the sun tried its best to banish the grey, we got on the road, each driving, thankful for clear roads in the midst of stubborn snowfall. We stopped for lunch at 1ish, made a pit stop at 3ish, and got gas after the car dinged at me just as we entered some major traffic. The snow stopped when we reached Promised Land - the state park, that is.



Mercifully close to home, we made a final stop to pick up our kids. Thanking my parents for wrangling children overnight and most of the day, we loaded the children up into two vehicles and made our way home via Five Guys Burgers and Fries - or Burgers on Friday if you ask the GPS voice we used to use. 

After dinner, it was bedtime for all. Well, technically it was bedtime for the kids and I was going to stay up and watch a movie with my husband, but I didn't quite make it through the movie. 

We spent around 16 hours in a period of 28 hours driving - more time driving than we spent with my in-laws, and more time sleeping than awake in the presence of my in-laws. 

There aren't words that express enough gratitude for the gift of a reliable vehicle or the gift of being able to make the trip without children. We are blessed to have such wonderful, giving parents. 

A month or two ago when I thought it would be nice to get some time away with just my husband, this was not quite what I imagined. Next time there needs to be more relaxation and less driving. 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dawn of Insanity

We leave in fourteen minutes. Up before the sun, I've spent the morning alternating between getting ready and panicking that I'm forgetting something. Or lots of things. We're off to church for the annual Palm Sunday pancake breakfast, which requires us to bring a crockpot of gluten-free pancakes for four-sixths of us, plus a couple people at church. The bread will be done baking just in time to cart the steaming loaf to the car, leaving it in charge of a child who will not drop nor eat the bread on the way to church. Once at church, I will set up my computer to continuously play the cutest Easter story ever, then will partake of a hearty breakfast with wonderful people. I also find myself in charge of part of the craft portion of the morning, then rush up to a quick choir rehearsal before worship begins.
 
We're leaving in nine minutes. One child has yet to shower because another is taking her time in the bathroom. The cats have yet to be fed. Children have seemed to forgotten to get dressed. My cup of coffee sits cold and lonely on the stool in front of me. My mind races through the day ahead. After worship we partake of more yummy food and fellowship, then head to my parents' house, where I will attempt to rest, perhaps nap, in preparation for what is to come. 

We leave in five minutes. The teen has just gotten into the shower. This does not bode well, as he's the one who, like his mother, would be content to stand under the water for hours. I realize I should call my husband at work to remind him to come straight to my parents' house after work, and to fill the car up with gas on the way, but that will have to wait until he's on break. He'll pick me up at my parents' house, where we'll leave the kids for the night as we head on our seven-hour-if-we're-lucky trek to Pennsylvania. We should arrive around midnight, at which time I will fall thankfully into bed and hopefully sleep soundly for six or seven hours. 

The next morning will be a flurry of activity, with paperwork to fill out and papers to be signed. Then we drive my parents'car, which we've borrowed for the trip, and the new-to-us car my in-laws have blessed us with, back to Connecticut. racing a potential snowstorm. We will spend more hours on the road than with my in-laws. We will spend more hours sleeping than awake at my in-laws' house. 

We were supposed to leave two minutes ago. The bread is finally done and the shower just turned off. We may leave the house eventually. I take some deep breaths, enjoy a rare moment of quiet in the house, and then start packing up the computer so we can hit the road. 

These next two days will be pure insanity. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ninety-four

She walks powerfully through my life.

During my childhood, she went to work while her retired husband stayed home and tended house, yet got up early Sunday mornings making dinner from scratch for her extended family. Picking her up at her office was perhaps the highlight of my Saturday. There was something magical about typewriters and adding machines and the high counter in the front where my grandfather would sometimes let me sit. She planted the seed that a woman's place is wherever she wants to be.

During my teen years, she unabashedly shared her opinion and encouraged me to stand firm in my convictions. She remembered with me my history, as well as family history. Stories of my mother´s childhood, the Depression, and her own life we're the history lessons of my youth.

At my wedding when I was just barely 21, she danced joyfully with my grandfather to their song - I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store. As I witnessed love reverberate between them, I prayed that one day my husband and I would live up to that example, the love between us palpable to all in the room. 

