Family · inspiration · reflections

The Breakthrough

whump-whump-whump-whump

The helicopter overhead was distant–the propeller’s thumps a low murmur seeping into my mind, stirring up dread, thick and suffocating.

I stood inside my grandmother’s old house and gazed at the peeling yellowed paint on the walls and the layers upon layers of dusty photographs covering every inch. In one black and white photo, a young pig-tailed girl’s face beamed, sitting on her father’s knee, her face forever frozen in mid-laugh. In another– a girl in her teens, blowing out the candles on the cake, her father resting his hand on her shoulder.

A splintered mirror on the wall reflected an older woman. A woman now startled by the creases circling her hollowed eyes and the raw bleeding wounds dotting her scalp.  The wounds my mother gave me.

Hot red anger flashed as my fingers frantically tried to cover them with tufts of matted hair– but there were too many, they just grew and grew, and bled and bled.

whump-whump-whump-whump

A soft breeze blew the front door open, rustling the photos about like leaves.  I shuddered as the leak of fear dripping in my mind ran cold. A rush of wind swelled and the hardwood floor beneath me groaned, each floorboard lifting one by one, rippling like waves. I turned to look out the window.

It was coming.

Lazers of red light pierced through the tiny holes and cracks in the floor, casting blood-orange spots around the room; the thundering pulse of the propeller almost on top of me now.

I opened my mouth to scream, but only a raspy gasp escaped my lips.  The photographs began to flutter and fall to the floor, forming tiny swirling tornados that danced and circled around the room; the blackened edges of each photo curling unto itself until each one disintegrated into a thin gray dust.  Vibrations rippled through me, my body nothing more than an empty shell as the helicopter’s relentless chant filled my ears.

whump-whump-whump-whump

Bracing for impact, I shut my eyes and turned away, the taste of choking dust filling my mouth. It was outside the window now–a spinning black steel spider hanging from an unseen web growing bigger and bigger until it was inches from breaking through the glass.

Suddenly, it stopped to hover, frozen in mid-flight; as if the web’s sinewy thread was pulled taut. I felt a hand on my shoulder. My breath stopped.

It was my father.

Dad. Dad!

Dad?

I searched his face, unbelieving. He was young again; his face smooth, his smile warm and knowing. A sparkling white light radiated from his eyes.

Don’t be afraid, he said without moving his lips.

I will help you.

Watch me. I’ll show you.

Churning back to life, the helicopter continued its path toward the window. I closed my eyes, imagining it tearing through the house, shards of exploding glass, wood and metal showering down, consuming me in flames.

Look, my dad said. Here, look.

I opened my eyes.

He stepped in front of me and raised one arm, his hand shielding me from the spider. In response, it reversed, the broken shards of wood and glass flying backwards with it.  The thundering pulse of the propeller a soft murmur again as the helicopter vanished into a small black dot swallowed whole by bright blue sky.

I sucked in the air and a sweet coolness spread across my face, into my lungs and down my spine.

Silence.

I was standing on the precipice of the tallest mountain. Below me, an endless sea of jewels, sparkling blue and green.  I drank in the beauty as it flowed through my veins.

I floated. I was free.

My dad grabbed my hand and smiled. We were back in my grandmother’s house again.

Do you see?

I looked down, wisps of my hair were swirling to the floor like feathers. I tenderly touched my head. My wounds were gone, replaced with pink skin–warm, soft and new.

I do, Dad.  I see.

Thank you.

I looked out the window and into the bright light.

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inspiration · reflections

Our Unbreakable Bond

The cemetery was full of swaying trees and bright sunlight; the dancing rays sparkling within the reds and golds of the leaves. Gazing at the rows of gray stones, I felt a gentle stirring of peace blossoming from within, spreading around me with its warm embrace. I stood alone on a grassy hill and listened to the wind.  I wanted to hear the voices of those who had passed on. Those buried in the ground were dust and bones now, their spirits set free a long time ago. Still, I wanted to hear my father. I closed my eyes.

“Hey, Mom!” my son yelled from a distance. “We found him!”

I smiled as I crouched down on the cold ground next to my son. He read the name of the tombstone aloud with excitement, “Ralph E. Stairs.”

“That is your grandfather,” I said with a heavy weight in my voice.  “My dad. He died 20 years ago this month.” My fingers traced the dates etched in the granite.

