Thursday, October 9, 2014

poured out

I feel pretty poured out this morning. There are a million things to do and I don't feel like doing one of them.

The dishes need to be unloaded (again), my daughter is watching Tinkerbell for the 483rd time, kids fought over cereal this morning.

Some days I feel that I don't have any more to give, and this morning the feeling is acute.

I think about these times, about these times where I am just completely at the end of myself.

I think about how that's where God wants us to be, all the time...all tenderhearted and passionless, broken down and dream-dead.

It's in those moments that our weakness is made perfect in Him, isn't it? I mean, if you really believe that?

Things in foster care land have not been easy. I can't go into detail, obviously, but I am feeling burnt out. I need a respite from it all, a break.

The things that break God's heart are breaking mine, and sometimes I just don't want to see them any more. The three hours I had looked forward to yesterday, kid-free, were taken up by foster care drama and the feeling like I've done something wrong. Yes, sometimes I just don't want to see all of these sad things any more.

There. I said it.

I hesitate to share these feelings sometimes because then I get "Oh, it's too much for you," "Oh, she's not doing well," etc.... when really, this is a moment in time. As a dear friend said, "Just give this time."

Time! Whaddya mean? There's never enough!

Anyway, I'm going to spray some dry shampoo in my hair, pretend I changed my clothes, go grocery shopping, and then make a six course meal.

Just kidding.

I'm going to watch Tinkerbell, light a candle and snuggle under a blanket.

Tomorrow (or an hour from now) will be better, it always seems to be. I'm so thankful for a God who can make all things new.

Friday, October 3, 2014

from one foster mom to another

Dear Friend,

This morning we met as usual at the gym. You were quiet and when I said, "How are you?" I watched as tears silently streamed down your face. You were valiantly working on the weight machine, but I knew any weight offered by that big ugly thing was outweighed 52 times by the lead weight in your heart.

I didn't know what to say to you so I didn't say anything. Sometimes nothing is the best thing to say. Actually, most times nothing is the best thing to say.

Tonight you have to tell your foster son he is going away. I said to you, words all chokey in my throat, "I don't envy what you have to do today."

You replied, "Thank you." I wondered what you were thanking me for, and then I realized that you were thanking me for understanding that experience and how gut-wrenching it is. You were thanking me for understanding what you were about to have to do, and being quiet in that moment.

Do you think the old guys at the gym get a kick out of all of our foster care talk? ICPC, UA, CINC, GAL, FSC.

They sure don't get a kick out of our perky boobs. Those are long gone.

We speak the same language, you and I. Learning this language is akin to choking on chlorine water. Once you are deep enough into this world, into the water, to understand what all of the acronyms mean, you can't go back. You can't ever unknow it.

Freaking ever, you can't unknow it.

You can't go back to that safe place in your head where these needy children do not exist.

I don't envy you at all. Right now you're packing up his clothes and probably finding his drawings everywhere. You're thinking of that angry little look he gets when he doesn't want to follow directions, hair all tousled and fire-singed at the end (and we will not talk about why), shooting you the evil eye because you asked him to go to bed.

Next you're thinking of how he offers his foster brother and sister candy or money or EVERYTHING HE HAS after they have fallen and are hurt. Somehow, the hardness of this world has not taken away the last bits of softness from his heart.

I think God brought him to you for these months so you could cultivate that softness a little bit more. For this short time, you were the mother he could never have dreamt of having.

You did this at your peril. You knew it would hurt when he went away.

You said Yes anyway.

Both of us now, pretending to work our triceps. "This is why people say they could never do foster care," I say, and you smile, a sad smile that tugs at the corners of your puffy eyes. (I'm not gonna lie, they were pretty puffy.)

yes, this is totally a picture of us working out. I'm the one with the cleavage.
He's been through so much, and when I called you to see if you had room in your home for him months ago, you said, "Yes." I love how you say "Yes" when it doesn't make sense and when you're already tired and when you know you will get attached and you will feel pain in your heart when he has to go.

I love how you say "Yes" when your family thinks you're crazy, and "Yes" when you don't think you can take another step and "Yes" when you know that what he will receive from being in your happy little home will be more than the "No" you will feel when he leaves.

Right now he'll get home from school in three hours. I'd imagine that you're thinking of how he calls you "mom" and how, ever since he's been with you, his nightmares have subsided. He's the one that has come up with the concept of "Fun Friday Nights" at your house, and you happily obliged.

I'm so thankful he had you.

Today at the gym while I was being silent, trying to look super busy lifting weights, I tried to think of a way that you could tell him he had to go, a way that would make sense, and nothing I came up with did. Nothing makes sense where a child doesn't have parents with soft laps and eyes that shine with tears when he loses a tooth, or a soft bed to lie on and stories of princesses and castles and knights and fairy tales.

Stories of dragons slain. Forever.

You weren't able to slay his dragons forever. We both know the bald truth that that may never happen for him. We both know the statistics on foster kids. We both know what it feels to say goodbye and have a little piece of your heart leave your body when a little dude who has called you "mom" for months has to go.

I'm kind of a douche bag, so I listen to One Republic. One of the lines was this:

"all my sleeves are stained red  / from all the truth that I've said"

You'll have red sleeves tonight. Your heart will be bleeding. He will cry. You will cry.

I am crying.

I guess what I just absolutely adore about you is that even though you have to do this today, you will do it again. And then you will do it again, and again after that.

You will do it again because you aren't afraid to say "Yes", to look that sort of pain square in the face and to say, 'Hey, Pain! You will not defeat me, and you cannot keep me from loving this child for this moment in time."

From my tear-stained keyboard and my own swollen eyes am telling you,

Thank you for saying "Yes."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

a wisp

I just watched return to zero an hour ago.

All of these feelings I thought were long gone and buried bubbled up to the surface.

It wasn't a bad thing, it was good to feel the sadness and melancholy and know I am not, by far, the first or the last woman to go through the pain of losing a child before he is born through stillbirth or miscarriage or whatever.

Mine wasn't fully formed, I mean, his intestines and heart were outside of his body at birth. His sister fared better, but...

It's been ten years since we learned he passed away, and I just can't help wonder who he would have been.

I have a close friend whose daughter died the day before she was born, and her twin brother was healthy and kicking. We often joke about being the dead baby moms, or part of the dead twin club. I don't spend every day wondering who he would have been or what he would have looked like, but I do look at Lucy and wonder what her having a twin would have been like. For her.

A few people within my social circles are set to have twins within the next few months, and for some reason the sight of twin babies makes my heart leap into my throat.

Twin toddlers, twin kids, I'm fine with, but the babies? That really gets to me.

I saw a set of twin girls at Target the other day and started just a little bit too long.

The dad moved their stroller.


The kids were outside today, dumping water on their heads in their swimming suits. A piece of Phoebe's swimsuit was untied, and the ribbon was flying behind her as she ran.

Sometimes I imagine him there, too...

a little wisp of a spirit flying behind all of them,

and I smile.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


My aunt Mary was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer four years ago. Clean eater, regular activity, non smoker.

Go ahead, Google the statistics on Stage IV lung cancer.

Not good.

what? She doesn't look like someone with Stage IV Lung Cancer?

Cancer Schmancer.

Mary and my uncle, Dick, decided in August of 2010 that they were going to pray for total healing for her. They asked for others to get on the boat, too.

Matthew 14:28 - 34

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,“why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.

"Simon Peter, trust me. Get out of the boat and walk on the water. I know. Everyone says you will drown. But I don't say that, Simon Peter. Walk! Also, I begin sentences with prepositions!"

An aside: Have you ever noticed that Simon asks Jesus to tell him to walk out on the water? The first one acting, in (albeit terrified) faith, is Simon himself?