As a new mom, unsure of my ability to live up to any number of perceived expectations, Nanna encouraged me to relax and listen to my instincts and my baby, assuring me that things would work themselves out. Quite unexpectedly, at least as far as I was concerned, she was one of my biggest breastfeeding supporters, regaling me with the story of a mom in her old neighborhood who seemed to be nursing all the little ones in the block. "She would just throw her breast over her shoulder and they would all follow after her." 

These days I delight in seeing the sheer joy in her face as she interacts with her great-grandchildren and treasure every opportunity to take another walk down memory lane with my Nanna. 

Happy 94th Birthday, Nanna!



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Strange Tidings We Bring

...to you this Spring! 

Strange tidings, indeed. This first day of Spring ... blessed, long-awaited Spring ... has turned out to be an interesting one. 

Awakened at 2ish AM by what felt like a spider crawling on my hand, I bolted awake, only to discover that it was hair. My hair. A bunch of it. This after clearing the shower drain three times during my shower just hours before. Tossing and turning for hours, my hair tortured me, tickling my nose, itching my neck, invading my mouth. It seems Remicade has sent my hair fleeing from my scalp at an astonishing rate. 

Making my way to the bathroom in the morning with an handful of hair from my bed in tow, I was greeted by a bright orange plastic bag with a biohazard symbol on it. Ah, the joys of medical testing that requires the collection of twenty-four hours worth of pee. And so my day began.

"Good morning! Happy Spring! Oh, by the way, don't touch the big orange jug in the fridge - it has pee in it." Not quite the greeting my kids were expecting this morning, but they rolled with it. Stranger things have been said in this household.

And then I was off to the gluten-free bakery to pick up lasagna noodles for Easter dinner ... and treats for my family while I was there. Sipping coffee and picking hair off of it, and off of my muffin, I made my way to Target. Brushing a stray bunch of hair back into my tichel, I discover they're not attached to my scalp, so there's no putting them back in place. This is getting ridiculous. 

And so I go home. 

And...

well...

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow! Or today, as it were. 

I now sit here, very much relieved of my hair on this cold, slightly snowy first day of Spring. As my husband shaved my head, he told me that I'm beautiful no matter how much hair I have, or don't have. The wonderful thing is that I know he means it. 

I'm still quite in shock at my lack of hair, but the kids are enjoying joking about it. Now to find something to keep my head warm...









Monday, March 18, 2013

Lenten Love Letters: A Letter to Myself



During the past five weeks I've been writing Lenten Love Letters to all sorts of people. Then I linked up with Sarah Bessey's International Women's Day synchroblog, and discovered many, many amazing blogs. One of the blogs is Emily T. Wierenga's blog, where she has put forth a Love Dare, in which people are encouraged to participate in her synchroblog about learning to LOVE yourself.

Reading A Biblical Manifesto and Emily's Love Dare, I realized there was one letter I really needed to write that wasn't on my list of possible letter recipients - a letter to someone who really needs a talking to about loving herself. Me. 

After all there it was. Right in front of me. That thing. That THING that I've been working on forever. That extreme that I'm not sure I accomplish often enough, and that state of being that was shaken to the ground a few months ago when I became unhinged . I like myself. I value myself. But rarely do I LOVE myself. Lowercase love, maybe, but LOVE? A tricky thing with depression, anxiety, and self-doubt induced by voices from my past continuing to make their way into my consciousness.

So I sit here, take a deep breath, and grab myself by the shoulders, telling myself to read this, and believe this, and hold on to this with everything I've got...

Dear Me,
You are loved. You are valued. You have great worth. 

You are strong. You survived abuse. You are thriving with psoriatic arthritis / spondylitis, celiac, and other autoimmune issues. You birthed five babies in to your arms and four babies into God's embrace. You get out of bed every day in hopes of filling your house with love and laughter, even when you are so ill you don't feel at all like being human, nevermind humane to anyone.  

You created, nourished and nurtured five lives and mother them every single day in one way or another. Some days better than others, but every day they know they are loved.

You have created, nourished, and nurtured a marriage to a husband to whom you are eternally devoted. Your relationship isn't perfect, but you work hard to grow your relationship

You have God-given gifts and strive to use them to the best of your ability. You give to others at every opportunity. 

You embrace friends who love you for who you are, in all your broken, mistake-making, begging forgiveness, raw, emotional, and perpetually exhausted glory. You accept your friends as they come, celebrating every uniqueness. 