“Wow! So you were pretty young then, huh?” my son remarked, then ran off to the next row of stones before I had a chance to tell him more about my dad; the incredible grandpa he had never met. How could I express what my dad meant to me or the person he was? Will my son ever know? Will I continue to remember?

When I was a young girl, my father was my entire world. The phrase “Daddy’s Girl” originated the day I was born. The man who raised me was an unique dad. He was sensitive to our emotional needs, and he always took the time to be present with me and my brothers. He enjoyed doing things with us, whether it was coaching our Peewee baseball league (I was shortstop), shooting hoops in the driveway, or sitting on the front porch chatting with us on a warm summer evening.

He was a slight man, tall and thin. His personality was one of quiet support, and he was very gentle in his ways. There was hardly a time when he raised his voice to yell and he never laid a hand to spank. He raised us on two things: love and respect. He disciplined us the hard way, by somehow convincing us that doing the right thing was the only thing. It was expected of us. If we dared to screw up (and we often did during the teen years) nothing would be more damaging then the moment our dad would peer over his glasses, sigh and sternly say, “I’m very disappointed in you.” This was the worst punishment we could ever face.

Being his only girl, he went out of his way for me. If I needed a certain piece of piano sheet music, he’d drive with me all over the state to find it. If I had a baton competition two hours away, he’d be there in the stands, his eyeglasses reflecting in the lights. As long as I knew he was there to cheer me on, I could do anything. He was my constant support. In many ways, he was like a mother to me; nurturing, loving and proud. These were the traits my own mother lacked. When I was sick, he would come home from work with some ginger ale and rub my back until I felt better. Every night, I would say, “Good night, Dad! I love you very much!” as he tucked me in. I’d wait for him to say, “I love you, too” so I could close my eyes and safely dream.

During the last years of his life, I was just embarking on my college adventures. I was an awkward, shy teenager, unsure of my place in the world. I began to see my dad as a man, separate from me, with a past of his own. We started to have deeper conversations about life’s pain, sorrows and regrets. When I told him about my fear of leaving home, he discussed with me his time in the Navy, a young man fresh out of the Bronx, full of excitement and fear when he was shipped out to sea. We talked about family and death. His own beloved father, my grandfather, died at 53. He told me how hard it was, growing up poor in New York, having to make dinner with his brother and sisters while his mother worked all day and night as a waitress. Being so centered in my own world and consumed with my own problems, I realized I didn’t know much about my dad’s history.

Now, I would give anything to sit on the front porch with him again and have one last conversation. I would ask him more about his childhood. I would ask him endless questions. What was he afraid of? What made him happy? What did he miss? And did he miss me as much as I missed him?

I would tell him about his grandkids. Did he know that my son loves soccer? And that he has inherited the same gentle, loving, sensitive spirit? Did he know that my daughter is a dancer and loves to sing? Did he know that I met and married the love of my life? Did he know that I wanted him to walk me down the aisle? Did he know that I graduated college? Did he see any of this? Was he proud of me?

Standing at his grave this week, I knew the answer.

I slowly brushed the leaves away to reveal the date: Nov 17 1991.  “Hi, Dad,” I said aloud. “Hope you’re doing okay.” I stared at his name and imagined his face again. I could see his blue eyes twinkling at me, the sides of his mouth curving up into a laugh. My dad and I were sharing a secret only the two of us knew. “I miss you,” I added as I walked away.

As we pulled out of the cemetery, I noticed the blue eyes reflecting in the rearview mirror–piercing, knowing, twinkling.

My eyes. My dad’s eyes.

My Dad
reflections · Uncategorized

The Writers Must Be Crazy

I stare at the blank page. Agonizing minutes tick by–still nothing. I glare at the blank page. It glares back, taunting me to dare try and fill it with my words.  I try. My brain scrambles to make some connections.  I have all the thoughts necessary, swirling about in my mind, but I can’t put them together in the exact way I want, so I give up. It’s maddening.

Suddenly, I’m compelled to jot down a sentence that seems to have materialized out of thin air. Almost like I’m waiting for the channel on the radio to cut through all the static. A huge release, it flows out in a burst. I read the sentence. I love it, it’s perfect! I reread the sentence. I hate it, it’s horrible.  I cut half of it out, slashing through it with my pen like a knife. I can’t possibly show anyone this sentence–these words that sprang from my mind. Exposing my view of the world. What if they don’t like it? What if they ridicule it? Will I ever know truly what others will think of me? Do I dare publish or not? Eventually, I decide that I have to do it, no matter the consequences. I take the plunge off the cliff and scream all the way down. Other times, I blindly, happily jump off the cliff. Who cares what others think? In the end, it’s me I’m afraid of–my own worst critic.

What is it about writing that is so torturous? They’re only words, right?  Yet they have the power to connect, to empower, to inspire. But we hold onto them so tightly, like we’re giving up our newborn child. We pray to God that others will cradle our baby and show it some appreciation and love. Isn’t that all we want?

Do other artists feel this way? I’m sure they do. Do painters paint about how they struggle with painting? Does a musician play music that illustrates how hard it is to come up with a melody? Writers are a unique breed. We write about writing. We write about how we can’t write. When I read my writing, it’s never good enough, I could edit until the end of the world.  Sure, someone might come along and tell you they like it. But then you have to write again, starting all over. There’s always the possibility you won’t be able to, and that is scary.

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. Mostly in private. I wrote about a young girl detective agency and the mysteries they’d solve. Once I took a chance and read my stories to my best friend. She loved it and wanted more. That was it for me. I was hooked. I’ve written short stories and personal journals ever since. I started blogging with only one thought in mind. I wanted to get the thoughts out. I have been an observer most of my life. Very quiet and introspective. Naturally, I have feelings about certain subjects and life. I can’t afford a therapist so I realized blogging might help quiet the voices.  Now I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love to make that instant connection with others. For me, there is nothing more fulfilling than the high of knowing I’ve made someone laugh with my words. Before, I didn’t know others out there had my same sense of how absurd things tend to be in this world. It gives me a thrill beyond words (it’s nice to be speechless for once!)

Like you, my blog is my baby. Like you, I want it to be treated with respect and support. It’s my place where I bravely put my thoughts out there, either to be scrutinized or enjoyed.  I have to be willing to welcome both. That is terrifying at times. But I value these connections because without them, why write in the first place? I have a feeling you know exactly what I mean with this post. You are a writer. I am a writer. And I am honored to be blogging and connecting with other writers who know exactly how I feel.

Isn’t that the main goal in the first place?

______________________________________________________________________

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing
guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity
is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.  ~Elmore Leonard

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.  ~James
Michener

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being
there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.  ~Vladimir
Nabakov

Easy reading is damn hard writing.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some
place, in the air.  All I must do is find it, and copy it.  ~Jules Renard

Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until
drops of blood form on your forehead.  ~Gene Fowler

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its
writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Writing is a struggle against silence.  ~Carlos Fuentes

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside
you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.  ~Arthur
Polotnik

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.  ~Franz
Kafka

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its
roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to
die if you were forbidden to write.  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Writing is hard, but sometimes, it’s not. ~Darla, She’s a Maineiac

(This post was inspired by two of my favorite bloggers, Lenore of Lenore Diane’s Thoughts Exactly and Priya of Partial View and their posts: Lenore’s Read my words: I am a writer and Priya’s Musings of an ordinary blog writer. Thanks for the inspiration and thank you to all of my fellow bloggers out there.)

reflections · Uncategorized

The Footsteps on the Stairs

Each night, the footsteps were the same; deliberate and heavy. The
sound would slice into my hazy dreams, and I’d drift helplessly back into the
world. My eyes would start to focus, gradually taking in the shadows lurking in my room.
In the corner, my dresser would morph into a dark shape of some menacing,
faceless monster, crouched and ready to pounce. A creeping,
gnawing feeling of being stripped bare, vulnerable and exposed, would begin to
crawl up my spine and seep into my thoughts. A shaft of pale
moonlight would stream through the gingham curtains of my
bedroom’s narrow windows, illuminating them like a pair of glowing pink eyes. Night after night, I would slowly pull my crocheted afghan up to my ears and wait to hear it again.

If my breathing was still enough, maybe I wouldn’t.

Thwick, thwick. Thwick, thwick. Thwick, Thwick.

I knew the sounds weren’t of this earth. Incredibly, the noises
seemed to be oozing and dripping with every step. Some nights, I imagined the
footsteps were of a slimy creature from the murky depths of the ocean. I was
convinced a giant menacing octopus was mucking across my grandmother’s pea green
kitchen linoleum and heading straight for my bedroom door. Yet as soon as I
would hear them, they would disappear again, melting into the symphony of the
crickets softly chirping outside my window.

But this night was different.

