Category Archives: Sunny Days

Unfinishable

“King’s last great crusade was the Poor People’s March. He never made it to the March. Trying to help the poor in Memphis, he was cut down. And the poor are still with us. As King said in a sermon, ‘One of the greatest agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.'” Adelman, B., & Johnson, C. (2007). Mine eyes have seen: Bearing witness to the Civil Rights struggle (p. 195). New York: Time Home Entertainment.
“King’s last great crusade was the Poor People’s March. He never made it to the March. Trying to help the poor in Memphis, he was cut down. And the poor are still with us. As King said in a sermon, ‘One of the greatest agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.’” Adelman, B., & Johnson, C. (2007). Mine eyes have seen: Bearing witness to the Civil Rights struggle (p. 195). New York: Time Home Entertainment.

 

As with so many people, Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my idols. I usually honor this day by reminiscing and sharing some of his greatest words as well as embarking on acts of social service throughout the day. Today, I spent the morning talking with my boys about our country’s history, how change was possible here and how MLK contributed to that change. Why his efforts were singular among other efforts. Love, peace and fairness. Fighting indignity with dignity. Fighting hate with love. Fighting violence with non-violence. What finally moved the middle to action were images of peaceful people being sprayed with fire hoses, those being beaten responding with hymns and prayers of love. Most people know, in their hearts, God abides in acts of love not hate or violence.

It does not go unnoticed that many of my heroes, those who have fought for equality and justice by peaceful means, have died at the hands of others. Jesus. Ghandi. MLK. Men to be feared because they move people to action. Catalyzing beliefs in fairness, peace and justice from wishes to reality. It seems to me, this approach has really been the only way throughout history to create massive and lasting change.

Faced with terrorist attacks, realized as well as thwarted, we still see much cruelty in our world. Amid organizations, among countries, across people, even neighbors and families. As MLK said, “One of the greatest agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.” The urge to rest is strong. The urge to ignore is powerful. The urge to succumb to the nagging thought that this is an unfinishable task is mighty.

Much like the feeling a mother has in rearing her children. We wonder, do I have the strength? We doubt our efforts are enough. But we never give up. These are our children after all. And this world is the future for our children’s children. It is and will be what we make of it. I take comfort in remembering that the million tiny, soft grains of sand laying upon the beach were once giant, ragged boulders. Over the course of time, nature persevered in changing the unchangeable. Finding and fulfilling the purpose and potential inside each and every life God has gifted the world is a worthy quest. Start with where you are and you can change the world. One ragged boulder at a time.

“One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Is there room at the inn?

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

 

I have been uncharacteristically Grinch-like this holiday season. I was thinking it was perhaps the pregnancy hormones but I have noticed many others having similar feelings. We are all feeling pinched by holiday pressure. Feeling pulled in many different directions like taffy. I was grumpy and complaining about having to travel to so many different places, to please so many different people, that we would not have time for our own family celebration of Christmas. I was unhappy about the discomfort, no matter how welcoming a place is, of not sleeping in our own home. Especially when I will be halfway through a pregnancy, sleeping with four people and one dog in one room. Grumpy and unhappy may, in fact, be an understatement.

I found myself talking similar feelings over with friends and pondering, “Why can’t Christmas ever just be about Jesus?!?!” Then it was time to put the boys to bed and just about the only time in a day where it is quiet enough for me to reflect. It dawned on me that I am an utter hypocrite. I was wondering why people can’t seem to just keep things simple and focus on Jesus during the Christmas season. Well, what does that mean when we think about the Christmas story?

Augustus issued a census decree. Mary, obviously extremely pregnant, rode a donkey all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem (about 70 miles). Upon arrival, the city was overflowing with visitors coming to register for the census. There was not one room left, not even for a mother in labor.  Thus, Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a manger. God, had given man his only son.

And so we all hear the decree around Christmas to travel home. We make difficult treks to share time with family. We make room even when the inns are full, laying on sofa beds and air mattresses in less than ideal rooms. We go without sleep and comfort to simply be and share the season with our family and like-family friends. We are challenged to give and sacrifice of our selves as God did for us. No, Christmas is not about comfort. Nor is it really about personal joy. It is about love and oftentimes love is hard. Some of us flock to the manger with excitement and wonder like the shepherds and Magi. The holiday season may be trying to others for a reason. As we replay the story each year, maybe God has cast us in the role of innkeeper and we are being asked if we have room for kindness, generosity and love in our hearts.

I don’t relish discovering I am a hypocrite. So as I feel tension from the holidays rise, I will now ask myself if I have room at the proverbial inn. Even at the height of fatigue and discomfort, I want to remember what this season is really about.

How about you? Will there be room at your inn for Christmas?

 

Gratitude, Miracles and Hail Marys

saint_gerard_abbottFor better or worse, my pregnancies have always been classified as high risk. How we came by that is one of those funny ways God works. The only reason I began seeing a high risk doctor early on the first time around was because I never received the rH shot following my miscarriage. In being abundantly cautious on that front, we discovered the much larger issues of low fluid, growth restriction gestational hypertension and eventually severe pre-eclampsia/HELLP syndrome. Thanks be to God, someone made a mistake after the loss of Noah.

Every single time I walk through the doors at the perinatal office, see the staff and visit with the doctor I am struck by how fortunate we were with our first pregnancy. And our second. I continue to pray for our third.

As the mother, I am astounded and amazed by Silas. How troubled his pregnancy was, how early his birth was, how precarious his first months were and how healthy he is now. Born at just 33 weeks, at 3 pounds and 4 ounces, he cried immediately and scored an Apgar of 8/9. He stayed just 19 days in the NICU. He never once returned to the hospital in his first year. He never fell behind on any of his developmental milestones. I remember feeling so proud of him before he even left the NICU as I sang, “We are the Champions” to him. And, that is exactly as it should be. Yes, Silas’ situation was unique to say the least, but mothers are always impressed with their children.

We now have the chance to work with this phenomenal staff and doctor through our third pregnancy. I can’t remember what I said to him in my last visit but he responded with, “Oh, I could never forget you. Your case was so severe and then your second was amazingly perfect. I don’t use your name but I do refer to your case often with my patients.” Wow. There is something about hearing someone who’s very job is dealing with high risk pregnancies, who sees hundreds such cases every year, specifically noting how remarkable your case is… And then using it to give hope to other mothers.

My doctor then said what happened with me simply does not happen. According to research, I am an anomaly. Subsequent scientific research has said the vitamin regimen he put me on based upon a report showing limited success does not actually prove effective . Yet, after the stunning difference in my first and second pregnancies he has prescribed that regimen to every pre-eclampsia patient he has had and absolutely none have had a relapse. Not one.

I suppose there could be a placebo effect. So I ask myself what else I did. Obviously, I was not on bed rest so I was able to get exercise throughout the second pregnancy but I was getting exercise the first time around and was on bed rest by 26 weeks. The resounding answer for me is prayer. I wore a Saint Gerard medal throughout each pregnancy. I prayed to God over that medal every morning and night. I thanked God at night for each additional day of healthy development. I thanked God for another night of healthy development every morning. I was open about what we were going through as well so there were literally legions of prayer going up for health. Rivers of faith. Floods of love.

I always knew things were bad during Silas’ pregnancy but I truly never realized how close to death both Silas and I were. I have been reminded, once again, of just how very lucky I am to be here loving my happy, healthy boys (with another on the way). I am grateful for my many miracles, the doctor with his Hail Mary regimen of care and the love of all those who surround us.

The specific mechanism is not all that important to me. I know it is God working through all of them and I am grateful.

 

If Dogs Were Teachers

IfDogsWereTeachers

This poster was hanging in the emergency vet’s office last night. I took a picture of it because it is how so many dogs are. I know Star taught us all so very much.

We had to put our girl down last night. We had been getting cocky about how long she could live beyond the vet’s prognosis. She started seizing late last night, she could barely walk and was clearly, finally, feeling the pain of it all.

I’ve been aching all over. Inside and out. Crying off and on all day. I hadn’t expected to physically feel the impact of her death but I feel as if I have been hit by a truck.

Dogs are a part of our family not just pets in this house. She was our daughter and a sister to our boys. She was rarely ever referred to as a pet. She was our baby, our girl, our daughter, a sister. I’d say she was our equal but I do believe dogs are often our superior as the words in this picture convey. So much love. So much patience. So much perseverance. So much to teach us. And, even after death, she is still teaching me.

I took a much needed nap along with Emerson this afternoon and had a dream of her. I saw her playing with a boy who looked a lot like Silas. I couldn’t figure out why Emerson was not there or any other members of our family and why Silas was older then he really is. Then, I realized she was playing with Noah, our angel baby. She is safe and happy at home in Heaven with the rest of our family.