You grow in faith every day. Reading voraciously, praying, worshiping, and discussing faith with others with an open mind and open heart.

You are a child of God,. You know that no matter what, God loves, God forgives, and God knows you heart - and that's all that matters. 

So get on with it, already. Embrace yourself. Love yourself. LOVE yourself. Encourage yourself as you encourage everyone around you. 

I LOVE you!
Amanda







Saturday, March 16, 2013

Seeing the Hat


We were sitting in a restaurant enjoying our lunch when a man came in on crutches. He was missing one leg and had prosthetic arms and hands. One of my kids yelled, "Hey, Mama - LOOK at that guy over there!" My brain readied itself for the possible situation at hand and my lovely child continued, 


"He has the coolest hat!"

Someone recently asked me if life is different for my children because of my chronic illness.
 


Life is different for them due to a lot of things. We homeschool, so I guess that could be considered different - but many of their friends are homeschooled as well, so they don't see it as different. My oldest has Aspergers - but he's just Alex to all the other kids, so his differences are normal to them. My children are different from many of their peers in that they are responsible for helping keep the house clean, but not only because often I am physically unable to clean up after five kids, but because they are a part of this family and we all live here. They are able to cook and enjoy doing it – Coren makes a mean crockpot chicken! The three oldest can change diapers, make up a bottle of formula or breastmilk, and take great joy in entertaining babies and toddlers. My children are different because they live in a gluten-free home and deal with various food allergies ... but then again, they have friends who are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or have food allergies, so all those are within their realm of normal as well. My kids have friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, and Christian, so they don’t necessarily feel different because of their own religious beliefs. 


Through my chronic illness my children have learned patience, because it takes me longer to do some things or they need to wait to do something like go to the museum or science center until I'm having a relatively good day. They have learned compassion and empathy and to be considerate of how others are feeling, physically and emotionally. They find the beauty inside of people and accept differences in outside appearance as what makes people unique, not as something to judge. My children have learned that a person in a wheelchair or using canes is the same as a person walking on their own two feet. Perhaps most importantly, they know that everyone has a bad day or two - a day when they need space and time and perhaps to cry a little ...or a lot. They know life isn't all roses and lollipops and purple bunnies hopping to and fro - and that that's ok. There will be other days to see rainbows - and if not for the rainy days, we wouldn't have the rainbow days at all.  




Perhaps the person was talking about the days chronic illness is at its worst - perhaps she was worried if she can be a "good enough" parent as a parent with a chronic illness. I do have days when I don't feel like or can't do much of anything. Sometimes those days are the days my kids like the best - cuddled in bed with Mama, reading books, playing card or board games, watching documentaries, looking up strange and interesting stuff on the internet, and just chatting. These are actually the days when I’m more focused on them because the housework and volunteer work have to wait. It's the quality of the time you spend with people that counts, not so much what you can or can't do with them.

So yes, my kids are different, in part because of my chronic illness– but in a good way, I hope. Am I a "good enough" parent in spite of my chronic illness? I think I'm actually a better parent thanks to my chronic illness - a parent who sees value in each moment and in each child, and has the time to live the moments instead of rushing through them...and a parent who defines herself by who she is, not by her illness. I think I'm doing a pretty good job- after all, I have kids who see the hat, not the disability.






(originally posted March 2012)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Snowball-Cannonball-Boomerang Effect

Snowball-cannonball-boomerang effect: n. when life events build momentum until they explode out of control and then come back and kick you in the *. 

Once upon a time, not too very long ago, I was too ill to do much of anything. We attended homeschool co-op, did fun projects at home, attended church activities, entertained other people's kids, and I made my way to one doctor appointment or another. Enter Remicade, and energy and vitality began to return. We added a few excursions to our repertoire. Then an extra choir rehearsal or two. Women's Circles once again entered my life. 

Then all of a sudden I find there's a need to squeeze doctor appointments, eye doctor appointments, the start of homeschool co-op Spring semester, Alia's belated birthday party/Nanna's birthday party/St. Patrick's day, a chess tournament, Women's Circle, LLL Seminar/Workshop weekend, Palm Sunday festivities, a whirlwind trip to PA and back to get a car from my in-laws, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter all into the next two-ish weeks. Plus "extra" kids in the house nearly every day. It will be a miracle if I make it through Easter Day without a nap. 

