That’s Affirmative

I spoke with a wonderful woman a couple months ago who was asking questions about an adopted niece  out there somewhere.  She expressed the desire to try to find her, maybe reconnect her with her mother, (her sister) and develop a relationship with her.  Inwardly I cringed.  I did not cringe because of the heartfelt desire, but about the can of worms that it would open for everyone involved.  I asked her to make sure she understood her own motivations for such a search and to consider the impact it would make on a grown woman who has had no contact with her biological family.  Many intricate strings exist here, for all involved. I have known my whole life that I am adopted and it has never really bothered me.  Kids in school often made remarks that I did not have any “real parents”.  It seems that many think that being adopted means that they don’t have any real parents.  How wrong a belief that is.  The fact is that we do have real parents, we were really born to someone and were given life.  The circumstances for an adoption are as varied as snowflakes that fall.  Hearing statements like that can really mess with a kid’s head, then again–sometimes it doesn’t..I will speak to my experience only.  It is the only story I know, and the only story which I have permission to share.

I know that many speak to the adopting parents experience and many times to the one who is giving the child up for adoption.  Then again, sometimes it is out of the biological parents control.  Few understand, or speak to the adopted child’s point of view.  Few realize that growing up there are real feelings that happen and they tend to stay into adulthood.  Not everyone is aware of that impact, but in studies of the psychological impact of adoption, some real emotions occur. I will speak to my experience only.  It is the only story I know, and the only story which I have permission to share.

Isolation:  Sometimes I feel like I am so different that most people would never understand why I think some things and my reactions to situations.  There are times when I watch families together that I physically ache for something real like that.  People have real connections with the people who REALLY have given birth to them….they are their biological family and thus can feel a tie to them that I will never have.

Loneliness:  It is true that I was adopted and cared for and raised by a set of parents.  I was given rules, guidelines, and opportunities that I would never had had.  I was able to realize what a household with parents and siblings feels like.  There are times though, when feeling different (even though I am not) makes for a lonely spot where I wonder if anyone else understands how I feel.

Affirmation:  This one is the hardest to feel, it is also the hardest to admit.  I am a creative soul, one who observes and feels emotions and the world around me intensely.  I cannot change this no matter how hard I try.  Being involved in speech events, theatre, and writing lends itself to a certain need for affirmation.  At 40, this drives me nuts.  Did I do this well enough?  Was I good enough at this task?  Did I do enough to please someone else?  Am I perfect enough that I won’t lose the relationship I have with this person?  Did I disappoint them so that they will go away, or decide that someone else is better?  Am I good enough to stay in this relationship…will they give me away if I do something wrong?  Can I be perfect enough to stay where I am and feel secure with this person.  Is it safe to love them, to let them love me, and to believe them when they say they care?  What may look like a compliment fishing expedition has little to do with ego stroking and more to do with the safety of that relationship.  If I do this, this, and this….I will get to stay.  If not, I am on my own….separated from the status quo that I understand.  That stability is so vital to my existence.  I know it may not make sense….I wish I could eliminate it, but it is part of who I am.  Missing a comma can throw me into such a moment of self doubt and fear that I will be replaced that I cannot tell others because I do not think they will understand.  Half the time, I do not understand.

Lastly, Wistful Dreaming.  I smile a bit here because like it or not, everyone of us has a dream in our head about what a reunion with our biological parents would be like.  We may never ever admit it to a soul, but the thought has crossed each mind.  The wondering of how they look, what they do, what are they like comes to the surface at least once in our lives.  The lifetime movie concept of running across a room with arms open wide and an easy explanation of circumstances has played before my eyes more than once.  Unfortunately that will never be the case.  I have met mine, know the situation, and know that that type of a reunion will never happen.  I have to be ok with that, and sometimes it is hard to admit that I want more than what I have.  It is hard to admit that the yearn for a “real family” surfaces…I wish it didn’t.  Much like I wish that I did not seek affirmation, I wish the yearn was not so strong.

There it is, the longer and not so short of it.  This is not an exhaustive list, and I have not done near the justice I could do.  Suffice it to say, there will be more observations…more encouragement to those adopting, and more caution for those entering into the world of adoption…Tread carefully and with more love than you ever dream possible.

shalom,

cahl

Advertisements

Anyone? anyone? anyone? (echo, echo echo)

bad mommy

I saw this the other day on my Facebook post.  I laughed initially, until I looked again.  I looked over at my kids…they are great.  They are also human, which means I don’t like them everyday.  Most of the time, they make me smile, laugh, and shake my head in wonder.  Sometimes I watch them, just watching them in their own world, they do not know that I am there.  These are the moments on which I reflect the most.   Moments when they believe no one is looking and I catch a glimpse of the people they are becoming.  Their play and non-verbal demonstrations tell me much about them.

They make me smile, even writing that last sentence about their play made me smile.  HOWEVER, there are moments that I watch them, hear them speak, or notice their interactions and I wonder….who are these people?  Then I cock my head and wonder even more…Who in the WORLD sent these creatures home with me?  I am still only like 15, right?  23 if I am lucky, right?  Who thought is was wise to bundle a wiggly, wrinkled, wailing, humanoid and hand it to me to raise?

Please tell me there are others out there feeling the same way.  I stepped (and still do step) around a cluttered house, believing that if anyone were to drop by, they would call social services based on the status of my livingroom.  I struggled with feeling like I should stay at home, yet yearning for “real” people conversation.  I could not breastfeed my first son, but was able to make enough to bottle.  That lasted until acid reflux for him and exhaustion for me set in and formula was our next step.  Different formula after different formula….ever smelt soy formula in spit up form?  Once is enough.

As young teachers, with little income and bills to catch up, we grudgingly applied and qualified for WIC.  I hung my head the first time I purchased the acceptable groceries.  Here I was, a teacher, pillar of a community and I was relying on something else to help me.  The shame I felt was immense, but the relief I felt to be able to pay off some medical bills incurred during my son’s birth outweighed shame.  No one tells you about those early days…the crying, the screaming, the stages–ear infections, diapers, diapers and the laundry….all piles up and the instances of real thought escapes amidst Baby Beethoven.  AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH.  No one mentions those days.

