Day 308/365 Are You REALLY Okay?

Once, when I was twenty-two, I was duct taped to a board for several hours.

[I thought that might get your attention.]

Okay fine, I am sure it wasn’t actually duct tape…coulda been some kind of a strap, I suppose….and maybe it was actually some kind of spinal board EMT’s use.

It probably wasn’t a couple of hours, either, but it sure felt that way.

I had been in a car accident…a really bad car accident. I was hit nearly head on at a four way intersection, causing my car to do a 180. Later, when my Uncle Ed saw the car, all he could say was “HOLY. SHIT.

The whole front end was crumpled in like a tin can.

I was alone in the car.

People came running and were yelling, “Are you okay?!? DON’T MOVE!”

I remember thinking, “I don’t know….AM I OKAY?!” It didn’t seem to anyone present (including, for a moment – me) that I could possibly be okay.

I did a full body scan – ten fingers, ten toes…limbs still attached and intact, no apparent hemorrhaging…

“Ugh….yeessss? Yes. YES, I AM OKAY!!! I AM!!”

(They didn’t believe me.)

When the paramedics got there, despite my claims of being okay, they duct taped me to a board (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). One strap went across my forehead so I couldn’t turn my head, another across my upper arms, and then one across my hips.

At the hospital, I remember being placed in a holding room. I was still attached to the board, which was now on top of a gurney. It seemed like forever that I was in there, all alone, unable to move. That part felt scary.

A nurse came in and asked me who they should call. I was nearest my Aunt Anne and Uncle Ed’s house in a different state, so I said they should call them, instead of my parents. I knew my aunt would lose it if she got a cold call from the hospital about my having been in an accident, so I insisted that the nurse dial the number and hold the phone up to my face so I could tell her for myself.

“Hi, Aunt Anne.  I am okay, but I had an accident and I’m at the hospital.” On the other end of the line I heard a gasp and then, “Oh Dear.” (Classic Anne.)

I could feel the tears streaming down my face and collecting in my ears (because I could not turn my head nor lift my arms to wipe the tears away).

“Really, I’m okay,” I reiterated. I’m just…duct taped to a board.”

I really was okay…pretty sore for a few days, but no worse for the wear, as they say. (Unfortunately, the same could not be said for my car.)

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Why am I telling you this story? I am telling you because I couldn’t help but think of it today. Here’s why…

This morning I woke up with two little girls in my bed. As usual, they had snuck in with me in the night. They were snuggled up to me on either side. I laid there for a while just thinking about the amazing little beings that they are. My God, I love them so much.

I thought about everything they have had thrown at them in the past few years.

Frankly, it seems like enough to have done some pretty serious damage…their parents’ divorce, the death of someone they adored, their Nana battling cancer, and then there’s the matter of their dad revealing he feels he is really a woman…

These are not small things.

I wondered…are my girls really Okay? Really?

Like my accident, it seems nearly impossible for them to walk away from (or through) all of this unscathed. Should I be duct taping them to a board or something?! (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

I was still pondering this at the bus stop, where I found myself bringing the question to my friend, Michelle.

“Are my kids really okay?  They seem okay. Is that…really the truth?” 

Never one to shrink from a question, she kindly reminded me of a few important things…

First – My girls are more than okay….they are pretty incredible.

Second – Life’s challenges build compassion, gratitude, and perspective.

Third – No matter what a child goes through, knowing that someone has their back – come hell or high water – is what makes all the difference. It isn’t what a child goes through, as much as it is about them knowing they never have to do it alone. 

blessings

 

Day 296/365 Can You Still Hold Me?

“Pick me up,” said my soon to be nine year old daughter. She looked up at me and smiled.

It struck me that she hadn’t asked me to do that in a long time, and…that I didn’t know if I could. Something about the way she looked at me told me that she wondered the same –

Mom, can you still hold me?

Time is funny that way….you don’t notice it stealing from you until every so often, you do. 