That I am healthy enough to do this is truly a blessing, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid of the boomerang portion of the effect. The part where all of this fully living life goodness turns around to somehow bite me in the behind. 

And just when this insane two weeks is over, April Fool's Day will arrive complete with my kids' epic prank-pulling plans. I may stay in bed that day, lest I find myself at the wrong end of the Snowball-Cannonball-Boomerang Effect.




Thursday, March 14, 2013

There's Nothing Like...

... a friend arriving at just the right moment with kind words that you really need to hear.


... reading loving words on your computer screen that really touch your heart and make your day.

... cuddling with a beautiful baby while ignoring the housework.

... listening to children's laughter waft through the open window.

... a child helping with housework and helping to cook dinner without being asked.

... calling to make a hotel reservation and finding out the block reserved for the conference you're attending is full and the hotel is sold out... except for a spa  room with whirlpool tub, sitting area, fridge, king size bed, for $30 more, which is in your budget because you were just refunded more than that from your registration because you are co-running the silent auction and theme baskets.

... the baby sleeping long enough for you to eat your dinner while it's still hot.

... children who climb into bed with you, Bible in hand, and ask if you can read together for a bit before it's time to sleep.

... cats who keep your feet warm.

... all these things happening in one day.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Overcome


"Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.  
Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.
Let your light scatter the darkness and illumine your church." (Opening, Vespers)

Evening Prayer. It's one of my favorite opportunities to worship. A service of Evening Prayer was offered at my church and I felt pulled to attend. 
"...Enlighten our darkness by the light of your Christ, may your Word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path..."   (Thanksgiving for Light)
Flickering candlelight danced on my eyelids. The words, the precious words spoke to my spirit, deluged my soul. Precious long moments of silence washed over me. In stillness, my heart called out to God, pouring out my worry, my fear, my sin, my sorrow, my gratitude, my joy. Tears streaming down my face, a cloak of comfort and forgiveness enveloped me. God was in that stillness, that silence, reaching out to me, comforting me, snuffing out the darkness with His light. 


"O, Lord, I call to you, come to me quickly; hear my voice when I cry to you. Let my prayer rise before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as my evening sacrifice." (Psalmody, Psalm 141)


I walked out of worship that night, wrapped in God's peace; emptied of all that keeps me separated from life, from God; and overcome with gratitude for God's abundant grace. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

People I Love, even though I don't know them

I've been watching a lot of youtube videos from different sources lately. Many of them touch my heart. A few have people in them who truly make the world a better place and know what really matters in life.

Donovan, thank you for taking the time to do what you did!!! 

Tim, because hugs are manna for our spirit!


Noah St. John's Moms (and him, too!), because they know what's important, down to the last mile...

Three amazing men, from different walks of life, all embracing the goodness in the world. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Days Like These

"Deep breaths and prayer ... right now that's about all that's going to get me through today."

That was my facebook status today. I posted that after spending over an hour sitting in silence, then talking a little, then listening, then asking questions, then listening a lot. Then making phone calls for doctor appointments, prayers, and support. This after my child, angry at the world, wanting to escape his own skin, tried to barricade himself in his room.

This. This is the most painful aspect of parenting for me. Seeing my child suffer through the hell of depression, knowing that what I can do to help is severely limited by doctor's opinions, my child's willingness to talk, and my ability to cope with someone else's mental illness while dealing with my own.

As I sat, hopefully with even the slightest appearance of calm, a storm was brewing in my brain and in my heart. Terror at the what-ifs consumed me. What if he wants to hurt himself? What if he wants to kill himself? What if the doctors don't believe him or brush him off? What if he becomes as good as I was at covering up what he's really going through until he reaches the point of no return? What if he's like me??? 

Taking a deep breath, I shifted the weight of my worries out of the way, and sojourned on.

I asked the heartwrenching questions: Do you ever think about hurting yourself? Killing yourself? Do you ever hurt yourself? Are you willing to talk to a doctor? Be brutally honest, even if it hurts? Because I know it hurts.

And I know it's impossible. How do you tell a stranger you spend hours a day thinking of ways to escape from your life? How do you explain that you don't fit in your skin? That this life is wrong? That you have this feeling of otherness that won't go away? That you know the world is against you and everything is wrong, but at the same time know that's an utterly ridiculous way to think and feel? That others enrage you simply by being happy and you feel so far away from happy, so utterly lost in a vortex of despair, that happy is more fantasy than reality and not waking up is preferable to looking at one more smiling face?

