Keeping Spirits Up

My spirit wants to soar, expand, feel love flowing inside me and reaching out to everyone I meet.  It’s fall, my favorite season, finally crisp and cool.  It may snow soon; snow-haters forgive me, I am a solid East Coaster, I love the snow despite its inherent inconvenience.  The holiday season has begun, almost all the Halloween candy has been eaten.  I want to dive in, but the world won’t let me.

How can I say it’s not too early to start celebrating when there’s just been another mass shooting?  When every day another person is being revealed as a sexual predator?  When everyone is sharing opinions about serious issues and confessing their own traumas, how can I write about the new white flocked Christmas tree I’m so excited about?

I could write #me too and join the fray.  I deal with my trauma but don’t feel the need to tell everyone my story or vilify the persons involved.  I only want to handle my own healing; hard as it is to face, the perpetrators are victims, too, and have their own healing to do.  The way we point fingers and ruin peoples’ lives only shows how far we have to go in raising our culture to one of love.

As for gun violence, words I heard yesterday in Adyashanti’s book, The End of Your World, rang true to me (I will post the exact quote when I find it) — we won’t change the world by having this government or that or by following this philosophy or that, but by changing ourselves on the inside.  Because what we are on the inside is what is reflected in our world on the outside.

Do we act and speak out of love or fear?  It’s not easy, I know.  Every day life gives us ample opportunity to practice.  I had a customer recently who was a great teacher.  She didn’t want to join our registry or participate in our philanthropic promotion, but she wanted a discount.  I recognize these situations as opportunities for my personal growth and try not to react with judgment.  But when she said “I don’t understand why I’m standing here and can’t get the discount,” I felt the warmth rising in my chest.

It’s not easy to look inside ourselves and ask what’s going on with me that’s causing me to judge?  Realizing that now I’m also judging myself and adding more negative energy to an already problematic situation.  Now I’m hearing in my head that song I love, “It’s not easy breaking your heart.”  It’s what we do when we don’t love unconditionally.  Finding a way to inject love, empathy, compassion into that interaction would have changed the world in that moment.

I’ve always told my kids no situation is ever all bad or all good, it’s always both, the paradox of life.  Maybe that’s why I’m so into this holiday season and my new Christmas tree.  There’s a lot going on in the world that we need to change, but there’s also a lot going on we can appreciate and celebrate.

It’s not too early, let the joy of the holiday season begin.  (Don’t worry, I won’t unpack my tree until after Thanksgiving.)

tree in box


Happy Birthday Andrew

My older son’s birthday falls five days after (and six years before) his brother’s.  If I’d known I only had one fertile week per year we might have closed that gap or even added another kid to the family.  Well, maybe not, because Andrew was a lot of kid.

I did not handle his delivery well.  Afterward, I wanted to tell everybody I felt like I had joined a secret club where no one tells you the truth until after you’ve given birth.  I had no clue what I was in for despite prenatal classes; who are they kidding describing labor pains as “discomfort?”  My friend Fran’s advice was better:  make a big sign, “Give Me Drugs.”

My water broke while I was still in bed on a Sunday morning, sounding like a balloon popping.  I went to the bathroom and was overcome by a nauseating wave from head to toe.  Fear struck, no getting out of it now.

The doctor on call allowed me to go to the hospital right away. My pains weren’t localized, but all over my body, and the contractions weren’t strong enough to move things along, so I was given a drug to make them stronger and an epidural which didn’t fully take.

I’m sure my resistance worsened my “discomfort.”  Don’t fight it, the nurse advised.  I basically acted like a toddler answering No, No, No! when the nurses came in every ten minutes wanting to stick a hand up to see how I was progressing.  At one point I was curled up in the fetal position when the doctor told me to roll over and I refused.  “You’re having a baby, Betsy.”  Oh yeah, I forgot.

I pushed for two and a half hours and still no baby.  I couldn’t imagine how they were going to get this bowling ball out from between my legs.  I suggested they get forceps.  The nurse whispered in my ear, you don’t want forceps, they hurt.  A lot.

I didn’t yell or swear or have an out-of-body experience and I don’t remember much after that until the doctor held Andrew up and he and I looked at each other with the same shocked look, eyes wide open and mouth in a big 0.  Then the doctor sewed me up for almost an hour without anesthesia.  I told you the epidural didn’t work.

My sister drove five hours to see my baby and me and still blames me for telling her the wrong hospital.  She should have known I had no idea where I was going.  This was before hospitals turned labor and delivery rooms into spa facilities and gave tours to win over prospective moms.

I wanted my new baby to stay in the nursery between feedings; I was terrified to take full responsibility for him.  Really, my husband and I were amazed they’d just let us take this baby home.

Andrew wasted no time letting us know, if only we’d had a clue, that he was unique.  He tried holding his head up from the very first night.  It wasn’t until years later I realized he never once put his head on my shoulder.

Thus began the Andrew adventure.




Granny for a Night

I sometimes forget how quickly the Universe will respond to my full-intentioned desires.  I felt a longing for days past, taking care of my sons when they were younger; the Universe answered, you need more of that?  Let me help you.

A friend needed help with her two small children while she was temporarily incapacitated.  I was thrilled for the opportunity to play stand-in grandmother and woke up early the next morning to pack a bag in case I would stay overnight.  Serendipitously, I had the following day off from work.