I mean…I could, technically, pick her up. If, say, she were injured or in danger, I have no doubt that my mom-strength would kick in. I’d be able to lift her straight over my head if I needed to protect her.

Even in a non-emergency I guess I could…if I remembered to lift with my knees and to brace myself, but the truth is…

My baby…isn’t a baby anymore. 

I wondered when the last time was that I had easily and mindlessly hoisted her onto my hip while I multitasked.

The thief called Time is so stealth –  it lulls us to sleep with our busyness while it ever-so-gently eases our babies from our hips…untangles their fingers from our hair…and presents us with new versions of our most treasured beings.

We love them just as much, but we can’t help but search their faces for the babies they’ve replaced.

Mom, can you still hold me?

I was struck by the desire to drink her in…to notice everything about her…

To hold her…

Here, now…like this.

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Day 289/365 One-couches and Sugar-muffins

This morning I was making pancakes when Beau sidled up next to me. Taking her cue from me, she grabbed a pancake in her hand and began eating it as she leaned up against the counter.  “Mmmm, this takes like a sugar-muffin,” she said.

“A sugar-muffin?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know the muffins that have frosting…oh, whoops…I mean, a cupcake.”

“Ahh, yes…that is a sugar muffin!” I exclaimed, and we laughed.

“Remember the one-couch?” she asked, laughing.

A couple of months ago we were looking for a couch. We came across a big leather chair, and sinking into it she said, “I think Papa would really have liked this one-couch.”

“One-couch?”

“Yeah, a couch for one,” she said, giving me the look that conveys, “Duh...”

“Umm…I think it’s called – a chair?

“Oh…yeah.”

We had laughed hysterically.

“Sometimes my brain just doesn’t work that well,” she laughed.

“I think your brain works perfectly. You just see things differently than other people sometimes. If you ask me, one-couch and sugar-muffin are way better descriptors than chair and cupcake. You have the mind of a poet. That’s a beautiful thing.”

“Hmm, maybe. Meanwhile I guess I’ll just sit in my one-chair and eat some sugar-muffins.”

Fair enough.

Day 270/365 I’m Sorry, and also…I Love You

She was distraught….and also incredulous.

“I apologized with all of my heart, and she just said, ‘kay.

Tell her she has to say she’s sorry, too.

That’s how it works.”

Is it?

We have all felt the disrespect of a hollow apology.

Starting when we were very little and hurt by another child, we may have heard our first toneless and disconnected, “Sorry!”

Some are taught early that this word fixes all, and they never care to learn the truth.

Sorry!

Even when they haven’t sought to understand how their words or actions have effected another.

Sorry!

Even when they don’t even know what they’ve done.

Sorry!

Even when they don’t care.

Sorry!

Therein lay the problem with apologizing by rote.

It is meaningless.

“Do you want her to apologize because she has to?” I asked. “If you insist on an apology now, she won’t mean it. Wouldn’t you rather wait until it comes from her heart, too?”

I refuse to force my children to say words that mean nothing without heart…especially –

I’m sorry,

and also…

I love you.

These are important words.

I want them to say these words because they feel them in their bones…

Not because they are what someone else needs to hear.

Not because they have to say them.

Not to get themselves off the hook, temporarily.

I’m sorry,

and also…

I love you.

I want them to say these words because they want someone to know

how they really feel.

 

 

Day 260/365 The Lessons We Don’t Teach

After I picked the girls up at the bus stop this afternoon, I had to bring them back to work with me. This happens from time to time, and they actually don’t mind it. Afterward I treated them to a dinner out.

{Side story – One night the girls and I had just finished up a meal at a restaurant. On our way out we walked by an older couple who had been seated at a table near us. The woman stopped me and said, “My children never would have behaved so well at a restaurant when they were that age. Well done, you should be very proud.”

I beamed and said, “Thank you!”

