Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Bittersweetness of Growing Children

My daughters were digging in the basement and unearthed this Superman mask which was a trinket that was given away at my oldest's fourth birthday party. I nearly gasped with memory when they handed it to me. Holding it in my hands caused a nearly visceral stream of memory to rush through my being. Tears stormed my eyes as my girls looked at me quizzically and I knew they were wondering why a paper mask was making Mommy teary.

The tears were not all sadness. They were full of the bittersweet joy of motherhood. The joy of the growing, the learning, the love of watching them become these incredible beings. The sadness of knowing that they will not be yours forever and the years will pass ever so quickly.

I showed my son the mask and he laughingly placed it on his head, remembering that fourth birthday party that was nine and a half years ago. That day it had been two loose on his tiny, preschool head and I had needed to tie the elastic tighter. Today it was too small for the face of the young man before me. When he removed it, still smiling- I saw the peach fuzz on his upper lip and I was reminded that soon he will be learning to shave and all of the other myriad of things that comes with becoming a man. Even though just yesterday he was my baby, he will soon be a man.

I swallowed the lump in my throat as I told him of my memories of that day. I remembered much more than he. Such is the memory of motherhood. It reminds me of Matryoshka, those Russian nesting dolls that lie inside one another, each one smaller than the last. I hold inside me the memories of my children, the memories of each age carefully tucked inside the others for safekeeping. I wonder if my children know how full my heart is with these memories. That they keep me warm on cold nights and give me strength on the hardest of days. I hope they know how blessed I have been by all of the memories- even the lousy ones.

There are days of emptiness. And, yet- I am full.  I have everything I need in these carefully preserved memories inside me. Even as I strive for more for myself, I know that at the end of my life being gifted with these three precious beings was more than enough.

I hope that heaven is a place where I get to relive these days with my children over and over and over again. What a lovely place that would be.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Power of Touch and How Motherhood Healed Me

I never truly felt like a child. I always felt like adult, a miniature adult with a tiny voice. I think that the odd, serious manner which was my weird personality as a child did not lend itself to being nurtured by others. I was the oldest child of three and one of my nicknames as a child was "Little Mother" because I derived great joy from taking care of my younger siblings. I truly believe that the adults around me thought that I was a child that didn't seem to need a lot of physical affection, that I was a little person who preferred to nurture as opposed to be nurtured. There was generally a lot of verbal affection, but very little hugging, pulling me onto their lap, rubbing my back when I couldn't sleep, etc. I use to crave that so very much, but did not have the confidence to say so. So, even though I had truly wonderful parents, family and friends, I remember a distinct hunger for human touch from a very early age.

When my first child was born, I remember never wanting to put him down. Grandparents, friends and even strangers at the grocery store would warn me about "spoiling" him and gave me firm advice to let him "cry it out". My Mama's heart told me to smile and nod and ignore this advice, as well-intentioned as it was. I held each of my three children as often as a could, enjoying the ever-passing experiences of breast-feeding them, snuggling their little heads into the crook of my neck and rocking them gently to sleep. There was joy in work of motherhood like I had never experienced. There was joy in the bleary-eyed nights, in the crying fits of late evening, in the ever-present bouts of illness that rocked this house as it spread person to person. The joy was in the togetherness, the love, the snuggles amidst the struggles of life that did not always have joy outside of these precious moments. 

When I was in nursing school, an instructor once told me about the importance of non-contigent touch. That is, touch that isn't because of an action you have to follow- taking vital signs, giving medication, etc. She reminded us that not everyone has love in their lives and that love is essential for healing and growth.  The easiest way to show love is often with a simple hand on the shoulder, holding hands with a frightened client, sitting next to them on their bed while chatting with them so they can see that you are not hurried and are present in the moment. 

I believe that non-contingent touch is just as important in parenting. We touch our children when helping them bathe, dress- so many ways during our busy days. We mustn't forget the importance of hugs, snuggles, pats on the backs, the ruffling of hair throughout the day. Touch is one of the most important languages of love. 

One of the most important surprises of parenthood for me was that the physical time spent with my children not only nourished their need for love, but satiated my own clawing hunger for human touch. In loving them, I was loved. In holding them, I was held. In raising them, I rose up. 

We have a simple power to use, literally in our hands. We can use our touch to heal, to move, to love. 

We are powerful being, we humans. May we use our powers wisely, for good. Hug on a loved one today, sit with someone who is sad, hold the hand of someone who is frightened. 

Shine on, Dear Ones. May your light blast away the darkness, may your touch warm a cold soul.

parenthood sleeping

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And, I rise.

sleeping children

When I lose faith in the world, in myself- I look upon my sleeping children.

I lay my ear upon their chests and listen to the rhythms of their beating hearts and metronome breaths. I listen carefully, for hidden within this music of life is a song. A rhythmic song of inspiration. It calls to me and more....fight on....make this world a better place for me.

And, I rise. Spine-straightened, resolve on my tear stained face- and march on.

Depression, Anxiety and How They Make Me a Better Mother

I have had life-long struggles with depression and anxiety. When I say life-long, I mean that I cannot remember a time when I did not have periods of intense anxiety and debilitating sadness. As I age, I have found more and more coping mechanisms and feel like I am struggling less and less. But, the struggle is still real- and more frequent- than I would like.

I remember as a child, many people telling me to just "cheer up" and "stop taking things so seriously". So, I learned to put on a false face of cheer and face the world even as the sadness and fear raged within. I did not learn to cope until adulthood when I began to actively seek coping mechanisms.

I have been doing ever so much better in my adulthood. I have many more days of happiness than sadness, more days of calm than anxiety. However, I do still have periods of depression and anxiety- sometimes extreme, debilitating periods.

I was in a funk recently. Stuck in irrational fight-or-flight anxiety over things that were certainly not life threatening and didn't deserve the constant, debilitating fear I was feeling. I knew in my rational mind that this fear made no sense, but depression and anxiety(those Bitches!) never listen to my rational mind. I was aware that I was not being present with my children at the time nor was I as patient as I usually hope to be as a mother.  It, of course, only increased said funk and I was beating myself up over this at bedtime.

As I was berating myself(something that I excel at, unfortunately), I also began to think of how I interact with my kids when they are having a bad day/sadness/anxiety. I realized that the way that I respond to them would have been incredibly helpful to me when I was a child. I am able to comfort them and assist them with finding their own coping mechanisms so hopefully they can arise into adulthood with an already full bag-of-tricks for managing the shit storms of depression and anxiety when they blow into their lives. Even in my worst times, I try my very best to be endlessly available and open with my children. I wish ever so much more for them than I have had for myself.

So, when we are stuck in our own shit storms, Mama and Papa Bears of the world, remember that your own struggles are making you stronger. Remember that the ways you find to cope are helpful learning opportunities for your children. Remember that showing your own imperfections is a reminder to your children that perfection is a gross falsity.

Shine on, Dear Ones. Reach deep into your parental soul and remember that you are ever so much more than enough to do this hella hard business called parenting. Your children will one day be grateful for your struggles and the lessons you had to show them. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Life in the Digital Age: The Power of Positive Passwords

Ugh. Passwords. Doesn't everything today require a password? We each have a myriad of passwords commited to memory, on a list hidden in our desk, locked inside an app in our phone that *gasp* also requires a password. And, just when a password becomes a natural rote way of entering a computer, web-site, door, etc....we're told that it's time to change that password again.


For many years my passwords were easily memorable, benign words from my life- names of loved ones, pets, school mascots....whatever. However, about a year ago I heard a podcast(I cannot remember which one it was- gah!) which suggested making my passwords positive reflections of the life that I want. It made complete sense to me to have a password that I would be memorizing and typing repeatedly as something positive and productive to me. A repetitive reminder of what I want from life.

So, obviously I am not going to tell you my actual passwords, but here are some suggestions for you:

Worried about finances? - how about working in the words abundant or wealthy into your passwords?

Self-worth an issue for you? - how about IAmAmazing or such sentiment worked into your password?

Stress got you down? - how about IAmCalm or IHaveEverythingINeed or ThisTooWillPass worked into your e-mail?

You get the drift, Dear Ones. Obviously, this isn't going to cure all that ails you, but it is a great way to stride towards a more positive inner voice.

And, of course- make sure that your passwords are secure and you don't give them to others- even if you do want to share the most awesome password ever that makes you smile everytime you type it in!

Shine on, Dear Ones. In the most positive of ways.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Darkness and the Light.

Being a nurse has taught me so many things. Each job that I have had- a pediatric nurse, a hospice nurse, a nurse on the Mother-Baby floor, public health nursing- they have each taught me a myriad of things, both speakable and unspeakable.

One of the most valuable wisdoms gleaned from nursing has been a learned comfort of the darkness. Not the literal darkness- the shrouding of the day behind the stars, the turning off of the light at the end of the day to slip under your covers. No, the darkness within each of us and the darkness outside of us that we have no control over.

I have seen the wrongs that humans inflict on one another. The things most people see on the news, but can turn off the set and rest their minds in the relative comfort of their own home and family. Murder, child abuse, rape...we could go on and on, right? The worst of this is being a pediatric nurse and knowing the sick, solid knowledge of how often these horrors are inflicted on children. You do not EVER get used to seeing these things, you do not become jaded against these horrors. You cannot.

However, I have become comfortable with the darkness. I currently work as a public health nurse and have become comfortable with the day after day trek into the bleak world of poverty. I no longer shudder when a cockroach scurries across my nursing clog, when a child picks bed bugs off his mattress, at the sometimes rampant rotting, decay of the low-income housing where the landlords can be cruel and jaded and uncaring. I strive to make the lives of these families better, so much better. I empower them to hope for more, so much more. Many of these families come from generation after generation of desperate poverty and have given up hope. Addiction, abuse and desperation lie everywhere, but hope is rare. My job is to plant seeds of hope and wish for them to germinate and grow. I know the sad knowledge now that I cannot save everyone, as reverently as I wish for that to be true.

I have learned that I can feel sorrow and compassion for those that society has taught us deserve none. Even the abusers often have stories that chill your soul and make you weep in your car after your shift is over. I no longer wonder why there is so much violence and sadness in our world, I am often surprised that there is not more with the childhoods of daily, horrific violence, neglect and poverty that is rampant around the world. It is a hard knowledge to carry with you and not become jaded and numb.

I have learned to walk into the darkness and be comfortable there- at least at comfortable as one can be in such a place. I shine as much light as I can into the dark corners that have never seen light. I do my best to leave the darkness behind at the end of the day and not let the blackness spill unto the light of my own life. It is not easy.

What I do know is that when you become comfortable with the acrid bleakness and can arise out of the darkness into your own light again and again, you find it ever so much easier to forgive those that have never know how to rise into the light.

Shine your light, Dear Ones. The darkness only makes you shine brighter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Grace in the Giving

 My nine year old daughter could surely run her own bath, but she always asks me to do so still and I oblige with reverence. It feels like Mommy alchemy-the testing of the water temperature, shaking out the perfect amount of Epsom salts and lavender oil for her to wash off her day, draping a favorite towel over the sink for when she is done. 

Gone are the bath toys of yesterday and soon the simple task of asking Mommy to run a bath will also be gone. But, today I get to minister to my baby girl with a perfectly run bath and my heart sings in the giving of it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Before You

Before you my worth seemed tenuous at best. I was always gathering proof of the unworthiness of my very existence.

Then came you. Suddenly, my worth was finite. Resolute.

For if I can make three such magnificent beings, if my own DNA can be twisted unto that of my husbands and make such glorious creatures-

then I surely must be more than the nothing that I have always imagined myself to be.

You did not make me whole. You made me realize that I have been whole all along.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

People Watching

first impressions look again

I watched the others around me. They were watching her too.

I could see that they were noticing her cherry red lipstick, freshly applied as she puckered her lips in her reflection in the mirror. Eyes focused upon her tiny, bright red skirt that barely covered her bottom. She noted their prying eyes and bent to pick up an imaginary something off of the floor, reveling in the attention.

Women were shooting angry glances as their husbands struggled to focus on the conversation at hand.  I could see into the minds of the men around me, imagining her confident prowess in the bedroom.

What I noticed was ever so different. She sat at the table alone, eyes roaming the room as if in wish of company. Her hands shook ever so gently and she kept spilling small amounts of her drink into her lap. I wondered if the shaking was nervousness, addiction or illness.

What I noticed most of all was the air of sadness all around her, as through she held so much melancholy inside of her that it could not remain trapped underneath her skin.

All is not as it often appears at first glance.

Look again. Look again. Rustle up the kindness within you for those that need it most, but appear at first glance to need it the least.