So I reached out. Told him it's not ok. It might not be ok for a while. But we'll figure it out. No sugar coating. No trying to cheer him up. Just honesty. And fear. And sadness. And pain. Yet a knowing that we will get through this. God and friends and family and good books and video games and yelling at the top of our lungs and doctors and talking and crying and throwing (soft) things and whatever it takes, he will get to a place where life is good and his burden is less. And love. Lots and lots of love.

And then I left him alone. It was excruciating. The not knowing what he was thinking, how he was feeling, if he was calming down, or if he was getting more upset. And I checked on him, as I told him I would, because I was scared. And I told him that. That it terrifies me that he's going through this because I know to what depths the darkness reaches. That I've been down a similar road and the thought that anything could keep him from feeling the magnitude of my love for him and the vastness of God's love for him fills me with dread. That no matter what, he needs to ask anyone who loves him for help if he should ever consider the merest possibility of harming himself. And he said ok.

Lots of alone time, freshly baked spice cookies, and a couple video games later and he's rejoined the rest of the household feeling a bit better, but still very raw. I can breathe a bit easier. The crisis has passed, but the journey to wellness only begun. He will not make the journey alone. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Farm Fresh Remix

We sent in our CSA application for 2013 and are already dreaming of farm-fresh goodies! 


Every Wednesday from late June through September we park our car along the driveway of an organic farm, and fill bags with beautiful produce. Occasionally we plunk four dollars into a can in the fridge in exchange for farm-fresh organic eggs or six dollars in a can on the table for a container of fresh honey. Otherwise, no money leaves my wallet.


Most days we play with the dogs, the kids play on the jungle gym, and usually we're in for a nice walk up the hill to pick berries or flowers. We often see the free-range chickens that provide the eggs. Sometimes we glimpse the turkeys, marveling at how quickly they grow. In the Autumn, the kids make and jump into piles of leaves while I fill our bags with the farm's bounty. We meet my parents there and I get another opportunity to chat with them and my kids get more Gramma and Papa time.

I love that this is part of our lives. I am delighted that my kids see where their food is coming from, including their Thanksgiving turkey - and get to talk to the farmer as well. I appreciate that I can pay for all of this earlier in the year when we usually have a little more money to spend. For approximately $12.50 a week, we get pounds upon pounds of organic produce: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, kale, collards, asian greens, lettuce, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, scallions, basil, eggplant, radishes, green beans, kohlrabi, swiss chard, blueberries, raspberries, and so much more. Some weeks offer different things that others, so we rarely get sick of eating one particular thing. Except maybe kale. And scallions that one year - what does one do with five pounds of scallions in a week?
My kids have learned to make everything from squash pickles to kale chips. They've experienced a rainbow of vegetables, and love eating them...usually. The rainbow of carrots sometimes don't  last more than a few hours. The cherry tomatoes have a similar fate. The berries rarely make it off the farm. And the cantaloupe - store-bought cantaloupe pails in comparison to sweet, succulent organic farm fresh cantaloupe. 

In making these weekly journeys to the farm, we are reaping the blessings of the nourishment not only of our bodies, but of our souls as we take in the abundance God and the wonderful farmers provide. 

The Maple View Farm CSA, and community supported agriculture everywhere, is an invaluable resource, and a cost-effective way to fill our fridge and freezer with fresh, organic produce at a fraction of what it costs at the grocery store. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tissue Warning

Or ... Things That Made Me Cry

Momastery.com : Gail Because we are all connected, and making that connection with just one person can make all the difference. And because sometimes we need to give all of ourselves to someone. Just because.

Deeperstory.com: Father of Three One Living Because I know what it is to lose babies and stumble when people ask how many children I have. Me? I have nine children, five living. 

We Found Our Son on the Subway Because love and family and life are all unexpected joys. 

Momastery: Love Flashmob Because a teen mom needed a home. Because $250 was raised per minute over 5.5 hours! Because many people can give just a little and change someone's life for the better. (follow up story here: Wthr.com: Homeless Teen Mother's Story Generates Thousands of Dollars)

What Forgiveness Looks Like Because here we can learn what real forgiveness looks like. 

