Tag Archives: special needs

I’m fine. Really.

For the last few weeks, my Peanut has been gagging with each bite.  For a week straight, he’s thrown up every, single, meal.

He’s almost five, so it is pretty gross (as compared to the sweet little spit up of newborns that actually smells kind-of-nice), but it’s quite an improvement from the screaming. Bloody. MURDER. That he was doing while we stayed with my parents over Christmas. For weeks on end. (Doesn’t that make you want to invite us over?!)

And, Dreamboat and I are getting pretty good at catching the vomit. So the cleanup is really minimal.

So, I left Dreamboat to pick up the older kiddo’s, and took the little guy to Whole Foods between a myriad of other “to-do’s” on my list. (I’m totally being honest here.  This day didn’t include a single guilty pleasure. Really. Not even a Starbucks stop. Or walking through Z Gallerie to be amazed by all the shiny, sparkly things.  Or browsing Target aisles to get some quiet. Just C.H.O.R.E.S.)

After a whole two minutes of being patient while Peanut drove the shopping cart into elaborate displays (no doubt also very expensive displays, as this was Whole Foods, or as some friends call it, “Whole Paycheck”), I forcefully stuck Peanut in the seat of the cart. For a moment I was grateful that he is small enough, barely, to fit there. Even if I have to make it work by bending his ankles in directions that look wholly unnatural. (He’s never mentioned it hurting. The fact that he doesn’t speak is irrelevant).  And we headed inside with my list of dairy-free, high calorie, foods, that he can eat to gain weight. Hopefully. And not throw up on me. Or the new carpet.

We found some Hemp Milk. And some more Z Bars. And pieces of dates small enough that he can chew. And, I let him sample every single thing he pointed at, without paying for them first. Which I NEVER would let my other kids do. Ever. (Don’t judge. He’s my third child. And they’ve worn me down.)

And, I got distracted, (but there’s no need to mention it was inevitable) and started salivating over the fresh salad bars (which were NOT on my list as I’ve not received a paycheck in over 18 months). Yep, four rows of organic, local, fresh, salad bars.

I started filling the cart.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a mama, just like me, with her daughter.

She was patient. She was encouraging. She was supportive. I could tell she was fierce. A warrior. In her own world.

I heard her speaking kind words to her daughter. For MORE than two minutes even.

But, she wasn’t making eye contact with the other shoppers.

And, without thinking, I spoke to her, “We had a walker just like that!”

Peanut walker

I had to say it twice.

Eventually, my words broke through her protective bubble. And she sort-of-smiled, unbelieving, up at me, “really?”

She asked, and waited, while her daughter, Grace, introduced herself. (I had to wait for the Mama to translate her daughter’s sweet, but mostly incoherent, sounds.)

She was beautiful.

And a year older than my Peanut. Helping her Mama pick out a nutritious salad. They asked about him, and I answered. Giving them his name and age. While he smiled.

And said nothing.

But, the Mama nodded. Understanding. Accepting.

Grace turned in her walker and looked at me. I congratulated her on being such a great helper.

She beamed. And waved goodbye, shaking her arm emphatically.

And Peanut and I moved on to the next aisle to continue our search for high-calorie, non-dairy, foods.

But then my eyes started leaking. Badly. And, I had to wait it out in the refrigerated section.  And I folded my body forward protectively, over Peanut, and let the tears fall. For a long time, unable to hide that there is a place deep inside. That is broken. Still.

Trying to pull myself together was like trying to sew up a seam that’s been ripped open. When the garment is two sizes too small. (FYI – That’s never happened to me.)

And, like Grace’s Mama avoided eye contact with me, I’m afraid I gave the same treatment to the cashier. Which of course fooled him into thinking I was fine.

I’m sorry I didn’t get Grace’s Mama’s name.

I’m sorry I didn’t give her mine.  It would have been good for me, and hopefully for her, to have a friend in the area. Someone who understands being a special needs family.

But the pain took me by surprise and overwhelmed me.

I guess there’s part of me that isn’t fine.

Just like all those other blogs, where women are grateful, and happy even, for their little ones, regardless of whether they can’t yet call their names.

I guess I’m still hurting. Or hurting again. Either way, it’s the same thing….

Having this little one, my child, is a gift.

But it’s a gift that hurts.

I can’t protect him.

And, he can’t protect me.

But, we can be vulnerable together, which brings great joy. And we can be grateful, for the beauty that fills our lives. Grateful for the amazing memories we share, and the love we infuse into each other’s lives.

You may not have seen the news last week about a car crashing into a daycare in Florida on Wednesday. But I can’t speak about it yet.

I watched the short news clip, taken from a helicopter circling above and was immediately reliving the overwhelming panic of that day, four years ago, when a car drove through Peanut’s daycare, forever changing our lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’ that day. And it somehow triggered the sorrow of each day since.

My heart is broken for the family of the little girl who died. For several of the twelve injured children who are still in critical care. For the day-care worker, suffering with pain, sorrow, and irrational guilt, for being unable to protect her sweet charges.

I can identify with what they are facing.  I can glimpse what they may continue to face for their lifetimes. After the hospitalizations are, hopefully, behind them. After the external healing has long since taken place, and their bodies are well. But the post-traumatic stress from overwhelming, prolonged fear, made worse by the news helicopters hovering above their heads.  And the daily therapies. And the walkers and communication devices. And developmental delays. That are here to stay.

I can say to these families that life will be hard. Brutal even.

But, life together will also be precious.

Each hug, each milestone accomplished will be celebrated that much more for all the months and years of work required to achieve it.