We only hear the baby smell is incredible, the cooing, giggles, grabbing fingers, and each milestone are out-of-this-world!  Do not get me wrong….These are incredible and can reduce a mom to joyful tears in seconds.  Those are highlights that make you want to capture that moment in time and freeze it….then reality hits as your boy wonder sprays you in the face-again.

We muddle through….another comes along, making room in your heart where you thought for sure there was no way you could love another human being as much as the first.  Again, someone it’s a good idea to send another one home with you.  I guess it would be bad to leave them in the crib at the hospital–right?

Life bumps along and finally you settle into a makeshift routine.  You flip-flop between knowing somehow you are doing an ok job and the utter fear that the children will end up on a counselor’s couch somewhere.

Then, it happens.  Something so unexpected throws a wrench into it all.  Maybe it is a diagnosis, a special need, a situation that erupts into something you never thought possible.  All of those happened in the young age stages of my boys–one in particular.

Ok, I will not concentrate on that.  What I will comment on is….well reality.  We women, we do a number on ourselves and one another.  If it is not comments about what we do or don’t do….what we feed our children (ramen noodles or organic mac-n-cheese) or what programs our children attend. Come upon  a fellow mom in stores (did you know Target or the horrid Wal-Mart is nicest to shop in the wee hours of the night or when bats fly at night?) who look bedraggled and harried, and yet paste on a smile and greet one another warmly.  Probe a little deeper than the famed, “how are you?  (insert giggling hug or kiss on the cheek here) and you’ll see another picture completely.  You’ll see the tired lines, hear the taxi trips  with multiple children (half who are not even hers), watch the posts of gaggles of children beginning the forays into slumber parties and  boy gatherings (they don’t have slumber parties….I dunno, I am just starting here).  Under all that is the question…”Am I the only one feeling such and such?”  Am I the only one too tired at night to do snuggles and prayers?  Tell me there are others so exhausted that the heart is not in to reading one more story or singing one more song, but you do anyway because there may not be another.  Tell me that others worry about friends, clothes, reputation, and whether they will be in a terrible accident.  Comfort me that others watch great grades come in, knowing that character is of far more worth, yet celebrate those accomplishments.  Tell me it’s ok to struggle with wanting them to be at the top, not slipping, yet knowing the “other stuff” is soooooo more important.  Remind me that moms all over fret over soft drinks….and cupcakes for breakfast ( if you tell anyone…..so help me!).  Convince me that it’s ok for a mom to smell jeans to make sure they still have another day left in them and recycling towels from one kid to another to save at least 1 load of laundry.  Funny, I just told my 2 that very statement as I walked in to see 5 wash cloths used, the bathtub full of soapy water, and the rim cluttered with 2 rows of matchbox cars.  Tell me this stage passes…that I will miss it, cause now I don’t believe you.  Forgive me that I want this stage to end, but that I feel guilty knowing this stage WILL pass.

Remind me that I am not alone…remind me that so many more are out there…believing they fumble and bumble and knock over card houses by one wrong step backward–sorry boys. Grab my hand and encourage me that I am not messing them up completely, that if they are already on the counselor couches, that means I am aware enough to know that I do not have it all figured out.  That all my training in pastoral care does not entitle me to counsel my children, but to love them.  Hug me and whisper in my ear that you, too, look  in the mirror and shake your head, praying these wiggly creatures are growing and thriving and will be wonder filled men and women.  Put your arm around my shoulders and offer to take a walk or two down the block, or a hit off the boxed wine in the fridge (moscato….hhhhm).  Tell me it’s ok that someday I want to stop buying consignment for myself and not feel guilty for a Saturday mani/pedi.  Proclaim with me that these wonderful creatures capture my heart, my mind, and my soul–turning my emotions from mush to elation to pits and back again.

Grab the microphone–wherever it may be….tap the top….check to make sure the horrid squeal does not exist….and YELL!!!! HELLO?  Is anyone, Is ANYone, is ANYONE out there?

Yes, yes I am…….

shalom.

cahl

Hush hush

It has been 3 years since I heard the door close on a children’s behavioral unit and left my son there for assessment and diagnosis.  It was the singularly the most scared and vulnerable I have ever felt.  Even though I knew these doctor and nurses well, I had been working with them for half a year as a chaplain, I could not control what went on behind those doors.  I was powerless.

Many of us feel the same way.  The diseases and illnesses that attack us every day sometimes render us powerless.  One thought continues to plague me though.  I have watched as tons of my friends, and as I age, tons of my classmates battle the ravages of cancer….an all consuming claim on mind, body, and soul.  I watch as people I know fight and fight, and rally, and win.  God Bless them!

I have also watched as tragedy upon violent tragedy happen across the US in our public places—schools, malls, movie theatres.  The list seems endless.  I have watched as the number of people without homes increase, I ask myself why.  I watch the news as violent events happen and the first comment made is “oh, they must have some kind of mental illness”  I have watched as people will do things which people do not like.  The response is almost always, “oh, they must have some “issues””

Wait!  How come no one treats other illness as a hush hush swear word?  It’s not as though depression is on the same level as “The name which shall not be spoken”  By the way, it’s Voldemort.  See, I said it and the world did not come to a screeching halt.  Good thing!  Whew!  I thought I was a goner there!  😉

Seriously though.  I want to unpack this concept a bit.  We are so accustomed to hearing of the battles of the seeable illnesses.  As well we should.  The fight is real, it is fierce, and requires everthing of the person diagnosed.  They are not the only ones diagnosed and fighting, it permeates the whole household.  Ok.  If that is the case, let’s transfer that to the illnesses which are not as readily seen.

The rate of persons diagnosed with a mental illness is skyrocketing.  As I pen this I imagine all the instances mental illness   to the top of a list.  How many of us become agitated when the weather turns gloomy for an extended period of time?  Seasonal Affective Disorder… Do any of us suffer anxiety over speaking in public, taking tests, heights….?  Those are better known as a phobias–psychologically defined as a type of anxiety disorder.  This applies to almost every one of us..me included.

I write this as I watch my oldest son twirl a piece of hair on this forehead as he turns circles on his knees in the middle of the livingroom floor.  Reminds me of the old days with a sit and spin…..only this will go on sporadically for hours, just after he attempts to wrestle our pug—resulting in a scratch on his armpit, which will enrage him….what he will not be able to realize is that it was the wrestling with the dog which brought about the scratch in the first place.  He will not clue in to that.  I watch him everyday.  There are days I cheer as loud as I can (silently) that we have had a good day.  There are other days that I hang my head in near defeat…wondering what more I can do….what I could have possibly done…..if there was a way I could take this from him.  I can’t.  I have my own to manage…..

