Believe

This is Alejandro.alejandro

 

He’s ten.

We met him last year when he and Gabe played together during basketball season.

He’ll be mad at me for saying this, but he’s adorable. And a baller. Plays mean defense with his good buddy Alex.

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Oh boy. I’m going to be in trouble for this. She was tall. He took her on anyway.

But he was gone a lot from practice, and he missed some games. When I finally saw his mom Kyndra again I asked her “Is he ok?” And that was the first time she told me.

Alejandro was born with Stage 4 kidney disease. From Day 1, the doctors knew he would need a transplant.

Since then, they have lived their lives as normally as possible. Kyndra is a single mom and Alejandro has a little brother and sister.  He’s been sick a lot, but they make it work.

Last May, they found out his kidney function was nearing the 20% threshold for the kidney transplant list and doctors told Kyndra to prepare. Family members are being tested in the hope of finding a living donor. Insurance will pick up the estimated $500,000 cost of surgery, but there will be significant other costs.

They have to go to Portland for surgery and then stay there for 5 weeks. Then they’ll head up one weekend a month for treatments. Kyndra will need to stay home full time for four months to care for him. Estimated costs: $50,000.

You know why I’m telling you this. Alejandro needs us. He needs our prayers and our good thoughts and yes, even our money.

They are selling t-shirts for $15 and every one of those dollars goes into the fund. If you buy one, I’ll pay your shipping.

You can also visit his fund-raising page at the Children’s Organ Transplant Associatioor visit the Facebook page to offer support.

There’s no such thing as other people’s children  ~ Hillary Clinton

#teamalejandro

 

 

Ciao, Summer

It has been one of the greatest summers of my motherhood.

But I am not sad to see it go.

We’ve been to all the movies. I liked Kubo and the Two Strings best with Pete’s Dragon a close second. We swam in pools, lakes, rivers and oceans. We camped and hoteled and grandma’d. Went to bed at 10 and woke up at 9. We ate a lot of ice cream.

We are fat and tan and sassy.

It was a wonderful season, but the wheel is turning and I am ready for the greatest season of all: SCHOOL.

Blessings to the teachers whose school year started weeks ago with trainings and planning and classroom setting up. I see you.

But please, do not expect to see me until at least October.

My ears are bleeding from the 13 million times they have had to process the word Mom since June 10. Or Can I have a snack? Or Can we do something fun today?

My back is aching from loading the dishwasher twelve times a day with thrice the number of drinking glasses as children in the house.

My brain is weak from trying to solve the mathematical conundrums of laundry, like the ratio of shorts to underwear (many vs. hardly any) and family word problems (If five people are going to the pool and mom asks you to pack towels for everyone, how many towels do you need? SHOW YOUR WORK.)

My heart must recover from things like this cup of yuck I found on my hutch:

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“What in the HIGH HOLY HEAVEN is that??” I thought to myself. Then I called for Gabe.
“Oh yeah” he said. “I wanted to see what would happen if I rehydrated a piece of beef jerky.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Annie ran up the stairs yelling “Is it swimming??”

Or this hide and seek playdate run amuck:

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YES, I took a picture. I’ve learned to grab my phone when someone screams.  My friend said I’m like a war photographer. But who’s going to believe this stuff without proof?

I need a moment, just a month-long moment to recharge.

And then come October 1, armed with a pumpkin spice latte and orange cranberry muffin, I’ll be ready.

No Time for Martyrs

 

Grace

Here’s why the Martyr Mom thing doesn’t work.

You know what I’m talking about right? It’s the mom on the receiving end of back talk and side eye whose only response is to wonder where her baby went? The kids have moved beyond Share, Take Turns and Be Nice, but the parenting hasn’t.

All bad. And I’m not talking about the kids. We need a moment to grieve the loss of our sweet cheeked littles who used to be easily subdued with time outs and that’s what Moms Nights Out are for.

In the face of a surly 10 year old, we cannot fold.

Like a pack of velociraptors, our preteens are testing the fences. They will remember where the weak spots are. It’s futile to wish, whine or even pray it away. God can only do so much. The rest is up to us.

Here are the two most important things I learned in the trenches while teaching other people’s children.

  1. Words are not your friend: Negotiation Moms and Talk It Out moms, I see you planting the seeds for the long game and I like it, mostly. But when you find yourself having the same conversation for the third day, hour or minute in a row, it’s time to admit that your kids have Einstein’d you. They know they just have to look like they are listening patiently, nod in the right places, apologize and maybe give a parting hug—then they can continue to do whatever they want. It doesn’t cost them a thing. Not. One. Thing. They just have to wait you out.
  1. Anger is not a consequence: It’s an emotion, not a punishment. Maybe it used to work, but pretty soon they’ll figure out that anger is a lot like words—it’s easy to harden their hearts and wait it out. To drive this point home, consider—I once listened to a 16 year old girl tell her friends that she decided to sneak out of the house to meet her boyfriend after her parents told her no because “all they’re going to do is yell at me anyway. It’s not like they’ll take prom away.” When I told her that if I ever caught my daughter sneaking out, I’d take her phone, computer AND prom, she said “I feel sorry for your kids. You’re mean.”