And as last Sunday was Easter, I’ve been thinking about Jesus. (Did you know that only 18% of the people in our world don’t believe in God? Most of the world’s religions do believe in God, and believe Jesus was either God or a Prophet.)

I’ve been thinking about how he gave up his life to carry love.

And that on Easter Sunday, if it was me (we can all thank God it wasn’t), I would have come back to KICK. Some. Ass.

He didn’t. He came back to love. Again.

So I can carry my heart, filled with pain and love, and ask God to rain down on me, please, to try and grow the love part.

And I read this morning that “The broken places heal first.” So, there’s that. And I’m holding to it.

 

Look Mom, no hands!

Look Mom, no hands!

Leave a Comment

Filed under March 2013

Fierce and Clueless – My Messy Beautiful

I’m fierce.

I know that. Maybe not Beyoncé’s “Sasha Fierce”. But, fierce nonetheless. That’s who I am inside. I feel like my world is big. BIG. I feel like the impact I’m called to have on the world is big. BIG. I feel summoned.

But to WHAT????

The doors just keep closing. I’ve read all those helpful sayings, or not so helpful in my case, about rejection simply being a way to push us in a new and better direction. Or that when a door closes, a window opens. I’m looking. I’m watching. Believe me, I am. But, no apparent window or new direction has surfaced. Yet. Just more rejections. And ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails. And phone calls saying they’re sure I’ll do great wherever else I land.

The temptation is to lower my ideals, reduce my dreams, so there’s less gap between them and my reality.

This isn’t where I thought I’d be. After getting rid of all our ‘stuff’, quitting our jobs, and taking just over a year to travel and volunteer, I thought we’d land somehow different. Better. I thought this year of intentional discovery and challenge and growth would be like a magic-carpet-ride. Transporting us to a magical place in our lives.

And for a while, with three amazing, different, jobs, it almost did.

Where I could help change the world.

But it didn’t.

And, I’m still at a crossroads.

But you know what? If I hadn’t taken this time ‘off’, I’d live with regrets. Big ones. And that’s NOT. ACCEPTABLE. Not to me.

And I know that it took huge courage to step out and make this dream happen. To rid ourselves of the things that kept us busy and scheduled and focused on things that weren’t the most important to us. And to take the kids out of school, against the wishes of Peanut’s therapists. And to spend our savings. And to go. And to do. And to see. To really see.

Seeing the Eifel Tower. For the first time.

And I know that I bring all those learnings and the amazing experiences with me. I know that Dreamboat, myself, and our three kiddo’s are forever changed, in a multitude of ways, from this year.

In addition to our new skills of surfing and Spanish, and our love of Ceviche, we have taught the kids how to love those who were unloved. (Now that we’re back, I have to admit, I’ve regretted this a teensy bit. I’m just a tad nervous, but proud too, as I watch them befriend those who are lonely, and odd, and without friends.)

How to give generously of our time, skills, and resources.

We’ve all learned to be more flexible (some of us more so than others, but nonetheless, I, oops, I mean ‘we’ have improved…at least a bit).

How to focus on others, while not losing sight of who we are. (For me, this one is hard. Unfortunately, it’s still a daily lesson.)

To appreciate the beauty of things being unique and different. And to not be frightened by them. Or to judge.

So, I’m reminding myself of these and all the other gifts we’ve received from this year. (And of course the two gorgeous bags I had made in Marrakech. I’m pretty grateful for those as well.)

And I’m trying to drown out my fears with my gratitude.

I remind myself that I would chose this path again. And I’m taking to those lessons and insights into who I am.

And I’m refusing to lower my faith in myself.

As a wise friend of mine said to me this morning, “Being uncomfortable is OK. Necessary even, to move forward and grow.”

And, she’s right. Of course. (Thank goodness. ‘Cause I AM uncomfortable. That’s a very benign word for the angst that comes in waves. Big, scary waves.)

But, I’m choosing today. Again. Not. To. Lower. My. Dreams. To continue to find a way to make my reality reach the seemingly impossible. To see the invisible and hear the inaudible and then make those things a reality. (That last sentence is shamelessly stolen from Scott Aughtmon’s FB page this morning. I love it.)

And, I’m giving myself a not-so-little pep talk, to suck it up and keep looking. Keep trusting. Keep doing life, even though I’m afraid.

We can be fierce, AND afraid. Right?

——This post and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

1 Comment

Filed under April 2014

Not so gracefully

Dreamboat says I’ve a tendency to be a martyr.

I’m not saying he’s right. (But, he may be right.)

I need to give a disclaimer here that this post is going to be shallow. Maybe even vapid. There’s no excuse. But, I took a vow of honesty, so here goes a spotlight into that part of my personality.

Getting older sucks.

I’ve watched my grandparents this week. (We’re gearing up for Grandpa’s 90th birthday party this weekend!) The amazing and beautiful legacy they have created will last for many, many, many, many generations to come. But, still, they’re old. And they know it. And it’s hard.

Peanut getting kisses from Gigi (his great-grandma).

Because people treat them differently.

People don’t automatically see the nearly 70 years they’ve been dedicated to each other. Or the businesses they’ve created. Or the children they’ve reared (and the hundreds of thousands of lives changed by those offspring and their spouses). Or the grandchildren who are continuing with their lives’ work, to impact those less fortunate. Or their brilliance. Or their kindness. Or their wisdom. Or even their inner-teenager-troublemaker-at-a-moment’s-notice.

People see them as old.

Grandma Janice, Grandpa Charlie, and me.

