The gift


 I want to tell you a story about an amazing, gifted woman who was an angel for my son when he was struggling to connect to his world through autism. This woman was one of his teachers. She loved him and saw all of the brilliance contained in his mind, the endless possibilities captured in his heart and she nurtured him. 
 All that year she drew him out through her many gifts, the greatest of which was her love. He blossomed. He grew. He learned in small ways to connect with others, and he loved going to school. It wasn’t just the thrill of learning to decode the strange symbols that let him understand his world, the structured interactions with other children that had easy to interpret rules of exchange, and the “everyone gets to play” teams, it was that there was this person, this woman, this gatekeeper who made sure he was ushered in and made a part of it all. He loved it and he loved her. She made it clear to him in the most uncomplicated way that she loved him. 


When you have children, you discover that you must learn to live the rest of your life with your own heart beating outside of your chest, carried around in a careless and beautiful and painful world by your child. Like a balloon filled with helium slipping though your fingers on a windy day, so fast and so high and so far will that balloon be carried away. Your outstretched arm, fingers straining futiliy towards the bright, small, delicate burst of color and chasing after it endlessly even though you know you will never get it back. God help the branch, the bird, the storm,the hail, or any other thing with the potential to pop your ballooon, for there is nothing so fierce as a parents love. 


When you have a child who, through no fault and no option to exchange them, has challenges that place them at a distinct disadvantage because the rules of the world they must live in, and the instructions manual for navigating that complex world are coded in a strange and different language that you aren’t able to speak, you find yourself thrust into the role of ardent advocate. You  encourage and educate and hold to task those charged with his care. You find allies everywhere and adversity in equal measure. You have a child who has their own amazing gifts and a language that is as foreign to the world as the world is to your child. There are people who will never understand this no matter how many ways you try to explain things. It can feel so overwhelming. Thank God for the angels around us. The ones who’s love softens the sharp edges of the days.
He is many years older now and several feet taller than that small, sweet, energetic, deeply complicated young boy, the one entirely swept up in pirate lore and real dragons. The one who believed he could fly.


The imp with the boundless energy and swiftly shifting intense emotions. The little guy who vibrated when he tried to stand still. The one who struggled with the agonizing discomfort of looking you in the eye for longer than a few seconds before needing to run off the electrical current that seemed to surge through his whole body all the time. The child who stammered into silence when his racing and brilliant mind out paced his tongue. 
He grew. He thrived on the love. The open and easy celebration of his uniqueness. 


That boy grew. He went on to become an altar server, a CCD teacher to a 4th grade class, Senior Patrol leader for the local Boy scout troop, a trumpet player in the band, a singer in the a capella group, an honors student, and an Eagle Scout. He went off to college. 
He is a young man who manages to look you in the eye and genuinely smile. Because someone really looked at him and really saw him, not just for the challenges he struggled with. Because they looked at him and could see the whole person in front of them. The bright, shining light inside. Out in that amazing and terrifying world there are special teachers, and angels like them, who every day make a difference.  When you worry and wonder whether you will be enough, remember that love is the most powerful force. Your child’s greatest strength and gift is you.


The gift
*For Deb , Vickie, Stephanie, and countless other teachers who came into my life through my child, each a gift beyond measure. This story happens to be Stephanie’s story, and to my child she was “Mrs. Magical” because that’s how he pronounced her name. And truly, she is. Magical. In fact, they all are.*

Yes

 The room was dark and quiet, the early morning wintery light still a distant thought. She crawled under the covers against me, wrapped her arms around my neck and whispered softy “mamma, are you sleeping? Will you help me braid my hair?”. My heart filled with warmth and a smile spread through me. This girl child of mine, my baby, the youngest of my pride of five,  and most fiercely independent was asking for help with her hair….Four big, strapping sons blessed my life before La-Lu made her surprise appearance. I was certain this lovely doll and I would play together for hours. I pictured fancy tea parties, frothy dresses, putting her hair into delightfully girly dos, bows, tiaras…the works. La-Lu had her own ideas and plans, and she had her own definition of what girly meant to her. She would be my teacher and my guide along this path. I learned when she was 5, small, fiery, energetic, determined and unafraid of the world, that I was not allowed to help with anything. She educated me stridently on this point when ever I saw her struggling to do something and offered assistance. She would scrunch up her brows in concentration, focused on the task she had selected and meticulously set to figuring out how to solve or to create or to destroy something on her own. She chose her own wardrobe. If I so much as smiled at an outfit, it was gone. She did her own hair. If I tried to smooth the hard to reach part at the very back of her head, she would react as though I had tried to set fire to her body. It was futile to fight it; this child had a mind of her own. A wonderful, brilliant, strong willed mind of her own. I have no doubt she will rule the world given half the chance, and the inkling to do so. This delighted me. As soon as I made my peace with the fact that my children would be the captains of their own souls, I began to delight in earnest in each child as they unfurled before me. Yet, there are little moments when their guard has dropped, when the small, sweet babe from their earliest days peeks out from beneath the brooding eyes of their teenaged self and they stretch out their hand for mine. “Can you help me?” she asks. I pull my fingers through her long silky hair, fragrant from shampoo, as she chatters about this friend and that class, about what she hopes for, and what she has planned this day. I weave her hair in simple plaits, tying them behind her ears with small bands. She surveys my handiwork and kisses me and runs off, earbuds reengaged, singing along to a song I can’t hear, and out into the world. My answer will always be yes.