And this...which is worth every second, every word, every truth. 



Because...
At 3:56 Shane Koyczan says the words so many people need to say to themselves every single moment of their lives.
By 7:38 tears are streaming down my face and I see myself in his words, and then he says the words that make me want to take myself by the shoulders and shake some sense into myself.
At 10:19 and 10:48 you need to do what he says. Everyone needs to do what he says.
At 11:31 I started full out sobbing.

Sarah Bessey: In Which I Announce the International Women's Day Synchroblog In which I cried countless times reading through the blog posts of these remarkable women as they bless us with their words and share their spiritual midwives and patron saints with the world.

And because I love all these people. And because with love, all things are possible. 


Friday, March 8, 2013

To See the Face of God (Spiritual Midwife, age 4)


The amazing Sarah Bessey has blessed us all today with her International Women's day synchroblog. I've enjoyed curling up with these amazing and inspiring blog posts today. My migraine on day four and going full force and feeling unable to form a coherent sentence, I felt called to share a post from January about one of my Spiritual Midwives, who has taught me much in her now five years of life. Her young eyes are open to more spiritually than many of the people I know. Her insights astound me every day. 
 
At church Sunday morning, I had a difficult time paying attention to the sermon. A certain little girl had important things to say. 

"Mama, do you see God's face? I see it when I see the faces of all these people at church. I see God's face even when I close my eyes really tight. I see God's face in everyone I meet. Do you want to know why? Because I love every single person!" (Alia, age 4)

At the movies Sunday night, one line of a song jumped out at me like never before. 
"To love another person is to see the face of God." (Les Miserables)
The world hasn't been quite the same to me, since. How can it be, when I see God everywhere, in every face? How can it be, when I look through the eyes of love? How can it be, when my heart has been reawakened? 

When did I become blind to God in others? Until Sunday, I hadn't realized how closed off my heart had become, how difficult it has been to genuinely care about every human being with whom I come in contact. Chronic pain, illness, and stress has been taking its toll and it has been difficult to get out of my own pain fog to truly connect with others. Getting past the physical and emotional exhaustion to see beyond myself and those immediately around me seems to consume too much of my very limited energy. It took a four year old, and a beloved musical to remind me how sacred every being is.  
"When you look at someone, just look with love, then you'll see that glowy God-spark and you'll know it's God's face, too." (Alia, age 4)
Would that we all seek out the God-spark in others - what a peaceful, loving, better place this world would be. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ready, Set ...

3:38 PM: Mama tells children to get ready to leave the house while she finishes up a project she's working on.

3:58 PM: Mama inquires as to whether or not children have gotten shoes on their feet. One has.

4:02 PM: Mama finds out that one child is taking too long in the bathroom and two more are still awaiting their turn. She attempts to hurry things up.

4:03 PM: Survey taken as to progress getting shoes on feet and coats on bodies. One child is wearing both. Another has managed shoes. Another actually knows where her coat is. Two coats are missing in action, having been removed from bodies a mere two hours ago. The five year old is still holding the bathroom hostage.

4:07 PM: Five year old emerges from bathroom and two children squabble over who is next. Two more children now need to use the bathroom.

4:08 PM: Five year old is putting on socks, singing the theme song to "Transformers," and inquires as to whether or not "Mexicons" might be a plausible new transformer force.

4:10 PM: Three children still awaiting bathroom use and two other children are now discussing "Romebots," "Mexicons," and how funny the concept of "Shishkabots" would be.

4:12 PM: Second child exits bathroom, third child enters. The Shishkabots concept is getting out of hand.

4:13 PM: Third child enters bathroom. It must be some sort of miracle. The youngest two children are being encouraged to seek out shoes and coats before Mama loses her mind.

4:14 PM: Mama contemplates the need to stop for coffee on the way to church.

4:15 PM: Eldest child questions the sensibility of leaving for church two hours early. Mama points out the time, the fact that said child needs to be at church at 5 PM for Confirmation class, and the fact that it's now been 35 minutes or so and we still have multiple children without shoes and/or coats on and we will only leave on time if we're lucky.

