Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Facebook Falsity and Moments of Grace

A picture came up in my personal Facebook account from 3 years ago. We're at the beach and we all look so happy and content. It was a wonderful day. 
What you can't see in that picture is that behind the camera I was struggling with several anxiety and an exacerbation of PTSD. Earlier in that year I had a knife waved in my face during a patient visit and it woke the beast of my PTSD that I had struggled with 20 years earlier after being raped. 
Life isn't always as perfect as Facebook posts make it seem- there are often deep struggles behind the scenes. This picture reminded me of that. It also reminded me that there are moments of bliss even in the middle of a storm. That day I remember sitting by the water watching my kids and my heart stopped racing and I felt calm for the first time in months. 
Facebook can make me feel intensely lonely. All the posts of perfect relationships, perfectly put-together children, tidy houses, etc. can make me feel like a big goddamned failure. I have to consistently remind myself that there are more to these lives than their Facebook perfection. Everyone struggles. Everyone. And, no one's life is perfect. 

This picture was taken at Cordova Tower on our way to the beach. It somehow perfectly captures that day- a black tower of dread with just a hint of sunshine blooming through. There is hope everywhere. 

We all struggle. It's easy to look through Facebook and feel as though you're the only one but it's not true.  You are not alone, Love. And, it's going to be okay.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I am an Unattractive Mother Raising Beautiful Daughters

I'm not society's idea of beautiful. I own that. I'm not seeking compliments or for anyone to disagree, I just know that a perpetually chubby, often disheveled woman with strong features and a large nose isn't society's idea of beauty. As I get older, I'm becoming much more okay with this fact, even as there is lingering pain over such memories as no one telling me that I was beautiful on my wedding day.  I have so many other things about me that are beautiful and, frankly, I have better things to worry my mind about. 

I also happen to have two beautiful daughters(and one handsome son). Watching the world react to my daughters has been an education in itself for me. The world at large treats attractive females differently, in both ways good and bad. I have a unique vantage point as their mother, who tends in her plainness to blend into the woodwork and not be noticed(a plus, actually, for this introvert Mama). My daughters, unlike me, are noticed everywhere we go. They are complimented on their hair, their fashion sense, their bright blue eyes. Yet, no one asks them about the books they are reading or their school work or what things they might love outside of their own appearance. They are so much more than their pretty faces but the older woman at the grocery store, the mailman dropping off packages and the secretary at the doctor's office don't know that my daughters are talented dancers, love reading and have a wicked sense of humor among many other things. What they do know is that my daughters are beautiful and that fact sometimes seems to overshadow everything else. 

 When I was growing up the attention always went first to my little sister. She was a petite blond-haired beauty. The compliments would go to her first- "so pretty!", "what a cute dress!" and so on. Then they would stumble onto me, stammering over what to say.  They would ask about school(straight a's), what book I was reading(I carried books with me everywhere) or something similar. My lack of beauty in many ways allowed me to pursue my intellectual pursuits and receive positive attention over the things that I loved to do, not the way my exterior looked. In that way, it was a great blessing and made me who I am today. 

I want my daughters to be encouraged in the same ways. I want them to embrace their physical beauty but I want so much more for them. I want them to know that beauty fades but the time that they spend on what is inside will never leave them. I want them to have a chance to be whatever they were meant to be without society pigeonholing them into tiny beautiful pegs.

 I am coming to terms with my own looks, in part as I see myself reflected in their beautiful faces- my nose(yes, the large one!) on my youngest daughter's gorgeous face, my hair and eyes on my middle daughter. The features that I once loathed now seem so lovely on their precious faces. I am also recognizing that my appearance, the mediocrity of it, was just as much a gift as my daughters' beauty is to them. My plainness gave me wings to fly beyond those mired in outwardness. Now I must be sure that my daughters are given the chance to own their beauty AND fly towards their forever purpose. Now that, my friends, would be truly beautiful.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Magic of Summer Rains

I believe in the magic of summer rains.

When the clouds come rolling in, chasing each other in a dance across the sky, I do not seek shelter. I walk out into the night, shivering both from the wind and the anticipation of the drops that will soon fall from the sky. I raise my head and open my mouth in invitation. 

The winds wrap around me, whispering silkily against my skin. A foreplay of what is to come. I dance a dance that is not new to my people, a dance inside my very DNA. My ancestors’ feet have pounded the same Earth in expectant urgency of the sustenance that is to come.

The first drops fall upon my face and neck and I feel my skin absorb the droplets as though quenching my inner thirst by osmosis.  As the rain quickens, I raise my hands to the sky and am rewarded with a blast of light from the heavens above. I spin, hands aloft, as the ground shakes beneath my feet beckoning my feet to quicken its dance.

I am drenched. My clothing stuck to me in sticky layers. There are puddles now beneath my bare feet, which splash and sing with every footfall.  The Earth is saturated and cannot take on anymore; the puddles are rising with every drop.

The drops fly from up above and shake up from down below. The entire world now teeming with condensation and I am unsure if it is all coming from the clouds above or if the Earth below is now joining in the dance and sending its precious moisture up into the sky.

I spin as the Earth shakes with release with each great boom of Thunder and the sky sings a song of relief as the winds whisper around me.

I remember what has oft been forgotten: I cannot separate myself from the spinning orb at my feet. We are one.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

To The Parents of Special Needs Children From a Nurse- You Are My Heroes

Dear Parents of Special Needs Children Everywhere,

I've worked in pediatric nursing for more than a decade. This work has changed me more than anything else that I have experienced in my life. My patients and their families have taught me more than I could have ever taught them. I am so grateful for this extraordinary life.

For most of my career, I have worked with special needs children. During my shifts, I have given g-tube feedings, administered medications, held children while they seized, suctioned airways to ensure that a child could continue to breathe, moved their limbs so that they didn't stiffen, coordinated all of the child's therapies and all of the many other tasks needed simply to keep the child alive and comfortable for another day. At the end of my shift, I am always dripping with sweat and exhausted-- ready to end my shift and go home. I give report to the you, the parents, at the end of my shift and even though you may have already worked a full day at your own job or worked beside me with your child, you do not get to rest. You are the parent of a special child who needs round-the-clock care and there is not rest for you. I have seen your tired eyes and weary bodies day after day and, yet-- you never give up on your child. 

In my career, I have sat beside parents while a doctor gave them the news that no parent should hear-- that their child is not long for this world. I have held mothers while they wailed the most horrific, animalistic sound of grief after their child took their final breaths. I have placed a morgue tag around the toe of tiny bodies. I have waited until my shift is over to run to my car and desperately cry into my steering wheel with grief for my patient and their families. But, even though I was grieved, I got to go home to my own healthy children-- you had to live the remainder of your life with empty arms. 

The parents that I have worked with have often shrugged away my compliments at their strength and tireless work to benefit their children. They have reminded me that they did not ask for this life, but that they love their children enough to keep fighting. You may not have asked for this life, but you have taken it on with such grace and persistence, even in the face of steep odds. Your incredible strength inspires me in every area of my life. 

I have worked with children when new medications, therapies and treatments did not work, or worse- were detrimental to the child's health. I have seen you agonize when doctors give you choices and you aren't sure which to choose for your child. I have seen you search the internet with sleep-deprived eyes to find every bit of information that you could before making your choice. You often know more about your child's condition than any doctor or nurse ever could. I have held you while you wept when the choice you made did not turn out the way we had all hoped it would even though you were never, ever at fault for any treatment that failed. I may have administered the medication or treatment, but you were the one that held the emotional burden of the choice and lost sleep praying over the outcome. No matter how many people are involved in your child's care, I know that you carry the heavy, heavy weight and desperate wanting for your child's health and well-being. I know that this weight is carried twenty four hours per day on your already weary shoulders, but you carry it with such grace that many do not notice. 

The very first family of a special need's child that I worked with told me to never take away their hope. That has become a mantra of sorts in my life-- to "never give up hope", in my personal life and my work as a nurse. I have watched children walk, talk and achieve many things that the doctors deemed impossible. I have seen children live for many years beyond what many specialists said was possible. I have seen children beat odds in extraordinary ways that is nothing short of a miracle. I know that your child could not have achieved these miraculous things without you, their dedicated parents. 

The children that I have worked with are some of the most extraordinary children on the planet. They inspire me beyond words. Over and over and over again these children-- your children-- have reminded me what a true miracle is. I am so thankful for them. Just as much so, I am thankful for you-- the parents of these miracle children. Many of you are so humble that you may shrug off my words, but I wish to say them anyway. You are amazing, strong, compassionate, incredible people. Your children would not have made it this far without you. You are the backbone of your child's life. I see how absolutely, backbreakingly exhausted you are and how weary you are with the constant, unyielding stress of this life that was chosen for you. I can only imagine how hard your life can be. I see you. You are not invisible in your struggle, although it must often feel that way. You are my heroes-- cape-less but no less amazing. There are no words that can truly tell you how extraordinary I think you are. 

I know that an open letter on the internet from a stranger is a cold thank you for you warriors. I know. It is simply too hard to continue to stand aside and not tell each and every one of you how amazing you are and I have no other way to do so.  I know how invisible and lonely you must feel at times. I want you to know that I see you. Many see you. We are inspired by you, each and every day. You make this world a better place, not only for your child but for all of us. You thank us, your nurses,  at the end of every shift and I wonder if we should be the ones thanking you-- for giving us the extraordinary gift of getting to know your amazing children and their phenomenal parents. Thank you, from the very bottom of my grateful heart.

All my love,

Nurse Mandi

Saturday, August 20, 2016

You Have to Feel it to Heal it.

Warning: heavy language and honesty ahead. 

I came forward publicly as a sexual abuse survivor earlier this year. It was a secret that I had carried with me for twenty years.

Twenty years of silence. Twenty years of trying to forget. Twenty years of trying to imagine it away. Twenty years of pushing down the rising shame.

There was no healing in that time. None. The funny thing about secrets is that they become heavier each year until the silence is so fucking heavy that you cannot breathe underneath the weight of it.

Silence doesn't bring healing. Pushing away the feelings and the shame doesn't bring healing.

Why? You can't heal it if you don't feel it.

Fuck. That truth burns, doesn't it?

I don't want to feel that shit. The reason that I was silent and numbed myself for so many years is because those feelings hurt like a bitch. Those feelings burned so badly that I nearly took my own life in the aftermath of the rape. Who in the hell wants to feel that? Not me.

But numb doesn't heal. It may temporarily protect you but there is no healing underneath the cold, plastic, silent numbness.

So, I've been feeling all the damn feelings. Writing letters to my 17 year old self, allowing myself to remember all the painful details, reaching out to other survivors.

It's been really fucking painful. And, truly healing. One day at a time, Loves.

So, if you are healing from a wound in your life-- whatever that may be, I honor you.

Feel that shit. Heal that shit.

You'll get through this. You will. I will.

We will come out stronger on the other side.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Shelter From The Storm

As I drove to work this morning, I passed a farm where a little girl stood perched halfway up a fence, leaning over her horse with a little umbrella to protect him from the pouring rain. That tiny umbrella, bright red against the dreary grey of the storm clouds, of course offered little protection from the cold November storm but it was a beautiful sight nonetheless.

As a sensitive soul, my work in the world never feels like enough to my heart- I always feel like I could be doing more to staunch the pain of others. Seeing a little girl drenched and shivering in order to give her beloved horse a tiny bit of shelter made me see the world a bit differently, though.

Maybe it is enough, maybe even MORE than enough if all we can do each day is to give a bit of shelter and comfort to just one soul in need. Maybe that alone is enough to change the world.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

In Defense of Antidepressants

It's strange the things that trigger our smallness, our anxiety, our deepest fears-- isn't it?

Today a friend posted that she is off of antidepressants. Yay! I was seriously so happy for her. She's worked hard to get to this place.

I commented on her status that I am currently on Lexapro but would like to get off of it soon. It seems frightening though, to try to wean myself off of that tiny white pill.  I only take the lowest available dose, but it keeps the Black Beast at bay and the thought of going without it is frightening.

So, other friend-- a good, kind person-- posted that her husband is off antidepressants, too. Of course she's proud. Their family has gone through so much. But, then came a comment that hit my heart HARD. She said that "it's all about how you work through the bad days." Which is certainly true, we have to learn to deal with the bad days. What my heart, the one that has dealt with depression and anxiety since my early teenage years, heard however was that because I have chosen a few times in my life to take antidepressants-- that I am WEAK. That's not what she meant, of course, but that was what my demons decided to whisper to me.

I just must say as one that has weathered PTSD, depression and anxiety for over twenty years, that sometimes antidepressants are necessary. In fact, they saved my life more than once-- when I was suicidal after being raped as a teenager, and when I had severe postpartum depression/anxiety/psychosis after my middle child was born. I truly believe that I would not be here if is weren't for the assistance of an SSRI(a type of anti-depressant that works well for me). I had a chemical imbalance that needed correcting. If that chemical imbalance were of a medical nature, not mental health, people would come out screaming if I tried to wing it med-free. They'd scream out for me to manage my diabetes, my cancer, whatever it was that were plaguing my body. However, if we take anti-depressants we are deemed weak.

I cry bullshit to that societal untruth.

There are certainly times that people can go without such meds to manage their mental health. And, dammit-- there are many times that they are needed. Clinical depression is so much more than managing a "bad day". Somedays I fight like hell simply to get out of bed and to go out in the world when the Black Beast looms over me. I lose control over my thoughts, my body, my relationships and my life. I start to think about ending it all. It's fucking scary.

So, I'm posting her just to give a voice to someone that needs a goddamned pill to make it through the day right now. I won't be on this med for life. In fact, the vast majority of my life has been med-free. But, I need it right now and that doesn't make me weaker than you because you can weather your bad days without a pill. Depression isn't a "bad day", it's a life-stealer. A demon that can steal everything from you so fucking quickly that it takes your breath away. A chemical imbalance that can turn your life into darkness in a moment. 

I stand here tall and say that I'm living my life with bravery, pill a day or not.

I stand here telling you that Lexapro saved my life.

I stand here asking you to have some compassion for those of us that are fighting to step out of the darkness, one step at a time.

I stand here with clinical depression and anxiety, still choosing to use my life to help others even when the Black Beast wants me to be silenced by the darkness.

I stand here in defense of those who need antidepressants to survive. We are not alone and we will not be shamed.

Friday, August 5, 2016

How to Wear a Swimsuit: a Checklist for Chubby Moms

Last week I ventured to the waterpark for my 11 year-old’s birthday. My weight has long been something that I have struggled with and wearing a bathing suit in public is a lesson in shame for me each time. For many years I did not wear a suit outside of my own backyard as I was so sure that I would be laughed at. This day, however, I was determined to slip on my swimsuit and be a part of my daughter’s special day.

I am a perpetual people-watcher and always seem to spy what others miss. That day was no different. Halfway through our day, I found myself on a lounger watching with one eye while my daughters and niece played on a play area and with my other eye on the adults around me.  I noticed in particular what I have deemed the ‘Corner Club’, which was a large group of mothers who seated themselves at the corner of the pool to best see everyone and spent the day not in the water with their children but on loungers making fun of other mothers that weren’t deemed up to their standards.  I have noticed this same club with different members at many pools and waterparks over the years, an older version of the same club that once existed inside the hallways of high schools all over the world.

I noticed was that I was I was invisible in my conservative swimsuit. No one seemed to notice me, the chubby Mama in the skirted polka dot suit who covered herself in a towel at all times not in the water. This was a great relief for me. I shame myself enough and to add the shame of others seemed unbearable. I fear that my self-esteem isn’t always great enough to weather criticism by other mothers.

What I also noticed is that those women who are also in the not-so-thin club with me that did not choose a conservative swimsuit were not so lucky. I watched multiple women in bikinis and other smaller suits as they were stared down and laughed at, over and over again. The Corner Club seemed to relish each time that they shamed a fellow woman and that woman appeared saddened. I felt sick to my stomach watching this spectacle.

After watching for a day I noticed a set of rules for fellow thick Mamas from this ‘Corner Club’.

1)Buy a bathing suit that covers as much of your body as possible. If a full body suit is available(a giant muumuu perhaps?), this is your best shot at not being body shamed.

  *       2)Immediately after leaving the water, cover yourself in a large towel or swimsuit cover-up. Head to toe coverage is best.

 3)Do not appear too confident. Head should be down at all times so that the world knows that you are full of shame for your imperfect body.

      4) Do not be in the presence of attractive men. The thin and perfect mothers around you should be the only women to have such people in their vicinity.

      5)Do not eat anything but vegetables and drink water alone. After all, you can just live off the fat of your body and deserve no joy from food.

If you follow all of these rules, you are (possibly) safe from being shamed while you enjoy your day at the pool with your children and will be ignored by the perfect mother’s clubs that have gathered together in groups where they have the best vantage point to take everyone in and judge as needed.

Fuck that. 

My rules for chubby moms going to the pool with their children:

1  1)  Wear whatever suit you feel fucking fantastic in. I prefer a conservative suit with a skirt that hides my bum. If you feel amazing in a bikini, please wear that bikini with pride—you look beautiful in it.

2   2) Cover yourself up if you want or don’t if wish not too. You’re at the pool so soak up the sun and water, no need to cover yourself up all day.

3   3) Be confident. Strut your body—the body that allows you to enjoy this day with your children, the body that may have created those same children inside you and fed them as infants.

4  4)  If you happen to be in the presence of an attractive man, especially if this man is your husband or partner, I suggest a healthy amount of public affection to remind the women in the Corner Club that he is yours. Multiple times, if needed.

5    5) Eat and drink whatever you want. What you put in your body is nobody’s business but yours. This day is yours to enjoy with your children and no one has the right to make you feel badly.

I will no longer be silent when I watch other women be shamed. I am tired of being silent so that I will not also get the wrath of these vultures. We all deserve the right to be with our children without being shamed. Damn all of the “rules” that the world wants us to follow.

I’m off to the pool again, Loves, with my children in tow. I’m still wearing my skirted suit, but plan to wear it with pride. I will hold my head up for I have no reason to be ashamed. My body is my business, not the business of the mothers who live to shame others. I plan on greeting the other members of the Chubby Moms’ Club with exuberant compliments on their choice of suits, because they look incredible in their own skin doing what they love—spending time with their children, haters be damned.

Monday, August 1, 2016


I'm sitting around a campfire tonight, reading and listening to the birds in the trees and the frogs in the creek. 

Earlier this summer we had a veritable swarm of lightning bugs at night, more than I'd ever seen in my lifetime. 

Tonight there is just one solitary lightning bug, swimming in circles in the air around me, punctuating the night with the tiniest beam of light. 

We often think that more is best. Sometimes it is. I was awestruck months ago by show in my backyard by hundreds of lightning bugs. It was magical.

However, tonight this single bug concentrated it's glowing majesty around me in such a way that I couldn't help but feel honored by the universe in way that I never had before.

More isn't always better. One single being can light up the darkest of nights and shine the way out of the deepest, darkest of times.

Be a goddamned light. Especially in times of darkness. Your light is not unnoticed.

Burn, baby, burn.