Juuuust as we were nearly out of ear shot Beau says to me, “Boy, it’s a good thing she’s never seen how we behave at home!”}

So, back to tonight –

There we were, out at dinner. It really was the highlight of my day – hearing about school, playing tic-tac-toe…just being together in a relaxed way after a long day (which for us had started with some sibling squabbling, a missed bus, and me with a lap full of coffee).

The waitress came over to the table and introduced herself as Sarah. Ruby (8) would always prefer to have me dictate her order. For some reason she gets uncomfortable, but I encouraged her to speak up for herself. She nearly inaudibly, but politely, submitted her requests.

After I paid the bill, I got up and walked a few yards before turning to stop and wait for Ruby, who had gone back to collect her crayons from the table. Beau was ahead of us, needing to use the restroom. I saw our waitress approach the table and begin clearing it. It was then that I heard Ruby, in a sweet, clear voice, say to her  –

“Thank you, Sarah! Have a nice night.”

I have to say I was so proud in that moment. Yes, it was very sweet and polite, but also she had listened to and remembered Sarah’s name. She was grateful for what Sarah had done for us….bringing us our dinner, cleaning it up for us…

Yes, this is Sarah’s job, but...

Ruby appreciated it, and said so. 

Frankly, being kind to others – to everyone – whether they are serving you or you are serving them – to me that is a lesson that will be of more value in my daughters’ lives than anything they may learn at school.

It made me feel really good about how the girls see me (and I hope, their dad) operating in the world. There are lessons they are learning every day that don’t need to be spelled out – in fact, perhaps they are all the more meaningful when they aren’t. 

Day 255/365 Sex Is A Funny Word

“Is VIRGINAL a word?” my eleven year old asked me at 7am this morning.

“Yes,” I said. We were getting ready for school, and I had some Christmas music playing in the background.

“What does it mean?” she asked.

Ummmmm….(Gulp, oh God, really? I had barely had any coffee.)

“Well, in this (Christmas) context, it is referring to the baby Jesus having been born to Mary and Joseph without them having made him….ugh, without having sex. Christians believe that Jesus was a gift from God…the son of God.”

Looking confused, she said, “Was that a word in this song?”

“Wasn’t it? Isn’t that why you asked?”

“No,” she said, pointing to a piece of paper. “I meant to write the word Virginia, but instead I wrote Virginal. I was just wondering if that was actually a word.”

“Ohhhhh.”

Sex is an uncomfortable topic for me with my kids, but I am trying to be open and honest with them as they begin to ask questions. In this case she had no idea she was making me sweat out an answer about sex, but I guess it was good practice!

Beau is in fifth grade. Sex Ed is not something I’d have considered covering with her yet. Maybe that is naive of me. My parents and I never actually had “the talk”. Growing up, any information on the topic of sex I gleaned from friends, or from watching the neighbor’s dogs…or the livestock down the street. There were a lot of unanswered questions…and I was not about to ask my mother. 

Last summer Beau came home from her father’s house with a book called “Sex is a Funny Word.”

I nearly keeled over.

“Maybe I could give that a read first?’ I said.

“Well, I’ve already read most of it,” she said, dismissively.

“Great! Well…I’d like to read it so I know what you know.”

Once I started reading it I understood why her dad had bought the book. Having a father who has recently revealed that he identifies as a woman really brings the topic of sex (meaning sexuality and gender) into a child’s consciousness perhaps earlier than we (or I) would have liked.

There was a lot of value in the book. The topic of sexuality and gender identity was covered in an age appropriate and very inclusive way. There were other important points made too – for example, it addressed touching by others which might make a child feel uncomfortable, and what to do about it.

There were also some very scientifically accurate diagrams of male and female genitalia (see, even that word makes me cringe!). So, she now knows the names for parts of the female anatomy that I don’t think I learned until college (what can I say, I was a late bloomer).

It was interesting to notice how I reacted to the words “clitoris” and “labia” being shared as information for my daughter.

My initial reaction was of alarm…this is too much information! Then I thought…um, this is a diagram OF HER OWN BODY. Why did that feel shameful to me…like something she shouldn’t know about?

Why on Earth shouldn’t she know what the parts of her own body are called?

Upon reflecting about this today, I couldn’t help but think about the #metoo movement, and how women are taught that their sexuality is shameful…or worse, that it is something that is not their own

That their sexuality is it something that belongs to others, to men. That it is something that a woman gives away or hides…

That it is not her own.

I don’t want my girls to believe this incredibly dangerous LIE.

So, I will answer the questions as they arise…even when they make me uncomfortable….

Even when it’s just because someone misspelled Virginia. 

Day 158/365 Island Adventure Part II

When I left off, the girls and I had gone off to bed. We were exhausted, and well…it was dark. Literally. There is no electricity here.

There is a queen sized bed in a loft, which one accesses by ladder, and there is a queen sized futon on the first floor.  The loft has only a rope “railing” (more of a decorative feature, really). I was more comfortable with the girls sleeping downstairs together (with Louie) and me in the loft.  So that’s how we started out.

I put a lit flashlight at the bottom of the ladder, knowing someone would make their way up there in the night. Although I asked them to let me know if they were coming up, I figured lighting the ladder ahead of time was a good plan.

I sat downstairs with the girls until they drifted off, then up the ladder I went.

I was exhausted. As I tried to drift off to sleep, I could hear Louie having quite an eventful dream downstairs on his dog bed. I bet he was rescuing a rainbow floatie in his sleep or something.

Anyway, my brain got to work thinking about all sorts of crazy things. I could hear the loons on the lake. (Beau thinks they sound like wolves. Comforting thought.)

What if one of the girls gets hurt trying to get up here?  How long would it take paramedics to get to us, anyway? How would I even describe where we are?

I fell asleep and awoke with a jolt. I had dreamed one of the girls fell off of the loft. My heart was racing.

Beau was calling me. She wanted to come up.

Wide awake, I now had to pee. As I descended the ladder, bleary-eyed, I realized it is far more likely the 44 year old would fall down the ladder than her two tree-climbing, monkey children. Despite all odds I made it down and back without incident.

When morning came I decended the stairs again, this time desperate for coffee. Then I remembered this was how I’d be getting it…


Yeah, this was going to take a few attempts to perfect. In the end I chugged a sludgy mixture (mainly to avoid a headache), and mentally crafted a strongly worded response to the Amazon reviewer who swore by this apparatus as her daily method of brewing coffee. She’s gotta be kidding.

I longed for a nap.

It was 8am.

We had breakfast and the girls were snapping at each other right and left. At one point they had an arguement, and then one apologized, and the other refused to accept said apology. Moments later she apologized for not accepting the apology. Of course her sister then refused to accept the apology for refusing the apology.

It was quite painful.

The last straw was when Beau was trying to fish, and apparently Ruby scared away every single fish in the lake.

Every single one, you guys. She has a gift.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I may be infecting the entire island with my PMS.

For real.

Feminine energy is a beautiful and terrifying thing. I grabbed my treasure trove of essential oils and pulled out the one for PMS, appropriately dubbed Dragon Time.

I doused us all. Then I suggested a canoe ride.


We had a lovely ride around the lake, and by the time we returned to the dock for a swim, we were all feeling better. Ruby even proclaimed it her “14th best day ever”.

Not too shabby.

We really did have a great day.

It flew by…canoeing, swimming, fishing, drawing, reading together in this amazing hammock spot…there was even a singing competition after dinner.


We capped off the evening with a communal “bath” in the lake. The girls were beyond giddy that I allowed them to skinny dip. It is quite fun, I must admit.

Here’s to a better night’s sleep tonight, or at the very least, to a more satisfying coffee experience in the morning.