Thwick, thwick. Thwick, thwick, thwick, thwick–

The footsteps hesitated. The door to the basement, right
outside my bedroom, slowly opened, producing a
high-pitched screech that sent a lightning bolt of panic down my back. The warm
lump at the foot of my bed began to move. My dog raised her head, nose
twitching, as she cocked one ear toward the sound. Peeking through the delicate
holes in the afghan, I noticed the moonlight sparkling, tiny diamonds dancing in her brown eyes. I drew in a sharp breath then slowly let it back out, producing a feeling of
comforting warmth inside my little cocoon.

Suddenly, she heaved herself off my canopy bed and landed on the
pink rug below, sending herself sliding across the hardwood floor. She
scrambled back up, her nails clicking on the wood, and leaped toward the
bedroom door. Her tail wagged furiously as she looked up at the ceiling, ready
to greet this nightly visitor. Or thing.

The squishy steps resumed and I held my breath as I heard them going
down into the basement, each stair creaking under their weight. I threw off the
covers and glanced at the clock by my bed. 2:30 the bright red display flashed,
taunting me. The terror of a possible burglar in our home seized my racing
mind as the back of my neck turned to ice. I jumped out of my bed and stood frozen in the bone white moonlight.

The crickets were silent. My dog began to whine at the ceiling.

“Shh!” I hissed through clenched teeth. I tiptoed barefoot toward the
door and peered through the crack.

The kitchen was empty. I held my breath as I took one step onto the cold linoleum. In response, the footsteps on the stairs abruptly stopped, leaving me to listen to the refrigerator’s low hum. The light above the stove flickered. My dog
was now at the top of the basement steps, tail wagging in slow circles as she
peered down into the darkness. She gently barked and the tags on her collar jingled,
startling me out of my reverie.

I knew I had to look.

I rested my shaking hand on my dog’s head. “What’s down
there, girl?” I whispered.

The dusty basement steps didn’t answer.

Closing my eyes, I reached into the shadows to find the light switch. With a loud click,
I heard the faint crackle and buzz of the bare light bulb hanging at the foot
of the stairs.  Electricity surged through every cell of my body. The hair on my neck prickled as my eyes adjusted to the bright yellow light.  I crept halfway down the steps, scanning the dirty cement floor. The walls were thick with shadows and cobwebs. The washer and dryer sat silently in the corner, dirty laundry still waiting in a pile in the basket. My dog sat down at the foot of the steps, looked up at the ceiling and whimpered.

The next morning, I sat at the kitchen table, bleary-eyed from
the night before. My mother placed a carton of orange juice in front of me and
turned back to the pancakes browning on the stove.

“Hey, did you leave the basement light on last night?”
she asked over her shoulder, stacking the pancakes onto a plate.

“Yeah, sorry,” I mumbled. I gulped some orange
juice and looked down at my dog, curled up at my feet. She raised her head and
seemed to look right through me with her liquid brown eyes. I nervously twirled
my hair around my fingers.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I ask you something? And promise me you won’t think I’m
crazy.”

“Well, I’ll try,” she laughed. “What’s up?”
she asked, sitting down across from me.

“Is this house haunted? I mean, have you ever heard a ghost
here? Or sounds?”

“Why do you ask?” My mother’s eyebrows arched and she sipped
her coffee.

“I heard something. Well, every night I hear something.
Footsteps–going downstairs into the basement. And they sound, oh I don’t
know…they sound almost squishy or wet. I know, I know.  It’s crazy.” I sighed and picked at the pancakes in front of me.

“Oh!” My mother laughed. “That’s just your
grandfather,” she said and waved her hand at me. He’s probably just come
back from fishing. I hear him sometimes, too.”

My grandfather grew up loving the great outdoors. He often spent
his time hunting and fishing, never passing up a chance to go camping. When my
mother was a little girl, she remembers her dad happily coming home after another
weekend fishing trip up in the dense forest of northern Maine. He’d stroll into
the kitchen with his catch, kiss my grandmother on the cheek and hand the fish
over to be cleaned for that night’s supper. Then he’d walk down into the
basement in his muddy hunting boots to put away his fishing gear and tackle box. For
my mom, these were some of her warmest memories of her father.

He died at the age of 53, long before I was born.

The following night after the conversation at breakfast, I heard the familiar steps again. I smiled and looked up at the ceiling. “Hi, Grandpa. I can hear you, you know,” I whispered.
“Did you catch some fish again?” I added, giggling, unsure of why I
was talking to the air. Almost expecting an answer, I listened, holding my
breath.

The footsteps stopped.  The crickets’ chirping grew louder, and I knew the night would hold onto the secrets of this world a little longer. The soothing glow of the pale moonlight enveloped me once again as I stroked my dog’s silky ears and sighed. Looking into her eyes, I felt she knew these secrets well.

I never heard the footsteps again.

__________________________________________

 

Thanks for reading.

Happy Halloween to all of my blogging friends and readers!

I want to thank you all for your support and kindness with your positive comments.

Motherhood · reflections

Always Remember This Thing Called Love

The night before my son’s recent ninth birthday, he sat down on the couch next to me, heaved a sigh and said, “Tomorrow, I become a man.” I wiped away a tear, giving him a brief hug before he squirmed away in horror and ran off. He was right–he was becoming a young man right before my very eyes.  A bittersweet pang filled my heart.

A few minutes later, I heard a commotion in his room. When I walked in, he was jumping on his bed. Grinning at me, he yelled, “Hey, Mom! Check this out! I can jump so high, I can kick my own butt!”  I was never so proud than at that very moment. Seems this manhood phase might not be so near on the horizon. All was right again with my world. He will always be my baby boo.

The day our firstborn came into our lives, I had just endured 24 plus hours of excrutiating back labor. My son was sunny-side up. (I hardly think such a painful predicament should be compared to how one prefers their eggs for breakfast, so I like to say my son was ass-backward.) This produced depths of pain I had never knew existed. Most of the labor was a blur of me screaming expletives, my husband running frantically around with a cold washcloth, and my desperate attempt to concentrate on a focal point to get through the waves of spine-splitting contractions. My focal point was a cluster of a few bright red leaves on a tall maple tree outside the hospital window. Every year, when fall comes and the leaves start to turn, I am transported right back to the day my entire world changed. My son came into my life.

When the nurse placed him into my arms, it was as if a tiny warm piece of heaven had been gently placed inside my soul. The light inside me grew–radiating into every fiber and pore of my being as I gazed down at my baby boy. How did I ever not know my son? It seemed my entire life, he was always here, just out of reach. Now he was gurgling and cooing in my embrace in a hospital room.  We were finally together.

At first, my husband and I struggled with the typical newborn issues: sleep deprivation, breastfeeding difficulties, reflux. But soon we both realized something was very wrong.  At four weeks old, he was pale, not gaining weight and sleeping no more than an hour at a time before his heart-wrenching screams began again.  The pediatrician assured us that this was normal with colicky babies.  I was sent home with a dreadful weight of anxiety crushing down onto my shoulders. We rarely slept. And when I did manage to dream, they were filled with my son’s cries and me reaching out for him, unable to soothe his pain.

By six weeks old, my husband demanded they give our son an ultrasound. This wasn’t just normal colic or reflux that was tormenting our sweet baby boy.  Our doctor consented just to appease us, still attributing our worries to being first-time parents. I fed him a bottle, then an abdominal ultrasound was performed with my son in my lap. He writhed and cried with such agony, my heart felt like it might shatter. I looked into my husband’s eyes, hollowed from lack of sleep and constant worry. Then our son vomited, like he had been doing for weeks on end.   Suddenly, the technician’s eyes grew wide and a doctor was called in. “You need to pack your bags and head straight to Maine Med,” he said.  “He needs emergency surgery, right away.”

In a rush of panic, we arrived at the hospital and a surgeon met us in a little waiting room. Our son had pyloric stenosis, a congenital condition seen in newborns. According to the surgeon, the opening that leads from the stomach to the intestine was completely blocked by his pylorus muscle. It had grows to about two and a half times normal size.  He would need immediate abdominal surgery and a tiny incision would be made to allow the milk to pass through again.  All this time, the milk (having no place to go) was going back up his throat, effectively burning it with the stomach acids. Thankfully, it was a relatively easy procedure and he was almost guaranteed a full and healthy recovery. The tears started to flow with the tremendous relief that we finally knew how to help our baby boy and  ease his torment.

The next night was spent hovering over my baby, an NG tube slowing draining his stomach contents. I was almost delirious with no sleep and constant worry. I softly sang, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as he continued to choke and sputter while the tube did its job.  In my haze, I pressed the nurse’s button almost every hour. A nurse would appear, assuring me that he was not choking and he would be okay. But nothing could untie the knot of worry deep in my gut.