4:17 PM: Bathroom is finally free for Mama to use. Mama sends kids to the van, in hopes that in the 5-10 minutes it will take her to get ready, gather what we need to bring with us, and get to the van, that the kids will have buckled themselves in and be waiting peacefully. She realizes that the chances of this happening are the same as the chances of the kids getting ready to go in a quick and efficient manner.

4:25 PM: Mama is on her way out the door when she realizes she's forgotten the pizza fixings for the gluten-free people.

4:30 PM: Mama lugs stuff to the van, where all the kids are actually buckled into their seats. Mama looks at the time, rejoices that they're on time, inquires as to the status of everything that is supposed to be making its way to church, and discovers the absence of two items.

4:32 PM: Mama sends child to retrieve said items

4:35 PM: Child returns with one item. Mama reminds him of the second item on the not very long list and he runs back into the house.

4:36 PM: Child returns with second item, gets in van, gets buckled.

4:37 PM: GO!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Jellies


Graceful. Beautiful. Their undulating movements draw me in, momentarily hypnotizing me. Serene. Peaceful. Gliding nearly effortlessly through the water, their movement relaxes my body and clears my mind. 

Sea jellies are usually my favorite aquarium exhibit. I could stand for hours watching them, and often my children have to drag me away to explore other sea life. 

Watching jellies on our recent trip to Mystic Aquarium, I couldn't help but wonder what it feels like to be one, wafting rhythmically through the sea. How wonderful, the thought of no aching joints - made mostly of water and gelatinous mesoglea. Being more sea than sea creature. 


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Everyone Has a Story

A high school teen led two lives, lived two stories. The story her family and friends knew to be true was that of an honor student who played in the band as well as a youth symphony, babysat many children, had a good family life, and liked to hang out with friends. The story She new to be true included all of these things, but also rape, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, which she hid all too well from everyone. She became good at faking happiness and having it together. She was dying inside while living a normal life on the outside. 

When she was in college and the abuse had ended, she finally told friends she'd known in high school about the abuse. They were so set in their story of her life that they called her liar and fake, trying to convince their new college friends she was a fraud. Blinded by their truth, they couldn't see her truth, her agony as they turned their backs on her.

Everyone has a story. You have your story. I have mine. We live our stories every day. Our stories are our truth.

Young Woman or Old?
Everyone has a perception of the people in their lives. These perceptions are based on their own life experiences and how they relate to the people in their lives, as well as the stories others have told about these people. Someone can tell you their story, in detail, but you can never completely know the person's story, because your own story - your thoughts, perceptions, experiences, and judgments -  get in the way. Other things can get in the way, too - what others have told you about that person or presumptions and opinions you already hold can cloud your view of someone else's story. A few well chosen words can change one's perception of a person or situation dramatically.

That girl was blessed to have people in her life who believed in her and her story. Who took the time to see the scars, both physical and emotional, and understand the healing She needed to do. It was with their support that I made it through those days and months and years when I felt like I was holding on to life by a thread and the only thing keeping the thread intact was Love. 

It saddens me when people walk out of friends' lives after listening to others' stories about their actions, their intentions, or their wrongdoing instead of coming to their friend to hear his or her story, his or her truth - instead of choosing to understand their heart.

So many misunderstandings take place because people choose to believe others' perceptions rather than open lines of communication and come to their own conclusions. So many friendships are lost because hate and anger are easier than compassion and forgiveness. Letting others do our thinking for us is easier than thinking for ourselves. Assuming we have the whole story is easier than finding out if we're missing important bits and pieces that might provide a different perspective. Forming our own story about someone perhaps less burdensome than listening, really listening, to someone tell their story, speak their truth.

Again, I find people walking out of my life because they choose to listen to someone else's version or create their own version of my story. Or because they cannot see beyond my missteps to my heart. Years ago when this happened, I was devastated. This time, I realize that my true friends are those who have come to me with their questions, their anger, their frustration, their support, their forgiveness, their regret for having misunderstood, their acceptance of my brokenness and humanness, their honesty about the hurt they feel, their openness to work things out, and their love. With an understanding that we all make mistakes  - sometimes big ones. These friendships are rooted deeply in Real - in Tough as well as Fun; in Empathy as well as Celebration; in Imperfection and Just-Rightness; in Respect for each other's stories. 

This time I find my load is lightened by the loss, the blessings of true friendship a comfort and joy. I know that should I again stumble, there will be people to lift me up and hear my story and set me straight and love me through it all.