The deep and wild parts of me

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There are deep and wild parts of me

fathomless miles of me

strange acres inside of me

the uncharted space of my heart.

 

The mysterious ways of me

weave  streams towards the sea through me

carving your name in me

pulling my pieces apart.

 

There are prisms of light in me

writing hymns on your lips of me

in soft, breeze less nights of me

the beauty is almost too much.

 

Breath through my body

breathes passion that flys through me

the agonized cries of me

and  burns everything with its touch.

 

Atoms collide in me

crashing inside of me

spilling outside of me

truth in the kindness of lies.

 

The fierce, fearless side of me

the reasonless whys of me

racing  inside of me

all stilled by the look in your eyes.

Seeking balance 

  
Seeking balance

Each day begins much the same. I crawl from my soft nest of warm blankets and my darkened room, and head downstairs in the direction of my children’s voices. It is almost too bright, energetic and already in full swing, the children ready (some reluctantly so) to join friends and take on the world. I shuffle sleepily out to feed the chickens and goats already calling to me, already up and out at first light. As much as I long to linger back in my bed, there are things to be done, places to go, and so I pick up my pace and add my own footsteps to the race. Children are dropped at school, emails have been attended to, and I even managed to duck in for early Mass. Now I sit criss cross apple sauce, perched on top of my yoga ball at my desk (praying I will not fall off the ball….on soooo many levels), an apple scented candle lit near me. I close my eyes and breathe…..I let the stillness and solitude settle in me. My first cup of morning coffee promises seductively to start my heart, enervate my body, bring clarity to my foggy mind and balance. This seems an insurmountable task for a simple cup of coffee. I should probably have 20 or 30 more ounces to be sure. I’ll be bulletproof by the time I hit 60 ounces and my skin will feel electric. I’ll have wobbled and fallen off my ball too many times to count before this day is through. I’ll have hit my head against the same walls too. But I am determined to seek and master this elusive skill and so I will keep getting up, keep climbing back on the ball, forever seeking balance. Namaste my friends, and by the way, if it’s not too much trouble, can anyone tell me my name? 🙏😜

Angels all round me

  
Angels above me, angels below me, angels all around me.  the perception of life, and the reality lived quietly.

There are days that the invisible crosses we carry, the ones others do not see, we feel their weight bearing heavily. We feel the unseen splinters, the ache of the burden, the struggle to put a smile on our faces, and joy into words. These days I remind myself that though my struggle is my own, I am loved. I am never truly alone on my path. There are angels above me, angels below me, angels all around me. And I am grateful to you all, every unthanked angel, every friend that sees me holding back tears and simply hugs me, every person in my life that keeps lifting me up without question, only love. You are my angels. ❤️

You’re a horse’s ass

  

So today at work I started to compile the master cast list for one of the christmas pageants. We host two with completely different casts of kids, one on Monday, and another on Tuesday. So far I have (Childrens roles in just the Monday pageant, and not including narrators, Mary, Joseph, etc…) 7 stars, 6 paraders (don’t ask…), 5 wise men, 20 shepherds, 32 barn animals (one special request to “be a cow”), and 37 angels. Everyone will be costumed. Everyone. You would not believe the number of children who want to be the BACK half of the two person animals. I have two camel costumes, and a donkey costume (so a total of 6 spots to fill) and I have 17, SEVENTEEN kids who are vying for those spots. Not just any part of the animal mind you, but specifically asking to “Please be the back half” of the animal….I have often wondered if they realize they will be facing the back end of another kid in an enclosed costume for an hour. A long, hot, gassy hour….I seriously had to draw names out of a hat to pick the “lucky” kids. I continue to insist that I have the best job in the world because every year I get to look some of the kids right in the eye and say “Yep, you’re a horse’s ass…”

The long deep breath goodnight

  
The long deep breath goodnight

I can’t honestly say when I have needed this more. A breath. A pause. A stillness in my heart. This life, this beautiful, amazing,  painful life, it’s poignancy made crushingly present in devestating pieces. How much clarity can be found in a moment held; to allow the waters to still, the elements swirling around me to settle. My feet feel rooted to this place in my soul, a reluctance to abandon the solace of silence and empty thought for the hastening calls of my deepening cares. But my deepening cares will not be silenced. They need tending to, and so I pause a moment to draw one last deep breath goodnight.

Days like that

  
Days like that

I can attest to the fact that some days you are the king, and some days you’re the guy mucking stalls in the castle barn. No matter how much caffeine I ingest, how many slow calming breaths I take, how subtly I squeeze my super hero stress toy under my desk while I smile and speak sweetly into the phone during a call I do not have time for, and from someone intent on detailing an inane problem that could have simply been communicated in an email I could read at an alternate time, I CRACK. That polished surface the world is generally treated to slips and smashes and my mouth yields a diatribe my children have chalked up to my shocking lack of filter. I am human. A deeply, deeply flawed human. It is that very quality I often think others see and feel connected to. Who feels bad about their own attack of the crazies when I so publicly and spectacularly unleash mine? We all have those days. Hell, I’ve had weeks like that. Hopefully those nearest my breakdowns, and less than grace filled moments will affectionately usher me off stage and make apologies for my lapse in patience, self control, and good humor. You know I’ll do the same for you. I’ll always have your back, and should you ever need bail, a fast getaway car, and someone who probably knows how to hide a body I’m your girl.

Wiped out and wired 

 I know this is not true at all but sometimes I feel as though I am the MOST tired person on the whole entire planet. Like no one ever in the history of the world, has EVER been as tired as I am at that moment. It’s ridiculous and self centered and as I stated at the start, entirely without merit. Today is that day. To lay a little ground work for you I will tell you that yesterday I began my day walking 5 miles with a friend, fed and watered the chickens and goats, prepped dinner, managed to dress myself and race to work where we happen to be holding full evacuation fire drills during the Childrens class time. In other words: we are hosting a series of chaos and mayhem parties. By the time I locked the doors and left at 9pm, my Fitbit assured me I had surpassed my 10,000 step goal with 21,147 steps. I was legitimately  exhaused. I decided to give myself an extra hour of sleep this morning after driving the kids to school and set a one hour alarm. Apparently I was a wee bit more wiped than I thought and must have hit snooze about a hundred times, waking up HOURS later and in complete panic mode. 
  
I needed to be at work. That moment. I have not mastered time travel, or alarm cocks apparently, and so what ensued can only be described as a wild woman, a crazed fool attempting the impossible like a game show contestant going for the big cash prize. I simultaneously ejected myself from my bed, pulled a dress over my head while hoping in one foot to wrestle my shoes on.

  
I made matters worse by slapping lipstick in the direction of my face, and pulling a brush through my unweildly hair. Which was a mistake. I have long curly hair that does not accept the advances of brushes when dry. 

  

 I began to resemble the bride of Frankenstein dressing for prom night . This was not the look I was ultimately going for but time was most definitely NOT on my side and I was already late for work. Also, there are more fire drills today, so, you know, AWESOME. They will not need to pull any alarms for this round, instead they will parade me in front of the children and scare the crap out of them, sending everyone running for the exits and their emergency meeting spots in record time.

  
It will not be my finest hour. There will be stories told and songs sung for generations after this day of Mrs. Rawlinson frightening an entire building of children and teachers, of the torches and pitchforks used to drive her back. I will live in infamy. But I WILL be fully caffeinated and I WILL triumph!

  

The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful 

  
The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. I love my body, warts and all. For the record, I don’t actually have any warts unless you count the time I had plantar warts on my feet that I refused to see a doctor for and instead dug them out myself using a crudely made homeopathic method of applying clear nail polish, letting it dry, and then cutting it off. No, Mensa will not be banging down my door any time soon for membership dues. It’s a testament to both my ingenuity and my stubbornness that I managed to succeed. My method took a while and was perhaps not one I would recommend to any sane human being, but I survived myself. I survive myself all the time. For over a decade my body and I have had a rather dubious relationship, consisting in a series of trial and error attempts to overcome lapses in both judgment and reliability. I have lovely stretches of time, months even, when I can almost fly. I run every chance I get, miles and miles, happy and free of too much pain, my feet working well, my legs nice and strong, my spine in compliance and pain at a nice, low level. I am bullet proof during these glorious months. And then there are the downward slopes, the never convenient periods where no matter how hard I try, how good I am to myself, my feet start to fumble, my legs lose their accuracy and fatigue accompanies me where ever I go and I’m back to square one. 

  
I am blessed. I am well loved. I am as stubborn as hell, my humor as irreverent as it is possible to be and still have the keys to my office at work (I work for a church…), and a long view I appreciate from the perspective the challenges of others has afforded me, all of which serve to keep my spirits high, and my determination mighty. Two weeks ago I was so happy just to be able to go for a walk. 

  
My legs were not cooperating, my spine was on fire and the medications and steroids were slowly beginning to coax my body towards being more of a team player. Every day that I could, I walked, until I could run again. So today feels like Christmas to me because while it may not last long, today I could run like the wind. ❤️