The frustration, if you will, is when horrible things happen (and they are horrible) and we jump to a conclusion of a mental illness which HAS to explain the whole situation.  Wow!  I was not aware we could do that unless all of the research has proven without a shadow of a doubt, that a mental illness is the sole reason.

Take ADHD.  My son is diagnosed with this.  If you do not believe me, spend a weekend with him without his medicine.  You will be exhausted after 2 hours….guaranteed!

I live and love for this kiddo with all that I am.  He drives me nuts…or rather his illness does.  I can never determine what will set him off in a flurry of activity….I rue the days (many of them) where he is up at the crack of dawn, running around the house screaming because he has too much energy and he does not know what to do.  Mornings are hell.  I do not say that lightly.  His ability to transition and focus his energy makes organization difficult.  Mom does much behind the scenes to smooth over anticipated rough spots and tells no one the worry she holds as report cards or conferences happen each school year.  I cringe when I wonder about his friends at school. Some understand him, embrace him, others claim he is odd and weird, and wash their hands of him.  I cannot control that.  Nor can I control the unspoken hurt I see in his eyes when his younger brother is invited to outings with his own friends…and he is not.  Mom again does much behind the scenes to set up play dates so the situation is a bit easier.

Take the family who struggles with Autism.  The hurt, the frustration, the fatigue, the vigilant watch for a change in communication.  I have watched families lock arms and walk boldly into what that diagnosis means.  One of the awful realities is that often families feel like they have no one to turn to.

The isolation, hurt, frustration, the hope and strength it takes to move forward is incredible.

Ask any of those famillies…ask me if I ever believed that my son would ever hurt anyone—illness or not. When we cannot find an immediate answer to a tragedy, it seems unfair to pin it on one of any number of “explanations.”  Reminds me of the lyrics from “Kill the Beast” in Beauty in the Beast.  “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us.  So, kill the beast.”

I think back on that night 3 years ago and the heartache I felt as I left that hospital.  I watch the facebook posts of fellow parents, some I have met, some I have not, who are bravely walking in worlds which have no road maps.  There is not an easy solution, not a course of meds or surgery which can work in tandem bringing about an end or remission from something.  It is there….everyday no matter the day, holiday, or special event.  What surprises me is how few support methods are available for those in the midst of walking in these worlds of mental illness.

Sit down with a parent of an autistic child, a child with ADHD, bi polar, depression…the list grows.  Sit down with a family of an alzheimer’s relative.  Ask them how they feel watching and waiting, hoping and praying.  Ask them the questions, hear the answers.  Ask those who can articulate what having that illness means…ask them about their world…what does it look like, feel?  What do they hear?

The double diagnosis my son has scares the heck out of me every time I go back to a med check.  In a giggle the psych dr told me last time, “we knew he was one in a million….he is just that.  Every time we think we have it explained, he throws us another curve ball.  He will rival every box we try to put him in, he will never fit a true diagnosis.”   That is great and scary at the same time.  My son is one in a million….yes, yes he is.  There are times, like right now…when I wish he would fit neatly into textbook diagnosis.  It would provide answers and a more complete path of treatment.

For now, we move ahead, thankful that so far we have only had 1 hospital visit in 3 years.  If there need be more, I will not hesitate.  I will never stop advocating for him and others with mental illness.  I will never stop looking for ways for families to seek comfort and strength from one another and others shouldering the same burdens.  I will never stop, in the non-profit in which i work, look for options for those with diagnosed illness to find other options of walking through their illness.  What about the impact of a teaching garden to reduce stress and anxiety—re-focusing energy or providing hands on work which aids communication and learning?

I write each year around this time to honor him….my son, the light of my life–one of 2 reasons I am a better person.

shalom,

Best Defense is an Even BETTER Offense!

Garden and Greenhouse  www.groundworks-midwest.com

This is a picture of a greenhouse at a public school playground in the midst of Sioux Falls, SD,  The growth, the joy, the learning, and the planning has blossomed in the last five years.  This past September, 2013, began year 6.  On Saturday, October, 26, 2013, the greenhouse which served as the symbol of the first teaching garden sponsored by multiples of local and regional partners, and the non-profit, Ground Works, saw its last day at the pavement locked school.

Students from Northwestern College in Orange City, IA gathered with teachers from Lowell Elementary, volunteers from the neighborhood, and the staff of Ground Works to take down the structure which was originally donated from a Wal-Mart in Pierre, SD,  4 of the people who were part of the original build and dedication donned gloves and dismantled the symbol, which for 5 years has been such a source of hope and pride.

You may ask why this had to happen.  1 word:  Vandalism.

Short, not sweet, but certainly to the point.

A flourishing  garden naturally lends itself to some curiosity.  The sight of purple eggplants growing in the sun provides as much temptation as  ripe tomatoes hanging from their vines.  Some innocent exploration and the occasional splat is understandable and expected.  Hey, at least they are in the garden and taking enough time inspecting to cause a little commotion.  Even the innocent removal of a watermelon or pumpkin from its moorings provides a moment of learning for young hands who try to attach it after its been plucked.  One can smile at that and use it as a learning and teaching moment of  growth, science, and measurement.  The possibilities are endless for instruction.

HOWEVER!!!!! One cannot stand for nor tolerate the intentional destructive and violent actions of persons bent on destroying something that belongs to the children, families, teachers, and neighbors who reside in and near the school where the garden grows.  Yes, the violent and destructive nature of vandalism has visited not only this garden but 2 others in the Sioux Falls area.  No leads on the individuals or the motives have surfaced, but it begs the question as to what is happening recently.

The greenhouse frequently saw various items littering  the floor not once, but multiple times.  Each time the garden manager had a class out in the garden, she had to first canvas the area , ensuring that any nefarious items were disposed of appropriately.  Bottle rockets, broken pots and cinder blocks lay spewed on the ground, while the beds were the picture of upended plants, vegetation, and footprints.  We won’t even elaborate on the inappropriate material found which would cause any adult to shake their head in disgust and worry even more about the safety of the children in the neighborhood.  Rest assured whatever the mind may be imagining now  is nothing short of what has already been pictured.