No one ever hears about Gennesaret. Sounds like a really unimaginative band name or a new dog breed. I didn't have any clue what it was until I looked it up. It's a town, a tribe, a community of people, I suppose. 
A place to exist, and as Andy Rooney or Paul Harvey or someone with lots of eyebrows would say, "The rest of the story."
I bet you anything that the walk on that water was exhilarating for Peter, but that first hallelujah step onto dry land was something altogether incredible.
A promise fulfilled.
Mary, sweet aunt,
your Gennesaret is coming. I hear the view is quite thrilling.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

mothering with OCD

When I was seven I would walk up and down the stairs, over and over again, until I just felt "right". My best friend would do the same, telling me how cool it was that I danced up and down the stairs. The "feeling right" would last for about 12 seconds. Then it would be bedtime and I'd be stuck switching the light switch on and off, on and off, on and off. I cried all of the time. My parents, not knowing what to do with me, took me to a psychologist. Hey. It was 1985, and Frasier Crane was all booked up.

I felt anxiety at every turn as a child. Whenever my mother was leaving to shop for groceries for her insatiable hoard of children, I would have very real images of her in a horrible, horrible accident, head severed. The reason she'd had the accident was always because I'd forgotten to tell her "I love you" exactly three times.

Two would have been negligent; four unimaginable.

It was agony.

The counselor soon after washed her hands of me, saying to my parents that I was simply a "sensitive child".

All was moderately OK until one day during my sophomore year of high school. I experienced a panic attack so intense I started smelling things that weren't there. There was my poor mother, yelling to the ER nurse over the phone, "She's smelling Cinnamon Rolls now, and before it was Chop Suey!! WHAT IS GOING ON?"

I spent the next several months having fits of anxiety so severe that the only way to describe them adequately would be to say that I wished someone would just put me out of my misery. Yes. Even that.

Again I was taken to the same counseling service; they grilled me on whether or not I had been abused, beaten, had a traumatic event in my life, etc. I said "no" to all of it and, this being ten years later and the mechanics of the brain being more easily understood, they recommended a psychiatrist. 

The psychiatrist immediately diagnosed me with OCD and clinical depression. It was the biggest relief I have ever felt to hear someone say, 

"This is why you count to three over and over again in your head." 

"This is the reason you are not able to read a sentence without re-reading the word "and" three times every time you come across it." 

"This is the reason you have painful/sad/violent images that enter your head randomly, and you feel powerless to get them out."

Today, as my two year old struggles to put a rotini noodle on a fork and yodels her frustration, as I look at the cottage cheese smashed into the floor and as I try to keep up with the demands of lunch time for a brood of five children, I feel a surge of adrenaline, of anxiety, niggling at the back of my mind. It always threatens to overtake me.

Depression and Anxiety are the Mean Girls in your PE class. They help each other through the obstacle course, but when it's your turn they laugh and point as you slog through water. They're the quicksand in the Princess Bride, only this time there's no prince to pull you out. 

I remember as that same little girl in the 1980s, visiting my grandmother in the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. She had just had shock treatments and visitors were finally allowed. My grandma was always sunny; she was the lady who would turn on the 80s equivalent to NCIS and spout out of her sweet little mouth, "Well! Doesn't this just look like a good family show!" She always saw the good in people, and she always had molasses cookies available; her offering of love for anyone entering her squeaky clean apartment with the ancient horse picture above the sofa.

It was terrible to see my grandmother, no makeup and sobbing, telling my dad she was just so, so sad. I remember her in still frames during that time, still frames of pain and checking and rechecking windows, locks and doors. 

There she was, sitting in that sterile environment: locked up and unreachable.

Today, as my two year old struggles to put a rotini noodle on a fork and yodels her frustration, as I look at the cottage cheese smashed into the floor and as I try to keep up with the demands of lunch time for a brood of five children, I feel a surge of adrenaline, of anxiety, niggling at the back of my mind. It always threatens to overtake me.

There's a lyric from a Mumford and Sons song that I adore: "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won."

I feel this daily in my parenting. I feel there's always something I'm leaving undone; a box left unchecked or a door hanging open. I fear the judgement of my children when they are grown:

"Remember when mom would get sad and depressed and just send us outside? Remember when she'd wash her hands a lot or spend all of that time on the computer instead of making Pinterest crafts out of root beer bottles and hemp?"

and, let's be honest. The one we all fear:


These thoughts lead to more self-hate, and then the self-hate leads to me turning more inward. Friends wonder why I haven't called for weeks and then when I write on my blog that I'm lonely, they ask me why I didn't reach out.

I don't know? Is that an acceptable answer? 

When I was pregnant with my second child I decided to forego all anxiety medication. Our first child was born with her liver hanging out and no anus, so I figured (as all guilty mothers do) that my choosing to take the antidepressants was the reason my child was born so sick.

To say that this next pregnancy was hell would be to say that Oprah is bathing in hundred dollar bills at the time of this writing. I was so miserable. I was anxious. I fixated for hours each day upon the numerous ways he would die in utero, sometimes spending 4 - 5 hours on the computer "researching" other stories of parents who had given birth to stillborn babies. I would contact them and ask them for their stories, sure I could keep a stillbirth at bay if I only did the right things. 

Pregnancy was my prison.

When I was 37 weeks pregnant I was mopping our kitchen floor, something that hadn't been done for about two months. My 23 month old daughter was standing next to the mop bucket, looking up at me with these huge brown eyes, and all I could do was collapse next to her, gather her in my arms, and, sobbing, call the doctor.

I told her of my symptoms, spluttering, "I just know he's going to die. I just know it! There are so many rituals I have to perform and I can't sleep and I don't eat and my mind is so tired. So very tired! She delivered our son the next day. I'm telling you: as soon as that umbilicus was cut, my mind was clear again.

I've learned over the years that there are just going to be days where the OCD is worse than on others. There are days (especially when I'm tired) where I can't look at any amount of writing without re-reading every inch of what is written over three times. 

The only way I can describe dealing with OCD to someone who doesn't deal with it is that it is an itch that begs to be scratched. The more you ignore it, the louder it gets. 

There are times when the anxiety is so bad that I have to take three deep breaths and snuggle into the crook of my husband's warmth, imagining his body taking away some of my pain.

I am suddenly African American and TOTALLY look that good in my skivvies.
I've learned that, in mothering as in anything else, some mothers have a harder time simply getting up in the morning. Getting from point "A" to "B" is harder for me than it is for others. I've learned to stop comparing myself to the mom who packs her kids organic lunches, never raises her voice, and reads "Little House on the Prairie" aloud while I'm on the other side of town, thankful my kids are in their rooms, even if they're fighting.

Victory is in the little battles, and I have no idea what someone else's struggle may be. I've always known that. 

The freedom, though, has been in learning to be awake to my own depression and anxiety and move them from the shadows into the light. It's OK some days for me to be feeling anxious, to feel that I just "went through the motions" in caring for my children instead of beating myself up about it in sequences of threes.

Do you know, dear fellow mother-friend, whoever you are? Do you know what else I know? My fingers shake as I type these words and my mind releases a flood of fear as I think of the judgement I may receive in admitting these things.

I know something else, though, something else that holds a far greater and unmalleable truth:

There is such freedom in the telling.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why we need to save the batteries

I am a BzzAgent, which means that I get to try stuff free and tell you all about it.

Up for Review today is the Littlest Pet Shop Style Set.

So, I'm not sure how these girls' mothers got their hair part that freakishly straight, but HOLY MOLY! Is there some kind of special comb that does that? Did these ladies do their own hair?

My child doesn't do her own hair. She tells me she wants braids and then I spend 10 minutes trying to find a comb. I imagine these girls swearing at their mothers for not using enough detangler offscreen, shooting everyone Firestarter looks, including the poor donut guy.

And then they smile the minute the camera starts clicking.

Moving on...

We were given the Littlest Pet Shop play set by Bzzagent. I told Scott that, when the package of goodies arrived, I was going out and he could let the kids open the toys ONLY after I had left the house. I wanted three hours of uninterrupted "by myself" time, so the clock started when the front door hit my butt.

