Life, Parenting, Self-Care, Self-Medicating

Gratitude is the thought-zapper

Lately, I’ve fantasized about mental flypaper…some sticky substance to grab the ever-present thoughts that pervade my peace, to gather them in one place and keep them under control.

flypaper

Unfortunately for my inner peace, each one of these little thoughts is precious to me somehow. They are fleeting illusions, little what-ifs and I-long-fors and why-nots, tiny tortures. Each and every one. I let them fly about as though anything other than chaos has resulted.

I have an impossible time gathering them up. The swarm settles down and I almost lose sight of them for awhile, but they still dwell in the midst of it all. I’m so comfortable with them now that I can’t imagine life without them, even though they are each tiny exercises in futility.

After bemoaning this to my friend…again…I realized how tiring I’ve become to myself (and probably her, as she is the lucky recipient of all my gut-spillage and has graciously listened to me for hours). I mused about a circuit board of sorts. Have you ever wished your brain had a switchboard, so you could just flip a switch and…zap. Zap, zap, zap. Go away, thoughts. Would I use this if I could?

While cleaning dishes this evening, I reflected upon the blessings of the day. I sacked out on my bed for a few minutes before tackling the next ginormous stack of tasks, and my 13-year-old daughter plopped down next to me, wielding a glue stick (have I mentioned this was on my bed?) and finishing up a school project.

I lay there savoring this ordinary moment. This is life, these are my people. I experienced gratitude and watched my circuit breaker zap my thoughts of that other world into oblivion.

Gratitude is the thought-zapper:

~my four year old son, with his very damaged brain, spending most of his days laughing at everyone and everything;

~my 3 year old daughter, surreptitiously taking an alcohol swab from our drawer and keeping it with her throughout an entire bath (I kid you not–that one little swab afforded her at least an hour of entertainment for her and she was adorable);

~my very saucy 2&1/2 year old pushing me, spitting bubbles at me, biting me, kissing me, flinging herself into my arms, and just generally being the most passionate person in the house;

~a rather outstanding night away in Portland this month with my husband, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Trombone Shorty, and Jack Irons, a much-needed, uplifting, energizing time filled with all sorts of goodness. We even flew back on the same plane as John Cleese, and the flight attendant passed him my thank you note for all the years of laughter and entertainment.

~our upcoming road trip! We are planning to take the big kids on a grand adventure and they can’t stop talking about it. Even just planning a road trip proffers a delicious sense of freedom.

Zap. Gratitude is the thought-zapper. Gratitude is the key to staying in the present, where I absolutely need to stay. There is no other option; it is, frankly, a matter of survival at this point. The swarm is powerful. My will is weak. Zap. Zap, zap, zap.

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Life, Self-Care

Thank you, Target dressing room.

As the mother to ten zillion children, I have never frequented fancy stores to purchase things for myself. We aren’t rich, and even if I was, I’d probably spend a lot of that money on the kids’ activities/needs and still manage to put myself mostly last, such as what mothers normally do (which is, yes, sad).

Also, I’ve never been a big shopper and it is pretty much last on my list of ways to spend time. My default response to the need to purchase anything for the home is to wave goodbye to my husband and children while they drive away from the house so that I can do anything else.

Thus, it had been a good long while since purchasing something which necessitated the use of a changing room for myself. I wanted to buy a new dress for a family event and several of my kids also needed items. I did what any self-respecting Alaskan would do and took the kids to Target, graced by the presence of my amazing sister-in-law who makes everything in life easier and more filled with laughter. We unloaded the kids, piled into the store, treated ourselves to Starbucks, and began the long process of Meeting Everybody’s Needs, my own included this time (for once).

I found a few options and went to the changing rooms. The clerk let me into the largest one with about ten mirrors circling the perimeter of the stall. I stripped down to the bare essentials and looked up, realizing I had this rare opportunity to See It All.

hello friends

There I was. At least 15 versions of myself from every angle, a rather embarrassingly good view of each and every inch of my exposed body.

Ugh. It had been awhile since I had really looked at myself in this way. I do not even have a full-body mirror in my home, and I’m fine with that. I am approaching 40, and I’ve never had to work very hard to maintain a healthy weight, for which I am grateful. But I also haven’t done much to build muscle. Also, the aforementioned kids. Cough, cough. Especially the twins…my massive babies who weighed a combined total of 17 pounds and completely traumatized my abdominal muscles and skin.

I gave myself as much time as I wanted to take in the sight. It was, frankly, eye-opening. I have always had high cholesterol but a very healthy BMI (it’s a genetic thing). In two years, statins will become the default medical recommendation, and I had committed to attempt to fix this issue with exercise and nutrition before taking medication. The exercise had not been happening at all. Not one bit. Frankly, it was much easier to pop a couple tabs of fish oil, slightly easier to eat less crap, yet seemingly impossible to get myself in the habit of regular exercise.

But look. My ass. My legs. Not terrible…but not what I expected, either. I hadn’t realized they were so devolved from their original state. I started thinking out loud to myself, appreciating my husband in a whole new way. Never once has he made me feel that I am not physically attractive or in need of alteration. But he totally could have made that case. It was a humbling moment, realizing that he has only ever focused on bettering his own body, which is muscular and has received the appropriate attention, but never made me feel like I am lacking in that department.

Still, I could see for myself that attention to my physical health would pay off in the form of more resilience, endurance, longevity, and capability in the long run. My grandmother is approaching 100. Barring some accidental death, it is likely that I will have longevity on my side if genetics are any indication. I want to go into this next stage of life in a dramatically better state of health.

Oh, and I can guess you are probably wondering when I am going to tell you about some amazing weight loss program I’ve joined, and oh, by the way, I’m a health coach now, and just message me for details.

Nope. For reals. Just sharing the journey. ūüôā In fact, I realize this is a highly anticlimactic testimony of fitness. If you want to read a REAL account of life transformation par excellence, head on over to my friend Taylor’s blog and follow her story from drug-addicted recording artist to yoga instructor who is getting ready to launch her online yoga studio. She’s amazing.

By the way, a funny thing happened after I got done having a whole conversation with myself in the changing room. It turns out, a work acquaintance was in there at the same time and heard most of this commentary of mine, who also happens to be a competitive¬†bodybuilder. You can’t make this stuff up. It was hilarious. I imagine she did not have much sympathy but she was compassionate. In my defense, I have 900% more children than her. I hereby wield this as my excuse forever.

Anyway, I did manage to get my buns moving. I have started doing aerobic exercise and yoga several times a week. I’d like to do this daily but I haven’t carved out the time and space for that in my life. I’m doing the best I can at the moment. I even went back to Target today to pick up a couple pairs of jeans and deliberately picked the changing room that afforded the most thorough view. I felt encouraged by the change. It turns out, this stuff works. I do, in fact, have muscles, such as what my anatomy textbooks claim. But if I don’t use the darn things, they are not going to accomplish very much or be trim and effective.

It’s still extremely uncomfortable at times to carve that time out for myself. I know I am not alone. It seems most mothers have a lot of guilt about unabashedly doing something purely for their own betterment and self-development. This sense of guilt, and even shame, should¬†not be given much credence. The whole family benefits from its individual members being in better mental and physical health, right? So let’s do this thing.

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Adoption, Foster Care, Life, Parenting

A rare and unexpected time

I am exhaling, looking around, crying occasionally.

The purpose of this blog is not to guilt you into action, or inundate you with personal details about myself, my family.

I write this blog to share about writing, the creative process, the endeavors undertaken to bring that needed outlet and expression into my life–professionally, a life which focuses on child trauma.

However, my home life has also had its share of encounters with child trauma, as my husband and I have been foster parents for several years.

And two years ago this week, we brought home a little boy who was otherwise living in the hospital after undergoing horrendous trauma. (I cannot escape entirely from attempting to guilt you into action as there are actual living and breathing children staying at a hospital near you, waiting for someone to engage with and commit to their needs.)

Our state’s child welfare agency agreed to place him in our crazy home. Our family hoped that he would have peace, safety, and comfort. His long-term prognosis was somewhat unknown but not expected to be anywhere near the same as a healthy child. His brain had been gravely injured and he couldn’t do anything a typical child can do.

For two years, he was treated like a prince. We plopped his adorable, fat, 1-year-old self into a living space right in the center of our home so that he wouldn’t be stuck in a bedroom, waiting for attention.

After 15 months, we were blessed to adopt him, an urgent priority because kids like him need actual, legal parents who are invested in their lives and have the authority to make medical decisions. (He didn’t have any.) The process felt like pushing oatmeal up a hill. It took a lot of pressure to finally get all the parts talking to one another so that this could happen sooner rather than later.

He was the regular recipient of drive-by kisses and snuggles. He received nursing care on a daily basis. One nurse, particularly intrepid, took him out daily to the library, local coffee houses, and walks on the trails.

He developed a veritable entourage of folks who would spend time talking to him and appreciating his adorable self. He was deemed “the best listener,” no doubt because he couldn’t interrupt. ūüėČ I thought about starting a Facebook page to give folks a chance to document his whereabouts because I’d get texts from friends regularly that there had been a sighting of our guy out in the community. I loved getting those because it meant he wasn’t stuck in a hospital or living in a bed.

In short, this little man was loved to the end.

After having remarkably stable health for two years in our home, he woke up one morning extremely ill. His heart rate was high, his oxygen saturation was low, and he was struggling to breathe in a way we had never seen.

And within 18 hours of waking up that morning, our angel had passed away.

His physical decline was rapid and absolute. He thankfully did not suffer for long, and his passing happened peacefully and calmly in my arms while I poured tears over him and caressed his precious face.

So the last two weeks have been the rare kind that happen unexpectedly, even while known to be inevitable sometimes. Middle of the night phone calls. Breaking it to the children. Funeral-planning. Grieving, laughing, remembering. Being at the receiving end of intensely generous love, support, and outreach of our wonderful community.

And yesterday, cleaning. Packing. So many medical supplies, his wheelchair, his personal items and our many memories. We did all that yesterday.

And we would do it again, if it means a child will not live in a hospital or die without a real and actual family.

In fact, we will do it again, someday, when our other adopted son reaches the end of his brave journey, a reality brought into sharp focus in a way that I often blissfully choose to forget.

Rest in peace, our sweet Gabriel. You are dearly missed, although I know with certainty you are living the life right now in a way you never could here on earth.

…they shall shine¬†and dart about as sparks through stubble. ~Wisdom 3:7

 

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Life, Self-Care

Stupid ice in stupid Alaska

crutches

So I earned myself a pair of these yesterday when I took a reverse swan dive onto my rear end in a parking lot. Thankfully, I didn’t then get run over by automobiles sliding on aforementioned ice, and I hobbled my way to a meeting.

Then the time came to actually stand and move after sitting in the meeting, which didn’t go so well.

Of all the times to do such a thing to one’s self, it makes sense to have this happen at a hospital with an ER conveniently therein. Even better when the meeting has lots of medical types, one of whom is among the kindest on the planet, who stayed with me to make sure I was able to get home.

Things in the ER went well, other than my general loss of dignity accompanying the disrobing process and having to sit around in an ugly gown.

I couldn’t have asked for a more thorough doctor, and he got me through the process rather quickly.

The good news is, my pelvis is not broken per the x-rays (yay!), but that does not mean I can use it yet. So I am hanging out in bed.

Wah.

But yeah, it totally could be worse. I’m very grateful it’s NOT worse…I received the world’s best nursing care last night by my older daughters who were trying to outdo each other in nurturing awesomeness, and my husband is ordering me Thai food. The house is quiet. And there’s plenty to do right here in my bed such as drink coffee and read books and write blogs and stuff.

I really should do more of this relaxation stuff, minus the ER.

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