For months, members who have been involved in this garden have hoped against all hopes that the activity would cease.  No such luck.  In fact, with each passing weekend, the activity increased and the destruction gained momentum.  With support from all partners, teachers involved, and earlier mentioned non-profit staff members,  the request of the principal for the greenhouse to be removed, was heeded.  Above all, the safety of the students, teachers, and neighbors trumps the presence of a structure–any structure.  With all partners and collaborators set on the mindset that this and other gardens exist for the purpose of education in academia, scientific inquiry, health and personal wellness, environmental sustainability, and the practice of being a great neighbor, plans were made and executed with good faith and attitude.

As the garden manager and long invested partners gathered to look at the greenhouse one last time, the feeling of anger and frustration surfaced once again as the issue of why now, why this place were left unanswered.  The anger, not directed at those dismantling, went to the core of those causing the violence and  the overall safety of the children to be compromised.   So, while 20 pound cinder blocks were stacked, ready for a flatbed, the frustration gave way to a unified  sense of satisfaction that the growing beds remain.  The learning continues, the bridge for school and community exists, and gathered on the pavement were people committed to the education of children.  Unspoken feelings of satisfaction replaced frustration as teams of people worked together to right the wrongs caused by those not able to see the benefit of what they sought to destroy.

There is the wonderful key….their destruction did not dampen the spirits of those rolling up their sleeves.  Their desire to deny others gave way to dreaming and planning of a different sort.  Those who have been present from day one 5 years ago remember fondly the seminary student who dared to ask, “What if?”  That same question came full circle yesterday.  Just as in the past, if something was uprooted, it was immediately replanted.  The ideas of expansion took shape and smiles spread across faces.  College students never before met,  served alongside teachers who cared.  Strangers, made friends demonstrated EXACTLY what the teaching gardens proclaim they do.  They bridge the divide of race, gender, station, desire, education, and financial or social standing.  Conversations of teamwork, student dreams, and future garden plans were discussed with good humor.  Throw in some sunshine, free food, laughter, and the ulterior motives of others were forgotten.  That is right, the motives of those who sought to ruin, were disregarded.  Violence did not have the last word, nor was it the attitude allowed to take root.  It did not take an  angry response to stop the behavior.  Hard work, teamwork, and community proved more important than reacting.  Proactive response demonstrated more maturity and collaboration than a few wreaking havoc.

There are other gardens in the area being targeted.   Ground Works offers  the hand of positive partnership to calling an end to such behavior.  We remain committed, along with others, that the cycles of violence and destruction have a source far deeper than what the surface represents. It is our obligation to go below that surface and ask the tough questions and listen when even tougher answers come forth.  It is our obligation to ensure that a safe and productive learning environment blossoms not only at the gardens we serve, but for those gardens experiencing similar issues.

Destruction has no place in our neighborhoods, or near our schools.  The group yesterday stood positive that quiet and well planned and executed response is of far more worth than misplaced anger.  Love wins, it always wins.  Now, try to destroy that!

No Fiddler on My Roof

Whether I like it or not, the holiday season will be upon us in no time.  I have gone into the local Wal Mart (ewwwww) and seen the Christmas decorations up already.  I visited a local plant nursery and part of their morning task was to create some holiday ornaments.  The cashiers and I talked about how in retail after Labor Day they have to run full speed into Halloween then to Christmas.  Talk about a whirlwind of a time crunch.

Watching and listening has me thinking lately.  I decided today that I would visit one of the few traditions I carried from my childhood.  My mother would wake on Sunday morning and put in the fixins for a beef roast meal.  This was our Sunday noon meal and I must say, all of us loved it.  Usually mom would take the potatoes from the pan with the roast and mash them!!!!! I watched as my brothers would mix corn in the mashed potatoes and inwardly cringe as I recoil in shock that someone would dare to MIX their food.    I have a strong aversion to mixing food, or to even have food touching one another on a plate.  Can’t do it.  I have good friends who have watched me take fruit off my plate, separate it, then eat it alphabetically.  OK, maybe a bit OCD.

This meal was a moment where everyone gathered–one of the few.  Whether there was much talking was of little interest.  It was usually my older brother talking to my father or my brothers and I egging each on to misbehave.  The food, the smell, the warmth, the promise of leftovers  always brought a smile to my face.  AAAAAhhhh, leftovers.  Let it be said now that there are certain foods which are better the 2nd or 3rd day. Lasagna, scalloped potatoes, goulash, roast beef,–I could go on, but I think you have the idea.  I knew that meant at least a meal or two would be a break from my usual fare of peanut butter sandwiches.  You have no idea.

I was working on such meal today, reliving how it must have been to put it together.  I added a few more touches:  squash, crescent rolls, and choc cookies–anything to bribe the boys.  I was thinking about the details in such a meal, then remembered that I was never shown that.  I observed and am thankful that I have a good memory for such.  I found my youngest standing next to me, clad in only a fuzzy blanket as he had just taken a mid-morning bath. (I don’t know why)  I was peeling and cutting potatoes and he requested to help me.  I instantly tensed as I tried to remember ever doing that when I was young.  I searched my database and could not recall.  I told him he could help me, but he had to get dressed.  No nekid boys in my kitchen, no matter how cute they are.

He came skipping back and I thought this odd.  All I am doing is peeling potatoes and making them ready to roast.  He wanted to peel, uh not so much.  I struck a deal and let him cut them in half under my supervision.  He jabbered the whole time.  I was confounded.  A meaningless task, and he approached it with such good humor.  I shared with him about how his grandpa would have to peel potatoes in the army and that was probably why he might not like real mashed ones.  (again, I dunno)  Hmmm, sharing history.

That may seem so common for many.  It is uncommon for me.  I will soon hear of great traditions, baking, baking,, and more baking.  Making large meals as a unit, games played, memories shared.  i understand some of that from watching my husband’s family.  They talk of vacations, decades of holiday traditions, memories etched in photos.  Hm. That is all well and good for many many many families.  For mine, there was a different level of focus.

To say that the difference in focus is better or worse is not for me to say.  I cannot recall any specific memories except a pinochle game or 2, and times when we would congregate at a certain aunt’s house for a holiday.  Before long, most of those times had faded and no new traditions were born.  I thought nothing of a need to want this.  I did not know to want it.  Now, I struggle with the fact that I just might want something like that.