Guess what, friends.


I handed out the loot in order of size. It's like the Three Little Bears, only without the annoying golden-haired home invader.

The other day my vacuum cleaner sucked up a panda, so I dug it out of the bag. (Did I mention my kids aren't so good at cleaning up after themselves?) Lucy saw it and screamed, 'Oh, PENNY!"


Yes. She is that attached. As tears streamed down her cherubic face and she murmured words of reassurance to her tiny pet, I thanked Hasbro for making a toy I could really get behind.

There is something about the Littlest Pet Shop that she loves, and other little girls, too. I remember loving little animal toys as a kid, and I suppose I have Littlest Pet Shop to thank for my daughter's ambition to be a "pet shop worker" when she is an adult. Aim for the moon, little lady.

I loved that the kids could put together this set on their own, even the "harder" parts like attaching stairs and backdrops.

Pheebs only threw three fits. See their parts? Just like the original picture, I swear it.

I loved the little stickers that came with the set. Adorable, and the kids enjoyed decorating the set as they played.

This set doesn't require any batteries, so there aren't any annoying noises. I LOVE this aspect of the toy. There are so many things you can do with the Littlest Pet Shop toys, including combining the sets, which makes me happy.

They don't have annoying clothing to put on that cannot be easily put back on once taken off. (Slinky Barbie dresses, anyone?)

Boys love these sets, too. The only thing I would change is for the sets to have a little less pink. What am I thinking, though? Then the girls wouldn't like them as much. Ok, scratch that. There's a reason I am not a toy marketer and don't play one on tv, either.

Ok, so admittedly, Scott took these pictures, which is why the pictures are blurry, there is a frog seat on the shelf and no other decorations visible.

I always want to try to pretend we have a perfect life and don't actually have a quote about my love for wine ON THE DINING ROOM WALL but, it is what it is. Does anyone else actually detest that saying?

Anyway, I give the LPS Style Set an A-. You will need a big bin in which to store all of the parts, but your children will thank you for hours, crowning you with laurels and describing all the ways they will honor you as you age. They will even fight over which one of them you will get to live with in your old age.

Thank you, Littlest Pet Shop, for giving my kids something to do that doesn't require batteries! We've got to save the batteries things.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

for nurses everywhere (but especially you)

Three years ago today you held my hand.

I imagine you brushed your teeth that morning, not knowing that in just a few hours you would be front and center in someone else's drama.

My daughter turns three today. I hear her in the dining room playing with her new Play-Doh set.

I drink coffee with exactly one Tablespoon of International Delight.

How we take for granted those daily movements: the flip of a switch, the mother's finger lingering on a child's curl during hurried morning routine.

That day, with doctors shrugging at each other and other nurses scurrying around after the "Code Blue" had been issued, the levity of the situation began to hang over me like a hard, dark curtain.

You pulled up a chair and held my hand.

Your smile was so reassuring and I remember you saying over and over again, "Look at me. Just look at me."

You never told me I wasn't going to die.

I didn't want to ask.

For a long while after that day,  I thought you must have been an angel. You were married a few months later, so by the time I looked you up I could find no one with the last name you had given me.

You were an angel after all. An angel with eyes that crinkled when you smile and warm hands and blue scrubs.

An angel who held my hand as the pain in my side grew worse and I watched my mother look at me with fear in her eyes.

An angel who kept saying, in a human voice, "Look at me, look at me," as I watched my daughter's newborn hands, clenching and unclenching unfamiliar space in her bassinet.

You held my hand as I heard a nurse say, "We need to get the baby out of here."

You held my hand while I heard the pins that held together my carefully constructed life slowly dropping, one by one, onto cold hospital floor.


You held my hand as I wondered who else had died in this room.

Earlier that day as you prepared me for the c-section you asked me which names we were considering.


You told me we could always use your name.

Don't think I didn't consider it.