The two children, a boy six years old and a girl, 22 months, had never met me.  I knew I would be regarded more Nanny McPhee than Mary Poppins, but felt confident I could win them over.  It was Halloween night and I thought how fun it would be to enjoy the holiday with kids again.

I arrived in late afternoon as the boy was getting ready for trick or treating while the girl was wrapped around her dad’s leg as he tried to get things in order around the house.  The girl was coming down with a cold, her eyes with that I-don’t-feel-good look, not happy to be seeing me.

The house had the look of a busy life with kids, clothes on chair backs, toys neatly stacked in corners, clean dishes drying next to the sink.  A painting project was nearing completion, the dad apologized.  What I saw was an instant picture of a family in motion, the perfect home.

As I expected, the girl was not happy to be left with me as her father even left the room to change, let alone leave the house.  A feisty one, approaching the twos, as her mom warned, not afraid to let me know how she was feeling about my presence.  “Be a good girl,” her father said.  Not necessary, I replied; just be yourself, I thought.

I hadn’t brought gifts as peace offerings, but had the perfect sack to offer the boy for his candy gathering — an orange reusable grocery bag with a jack-o-lantern face on it, score one for me.  The girl showed me her favorite pair of shoes, gold and sparkly, just my style, my delight genuine.

The real fun began when Dad left and the girl began screaming the refrain I would hear frequently over the next 30 hours. accompanied at first by intense thrashing, kicking and scratching.  Luckily, as I expected, that soon turned into clinging, wanting to be held and carried everywhere, which felt so good, I didn’t even care if I caught her cold.

The boy was easy, knew the routine and followed it.  Both kids went to bed easily and I was happy to say so at the moment my friend texted, asking how it was going.  I was ready for anything, though, as I rested downstairs on the couch, waiting.

The monitor was by my side, including video, although I could hear without it, the girl waking up coughing then settling back to sleep.  The disturbance continued to build, as she’d wake up coughing and cry a little before settling back down.  I wished I turned on the humidifier, but was sure if she saw me we’d be in full blown unhappy mode.

I snuck upstairs while all was quiet hoping to get in and out of her room unseen.  She heard me in the hall and started full-on wailing.  “Uppy, uppy,” pick me up, and so I did.  Thus began our long night together — comprised of  thirty or so minutes of peaceful sleep interrupted by coughing and remembering she wanted her daddy — in various locations around the house.

We spent some time downstairs because she wanted her binky but didn’t want me to leave without her.  I was at the bottom of the stairs when I heard a thump as she apparently jumped out of the crib, and turned to find her running toward the top of the stairs.  Carrying her plus two blankies down the dark, slippery stairs was not something I wanted to do again.

We curled up on the couch together until she kicked me out of the way so that she had the big couch and I had the small one.  I piled pillows on the floor for when she would, and did, fall off which didn’t seem to bother her at all.  At the next waking, I decided she would be warmer upstairs, so picked her up and carefully navigated the stairs once more with toddler, blankies and binky in tow.

We cuddled together in the rocking chair beside her crib for the next sleep until she woke again and wanted her crib, although she clearly did not allow me permission to leave.  Baby Mozart was playing on Pandora and she also turned on another put-me-to-sleep musical device hanging inside her crib for dueling music.

I finally fell asleep in the rocking chair, reminding myself I’ve slept in much more uncomfortable airplane seats, until my phone alarm went off downstairs much earlier than we needed to get up.  As soon as I stood up, so did my sweet companion.  I asked, Do you want a clean diaper?  She nodded yes and reached for me.  We heard music coming from the boy’s room.  Is your brother playing games?  She smiled her first big smile and nodded.

She peacefully allowed the diaper change and we settled back down on the couch, she on my chest, immediately returning to sleep.  I watched the clock wondering how long it would take us to get big brother to the school bus on time, not wanting to disturb the yummy bundle on top of me to go wake him.  He came down about an hour before bus time with an art project in hand that he said needed to be finished immediately.

I well know young boys who have important things to do when the world says they have to direct their attention elsewhere.  I hoped I could handle it better than I did with my own boys, but I doubt I succeeded.  Feeling pressed for time, not wanting to miss the bus, my biggest job of the day, all my anxiety of that task from the past came flooding back.

We were moving in the right direction until I asked the boy to put on his jacket.  “I don’t need a jacket,” he announced.  My phone showed the current temperature at 37 degrees, almost snow weather.  He was unimpressed.  He didn’t know where it was and said I could find it.  I said I don’t know what it looks like.  “That’s because it’s invisible,” he replied.  I’m scrambling around for what looks like a jacket his size when here comes his little sister, binky in mouth like baby in The Simpsons, holding the jacket out to me.

We got to the bus with a full minute to spare.  Returning home, little sister and I cuddled again on the couch and fell back asleep.  My head ached along with other parts of my body and I hadn’t ingested more than a glass of water since lunch the day before.  I wondered how long I could keep up a schedule like this.  I haven’t forgotten how exhausted I was when my kids were little, but this was a reality check as to what my current body can handle versus my romanticized vision of grandparenting.

When the kids’ grandfather arrived a few hours later, I was willing to let him take over, although I was prepared to keep going having faith the Universe doesn’t give you assignments you can’t handle.  I left with a new appreciation for my current life,  how easy it is to care mostly for myself.  For that gift, I thank my friend and the Universe.  But when little sister ran over unbidden and hugged my knees, I was willing to do it all over again.