The next morning, my husband and I stood in a long dark hallway and held hands as we prepared to watch our son being wheeled away to the OR in a cold steel crib. The nurse had offered to put a small teddy bear inside the crib for us and I cried as she placed it right next to his tiny body. I reached down to kiss his cheek and he was gone.

The surgery was a complete success and our son was soon back in our arms. He would recover quickly. I could already see a faint light in his eyes as the nurse helped me feed him from a bottle. My sweet bubbly baby was slowing coming back to us. Yet he would need to stay at the hospital for two more days.

A nurse we hadn’t seen before helped us get settled into a private room. We prepared ourselves for another noisy sleepless night, sitting upright in a hard chair. We only wanted to make sure our son was okay and refused to leave him. The nurse shut the door and gently suggested we leave him there and go to a hotel so we could finally catch up on our sleep. My husband wearily looked at me and raised his brow. The idea of any sleep was tempting, but we both felt tremendous guilt at the idea of leaving our son, even for a few hours.

The nurse put her hand on my shoulder, her voice dropping into a faint but stern whisper. “Listen. You two married each other because of one thing: Love. And that love has helped to create a beautiful child. You need to remember why you had your son in the first place. Go to the hotel. Be together.” Her smile radiated such warmth and comfort, I knew she was right and that my son would be fine, even if we left.  She cradled our son in her arms. “I’ll help you get a hotel room and I will call you to make sure you checked in okay.” My husband and I simply nodded, our minds still a muddled mess. “My name is Michelle, by the way,” she added, smiling again.

Later at the hotel, the bliss of uninterrupted sleep quickly washed over us. Six hours later, I awoke to a dark room and checked my cell phone. There was a message from our nurse, Michelle. “Hello again, it’s Michelle,” her soothing voice filled the room. “I want to make sure you are both okay and settled into the hotel. Don’t worry about anything. Your son will be just fine. Take care of each other and don’t forget what I told you. Always remember.”

After a few days, our son was being released from the hospital. Our worries were lifted as he began to thrive and eat like a normal baby. His chubby cheeks had color again and my heart felt at peace. I wanted to thank the amazing nurses at Maine Medical Center before we left.  I approaced the nurse’s station and asked if Michelle was on duty that day. I wanted to thank her personally for what she did for us. The nurse gave me a confused look.

“Michelle? There is no nurse here by that name.”

My husband and I looked down at our son, wiggling in his car seat.

“Are you sure?” I asked with a nervous laugh.

“I’ve been here for years and know of no Michelle, sorry,” the nurse insisted.

As the weeks went by, we both would bring up Michelle and attempt to attach some explanation to it. But we know in our hearts, her words were true. And we will never forget them.

To my son:

We helped to bring you into this world with our love.
And we will always be here to hold you up with our love.
Always remember
We love you so very much.

Happy birthday, baby boo.

Motherhood · reflections

Baby Talk

Whenever someone tells me how many kids they have, I usually respond with, “Well, I only have two and believe me, that’s all I need. I am happy with the two.” One of my friends has seven kids. In this day and age, she may as well be telling people she owns a White Bengal tiger. She is always quick to say that no, she is not nuts and yes, she wanted seven kids. She is happy with the chaos.  Considering some days I can barely handle the two I have, I bow down to her Super-Mama-Greatness.

But maybe she just had lots of practice. I would hope by the seventh child, you’d have some idea of what it takes to be a good mom. Could I be a Supermama, too? Could I ever possess that calm, clear-headed confidence she has? I had my doubts.

I know my four year old is my last child. Every milestone that goes by, my husband and I sigh, “well, no more diapers, no more binkies, no more sippies, no more tantrums” (she still has tantrums, but I prefer to call them diva moments now). Watching my kids grow out of these trying stages, we are relieved and sad at the same time. So it was surprising that I decided to take on a friend’s three month old baby this spring.

She is all sugar-n-spice and instantly charmed me with her drooly toothless smiles and the rolls on her chunky thighs. Oh and her feet, they’re so tiny! And look at her little fingers wrapped around mine! Oh! And she’s light as a feather! I can’t even pick up my own kids anymore, so this was something that warmed my heart. The first day I babysat her, I was gone. I nestled her little body in the crook of my neck and gently shushed her to sleep. I never thought I’d be holding a baby so soon again. And I realized something as the months flew by–she was easy. Easy to feed, easy to change, easy to play with, easy to put down for a nap. It was remarkable how good I was at this baby thing. Have I become the Baby Whisperer? I said to my husband, man, I could have had three kids and I would have been just fine. After years of second-guessing every mommy move I made with my own kids, I discovered that when it comes to raising a baby, I can do this! And do it well.