My family and I have long ceased any get togethers.  We all have our own families, and most often in-laws receive our attention.  I think of Christmas, and I can tell you day for hour what will happen.  Eve will be at one in-law, morning is family time, my family may stop by if the weather is good and they are able.  It will just be my parents and the kids will be overjoyed to see them.  After an hour or so, weather permitting, they will take their leave and the afternoon will be spent at the other grandma’s house.  There all my husband’s sisters and their children will be present.  I have been around 14 years and it is still foreign to me.  I know the drill, the expectations, still it feels like I am under water, treading, trying to navigate the bottom with a slight view of murky water.

I see the goodies my in-law’s families have made, the handmade and cute little ornaments and decorations.  I have none of that to bring.  I don’t know how.  People speak of trips taken and making special efforts to keep certain traditions alive, I have no reference for that.  I think I want to establish, but I am not sure how to do so.   I am not a crafty girl….in the least.  I have boys, not so keen on cooking and baking and artsy creative stuff.  If they do want to help, what does that look like?  How do you let them help and not make a mess or how do they not drive you nuts in the process with wanting to take over and “help”?  We know they are really not helping, right?

Many will wonder, huh?  No baking, making things together, no special traditions that HAD to be kept, a favorite place that was the ONE place that brought everyone back together?  You HAVE to be joking.

I am not.  There was occassional games, but don’t ask me to play Pictionary.  There were times at the lake where we played all the time, but nothing that had to be followed.  I have memories of a moment or 2, nothing more.  I look at pictures of my husband’s family and the scads that I take of my children as they grow.  One of my children asked me where pictures of me would be.  I told them honestly that was not a priority in my family.  Hard work and doing work well and doing the best you could was valued, which is not all bad.  However, there are no pictures, no record of what we did or how we did it.  I asked my mother the other day what my song was that she used to get me to go to sleep….there was none.  I never thought that would bother me.  It does now, weird, at 39 that bothers me BIG TIME.  What book was read at night?  None.  What favorite stuffed animal or dress or what have you, that I HAD to have?  Dont’ know.  What made me laugh, giggle?  Who knows.

That may not seem like much to wonder about at my age, but as I watched my son today wanting to help cut potatoes, I was aghast at what and how to pass traditions on to them.  How do I pass on recipes, lefse cooking, krumkake, games, stories, AAAAHHHHH?  I know that legacy lies in the stories and traditions we leave behind.  Makes me wonder, if there is little of that in the family I grew up in, what does that say about our legacy?  hm.  Interesting thought.    I just stumbled on that.  Legacy and tradition, it seems that’s where its at…..

What legacy of tradition to leave?

shalom

cahl

the Gift which keeps on Giving.

I will never forget the day he came into my life. I admit that when I discovered I was pregnant with another baby only 3 years after my first, I was more than a bit scared. I already loved one child with a love that knew no bounds, how would I ever find that much more for another one? How in the world can I do this twice? The questions swirled in my head…how,when, how, HOW!? I know now that every mom struggles with that from time to time, thank goodness– we need not be alone. I also know that with a child, love is a little like jello…there’s always room for more. The same applies for my sons–both of them.

So, in honor of my youngest…..I offer His Gifts which Keep on Giving:
(in no particular order)

1) I was able to nurse him for 10 months straight. What a bonding experience to provide something to my child and care for him in this way. There are times I hold him and remember a many a quiet night in a chair….precious, sleepless nights.

2) He did things in his own way, in his own time. People worried when he was quiet for the for year or so….when he started speaking, there was no stopping him–there still isn’t.

3) He possesses a calm peace about him which instantly puts others at ease–including his mother.

4) Ever since entering school, he has taken up his own posse’…he attracts the nice and kind children. I am so glad

5) His tender heart is on display when he interacts with animals and babies. What a sensitive little man.

6) He can and DOES imitate me with near perfect ability.

7) He creatively invents games on a moment’s notice…just give him a lazy susan and a candle.

8) His butt-chin. Nuf said.

9) Have you heard him laugh…once you do, you’ll want him to do it often. He is the only person who inspires me to Belly laugh with gusto simply because I hear him laughing. What a great soul gift.

10) Less vocal than other boys his age, he is a deep thinker, who chooses his comments carefully.

11) His jokes of his own creation are some of the most interesting things I’ve heard.

12) Crystal clear blue eyes that pierece right to the heart of a person….willing you to look deeper and talk with him–they make you smile instantly.

13) If I need frosting eaten, I can count on him–forget the cake, cookie, or brownie itself–just give him the frosting.

14) Doritoes and Hot dogs….sigh

15) Gold fish and star burst-bleh.

16) Somewhat reserved, when he feels comfortable the hugs abound from him

17) Fiercely independent, if he asks for your help, that is a huge compliment. Letting you help him means you have “arrived”

18) His dance remake of “Gangum Style” and “Donkey” from Shrek are priceless!

19) Careful about nature and creation, his love of art, color, beauty, and music he shares with his mother…YES!!!!

20) He knows what love is, knows how to show it, receive it, and give it. He is one of the 2 best moments in my life, I would not be near the mom I am without him. Both of my boys inspire me to do more, be more, and give more because I want more for their future.

There are many other highlights I could name, but some are just for a mom to know. In honor of this, his bday, I give thanks for him and know he will always remain my, Honeybear.

shalom,
cahl

Not my Son!

I became a mom about 9 years ago when my oldest son came bounding into the world. After 14 hours of labor, he appeared, stared me straight in the face and made not a sound. He took the room by silent storm as nurses and doctors cooed over him, exclaiming that he was one of the most beautiful babies they had seen. I thought, “Uh, of course you would say that, you HAVE to say that about all kids born.” No, they told me. There is something distinct about this one, they said. Distinct? Well, he certainly made a dramatic entrance. After he was born, the medical staff present busied themselves with me and sent my son upstairs. I knew before they told me, that something was wrong. I could feel it. After he was delivered, there was no pain….there was only peace. I watched the midwife at my feet count the pulse beats and watch pan upon pan fill with red liquid. I knew that I was losing more than a typical birth, all said and done I lost about 2-2 1/2 units of blood. I remember looking at my mother, who was watching me and telling her that all would be just fine. If what I had come into this world to do was to deliver my son, I had done just that. There was an overwhelming calm as I smiled at her, and closed my eyes. It was a moment of warmth, silence, and grace. I do not recall the scurry in the room, the nurses barking at the phone on the wall to bring up an ER tech. I do not remember my mother telling the room that my eyes were closed and my hand limp. All I remember is that for a moment I knew that I had done exactly what I was to do. At that moment, all was right with the world.