 

And I’m getting old. (See how I made this is about me?)

Before 40, I didn’t have a single grey hair. In the teeny bit of time since then, I’m stunned by the number of non-blond hairs (ok. Some should be DARK blond too. That’s all I’m admitting here.)  And the lines on my face. And that the skin on my neck is sagging. And that when I caught sight of my reflection in one of the very few full-length mirrors we’ve had during our travels, I thought I saw an old woman!

I have to tell you how much I looked forward to turning 40. I truly did. I felt like finally, I had achieved the proper age number to support my experience. That I would not be disqualified for executive roles for being too young. That my age was a badge of honor and long-awaited entrance to the ‘inner circle of the wise’.

That lasted 5 minutes. (Or two years, if you’re being literal.)

But as the international portion of our year of travel started to wind down, and I started to think about going back to work, the more I became aware of the downsides of getting older.

I’m no longer the ‘young hire’ with the fresh, new ideas. I’m no longer the cheap hire. I’m no longer at a place where I want, or am able, to try new things ‘just because’.

And that’s just the work-related issues.

It doesn’t matter that I feel (and sometimes act) twenty-two-years-old. I’ve just turned forty-three. And it’s caused me to take stock of where I am in life. To evaluate my contribution.

And I’ve come up lacking.

I understand why many of those I know are divorcing. Moving. Buying mansions and sports cars. Writing books (which I totally want to do).

I am getting a first-hand-look at the motivators behind a mid-life-crisis. I get it. I feel it.

I want my life to count. I want meaning and fulfillment in, and from, my relationships. I want my internal beauty to make an indelible impact. For me, it’s for those less fortunate, for the downtrodden. And I feel like I’ve not made a dent. There’s so. Much. More. To. Be. Done.

And, of course I’m being honest here, so I have to admit I want my external beauty to last, too.  I want the men who ogle to stop getting older (well, sort-of. At least stay in the thirty to fifty year-old-range. I draw the line when they’re young enough to be my offspring. Ewww.) But, why is it my eyelashes need to thin and break? (Who are the nasty little elves that yank them off my sleeping lids each night and give them to my Littles??) Are the sun spots really necessary? Does the skin under my arms have to loosen up and swing back and forth when I wave? Do the pores on my nose really need to be big enough to welcome the family dog into their crevices?

I feel like I could write the book “What to Expect When You’re Aging,” except no-one would buy it. No-one wants to know what the downhill slide really looks like. I don’t.

Getting older, and doing it gracefully, is hard.

By the way, what does “age gracefully” really mean? Every time Dreamboat objects to a (costly) spa treatment I would like, he says that to me. Does it mean, hush up, don’t mention what’s going on, and pretend not to notice? Does it mean stand proud and smile through the lines? Does it mean fall on every Botox-filled needed you can find?  Does it mean cover up the damage as best you can with lotions, spackling (some might call it make-up), push-up bras, and long sleeves?

I’ve no idea what ‘gracefully’ looks like for me, as I age.  So far, every day has a different answer. But, I see the ageism in our society. I watch people interact with my grandparents. I see HR folks’ reaction to my resume.

But, I am going to identify with my inner twenty-two-year-old, who convinces me, on a daily basis, to work at being healthy, inside and out. And I’m going to throw ‘mature’ caution to the wind. I will continue to dream. To achieve. To try new things. To look for learning and wisdom. To nurture existing, and build new, meaningful relationships. To (hopefully) one day, adopt more children. To try new bleaching solutions for my grey hair.

So, whether Dreamboat is right or wrong about me being a martyr, I don’t know (or won’t admit). But, in regards to getting older, I will not lie down and take it (unless it’s under an aesthetician’s lamp).

I will not be a martyr.

I want to change the world. Enlarged pores and all.

16 Comments

Filed under August 2013

Today’s choice

I am moved to tears. Daily. By a blog. (Well, I was. BWIHIA – Back When I Had [regular] Internet Access.)

And Dreamboat finally asked me to stop reading it before I come to bed.

The family behind the blog continues to experience heartache that can be overwhelming, and I deeply identify with some of their circumstances. But, do you know what is emerging from their pain? Beauty. Because they, the writer of Chasing Rainbows and her family, choose to learn from every circumstance. Because they choose to overcome. To not just continue living. But, to thrive. To practice gratitude for the good things in their life.

I want to be like that. I want to focus on the silver lining. The joy that exists alongside the darkness and the despair.

I firmly believe that joy comes through gratitude. 

Just let that sink in…Without actively cultivating, or practicing, being thankful, we don’t have joy.

As a mom, it drives me crazy when my kids ask for something the second after they’ve just received a treat.  Can’t they be grateful for a little while?  Gratitude doesn’t seem to come naturally to them.

But, unfortunately, that sounds just like me. Maybe they got my ‘wanting’ genes.

Or, maybe it’s human nature.

I (and possibly, you) want and want and want something, like a house or a job (which is something I really-need-to-find-right-about-now-when-our-bank-account-has-been-depleted-from-this-year-of-travel), and the minute I achieve it, I start wanting something else. The minute I finally get the shoes I’ve lusted after, there’s another pair I must have. That’s true for me, even with groceries. Especially the fresh, organic kind.  I constantly have to remind myself to be grateful. To say thank you. To Dreamboat. To the kids. To friends. To colleagues.

And, of course, the more I speak out my gratitude, the more I become aware of how blessed I truly am. Which then, makes me grateful.  See the beautiful cycle?

We have a family rule, which I love. Before the kids can ask for something, they have to first thank us for three things. Isn’t that awesome? Even though I know they’re saying ‘thank you’ to get something else, it still has the desired effect of making them grateful, and reminding them of how much I do for them, and it makes me happy too. It’s a win-win.

“When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” Think about it. (Quote from Dr. Brene Brown).

We get to choose our attitude. We can choose to live and be content in our circumstances. To open up to others and allow them to get close to us. To be vulnerable. To be present and find the gifts in our lives right now. To find joy.

I know this may sound trite to some of you who are hurting. Suffering. Grieving the loss of someone, or something. But we all face pain. Life can be hard (I would actually say, “Life IS hard”).

Just this week, two hours after finally arriving at our destination in Colorado, joyfully reunited with our two older kids, we sat down to eat with family. For what should have been a raucous reconnection.

But. Instead. Peanut reached out to poke/pet (interpretation dependent on whether you were the toddler or the dog) the family dog. And it bit him. In the face. One tooth went into the outer corner of his left eye. Five additional bite marks were so covered in blood, it was difficult to see how badly his face was hurt.

My darling Dreamboat, concerned about the blood dripping all over my shirt, was trying to stop the flow of blood down Peanut’s face. (Good thing Dreamboat wasn’t aware of how much I spent on that shirt, or he might still be standing in the kitchen, mopping up blood from Peanut’s face.) Within minutes, we decided to bundle him back into the car that we had just gratefully exited (after ten days of driving). We waved a hasty goodbye to the older Littles, and drove an hour to the nearest emergency room.

During the five-hour-visit, Peanut was treated, his eye examined, antibiotics administered, and one bite-mark was stitched up.

Dreamboat and I came crashing down from the adrenaline rush, me with uncontrollable shakes and he with an overwhelming desire to sleep; and had to explain, repeatedly, again (as we have to do as least once a day), that yes, Peanut is four years old, but he doesn’t speak. At three-and-a-half-months-old, he was hit by a car that drove through the wall of his daycare. And since then, he is developmentally delayed. That this dog bite doesn’t even register in Peanut’s Top Five Medical Emergencies. We interpreted his signs, answered their medical questions, and their curiosity, as they treated our frightened, hurting, little boy.

We finally left the hospital, drove an hour back up the mountain, and climbed in to bed just before 3:00am. To wake the next morning and learn, that the dog had been put down.

This sweet dog was well-loved. By all three of our children. By its family. By me.

Just recently it saved the lives of two family members from a pack of coyotes when they were lost, trapped, overnight. It had defended their car from thieves. Their house from intruders and bears (yes, this is Colorado, wild bears get hungry and daring, especially in the spring). But, it had started biting non-thieves, and children that frightened it (Peanut was the second child to be bitten, and its owners were deeply concerned about potential, future, episodes).

That night, through our tears, we raised our glasses and made a toast to the sweet, life-saving, Peanut-biting, dog.

You see, life IS hard.

We all have heartache. Sometimes it is fleeting. Sometimes in comes in the form of a little boy, and stays with me, for each day I am lucky enough to spend with him.

But, there is beauty, and deep joy in life as well. I am grateful to be reunited with my older kiddo’s. And that my Peanut’s eye is going to be fine. And that his little face is healing nicely. And I am grateful for each day I am lucky enough to spend with him.

I am grateful for the beauty and tranquility of these magnificent mountains, restoring my soul.

I am deeply grateful for friends with whom I can be vulnerable with my pain and fears, who bring me great joy.

Today, I am choosing joy. Tomorrow, I hope to choose joy as well.

Will you join me?

16 Comments

Filed under August 2013

Four

Eight months into this magical year of travel, and I can breathe a sigh of relief and say unequivocally that it has already been filled with growth and learning for each one of the five of us.  Even, and maybe especially, for Peanut.

You can read some of his story here

We have proven his therapist’s fears were unfounded. HUGE gratitude fear didn’t win this one.

Many milestones have been joyfully celebrated along the way. Some were small (increased coordination and stability in his walking).  Some were big (flying calmly, without frightened screaming for the first hour). And some have been HUGE (calling me “mama”)!  I am so proud of the effort and hard work he expends daily, to challenge himself.

Loving his core work at the fair today!

This little man brings me immense joy. I’m so grateful that he’s tickled to cover my face with kisses, and wrap his arms around my neck for some heart-melting cuddles. Each day with him is truly a gift. (I was going to say each moment, but only in a big-picture kind of way would that be true. There are moments, especially when he’s screeching, frustrated by his inability to communicate something, for which I’m not as thankful).

But, there’s one milestone that I knew we’d face during our travels, which I’ve been anticipating and dreading. In equal parts.

It happened today.

My Peanut turned FOUR.

Angry Bird birthday breakfast

He’s no longer a toddler.

And, once again, but in a different and deeper way, I know the pain of loss. He’s not just “on his own schedule”.

Being ‘four’ makes his delays more glaringly apparent. More is expected of him, even by me. And, less allowances are made for him. And, it’s harder to watch a one-year-old begin to learn the things he cannot do. Hopefully, cannot yet do.

Today requires more ‘letting go’. Again. And it’s hard.

Dreamboat and I are realizing that sweet Peanut is going to get more challenging, and sometimes downright difficult, to take out in public, as his frustration levels increase. Last night’s dinner, supposed to be a real treat at a French bistro we found here in Lima, turned into frustration and gritted teeth, while Dreamboat and I took turns walking Peanut outside. We think he was overly hungry. Or maybe didn’t want to sit in a high chair. Or perhaps wanted sushi (I’m only partially kidding. He loves to eat sushi. But other than for sweet things, he’s never shown a preference before). And, he couldn’t tell us.

The good news, and what I’m counting on, is that the increased frustration means that Peanut will work harder on his communication. That he’ll learn to speak.

I don’t have all, or even many, of the answers for where this path will take us. And I’ve no idea what life will bring to the table in the future. But I do know that along the way, like today, I have to let go of my dreams. And grieve. And then let Peanut guide. And remind myself that in these four years together, our lives are already more beautiful than the plans and dreams that I had for us.

Sharing an oreo shake with Daddy. A perfect end to a perfect day.

30 Comments

Filed under May 2013

Missing things

As the countdown has begun to leave our international destinations and head back to the US, for the driving-across-the-country/US-history portion of this amazing year, I catch myself making mental lists of things I miss about home. And lists of things I will miss when I leave here.  These are some of them, in no particular order.

What I miss about home:

  • Friends. (That includes you, family). When it comes to reducing stress, talking with friends produces better results than Valium, therapy, exercise, meditation, yoga, or a stiff drink. And I had it in spades. I was surrounded by amazing people (some from a physical distance, but at least they had good internet and phone service which I’ve had only sporadically this year). And I miss them more than anything. Dreamboat has been a trooper, but I’m sure he’s ready for me to start sharing my thoughts and dreams and fears and and hopes and menu and frustrations and laundry dread, and the list goes on, with several someones other than him. And, if I ask him, even one more time, what he’s thinking, this trip may be over. Today.
  • Plumbing that is made to handle toilet paper. I miss this one a lot. Every day.
  • Whole Foods and Trader Joes, and the easy availability of healthy foods. And that food packaging is printed in English. And that I had a car to drive to the stores and didn’t have to walk up to eight miles to get there. (I know this one sounds snarky, and it is. But, it’s also true.)
  • The lack of ear-piercing car alarms, constant honking, trucks rumbling, music blaring, combined into noise pollution that never stops. This week, I heard a car’s reverse beep (not enough for only the large-sized trucks to have them here in Lima), to the tune of J Lo’s “On the Floor.” Swear.  I love the energy of a big city, but now, I crave me some stillness and peace.
  • Matching glasses (stemware). A full set of silverware. Cloth napkins. Pretty, shiny, things.
  • Not living out of a suitcase. And with only the clothes, and the shoes (especially the limited shoes), that I can fit into one suitcase.
  • Time alone that doesn’t equate to all five of us at a Starbucks, with everyone having received orders to READ and BE QUIET, to give me some uninterrupted thinking. Or a nap. Either would be fine.
  • My kids’ teachers. God BLESS them.  There are times, ok – they’re fleeting (or maybe not), when I long for having to go in to the office, for some kid-free time.
  • People Magazine (which I know is full of trash, and now has great, new trash on people I’ve not heard about after being away for so long), and Marie Claire (which has amazing fashion which I can no longer afford since I’ve not worked in so long), and House Beautiful (which is just silly as I’ve not been in a house in almost nine months, and my house is rented through the end of the year, and, once again, I can’t hire one of those amazing designers to come add their creativity and beauty to my home). But, I miss each and every one of these publications nonetheless. And, at every airport and kiosk and bookstore and checkout counter, I look for them. Finally, in Spain, six MONTHS into this trip, I gave away the Marie Claire I had brought from home. It still pains me to think about not having it.
  • Going to the movies. If I’m being totally honest, which of course I am, we didn’t often go to movies before we left home. There were the rare girls-night-out, or movie dates with Dreamboat. But, it had been months since I’d been to a movie before we left, and it has been the ENTIRE nine months of our trip so far, since I’ve seen a new release. I don’t even know what I’ve missed. But here’s the secret, when I was trying not to get buried under the stress of life, sometimes, without telling anyone, I would go to a matinee and just escape to be entertained and laugh or cry or dig my nails into the arm rests.  I loved the escapism and perspective it brought. The reality of my life was always better than the movie I saw. (By the way, you’d be surprised who is watching movies at 2:00pm on a Monday.)

What I will miss when I’m home:

  • Time. Time with the kids. Time with Dreamboat. Time to workout. Time to volunteer. Time to explore and learn. Time for naps. Time to write. Time that is all mine to spend as I wish, unencumbered by school and sports schedules, commitments, or work. The beauty and joy, from life without the morning rush to get everyone fed and dressed and out the door on time.
  • Knowing I’m following my dreams. Knowing I’m making a difference, every day, in my life, and the lives of my kids, and the lives of those less fortunate.
  • Low cost of living!  Cheap housing. Cheap food. Cheap wine. Affordability ROCKS.
  • Sunshine all year long! As we intentionally followed the sun, except for a freak snowstorm, we got to skip winter. After living in Seattle for 6 years, this girl has been soaking up the happiness of daily vitamin D.
  • Always being just a little off-kilter from being in a foreign place. Being ‘new’ which has kept me aware, learning, on the edge. And, more sensitive to others who are new, and able to reach out and make them feel welcome.
  • The lack of Hallmark Holidays and the freedom from the production of having to decorate and celebrate for every. Single. One. As much as I love my kids’ schools and their teachers (and believe me, I love them a LOT), there will be many times (every single holiday), when I’ll wish to be back in Africa and free of the guilt-inducing celebrations that require planning, effort, midnight runs to the store for materials, and time-off-work to attend. If I were to have more children, they’d have to draw straws to see who gets to have mama attend their event.
  • The intentionality of teaching and modeling the character I want to nourish in my kids. The daily challenges and lessons we have faced ‘on the road’ which serve as reminders that success is waking up every morning with your soul at peace. Of teaching them that compassion takes energy and attention, but is not hard. So if they’re not being kind, they’re just being lazy. And selfish.
  • Seeing poverty every day. And the joy of those living in it. And being reminded everywhere I look, that happiness is a choice, not dependent on our circumstances.
  • Surfing. And the sound of the waves. And the view of the ocean (not the one in Conakry with all the floating trash and the rotting fish, but the pristine one in Spain).

What I will not miss, ever, is a Hammam. I like to think of myself as stubborn, and anything but a quitter. I’m game to try most anything once. But, I quit the local Hammam mid-experience. After I had talked a friend into joining me and we were both stripped down our underwear, and had made it through the two outer chambers and into the, what was supposed to be, ‘hot’ room, to find myself chilled, grossed out by the slime and smell and wishing I could hide from the big, naked lady approaching with a dark brown fatty substance that looked like axel grease, I turned and walked back to the locker rooms (wet room with hooks lining two walls and a bench I wouldn’t set Peanut’s poopy bottom on), unconcerned with any semblance of dignity, and got dressed while all the women, in various stages of undress, sat and ate and watched us. Nope. Anything resembling a Turkish Bath, and I’m heading the other way, while spraying Lysol over my shoulder. No matter what country I’m in.

This year has enriched my life in more ways than I can name. And, is cutting out chunks of my heart, to leave behind in each of the incredible places I’ve come to know and love.

Comments Off

Filed under May 2013

The preachy post

Social media can make us feel like we’re not really connected to those with whom we interact. Faceless. Safe and protected by our anonymity. As though we’re not really having an impact.

In reality, the OPPOSITE is true.

Our words posted on Facebook, and other online mediums, have a real impact. One that is deeply felt.

On a daily basis (Hi, I’m Heidi and I’m a social-media junky), I laugh deeply from a shared memory, shed tears for a friend’s suffering, and mull over new thoughts and points of view. All from online posts.

I’ll let you in on a secret…I have online FRIENDS with whom I laugh, cry, identify, and yep, love. And this summer, I’ve made plans with two of them to get together and deepen our friendships. Offline.

We’ve ONLY ever met online. Facebook.  Isn’t that great?!

In fact, I am writing this, squinting through swollen eyes, having spent the last two hours SOBBING over the posts on Chasing Rainbows (and using some ‘colorful’ language as I rant my confusion, anger, and questions to Dreamboat), in response to five-year-old Gavin’s death. He died two weeks ago, today. On his mama’s birthday. His short life has changed me. Profoundly. Forever. And I’ve never met him or his family, face-to-face.

And, similarly to me, there are lots of others who feel deeply the comments made from those known, and unknown, behind a screen.  There’s data–We’ve seen the reports of so many teenagers who’ve committed suicide, the world over, as a direct result.

Our words hold power. Just like our actions, they hold consequences.

And in the last few days, with the topics of marriage equality and the resulting votes in Britain and the US, the Gosnell trial, gun control, Boston bombings, and other hot-button topics, I’ve seen some posts that hurt.

They cross the line. Even beyond bullying. They’re hate-filled.

All of these are from friends. Facebook friends, yes. But, all of these are real people whom I know. And whom I love.

Shame on you.

Currently, none of my three kids have social media accounts. But, they’re clamoring for them, and the day is soon approaching when Dreamboat and I will cave. And, I’d like to think I would encourage them to deny strangers access to their profiles, and instead, to ‘friend’ my friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

That means you.

The people I’ve known and loved and welcomed into my life. And, who’ve written disrespectful, hateful, posts about others. This week.

I know that none of you would say those things TO me. Or TO anyone. TO their face. Things that filled my feed this week, like:

“Well professor dumbass.

“Why don’t you shut your pie hole?”

“Dumb French.”

“stupid, muslim, president.”

 

Shame on you.

 

Especially if you consider yourself a follower of Christ. Or Allah. Or Buddha (you atheists get a pass on this one). Whose example are you following? What kind of an example are you setting? For your kids? Or grandkids? Or me (obviously I’m still very impressionable)? or MY kids?

Where’s the integrity?

Now, I know that some of you are truly brilliant. Off-the-charts-smart. And that being witty, comes easily and naturally to you (which makes me a teensy bit jealous). And that sometime (ok, maybe OFTEN) witty can be catty. And petty. And your minds are filled with witticisms that take the ‘bad guys’ down a notch. And you deliver a good laugh.

And I understand and truly love a good laugh. In fact, my grandpa, never met a driver who wasn’t an “IDIOT”, which brought all of his kids and grandkids oodles of laughs over the years. And, compared to his incredible driving skill, he might be right. But, he’s never yet posted that opinion online. (Please forgive me grandpa, for posting it now).

But, I want to challenge you to save laughs and slurs for drinks with friends (who hopefully will not remember it the next morning. Or, more importantly, will NOT broadcast, it with your name attached. For eternity.)

Or, even better, don’t say it at all.

And don’t EVER write it.

Instead, take the time to first be self-deprecating.  And second, be funny, to make your point.

OR. DON’T. WRITE. ANYTHING.

And, definitely don’t forward anything. Or ‘like’ anything.

Until you think about my ten-year-old daughter sitting in front of you and asking if that’s “how we’re supposed to treat people?”

Remember your mother’s advice; “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”

I’m not saying don’t post opinions. God knows I love and learn from the thoughts, across a wide spectrum, of my varied friends. I like that. I learn from that. It enriches my life.

I need each and every one of you.

But, just because you feel a certain way today, doesn’t mean you’re RIGHT.

And, doesn’t mean you’re smarter and better than someone who feels differently. (OK. Honestly, some of you really are smarter. But, that’s NOT equivalent to ‘better’ or ‘right’!). And, no matter what you think, God hasn’t given you more insights than anyone else here on earth.

In my opinion, politics is a journey. (And should be a personal one.) Where I stood ten years ago is different from where I stand today, and probably very different from where I’ll stand ten years from now.

And when you belittle others, regardless of whether or not I (or others) agree they’re wrong, and act as though they are not as good as you, it backfires. My opinion of YOU, and respect for YOU, diminishes.

Now, obviously, we all know I’m not very important. But, the same rule applies to all your friends and acquaintances. When you are hateful, and belittle others, everyone’s perception of you shrinks.  You become small.

So, let’s learn from the bullying we’ve seen (and COUNTLESS supporting scripture), and chose to use our words to build people up. Not tear them down.

I don’t really care whether you support the current US President, UK Prime Minister, King of Jordan, (although who can find fault with amazing Queen Rania?), or whomever is in power in your country. Truly, I don’t care. But I do care that you give them the respect they deserve. No matter what you think of their politics, OR their personal life, they are human.

And, not you, nor I, are a better human than they are.

We’re not.

And until we have been President, or PM, or King, none of us know or understand the scope of the misrepresentation by the media, or the depth of the pressures they face. And, when you or I have been PM (or other head-of-state), if we still feel that the current administration in our country is filled with incompetent buffoons, then we may say so.  PRIVATELY. To their face.

If you’re unable, or unwilling (please don’t), to refrain from the offensive, public, belittling of others, whom I think you should probably stop and pray for, then be warned that I begin to see you as a three-inch bobble head on my desk. (Like the one I have of President Obama, bought as a quirky memento from a visit to Washington DC. Whenever our more conservative family visit, we put it on their bedside table. Because we’re thoughtful.)

You begin to resemble a talking head for one of the politically-funded-commercials that may, or may not, have checked their facts. But, intended to emotionally sway the opposition.  (THAT I IGNORE.)

When in fact, you cause others to…Lose. Faith. In. YOU.

And, when Dreamboat and I do cave, and allow Miss O, and then my sweet and innocent G-man, to get Facebook accounts, I’ll first have to unfriend YOU.

 

How’s that for an opinion? Hope it made a point, but was still respectful :-)

8 Comments

Filed under April 2013

Poop, Plumbing, and Picchu

The past three weeks have been challenging. Difficult even…filled with illness. Lots of change, adjustment, and unknowns. An acquaintance reeling from the loss of her sweet son. Deep, heart-longing for friends. Facing, explaining, and answering my Littles’ questions about the suffering across our world this week. An overabundance of poop –literally. A hair-coloring experience that went comically wrong by not only darkening my roots, but also two inches of skin around my hairline and all the fingers on my left hand. Permanently. (The upside being it reinforced that I am my mother’s daughter. Once, her hair turned purple. Another time it was pink. Yet another, it disintegrated when touched. And those are just a few of the episodes I personally witnessed.) And then there’s the ongoing emotional roller-coaster of traveling, and homeschooling our three kids.

But, we’re five days into the apartment where we’re staying for two months, which means we’re unpacked. Finally. And I go to sleep and wake up, every day, to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore below. And I feel my soul being fed. And feel strong enough to speak the truth, AND see the humor, in the last couple of weeks. And, I got a massage today (that right there is enough to return my optimism to overflowing).

Massage bliss. And, there was music to keep Peanut entertained too.

Last night, as we walked home with our groceries, G-man, who is seven, started us all recounting the many places we’ve stayed so far, during this year’s adventure. It was so varied. And hilarious. Places like;

“The apartment in Malaga where we spent New Year’s Eve, but our clocks were off by an hour and we missed it.”

“The hotel room where the ants took over.”

“The Dar in Fez that came with a cook who made fresh smoothies every morning, and we would guess if it was fruit (yum) or veggies (yuck), by the colors.”

“The airport hotel where they wouldn’t let us stay in one room and we had to upgrade to a fancy suite.”

“The hostel where Miss O threw up all over.”

“The overnight train from Madrid to Paris, where the boys shared a berth and the girls shared a berth. And no-one slept.”

As we went through every country, and all the places we slept (or didn’t sleep, depending), my heart filled with gratitude and awe at the last six-and-a-half months! I am living my dream. Dreamboat is living his dream.

We’re actually doing it. Together.

And introducing our kids to the world. Expanding their world-view, empathy, flexibility, and countless other great traits.

And taking a much-needed break from the often overwhelming routine of three-year-old Peanut’s care and therapies.

I am acutely aware of how fortunate, how very blessed we are, especially in light of the heartache and suffering in Boston, Afghanistan, Texas, and Bangalore this week. But, there are no rose-colored glasses allowed when traveling. With three little kids. For a year. So, here’s what the last few weeks have really looked like.

When we landed in Lima, after a couple of long flights where all three children insisted they weren’t tired, it was just after midnight. The pre-arranged, pre-paid taxi wasn’t there. All three children fell asleep and/or cried over the next half hour while we, and all our luggage, lumbered, exhausted, around the airport until we found wi-fi, looked up our new address, obtained local currency, and negotiated a new taxi and fare. And loaded all ten pieces of luggage into the van for the last leg of the night.

Our first ten days in Lima were booked in a small apartment. Which didn’t have sheets for all the beds. That was not a joyous middle-of-the-night arrival. It smelled strongly of mold. And within an hour of waking a short while later, to the double cacophony of pigeon calls echoing around the bathroom walls from the open window, and a piercing car alarm going off right outside our bedroom, we had plugged up TWO bathrooms. This was our introduction to the cultural norm that plumbing here is not made to accommodate toilet paper. (That lesson stuck – pun intended. Even with the kids.)

I have to mention that in the five weeks we’ve now been here, it hasn’t rained. Not once. So, we started out spending our time glorying in the outdoors. That first week we even surfed a couple of times. Yep, you can just call me ‘Surfer Girl’ now. Until one night, we played in the park after dinner, and I was ‘IT’ for a game of tag with the two older kids. Not wanting to be outdone by my kids, I chased them around every palm and bench, AND jumped over flower beds. As I triumphantly caught them, telling myself how young and fit I must look to passersby, I felt an old, unfortunately very familiar, searing pain. I had wrenched my lower back and inflamed two bulging disks. By the following day my back was in excruciating spasms and I was bedridden.

Dreamboat and the kids managed groceries and meals on their own for a few days. And then, things took a definite, downward turn. I was still bed-ridden. And bored. Very bored. (And maybe beginning to feel sorry for myself). Our lease was up on the moldy flat, and someone else was moving in eminently. FOUR other apartments fell through THE morning we had to move out. Dreamboat, who really, really, does not like to pack, packed up all ten pieces of luggage, and some bags of groceries, and moved us all to a hotel. Of course I tried to be helpful by providing suggestions from my bed. You’ll have to ask him whether or not the input was indeed helpful and how pleased he was, or wasn’t, with my efforts. I got a little suspicious as to his state of mind, when I looked up from popping muscle relaxants and trying to hold back the pain-induced tears during the short taxi ride, to notice it was me, all the kids, and nine pieces of luggage. Dreamboat had graciously hopped in a second taxi, with the one bag that wouldn’t fit.

Upon arrival at the hotel, a very sweet porter, seeing my obvious discomfort (isn’t that was doctors always call pain?), practically lifted me from the car and carried me to the elevator. I was so grateful, I think I tipped him in Euro’s, Soles, and Dollars (the next day, after I was lucid enough to find my purse).

In the ten days since then, there have been three additional moves (one where we’re still fighting to get our deposit back after a shower door shattered on Miss O), and a trip (with only one piece of luggage), that included taxi’s, buses, trains, planes, and hiking, to Machu Picchu. And we’ll just say that the hostel we stayed at in Cusco (the starting point to visit Machu Picchu), didn’t have any ‘stars’ anywhere near its name. And that the stains of Peanut throwing up all over the floor just blended with the previous marks. Those of you who know me, will be shocked by the very fact that I stayed in a hostel, as my idea of roughing it is a five-star hotel with only a shower. All five of us got various illnesses there. Whatever bugs we caught, mixed with 11,200ft of elevation, didn’t bode well for this family, or for the small supply of toilet paper, and towels, that came with the room.

The morning of our Machu Picchu trip, Dreamboat woke me as planned at 5:30am. But, he greeted me with the unplanned,

“I can’t do it. There’s no way I can make it.”

Miss O was also unable to get out of bed (or get far from the bathroom).

The doctor we called to come write our permission slips, required by the train company to reschedule, found a heart murmur on Dreamboat.

A HEART murmur.

Although we debated whether the arrhythmia was a scam, we took the doctor’s offered car ride (Yes. You read that correctly. The Dr. was also our taxi service, for a small, additional fee). He took us to a local hospital where he arranged to have a cardiologist ready and waiting to give Dreamboat an echocardiogram.

The efficiency and affordability of quality medical care was pleasantly surprising. In just over an hour we had paid a relatively small sum of US Dollars in cash, for exams from both of the doctors, the prescriptions, formal medical board notes excusing us from travel, and a copy of the reassuring EKG.

The next morning, all of us were well enough to go. (The other four had no choice really. We WERE going to make it to Machu Picchu. It’s been my dream for a long, long time.)

It was magical.

The train and bus rides through the valleys were relaxing, fun, and provided first-row seats to the breathtaking views. Machu Picchu itself was surreal. The preservation of its history is incomparable. The engineering is astounding. The reality of it slowly sunk in over the following days.

Miss O was so amazed by the lack of safety measures, that she kept asking if they ever allowed rentals of the historic site, for birthday climbing parties.

For the first time ever, Peanut tried to climb a rock. He couldn’t. But it was so precious to see him trying, wanting to be like his older siblings. And thank goodness he wasn’t able to, as neither Dreamboat nor I needed one more reason to have a heart attack as we watched the two older kids run and jump with only inches between a safe landing, and a fall of thousands of feet.

We flew back to Lima the following day, with our hearts, and camera card, full to overflowing. The visit has been wonderful content for a home-schooling unit on history, geography, culture and art!

And now, we’ve rejoined our luggage at a lovely eighth floor apartment, overlooking the sea. My back is strong enough that I’ve resumed some workouts, modified to be no-impact, of course. But I feel more balanced, just putting some focus and effort back on my health. We’ve unpacked, filled the kitchen with fresh groceries, overloaded the drains (but not the toilets) with sand from a trip to the beach, and are working our way through lists of more things to see and do.

And, come to find out, while I was out of commission, Dreamboat had started looking for a job again. To perhaps put an early end to this year of adventure. But, he isn’t anymore. Whew.

 

17 Comments

Filed under April 2013