I didn’t always have this confidence. I was that constantly frazzled and worried helicopter mom. More like a dive bomber plane ready to swoop in at the first sign of distress. Now, looking back, I realize sometimes my swooping only made the situation more anxiety-filled. I hovered over my firstborn son, fretting and trying to anticipate every thing that could go wrong (but never did). Add to that the seed of mommy guilt sprouting in my mind that I wasn’t doing the “right” thing, I was a mess those first few years of my son’s life.

Yo, Mama! Chill out! I won't be this young forever y'know...

I’d be on edge listening to him on the baby monitor. Was he crying? Was he okay? Was he breathing? I’d take him out for a walk in the stroller. Is the sun too hot? Is the wind blowing in his face too much? Does he need his binky? Will he be sucking on this binky until he’s 15 years old and suffering from the world’s worst overbite?  Shouldn’t he be potty trained by now? Will he be the first kindergartner to wear diapers to school? Why does he keep calling milk “guk”? Shouldn’t he be fluent in three languages by now? Oh, the pressure I put myself under.

I think back to this old state of mind and shake my head. I wish I could tell that woman to chill out a little, enjoy your son while he’s still young.  Thankfully, by our second baby I had a chance to push all of those little nagging fears out of my head. I didn’t rush every milestone. I knew that most likely, my daughter would learn to walk (i.e., tear apart the entire house) and talk (i.e., never stop talking) in her own time.

Why rush things, Mama? Look at how sweet I am!

On top of this, I had to endure the constant “advice” from others (moms and non-moms alike). You’re not breastfeeding? You’re not bottle-feeding? You’re not cloth-diapering? You are cloth-diapering? You’re not playing the baby Mozart tunes in utero? With my first child I actually used to listen to these comments. Now, I couldn’t care less what others think about how I’m raising my child. I figure out what works best and go with it. Simple.

And with this new little baby I’m taking care of this summer, it’s all gravy. Why wasn’t it this easy with my own kids? I suppose I have the benefit of taking care of her on a full night’s sleep. I enjoy her giggles and coos for a bit and then get to hand her back to her parents at the end of the day. Must be how grandparents feel.

If only I had lived more in the moment when my kids were babies, if only I had the sense to let all of those insignificant anxieties go. Thankfully, my kids are still young and I can redeem myself and know I have the chance to savor these moments.

And wait to be a grandma.

Me and my baby brother (showing off my nurturing side already!)
My dad, showing me how it's done.
inspiration · Motherhood · reflections · Uncategorized

Miracles and gratitude and joy–Oh my!

This week I am honored to be a guest blogger over at Deborah’s
The Monster in Your Closet.

I first visited her blog and read the post, Six hands for lifting: on my mom, mental illness, fear & hope and was moved by the honesty, courage and grace of her words.

She has started a new guest post series about gratitude:

In her own words: “Despite the hardships we face, there’s something that makes us believe hope is worth nurturing. That better times are coming. For me, then, it was natural that TMiYC’s guest blog spot be dedicated to gratitude.”

I invite you to read, These Arms Were Meant to Hold You, about my journey of painful loss, unwavering hope and finally, gratitude. This post explains why I go by “miraclemama”.  Thank you for reading.

And a huge thank you to you, Deb, because your willingness to share some of your darkest times inspired me to dig deep and share mine as well. And it feels good to get them out in the open and let the light shine in!

reflections · Uncategorized

Radiance at Last

Over at Absurd Old Bird, Val Erde has challenged readers to create something using her painting below as inspiration. Here is mine.

Val Erde

Radiance

Churning mud strips
flesh and bone

Pulls down
Earthly trappings take hold

But oh!

Gradual clearing
the Lightness is Here
always

Touches and soothes
emanates from every pore

As colors shine and twirl
the Mosaic awakes and breathes
constant

This thread, this pulse
to echo in our dreams

Rest, Dear One

Rest

reflections

The Thread

I am running through a deep jungle. Bright blurry shades of green mix with sharpdaggers of sunlight as I frantically leap to dodge the twisted roots in my path. Fear grips my heart, soaking into my bones and saturating my vision until the jungle transforms into a jumble of shifting shadows. I glance behind me into the thickening dark, not yet willing to face the thing that is chasing me and for a moment, I feel a sense of comfort. I am not alone in my escape. I glimpse an elderly Chinese woman running just behind me, her face contorted, her lips frozen in a half-scream.

She motions for me to hide behind a large boulder. I obey and we are side by side, gasping for air and leaning against the smooth coolness of the rock.  I realize she is clutching at something. A fine silky red thread is spilling out between her shaking fingers.  One end of the string trails away from her heaving frail body and disappears behind the boulder, into the jungle and the thing beyond. The other end of the string snakes its way to back to me and is firmly wrapped around my wrist. I peer down at the worn thread and notice the small indentations, cuts and scars it has left on my skin underneath.  Her tired eyes tell me the weight of this thread is heavy, but necessary. She lays her warm hand on mine and smiles.

Her eyes suddenly widen and her smile is gone. The red thread goes taut and her wrist is yanked violently behind her. “Hurry! Run!” she gasps. “It’s coming again.”

I stagger to my feet and we both begin to run, the thread thicker and heavier now. We reach a rushing river with a series of long white tunnels stretching across. I must choose one to safely lead us to the other side. If I choose wrong, the thing will find us merely by following the red string. The old woman grabs me by the shoulders, the weight of her hands pushing down, her fingers digging into my neck. “Don’t go the old way,” she hisses. She points to a clump of leaves next to the river and I see it: A single white tunnel hidden behind the bush, much narrower than the others. A shaft of soft white light glows from inside.  “Go on,” the woman’s voice commands. I step toward the tunnel and the red thread stretched between us begins to unravel. I hesitate, panic rising in my throat. “Go on,” the woman whispers.  I take another step and the thread breaks, softly slipping away from my wrist. It falls away and vanishes. I open and close my hand. I feel light.  I laugh. I am free.

This was a recent dream of mine. It seemed incredibly strange and vivid enough to stay with me into the next morning. I thought, how odd to be dreaming about a red thread and this woman. How did this make any sense? But it kept popping back into my thoughts.

Later that day, I was sitting in my car, taking my mother on errands, the usual daily humdrum, when I turned the radio on.  I heard this female artist introducing a song. She said it was about the ancient Chinese belief that all babies are born with a red thread of fate. Some say it connects us with our “soulmate”.  And this thread can be twisted, it can be stretched, but it can never break.

Have you ever had things happen which you can’t explain away to coincidence? Signs that someone is trying to tell you something important? Well, this was that something. I had chills when I heard about this thread of fate on the radio, the day after I had that dream.

I think my dream was sparked by a fellow blogger’s post that struck a chord with me, Lisa’s post, The Line Between, on her blog Woman Wielding Words. About how things seem to connect us with looping, repeating, invisible lines, like a web of sorts.  Within the collective unconscious and woven into our deepest dreams, I can see this is true.

After my red thread dream, I am beginning to see more clearly and understand the patterns in life we all must face, learn from and resolve. The most painful and raw of our emotions tend to follow us, no matter how hard we try to shake them loose by avoiding them or running away. Our relationships with each other (and with ourselves) are a direct result of how we deal with these innermost fears and demons.  Some believe that these deeply ingrained patterns in our relationships can go back into other previous lifetimes. Perhaps they are replayed time and again until we make the decision to choose a different path and therefore finally achieve a positive outcome.

My mother and I have had a tumultuous relationship our entire lives. It seems we keep pushing each others’ buttons until we both grow weary and bitter. Yet, we keep doing it. Why? Can’t I see that things won’t change if I choose this old path? Fear keeps me from trying something new. Our old habits may be destructive, yet we oddly feel they’re comforting. What if I approached my mother in a different way? What if I allowed myself to see things from her perspective and allow those old feelings of bitterness and resentment wash over me and drip away, releasing their grip? What if I broke that red thread that binds us? What if I chose to be free?

Actually, we have no problems                 
we have opportunities for which we should give thanks…
An error we refuse to correct has many lives.
It takes courage to face one’s own shortcomings
and wisdom to do something about them.

–Edgar Cayce

reflections

Struggling to Breathe

Hurtling through space, high above the earth, I felt like the tiniest speck of a pebble floating in a powerful, cold and heartless river. Aimless. Helpless. Lost in the water’s mighty force and silently drowning. I peered out the tiny window to see the twinkling lights of the city below; soothing, somehow comforting. I felt vast and empty, but at the same time full of the universe and the indescribable low hum behind It All softly whispering in my ear: It will be all right. Continue reading “Struggling to Breathe”