“Enjoy every moment of every day.”

Star_10112014

Hand-Me-Downs

Hand Me Downs

As the last of three girls, I wore  a lot of hand-me-downs. We are each a little less than four years apart so by the time I received them they could have been eight years old, making out-of-date an understatement. In the pictures above, I can guarantee, we all three wore those items at one time. I definitely remember the itchy wool and scratchy faux fur collar on my eldest sister’s coat. YUCK!!! We all wore that Christmas dress you see me wearing while cuddling on Grandpa’s lap. Halloween was an assembly line of costumes. Pam could always pick whatever she wanted since she was first. The following year Tami would be what Pam had been as I would be the next year. Raggedy Ann, witch and ghost.  My two least favorite in the queue: overalls and corduroy pants. I am not sure why I dislike overalls so much but my husband feels the same way. The disdain is so strong, we have only recently mustered up the courage to dress Emerson in a pair a dear friend gave us. But Silas never once wore a pair of overalls. And the corduroy culotte. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. Talk about an item of clothing having an identity crisis. Is it a skirt? No. Are they pants? No. Are they shorts? No. None of the above. And then, once they were on, the corduroy made this abhorrent rubbing noise. I am certain I don’t have a cute little picture of those ridiculous culottes because I had a catastrophic meltdown any time my  mother made me wear them.

Jeans were a slightly different story. At least when I received those there was a chance there would be a hole in them (or many) and I would be able to pick out my own iron-on patch. You know the kind I mean, a rose, a rainbow, a butterfly. Of course, faded, worn and with holes are now fashionable but my frugal side can’t seem to pay hard-earned money for something someone else has already worn out. There were some clothes I did look forward to getting down out of the attic. I do remember a sense of excitement each season as we got to box up the passing season’s clothes and trade them for those of the next season. Dad climbing up the ladder and handing boxes down to us. The kids running boxes to one or another’s bedroom. Sometimes, hiding a particularly disliked item in the wrong season’s box so we could avoid having to wear it again. Shh, please don’t tell my mom!

Life is funny how it hands you things. You process them into your memory based on your present moment. As a child, I had one perspective: my own and a very brief history of it. I saw someone else’s used clothes. Worn, reused and not like what I would pick out for myself. Thanks to my boys, I was recently given the gift of a new perspective on hand-me-downs.

We never expected to have more than one child. We struggled for so long we were beyond grateful to have just one. So the idea of saving Silas’ clothes to use as hand-me-downs never occurred to us. We swiftly gave them away to friends and family, consigned or donated them as he grew. Then a blessing happened and we found ourselves able to try IVF again. From that moment we began saving Si’s clothes for his soon-to-be sibling. While we did not have very many of Si’s baby clothes for Emerson, we have plenty starting around 12-24 month size and we just started bringing them out. What an absolute joy!

As a child, I only ever thought about hand-me-downs as a way to save money and that’s all I thought as we started packing away things Silas outgrew. I was surprised by my pleasure as I pulled old shirts and pants and sweaters from the box. Simultaneously, experiencing joy as I remembered pieces of Silas’ childhood and excitement as I marveled at the new memories we would create with Emerson at each stage. It is so much fun to see Emerson in his big brother’s old clothes. Silas pauses and says, “Hey, that’s my shirt.” My own experience, wearing my sisters’ hand-me-downs, I felt like I was being shoved into someone else’s mold. These weren’t the clothes I would pick. Not the fabric. Not the color. Not the style. Seeing Emerson in one of Si’s old shirts… Yes, I do remember Silas and many of the things he did while wearing it. But, I see Emerson as well. I see all the ways he is like and unlike his brother. A unique and very precious individual, just like his big brother.

My sisters were two very different people. I remember going into school, being the third Stephen teachers were assigned to. Many asked me, “So which Stephen are you like?” The simple answer, “I am me.” Even as I stood there, in the same clothes worn by both my sisters, I was always an individual. All the important stuff is on the inside.

Emerson is too young to understand hand-me-downs now. I have no idea if he’ll one day resent wearing them as I did. I hope not. I love this two-lane memory highway. One lane for remembering old memories and the other for making new ones.

I want my boys to grow up knowing there is nothing on the outside that can diminish them. They have their own personalities, strengths and talent. I want Silas and Emerson to have solid cores so when the world tries to distract them, they are able to stand strong, knowing exactly who they are. -No matter what they are wearing, who is around them or what they are facing.

Two Lane Memory Road