How can that be? Your son is upstairs, you are unconscious, on your way to checking out. How can you be at peace with what is happening? Don’t you want to see your son grow up, to teach and mold him, to love him everyday? How can you think this is ok? Fight, fight with all that you are!

Well, at that moment I could not fight, it was not my role to do so. There were others to do that on my behalf, my role was to fight for the life of my son, deliver him, and make sure he was safe. I had done that. There are other mothers out there who are called to do much more than I for their children. It is part of the role and call of a mother.

I think of another mother on this Easter. You see Holy Week has a different feel to me now that I have my own children. There is something so tender and raw about this journey of her Son. I think of Mary, mother of Christ as she watched the progression of events, and I marvel at her. There are times I look at my own sons and giggle as I think of the tirade that Jesus must have put His mother through while He was growing. The absences, the comments, the wandering off for days on end, and the cryptic messages must have driven her to distraction. The pleas of,”mom,can I?” Imagine this boy as a teen, full of knowledge, a yearning for something different, but maybe not able to articulate what it is. Imagine this boy as he questions, struggles, listens to inner voices calling him to something too large for conception; conception larger than what His mother was called to do.

There are moments I understand this woman, this Mother of love and grace. I understand the standing back and watching, praying that the testing of limits her child is doing will keep him safe. I wonder if she listened to his comments with peace or an unsettled feeling? I listen to my oldest talk about what sees and what he hears, it takes my breath away sometimes. He has a level of understanding and perception that floors me. What many of us spend years of education trying to figure out, he explains with a simple twist of his head, a smile, and a shrug of his shoulders. It is exactly what it is, for him there is no need to complicate love, compassion, beauty, and forgiveness. He knows what it looks like, how it feels, and is unafraid to express them in his own words. The wisdom of simply expressed thought, thought that we make confused by barriers, obstacles, and conditions.

I think of this Mother as I watched my children this week. I am careful what I say, how I approach the emotion in these days. While the week begins with great joy and celebration, a parade and cheerful laughing, there are also moments of gut wrenching sadness and loss. Easter week holds the contradiction of all emotions. What must Mary be thinking as she journeys this with her Son. She knows she cannot save him, she has seen the effects of the last three years. Would that she could take this from Him. As a mother, I feel that pain, the knowledge that your child hurts, is anguished and she can do nothing to stop it.

Would that she could join Him in the garden the night before He accepts fate. I imagine she would cradle her Son, rocking him back and forth, letting Him cry out the pain. Her arms would encircle Him, willing the strength that only a mother can provide, praying it would be enough. The tear stained face of her Son must tear at her heart, I can almost hear her railing at the same Father He cries out to in this moment. “WHY!” “Not MY son.” “No, He is YOUR Son.” “I will do what needs to be done.”

Good Friday always dawns cold and dreary for me. The sun may shine, but there is a cloak of darkness which covers my emotions. I watch the clocks, silently ticking away until noon. Thanks to modern day cinema, I can hear the driven nails, see the sprawled arms, feel the weight of the crowd. If I close my eyes I can see the picture clear and the mass of people presses closer and closer to the action. I can see those whom He loves. Mary Magdalene, oh how my heart breaks for her. I see disciples, believers, and brothers already confuserequd and mourning. I see the guards, those who doubt, those who question, and those who hate. In the front, is His Mother. I can picture her Son looking down at her, a mixture of grief, loss, and peace as He does what He is called to do. Feel the agape, unconditional and reverent love this Son has for his mother. Out of the sheer madness and agony of the physical pain comes a love which can only be described as Divine. He looks at John, whom He loves and commands him to watch after His mother. He speaks to His own mother, tears glisten from His eyes as he presents John to His mother. She is not alone. He has ensured her safety, her care, and made clear the path for her love to be continued. AAAAAAhhhhh!!!!…..

The noise continues, the deafening cloud draws the bodies closer, the summit of emotion reached. So many would scream the final line. I hear a quite resignation, a peaceful resolution, the fight is finished–there is no more pain. The whisper may come as loud shouts in the soul, but the eyes close, the hand goes limp, the last breath drawn. She delivered her Son amongst the primal earth and brought Him to this moment years later. She had no ER doctor to call, no final IV jammed into an arm to save. She heard and saw and breathed the last breath right along with her baby boy, her Holy Son. She remains, stays, mourns, and misses this boy made man. Tender hands usher Him down, tending the body, swathing this example of her heart made flesh. What must she think in this moment, how must she feel? How can this Mother believe that tomorrow or the next day will heal this wound?

This woman amazes me. Her love, her unconditional love and fight for her Son drove her to the cross. Drove her to watch, to hear, to clutch at those around her…Her love required her to let Him go. Ow. That hurts. Her love required that she let Him go. She had not hold over Him in this moment, just as she had no hold over Him from birth. A wry smile might play at her lips as she sits with that knowledge days and years later. There must be a quiet peace as she knows that what is done is done. It IS finished, but the next act is about to begin, if only she can wait a day or two. If only…..

Another Mother;’s Response

I have read the ” I am Adam’s _________Mother” article and I am shaken to the core.  It hits me in a place that I cannot fully describe to many people, it makes me hurt, because on some levels she is describing my oldest son.  Some will read this and comment that my son is not capable of such behavior, he would never talk to anyone in those voices or threaten another human being.  If you believe that, I invite you to journey with us for a day or two, or talk to our closest neighbors, who he plays with on almost a daily basis.

while I have read the account, I relate, but I also caution us to take what is happening with a grain of salt.  To pin this type of madness on a presumed mental illness is dangerous and uneducated–the truth is, it is hearsay.  We don’t know the motive, the life he was living, nor the depth of his personal pain.  We are too quick to jump at what may seem  as easy conclusions because the reality of the situation is too heavy for us to bear.  We should not have to bear such horrendous acts, we should not grieve at the senseless killing of children, but more importantly, we should be crying out for the senseless killing of anyone–not just children.

Where is our outrage when gangs are killing in the streets, or hours from where I live the suicide and addiction rates are some of the highest in the nation, with a poverty rate the lowest in the US?  Where is our outrage when first and second grade students “quit school” and sit more time in the principal’s office instead of the classroom because most of the male figures in their lives are already in prison and they are just waiting their turn?  Where is our outrage when we use words as swords to lash out at each other, demeaning how we live, and love? Where, oh where, is our compassion?

Where is our compassion when we allow people to slander one another in the name of anything because it elevates their own position or opinion?  Where is the understanding that we are each as different and unique as each snow flake that falls each winter.  I am from the midwest people, and them’s a lot of snow flakes from many many winters.  I am as different from you as you are from me and we are as unique as every one of those snowflakes ever made.  That baffles my mind to even imagine!  I celebrate that difference…hell, I rejoice in it!

My oldest son has a double diagnosis, a double mental illness…and I hope and pray through every day with him.  He is not a madman waiting in the wings, he is a little boy with an abundant zest for life, too much intelligence, and a spiritual understanding that astounds me.  He can also lose it, big time.  He has a diagnosis, but more than that, he has a name and a life that I want to be full of hope and promise and light and love.  He has a name and an identity and a sparkling personality which he uses to drive me up the wall quicker than any human being…and I love him for it.  He worries me, causes me to fret and stew, to tear my hair out, to walk around with my heart outside my body—and so does his brother–and I love them for who they are.  His intelligence will not dictate his actions, his moral character and spiritual grounding ( or lack thereof) will spell out his future.  As a parent, I have to pour everything I can into both of them and believe that I, and others that I have trusted to care for them, have instilled the right and proper and strengthening ideals into them.  I have to watch them walk out into the big world everyday and relinquish them into someone else’s control….whether that someone is a school, a job, a loved one, or someone aiming to harm them.  I have to trust that I have done my job as a parent and that means trusting myself to let them go….and to admit that in the end, they are not really mine.  OUCH!!!! That hurts, doesn’t it.  My boys are not really mine.  They are on loan to me and I am the blessed one charged to their care for this time and this place and in this moment.  There will come a time when I am asked to allow them to continue in their journeys, and like every parent, I pray it is never within my lifetime that I am asked to give them up to something bigger than me.  They are gifts for this time and this moment, I struggle to remember that, because I want to believe that they are solely mine.

The reality?  Yes, I have seen my son wig out…I have seen him beg me to get a gun and kill him, I have been the butt of his threats and his violent anger…and I have held him, cradled him, and sang him to rest time and again.  I would do that for anyone.  I would do that for anyone because I know that anyone of us could lose it at any moment.  That is right…Any one of us could lose it at any time!  Think back to stories we hear of babies being shaken and we are shocked when it happens….horrible, yes!  Put yourself in the position of that person who has had that child screaming for hours on end, already tired, worn out, and nothing they do helps alleviate the screaming…..Understandable how a person can be pushed to their limits?????

When we put it in perspective it is not hard to imagine a person pushed to the edge…we are one thread away from it.  THANKFuLLY, there is compassion, common sense, and love that covers us most of the time.  Let’s walk carefully the lines of blame we draw, lest we wrongly paint a whole faction of people who struggle with learning disabilities, mental illness, or any other politically correct label we want to use as violent and deviant.  The fact is, we are all violent and deviant in our own ways…..ever flipped someone off who cut in front of you?  I have.  Ever swore under your breath when you see the cop lights flashing behind you?  I have–out loud.  Ever said something so awful to someone you love in the heat of hurt, anger, betrayal, and injustice?  I have and I have had people do that to me.  Ever wanted to hit someone so hard that they did not know what was coming at them?  I have and hated myself for it later.

Have you ever had someone apologize for a wrong they had done to you?  Has grace come knocking and shown you mercy and forgiveness even when you knew you did nothing to deserve it?  How about love?  Has someone poured their life into yours, knocking down your barriers and your walls to see the ragged soul you carry and loved you in spite of your messy self? I hope so.  I hope you have been loved with a fierceness that takes your breath away and that you can extend that to others.  i hope you know what it means to be pursued in a way that makes you feel wanted and needed and important because you are you and no one else.  I hope you know what it feels like to pursue someone else in that fashion…I hope that you know yourself as a beautiful and necessary human being deserving to be seen, heard, and loved every day of your life and for eternity.

What happened Friday is beyond tragic and has dominated much of my thinking the last couple of days, but it has also served as motivation.  I am beginning to uncover my own areas of outrage at things happening all around me and I see an obligation to stand in the midst of it and be light.  I feel a call to cast light into the darkness, reveal the truth, and walk doggedly into it with wisdom and compassion.  I hope I am smart enough not to go alone….I pray I am not walking alone.

My son has a couple of mental illnesses….but more than anything, he is my son, the first-born to 2 parents who love him, sacrifice for him daily, and would walk through fire to protect him.  He is part of my body, my soul, and my heart walking around out there for the world to see.  He is one of 2 of the best things I have ever done….when you see him, love him for me–protect him and keep him safe when I cannot.  I am counting on you to be the light just as you can count on me.  Can we count on each other?

Musings

It is quiet in my house tonight.  I have spent the last 2 days away from my baby boys (yes they are still my babies even though they are 5, 8–they will always be my babies)  The last time I saw them was about 10:50 yesterday morning as I made sure they had been properly picked up by their grandparents so that I could assist my husband with judging and chaperoning kids on a debate overnighter.  I knew they were safe and were in good care, but before I set forth for Brookings, I had to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.  I was able to walk them down the hall, hug them, kiss the top of their heads, and tell them good-bye and that I love them.  They smiled and told me they loved me and happily climbed in my parent’s pick up for the next adventure.  They were safe.

Moments later, I got in a school van, turned on the radio expecting to crank up the tunes and blow into the parking lot to help load a group of kiddos.  MPR and its broadcast from Connecticut stopped me in my tracks as they described the horror unfolding there.  Questions loomed in the air, doubt as to how someone could do such a thing….certainly there must be a mistake.  People just don’t do something like that…we must be hearing things.  No one walks into an elementary school and opens fire—no one.  Someone did.

It is quiet in my house tonight, but I know where my children are and I will speak to them (at least 1 of them will talk on the phone)before they rest tonight.   My mother told me not to worry about whether to pick them up tonight, but to get some rest.  I will rest tonight knowing that they are safe.  It is awful quiet without their chatter, their noise in the hall, their feet pounding the floor, and their instant mood changes which means we have to duke it out in the middle of the livingroom….I am not telling anyone to pick up their coats, put their boots by the register, and to stop pestering the dog.  No one is climbing in my lap, asking me questions while I try to go to the bathroom, or eating off of my plate…it is quiet here tonight.

It is quiet other places tonight, too.  Places where it should not be quiet.  Homes where there are children or parents missing….they should not be quiet.  Homes of aunts and uncles, and grandparents, fellow teachers and aides, administrators, coaches, cooks, librarians, secretaries, brothers, and sisters are quieter tonight than ever.

Sometimes maybe we have been too quiet….I say that gently, wondering if times have come to start talking real truth in our circles.  I wonder if the time has come to crawl underneath what appears to be ailing our society and ask the deeper questions…Why, why do these things keep happening?  Is it for want of more regulation, stricter laws and more awareness?  Will more education do the trick?  Will looking to government controls moderate our behavior?

Maybe it comes down to regulating ourselves.  I said last night that if we could move toward a world where the human race was not hunting one another like animals, maybe we would be a bit better off than we are now.  If we could start to look at one another through different lenses maybe we would begin to see one another as human beings, capable of greatness and wonder, and yes, heart wrenching sadness.  We are all capable of lifting one another to highest of highs with our encouragement, love, kindness, and support.  We also have the ability to destroy one another.  We have the ability to do so much.

I said to my students yesterday, the scary moment was the realization that at any one point, any one of us is capable of something as heinous as yesterday’s shooting.  That is the dark truth no one wants to admit.  We are all capable of losing it and blowing a micro-chip, so to speak.  It may not look the same as it did yesterday, but the propensity exists.  Thankfully, most of us filter and keep ourselves in check, most of the time.

What would it look like to begin allowing tough questions to find answers?  what would it look like to embrace one another as truly brothers and sisters, rather than the individual enemy we want to categorize each other?  What would it look like to take seriously the ideas our parents and teachers instilled in us from birth….to be kind, tell the truth, treat others the way you want to be treated, and look both ways before crossing the street.  We had buddy systems in place to help each other  what happened as we grew older?  Do we not need our buddies to help us anymore?

It is quiet in my house tonight and I miss my babies in a place I cannot describe.  I want to hear their voices, to hold them tight, to cradle them as they fall asleep.  I don’t want to explain the last couple days to them…but I will.  I will use it as a teaching moment to speak of grace and love and compassion and bravery.  I will tell them that I do not understand and there are parts of this story that I struggle to get my head around to understand.  I will tell them that I am trying to find room in my heart for forgiveness, but I find it lacking….I find my role conflicted as to how to love all persons in this situation.  I will be honest in telling them I do not know how to solve the problem or why innocent children paid a price.  I don’t know.

In this moment, no one wins.  Not the victims, the families, schools, friends, and dare I say, the perpetrator.  No one in his family wins tonight either….there is death and loss and mountains of grief and questions which will never be resolved.  That is the hardest realization….there can be no winners—-only a moment to learn from and pray we can move from this a better human race.  We can either learn from this moment, invite the conversations, and seek answers; or we can put our blinders back on, admit that yesterday was horrible, and continue in our same paths as we did.  We can choose to let this impact us to action and motivate us to real and deeper exploration; or we can lull ourselves back into complacency.  The choice is ours, it always has been, always will be.

I choose to take that mantle of community seriously….I seek to understand how I can make an impact that leaves lasting and positive change–even when it’s quiet out there tonight.

Come, Sit Awhile

Cuddle:   The sniffles come and along with it are the chills, the sore throat, the runny nose, and the body aches.  If we are lucky, it is also a rainy and windy period in late fall or early winter, where the weather cooperates with the body in mass conspiracy to make us feel even worse.  No matter the age or the independent streak we possess, there is one thought that rises to the surface.  “I wan…

t my mom.” Sometimes, in the law of events, a trio of watershed moments crash in to claim us.  Many comment that heart breaking situations tend to happen in three’s.  They seem to snowball, collecting more momentum and energy as time continues.  While we try to avert it’s hurtling avalanche and keep ourselves centered, sometimes the impact threatens more impact than we would like.  Our blankets, loving arms, and the chance to simply let go rank higher than anything else in those times, and again the same response rings clear, “I want my mom.” That desire we have to climb into safe and secure arms, to rest our heads on strong shoulders, to be held in a way that tells us that we are taken care of  is more valuable than any amount of money.  We yearn to be cuddled and kept close to those who chose to love us no matter the circumstance.  When we are low or sick, exhausted, spent, and overwhelmed—we want our mommies.  We want to be wrapped tight, with a light hand on the side of our face, running through our hair, or rubbing our backs.  We want to sink into the loving cuddle of someone who wants nothing from us.  What a relief that that provides.   There are some, unfortunately, who do not have that chance.  There are children who go through their childhood not able to climb into those laps and rest their head.  There are adults who miss that chance as well, or chose to section themselves from warm embrace, a kind word or a moment to let go and cuddle and be cuddled.  Yet, the desire for that human connection does not wane the older we become, in fact, it increases.  A loving smile, knowing that someone will grasp our hand in welcome or empathy, the arm about the shoulders, all of it is necessary if we are to grow as the children we are.   We are beloved children, whose Abba parent begs us to climb into a loving lap and let go.  This Creator knows that we need physical contact which fills us and somehow makes the crazy wind and rain of life seem a little less ominous.  Our eternal parent wants to smooth back the worried brows and cuddle us close, letting us know that no matter how tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed we feel, there is One who remains ready to embrace us.    That is a legacy of love that has been in place before any of us drew our first breath and remains a promise that envelops us, even when we breathe our last.  It is a promise that One bigger than all of humanity stands ready to embrace all that we are, all that we become, and all that we encounter.  This Creator understands and hears the heart cry, “I just want my mom,” and wants desperately to provide that safe place of refuge.  If only we will cry aloud what we need and what we want.  If only. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. Psalm 31:6-

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: