To the parents during cold and flu season

Quick…what day is it?

Do you even remember? Probably not.

You’ve spent the last…you don’t even remember how long, holding trash cans out for tiny people, wiping noses, refilling the humidifier and spraying Lysol on every bare surface in your home. Which means that the fog in your brain is thicker than peanut butter.

Are you to the point where you are ready to hire a witch doctor? You’re on the phone and you’re calling a priest to come and anoint your home with a cross and some oil. You’re looking into payment plans so that you can buy everyone a hazmat suit for the months from October to March so that you don’t have to keep suffering through this every fall and winter.

Please. For the love. No more germs.

To the parents During Cold and Flu Season.

We just battled a stomach bug through Christmas. I spent the holiday lurched over a toilet, crying at the cruelty of some kind of virus. I was prepared to put a hit out on whoever infected me. I white knuckled it through the gift opening before I slunk back to my bedroom and holed myself up for two days of misery.

I realize that the older my kiddos get, the easier this season of germs and Tylenol becomes for us. Even just the tiniest bit.

I remember last year, though, when we had the flu. It was nearly a week and a half solid of high fevers, red tinged cheeks and glassy eyed children who couldn’t sleep. Children who cried because there was nothing else to do except for lay on the sofa and feel miserable.

By the end of nearly ten days of unrelenting illness, and after having sickness somewhere in our home off and on for the months before that, I felt like I had just trained for the Olympics after climbing Everest.

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I know the days well where a seemingly inconsequential runny nose turned into a high fever and cancelled plans two days later. Then it became an ear infection. Then bronchitis and clearing the schedule for the whole week – including that date night that we had been waiting two weeks for. Then the nebulizer got drug out, and we had to hold little arms down to even be able to rest the plastic mask on their face.

You can’t reason with children. You can’t get them to understand how one little thing might give them even the tiniest bit of relief. Everything that is normally a battle pales in comparison to the child who won’t even let you drape a cool rag on their forehead or who screams through a tepid bath at 4 a.m.

While the rest of the world enjoyed crisp fall days, or snowy winter afternoons out to lunch, I’ve been holed up at home, smelling my own funk because I couldn’t even remember the last time I showered, trying to battle a toddler to get even a millimeter of water in them.

How can a minor cold that I never used to give two thoughts to become the undoing of me and all sanity and reason in the world???!

I remember being out at 11 p.m. to dinner with friends. Now, I’m out at 11 p.m., walking through Walgreens in my three days old pajamas, buying Tylenol and powdered donuts while other shoppers stare at me like I’m a Sasquatch. I’ll tell you though, nothing builds self confidence faster than realizing that you don’t really care if two dozen other adults see you looking like you just got done raving at Coachella in the sweats you bought at Wal Mart.

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The world slept hard as a sick child lay on my chest as I rocked miles. As I gave baths at three a.m. because the fever that I thought had left crept back up while I was passed out in their glider rocker.

This is overtime for parents. Overtime that can last for weeks solid at a time.

And that’s not to mention what it’s like when we are sick while our children are healthy, and running miles around us while we melt and die on the sofa.

If I think back to my childhood, some of my most important memories were from when I was sick. I vividly remember my mother chasing my around the coffee table or trying to hide medicine in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She was just trying to get an antibiotic or some Dimetapp in me. Now, I want to slap four year old me hard. I was such an ingrate.

I remember my dad holding my hair when I was holding on for dear life to the beige toilet in my bathroom, throwing up my guts.

I realize that hey, my parents really DID love me. I mean, like, really REALLY love me. Enough to get near my vomit. Enough to let me sleep in their bed when my body was a furnace, and I’m sure I kicked the crap out of their sides all night and then woke them up early because I needed gingerale and cartoons.

Parents are sort of magical that way.

I wouldn’t clean up the Queen of England’s puke. But I’ll do it for my children.

So, in this season, parents, where play dates at Chick Fil A can result in a cold and fever three days later. Where you want to dump hand sanitizer all over your child, cancel every play date until April and fumigate your home because you can’t take one more day, one more germ. In yet another hectic season for you where something seemingly small becomes something insurmountable, you just have to remember one simple truth.

What you do matters.

The hands that care are the hands that say ‘I love you. Even enough to let you puke in my hair.’

In the early hours of the morning. At the doctors office on a Tuesday. At the side of their bed, or when rocking them to sleep.

It all matters.

The thaw will come. And a little sage cleansing never hurt anybody.

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The Forgotten Ones

A year of reconfiguration. 

From when my world was blown open. 

And I’ve done most of my thinking in empty parking lots. 

Perhaps this year, your world was blown apart. Grief. Heartache. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Addiction. Death. 

There’s a hole in your life, and it’s in the shape of your worst shame, your worst fears, your worst pain. And every good, joyful thing keeps slipping right on through the rend.

And now, it’s at Christmastime when perhaps you feel the most displaced.

You dream of home, but maybe you have never really had one. You dream of home, but maybe in yours there’s a gulf between you, and the ones you love. You dream of home, but the faces of the ones you long for have faded with the fires of time into nothing but ash.

You dream of home, but maybe it’s more that you’re wanting a place to belong, a place to rest, than a place to lay your head. You want a place to set down what ails you behind walls that feel safe. 

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It’s allegedly the most beautiful time of year. Meanwhile, you feel like a sojourner. Like you’re driving down rows of homes slowly and silently on snow covered streets. Headlights illuminating the pavement, your muddied reflection in the window. You’re outside looking in at the joy of families, of people.

And it’s worse than realizing that you don’t have what they have. You’re beyond feeling the ache to have what they have. You feel like maybe, it was never for you. You want a plug for the shame-shaped hole in your life, and it can’t be filled.

You felt forgotten this year.

Others were allowed to carry on, while you just carried pain.

You’ve worn the mantle of hardship this year, and you’ve really just wanted a place to set it down. Maybe it’s been longer than this year that you’ve been carrying the luggage for loneliness. 

You’re in a place where pain feels like the primary nerve, and you forgot what it feels like to belong so much that when your heart beats in your chest, it’s actually thudding hard against hope, and with the reality that you were made for more than this. 

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We think our pain sets us aside and ostracizes us. That it casts us out, like a vagrant flung out into the night to skid across the sidewalk beneath streetlights where no one sees them. That we have to carry our anguish alone. That it discards us.

This is the lie of pain that I have become versed in on dozens of starry nights, in empty parking lots while groceries melted in the backseat, and the streetlights were the only ones who knew.

In the place where I finally breathed. Where I exhaled. Alone. I let it out. My anguish. Where it couldn’t hurt anyone. In between running errands so that I didn’t have to stop. Where I didn’t need to bother anyone. Where no one might miss me for an hour.

This was and is the wall I built tediously. Encased inside the mistruths of pain and grief and hurt and anger. The belief that the only one who should have the burden of what hurts me is…me.

After many days of feeling forgotten and discarded. Like my pain was a hot potato for others that they didn’t want to end up stuck holding. Hardly anyone wants to talk about it. Who could have even said what I needed to hear?

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The lies of pain. The ghosts of failures past that tells you it won’t ever be the same. That it might not even be worth it anymore. That tells you that you are a ship lost as sea, already forgotten and mourned before you’ve even sunk.

It took many internal dialogs with myself and with God while the radio crackled for me to see. To see how many things…never really belonged to me in the first place. That I wasn’t just grieving something lost, I was really grieving what I really am: my humanity. And grieving the reality that I controlled nothing.

I was grieving that thing that left a hole in me, wondering why God wouldn’t just patch it for me. When the truth is that we are actually the patches that belong in HIS tapestry, and have been all along. He doesn’t fill our holes, He makes us a part of his woven glory for all of the tomorrow’s. And each imperfect square tells a story of how He has hemmed us in.

It took me a while to realize that my pain doesn’t shut me out. It is my pain that actually gives me a seat at the table, and a portion beyond words.

Especially at Christmas.

We forget that Christmas was really about saving. About the frailty of humanity. About needing something to fill us and plug our holes.

The peel of the bells pierce through the dark of the night telling all to come close.

A star in the empty skies that shone forth the way.

Angels and heavenly hosts that illuminated the crests of green hills dotted with their flock, and bid strangers, the least amongst them, to not be afraid. Not anymore.

I remember that the shepherd went out to find that one last sheep, and left the other 99 who were safe while he did. And it was His joy to do so.

I remember the father who welcomed back the prodigal son who left, and got lost along the way in his own mistakes and pride. Whose redemption had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with a Father’s unwavering love.

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I remember that no matter where I go, where the wings of the day take me or where my days might eventually end, that there is nowhere hidden I could go. Because I have been seen since before I came to be. And because nothing is hidden from Him. 

I remember Mother Mary of sorrows. At the foot of a rugged cross wondering why, and what it must have felt like for her three days later. 

I see time and time again that being in pain, is never reason enough to not be found. Never a reason to be forgotten. That it is never a reason to be lost entirely.

I see time and time again that pain is actually the reason that God came for us. That the author of all of me must know what it means to hurt. That to taste sorrow is to taste God.

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We find that we weren’t forgotten at all. We had just forgotten who are. 

Or maybe, we had to learn who we have really been all this time. 

And when we arrive at the place we were always been destined to be, we find He has already been there. Before us. Each step measured, each point charted in His map of the stars and eternity.

Every beautiful AND hurting thing named. 

And our heart will not beat so that we can live. 

It will beat because we are named.

Because we belong.

Because we are free.

Because we are home. 

 

 

 

 

Veteran’s Day

When he stood on yellow footprints after filing off a bus hundreds of miles away from home. When drill instructors got in his face, and tossed everyone’s personal belongings in a heap in the middle of the floor.

I wasn’t there.

I didn’t drill with him.

I didn’t crawl through muck and filth on my belly and feel my clothes catch on barbed wire.

I didn’t do the push up’s with him. The runs. The PT.

I wasn’t with him when they placed the globe and anchor in his hand no larger than a fifty cent piece, but large with the weight of the spirits from thousands of men who went before him, and the divine plight of those of us who are sheepdogs called to protect.

I wasn’t there when he was deployed. When he worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When he stood watch in the cold under an Iraqi sky, and practically melted in the 120 degree heat.

When he carried his weapon with him everywhere, and his brain never ceased with the thought that any moment, he might be woken to find hell unfolding, and this could be the day he doesn’t come back.

I’ve never had to wonder what I might do in the case of all possible eventualities, and whether or not every important person in my life knows how much I love them in case I never get the chance to tell them again.

I wasn’t there to see he and his comrades form a bond that goes beyond friendships and brotherly bonds. When he was sharing tight quarters with men who snored and stank, and made him laugh and pissed him off because they were all beyond bone tired, and missed home and the taste of mom’s apple pie. Only he’d have readily died for any of them without hesitation even if they did occasionally fuck up and grated each others nerves.

I wasn’t there for the close call. The phone calls home after where he couldn’t talk about it. The bullets that whipped by his head. The anguish of trying to discern a civilian from the enemy, and for every caution ringing in his head like alarm bells.

I came into view when he was mostly through his four years of serving.

And we’ve since left that time in the rear view mirror of our Chevy blazer as we pulled out of our California driveway, and there was so much my young heart didn’t know then. I didn’t know how to help someone adjust from living that kind of high octane life back into living the life of an every day American who had never had to worry about such things.

I didn’t know how to quell the heart that didn’t know what it was to relax anymore. I didn’t realize the privilege I had in feeling safe in nearly every place I went. Where I could trust the stranger to the left of me in standing in line at the movie theater. I’ve never had to relearn how to drive a car without feeling like I wanted to pull my skin off for fear that the vehicle or pile of highway debris next to my car might explode.

I can’t fathom the depths of his ache for the faces that didn’t come home. I can’t walk in his shoes every day as he builds his life knowing that there were others who never got that chance to do the same. I can’t imagine sledging ahead forward, trying to leave those things behind in a race that feels like it’s run in circles.

I see the uniforms tucked in the back recesses of the closet, and try to never ask questions unless he seems ripe for my curiosity. I remind myself I couldn’t never understand in the way no man could ever understand what it’s like to see a yowling infant pulled from you and placed across your chest, and feeling the brevity of the universe cascade into one crescendo moment where you were suddenly sure that was all you were born to do.

And there he was, practically fresh from being out of high school, signing away eight years of his life and I wasn’t with him to see the pen in his hand flick across the line.

And still, it aches inside of me. Because I want the world to know. To see him. To understand what it’s cost him and taken away from him and done to him and molded it into. I want all of the thanks and gratitude for what my husband has endured, even though it would never be enough.

I’ve learned to be the casual observer and I see the way he gets quiet after watching certain movies or the news. I know what when fall encroaches at the end of summer and the leaves begin to change, something recedes inside of him. I have tried to imprint that on me, his silent struggle. I have tried to prepare myself to catch him should he need it.

And time marches on, and he knows I’m here. But what could he ever say? And what could I do to understand? When it seems like just yesterday I was washing uniforms and we were driving through the gates on base to get home. My role here is so small.

I try to understand what it would be like if the biggest parts of me, the stuff that makes me who I am, became a date on the calendar. If they hung in the back of the closet. A constant reminder that I don’t need to think that way anymore. Act that way anymore. If the world expected me to carry on and act accordingly. If I was the only one that knew those things hung like drapes in the back of the closet.

It’s something that never turns off.

The best I can do is tell him how proud I am of him. That it means something that he has never wasted a moment he was given since he came home that wasn’t given to someone else. He has lived a hundred sunshine, cloud filled and bracing lifetimes for those who never could.

In awe of those who never will.

And I have held his hand. Not knowing what I could ever do but stand beside him.

And told him that was enough.