DAMN SKIPPY. If one of my girls ever hooks a leg over the window sill at midnight, I want her to know exactly what it will cost her.

Teach them to call your bluff at their peril. Be the mom who says “I do this because I love you” while removing the hinges from their bedroom door, flinging their cell phones out the window of a moving car, and breaking their fishing poles over a knee in front of their friends.

I did that to one of my kids earlier this summer as a result of backtalk. Said child almost broke a smile when I did it. Not because it was funny, but in recognition that my mama game is strong.

Martyr Moms, now is the time to get down from the cross where you hung yourself, and decide you are not going to spend the next ten years—or more for those who super screw it up—battling your baby.

Lose on Purpose

 

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You know this whole American culture of win at all costs?

It’s got to go.

Our fellow humans are not our opponents and at some point we have to realize that sports is not a great analogy for life.

I’m not directing this at any one person.

Although Donald Trump is kind of the poster child of this whole King of the World movement. And doesn’t he constantly look like a five-year old with a bad case of pouty face? I would have sent him to his room in January and he’d still be there by our house rules, which are “Don’t come out until you can be nice.”

(#lifesentence)

The other day I was trying to think of any great historical leaders who made their people or places better by maintaining their own personal superiority to everyone.

I came up blank.

I can think of lots of great historical leaders who made their people and places better by putting their people and places first. Or even better, their God first.

There may be a lesson for Americans in there somewhere. I don’t know. I’m not responsible for all of us. Only my people and places.

So for us, this has been the summer of Lose on Purpose.

Which does not apply when wearing a uniform (so my brother and Dana don’t have coronaries and die when they read this.)

What I mean is that my kids are going through that phase where they need to be right. Even when they’re wrong, which means it’s really about winning. After a Spring of listening to ridiculous “No, it’s not—Yes, it is” one day I lost my mind and yelled “DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”

It was a rhetorical question. But God answered me:

They take after you.

And so they do.

I started thinking, What’s the hardest thing for me to do in a situation where I feel challenged?

The answer is—to let it go.

To choose not to take it personally, or to make it my mission to correct others. To let them be wrong. To let myself be wrong. To admit that I am not in charge of everyone.

And—because people who want to be right and win more than anything else really struggle with this—to always be truth-full.

Which is why Hillary would also still be in her room by our house rules.

I figured we could go cold turkey on this whole idea, hence the summer motto. It actually has two parts: Lose on Purpose. Lift others up instead of squashing them down.

Like every other piece of parenting, it’s a marathon slog, not a sprint. There have been moments of understanding, like when Gabe rode his sister’s pink bike so his friend wouldn’t have to.

And there have been afternoons where they’ve been banished to the basement to preserve their own lives and my sanity.

But I knew we were on the right track when, after watching Trump in a news conference the other day, Kate said “He needs to learn to lose on purpose.”

And then some.

 

 

Hold the Bridge

The last 48 hours have torn our social fabric into pieces.

Again.

It is such a human, natural reaction to take sides and dig in.  To hold the line.

In my tiny little slice of the world, I have huddled like a turtle in my shell, watching my social media and the comments of news articles. My friends who are people of color are speaking a painful, challenging and sacred rage out into the holy space and demanding change. Our beloved Medford Police have gone almost silent in their presence, out of respect but also fear and care.

 In my circle, because I know all my people, there are no pitchforks.

No pie forks either.

Folks are wary. Waiting for someone else to make the first move and dictate the mood.

This is not the way.

Philando Castile was a good man serving children. I can carry his loss in my hands at the same time I carry the horror of those officers in Dallas who came to a protest without body armor to show that they were not the bad guys—and were shot down in the street.

I do not have to take sides to fight for justice. I can carry both.

We can carry both.

And when we carry both as a people, we do the most important work of all—patiently and steadily holding the bridge. We’re going to need the bridge later, to repair and heal.

Others may hold the lines drawn on the battlefield. There is a season for that. We have all found ourselves holding the lines.

But if that is not where your heart is called, and if your hands are large and loving enough today to carry both, come hold the bridge.

The Power of Mothers

 

Grace

You know we have great moms. You know we aspire to be great like them. On Sunday we will celebrate them in love and thanksgiving.

We will also patiently endure the love offerings of our own chicken nuggets. At the dinner table this week, Kate asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I said “No jewelry. No appliances. Nothing for the kitchen.” And she turned her face to me, sweet forehead all scrunched up and asked “Well, what’s left?”

Did you know that the original idea for Mother’s Day was never meant to be about mothers?

It was supposed to be for mothers, a day when mothers all over the world came together to use their collective voice for peace.

I learned this from Glennon at Momastery.

Julia Ward Howe issued “An Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World” in 1870. It reads:

Arise, then, Christian women of this day ! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears ! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

— Julia Ward Howe

What happened next was that, because she was a woman and a suffragette and she spoke the family business of her repressive marriage outside the bedroom, she was generally ignored.

Almost 40 years later, on May 10, 1908, Anna Jarvis observed the first Mother’s Day at her church. It was in honor of her mother, and again an effort to put the role and voice of mothers in the forefront of society. Her version was more palatable, and Mother’s Day became an official observance in 1914.

Then Hallmark realized there was money to be made and the rest is ugly history.

I don’t know any mother who says “Yippee! Mother’s Day!” For me, that’s because the rewards of my motherhood seem to flow towards me more than from me on any given day, to the point that I honestly feel I should thank my children for the love and joy they bring to my life.

But this iteration of Mother’s Day, as a call to action and justice—that feels real to me. It feels important. It feels powerful.

Mothers are powerful. Yes, we are. Helicopter moms and grizzly bear moms and tree hugger moms and granola moms and stay at home moms and working moms—we have some power.

This year, let’s use it. After church and the brunch and the school crafts and the “gifts” have been attended, eaten and opened—find a way to use your power.

Donate to Glennon’s Compassion Collective, which is feeding 6000 families every day.

Adopt a child from World Vision and become a “mother” for a child stuck in grinding poverty.

Send an email to the presidential candidate you support and the one you dislike the most and tell them why. Ask them to advocate for kids and peace.

Decide that this is the year you will become a Sunday School teacher or choir director or troop leader or coach and be an important adult in the lives of someone else’s kids.

Commit to a month of rosaries, asking the Blessed Mother to bring peace and love to this world.

Mothers are powerful and the world needs us.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

Making the Pieces Fit: The True Story of My Quilt

In 2012, my recovery from postpartum anxiety coincided with the first Fall in 35 years when kids went back to school, and I did not.

Instead, I stayed home with a 5 month old who still took two naps a day. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands—twitchy hands that needed something to do.

At first, to battle the guilt and stigma I still felt, I allowed them to feed me. Graham crackers and Nutella. In November my friends ran a Nutella intervention but by then, the 15 lbs of damage was done.

I needed something else to do.

I’m going to make a quilt, I decided.

I know. Of all the things. But when I was younger, we had a third grandma named Opal who lived down the street. In the quiet moments when she sat to watch a show, she had a stack of quilt pieces next to her that she patiently hand-stitched together into flowers and then transformed into quilts.

I can do that, I thought. I can make those flowers.

All that late Fall and Winter, I sat on the couch while Annie slept and hand-sewed flower after flower with tiny little stitches, until I had a stack of 20.

Then I discovered that by making the flowers first, I had sewed myself into a corner. I wrote about it here. I showed you these pictures:

I hoped it was all coming together.

It didn’t.

Instead, I ended up with this:

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I stopped. The next summer was rolling in and my feet were under me. I hit my stride as a stay at home mom. I joined the gym with Dana. I started writing about my postpartum experience. Shea and I had an idea that maybe we should move to Oregon.

It was a busy and fruitful time, and I didn’t need the soothing, quiet stitching. The pieces sat for almost two years.

Last Fall, when Annie joined Gabe and Kate on the first day of school, my guilt came back. For three hours every day, I was alone while everyone else in my family worked. I started feeling anxious again. My twitchy hands came back. I did not buy Nutella, but only by the grace of God.

One morning, I pulled out my sewing box to mend a shirt of Gabe’s and there it was: my pile of flowers.

I am going to finish this quilt, I thought. I’m not going to read any directions either.

Whatever happens will be enough.

I knew this was about more than a quilt. It was therapy in those early months, soothing stitch after soothing stitch, quiet and productive. But then it became a reflection of me, shattered into pieces, and trying to fit them back together again.

When they didn’t fit back they way they were, well. It took a while for me to understand what that meant.

It was supposed to be queen sized. It ended up 2 feet by 3 feet. The edging is ugly on one side, although in the process of doing it wrong, I learned how to do it right next time. I used white thread on blue cotton, which is very unforgiving. I threw away more of my flowers than I kept, hours of hard work into the scrap bin. It doesn’t cover anyone completely.

But it’s enough.

I was supposed to be Mom Invincible. From the outside, I looked pretty good, but underneath was a mess waiting to happen. I was the woman everyone could rely on, a reputation which is very unforgiving in a personal crisis.  Then I was forced to show my crooked stitches  to survive. Some of the things I held onto were unnecessary and I cut them away.  I don’t have to be so big. Lots of things are not my job. I am scarred and have spoken my scars.

I am enough.

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Some people would never show this quilt, but I do. It sits on the big chair in the living room, visible to everyone who comes through my front door.

It’s the truth about me, and so many mamas just like me. We had a vision of what life could be. For a while, the pieces didn’t fit, or make sense.

Maybe we thought about quitting.

But we didn’t, and through love and prayer and hard work, we put it back together into something whole. Crooked. Wiser. Messy. Precious.

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Perinatal mood disorders can start in pregnancy. They can look like depression, mania, anxiety. If you have a history of mental health issues in your life or your family—as I did—you may be at higher risk. But PMD can strike any women in any pregnancy.

Here’s what you do:

If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

#askher: Ask the pregnant and newly delivered moms around you if they are ok.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the Ob/GYN first and then visit www.postpartum.net for support. If the doctors cannot or do not help, call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773.

PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop