250px-WonderWomanV5In my mind I was wearing a cape. I was Wonder Teacher. I swirled my golden Lasso of truth over toddlers and they both admitted to and apologized for biting their friends. I tossed my Golden Tiara and unruly pre-k students immediately gave me their attention. My Bracelets of in destructibility protected me from tears, whining and arguments with incoherently exhausted little ones. I had skills. Preschool teaching skills. When I spoke? Kids listened. They even -mostly- did what I said. My days were spent playing in multi colored macaroni tables, sand tables, serving meals and cleaning up meals, potty training and teaching pre-reading skills and social skills. I loved it and I was good at it.

I remember my last day as Wonder Teacher. I stood near the classroom door at 5:30 watching totally out of control parents attempt to stuff wriggly preschoolers into jackets. I tried not to look smug as they struggled to do what I’d been doing with ease all day- getting their children to obey. I smiled as I moved in to rescue those having the hardest time. I used my tough but loving teacher voice. It worked. I hope they thought my smile was just my love for their kids…..it was.

Mostly.

I was also smiling about my secret. I’d taken an at home pregnancy test that weekend. I was excitedly: pregnant. As I watched those little bodies file out of my classroom, I was convinced 100% that I was going to be fabulous. Actually- I was pretty sure I was going to be a better parent than every one of those people who had just rushed out of my room.

I was ready. I had skills. I had a teacher voice and I wasn’t afraid to use it. I knew the warning signs for toddler meltdown. I knew scheduling and the value of structure.

I was also: 21. A newly wed. And yes-we planned our pregnancy. We’d been together for years and we were sure we were ready for kids.

That night I ended up in the emergency room.  I remember the invasive touches in the place I was feeling the most fear ever. I remember a few of the doctor’s words: “Spotting. Threatening to miscarry. Nothing to do but go home- try bed rest and wait.”

Overnight, I went from Wonder Teacher to paranoid bed rest wreck. I cried through Oprah. I cried through bags of Salt and Vinegar potato chips. I cried when my husband had to do laundry after work. I cried when I had to call work and let them know I was hanging up my Wonder Teacher outfit for good. I cried when I had to drop my college class. I also: continued to spot. Just enough to keep me on bed rest. I spotted just enough to cause panicked calls to my husband at work saying things like: “I think this is it. Don’t bother coming home….you’ll be too late.” (more…)

0001Caution: morbid, possibly melo-dramatic post.

(If you’re my mother- or a close friend- don’t freak. I’m fine. I’m just being honest about the fears that happen when Moms face surgery and or chronic illness. )

Purpose: To give voice to those concerns so that moms find out they aren’t alone.

What if: I die?

  • Have I done enough?
  • Have I loved my kids, enough?
  • Disciplined them enough? Too much?
  • Taught them enough?
  • Modeled enough healthy things? (Lord knows, I’ve modeled enough NOT healthy things.)
  • Loved God, enough?
  • Loved others, enough?
  • Will I go to heaven?
  • Will someone do my hair and make up so I look like a supermodel instead of just a dead version of me?

Who will:

  • Counsel and explain this all to my kids?
  • Keep up the laundry and the house? (I mean: who will remember to flip the couch cushions so they don’t break down.. and keep my OCD positioned pillows in their correct places????THIS IS IMPORTANT.)
  • Make time for each kid.
  • Encourage my husband. Be there for him. Love him? (Not sure I want anyone else to do that.. also: don’t want him to be without support)
  • Find all the things that are right where they should be- in plain sight?
  • Remember to lock the patio door-  front door and the cars?
  • Feed, water and groom the pets?
  • Remember garbage night? (and keep it holy…. sorry- sounded like the Sabbath there for a minute… oopsy told you- dramatic)
  • Mediate all the things that require mediation?
  • Throw out the underwear and socks with holes in them?
  • Clean up cat puke? (It’s a scientific fact: Only moms can see cat puke. To others it is invisible. Cat vomit creates tiny tears in the time/space continuum that can only be bridged by moms. Apparently.)
  • Throw out all forms of junk mail, so my family doesn’t smother in advertisements for credit cards and window replacements?

What if:

  • It hurts and I can’t hide it, and it scares my kid? (My kid- not a fan of seeing mom in pain. Nether am I, actually.)
  • It hurts and doesn’t get better?
  • The surgery doesn’t work?
  • The surgery makes it worse?
  • I end up paralyzed?
  • The surgery works, all goes well- and then it turns out I DO have Lupus and everything else body-wise goes straight to H***?
  • I can’t do my make up after surgery? (hello, vanity- party of one.)
  • The surgery works, I DO get better and i don’t have an excuse for why EVERYTHING still, doesn’t get done? (It won’t. Trust me.)

What if:

  • This is just the beginning?
  • I don’t heal according to my “Schedule?”  (Hello- 6 weeks puts me at mid august, I have a vacation first week in September, and school starts after the holiday…)
  • I lose more range of motion than I want to? (Seriously? Spinning my head around as a PMS warning sign- is just so: effective.)
  • I get addicted to the stupid meds, stuck in a burning crack house and fall through the floor only to have my friends and family watch me  die as the building explodes? (Sorry- just re-watched the last season of House…..PS: not faking my death. I promise. )

These are the thoughts and fears the fly through my mind like mosquitoes, as I clean house, wait for more blood tests and get ready for surgery. They don’t stick around long… just long enough to suck a bit of my peace out and give me a rash. They need to be recognized, addressed and then smooshed. Preferably before they have sucked up enough peace to leave a smeary mess when I splat them.

They need to be smooshed.

Because the truth is- in all likelihood…. All will go well. I will heal. I won’t die. Whatever autoimmune thing I have going on can be treated and managed. If I do die? Well, God has been there taking care of my family all along, and he will continue to. Even there.

I wish I could say I’m not afraid. That my faith means I know that all will be fine. But it doesn’t. My faith means that whatever happens…. God is present. Right there, in the messy middle of it. In pain, in sickness, in grief and fear. In celebration and healing. In all things. Present.

So that’s my prayer as I finish getting ready for surgery and for facing whatever autoimmune thing I have going on… (or don’t) …

“Dear Lord, I love you. I don’t like pain. I don’t like surgery. I don’t like fear. I don’t like the questions that I have. I don’t like the lack of answers to those questions, or even all the answers I do have.. it’s possible the house could overflow with junkmail and cat vomit if I died.. it’s just a fact…. But, lord,  I love you. I need you. Lord- whatever happens… be present. Be with me and my family… even here. Amen.”

So readers…. how bout you? Fears, rational or irrational as you face surgery, or serious illness? What do you do when they buzz in your ears like mosquitoes ready to suck the peace from your life? 

I:

  • Tell myself the truth.  (God is in charge and able, I am not. The world does not actually, revolve around me.  My kids and husband would be fine and are brilliantly capable of handling the house and life.)
  • Talk about the fears and concerns.
  • Talk to friends who’ve experienced what I’m experiencing.
  • Pray. Listen. Read and listen to the things that fill me with peace.
  • Do what I can to prepare what I can prepare.
  • Feel the feelings- then move on.

Do the next thing.

Which today, is: Get ready to meet friends for lunch, instead of worrying myself into a headache or working myself into so much pain I can’t stand it.

See you after surgery! Prayers appreciated- As of now, I’m scheduled for 11:00 A.M Eastern time- tomorrow- July 3.

Betadine, hand sanitizer and latex with undertones of stale urine and sweat. The aroma of sickness. The smell of the hospital. Even with my scent- challenged- since I had a nose-job- nose- it invades. And, I hate it. I also hate the noise: stifled weeping, strangled breathing, hushed talking- all accented by the whirr and beep of machines that ventilate, monitor and hydrate. I hate the darkened doorways and overly bright hallways. Walking from one to the other has an almost strobe-like effect, almost always resulting in a migraine. Or maybe it’s the stress of seeing people I care about sick and in pain that causes my inevitable after the hospital visit- headache. It could be both. Did I mention I’m not a fan of hospitals? Yeah. I mean it.

I hate hospitals.

Recently, I spent some time at a hospital, again. And I realized something…..It’s not the hospital I hate so much….Doctor’s and nurses are caring people- and I like caring people for pete’s sake. And I (usually) like the people I’m there to see……

What I hate, is feeling helpless. I’d rather be “a helper.” When something goes wrong- I’m like a second grader asked to help the teacher. I love it. I  love to problem solve. Got a sickness? I’ll look up the protocol for treatment. Afraid of the doctor? I’ll go with you. Headache? Here’s an Ibuprofen. I’ll pray for you- too. But-I love to find creative ways to accomplish goals. I am task oriented- I love to produce. From meals, to laundry, to do lists and  knitting …..I’m all about product.  I hate video games (Most games, actually) because they’re  a waste of time.. You don’t have anything when you’re done. I’d rather: make something, do something, clean something. Anything. The thing is….

Hospitals are places where I can’t produce anything. Except maybe- annoyingly loud noise. (Not usually appreciated in a hospital setting. Just saying.)  I think the noise is my verbal attempt to “do something.”  Anything. To help. Even when I can’t. Which- during that recent time with a loved one?  I couldn’t do. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t problem solve.

I was just: there. (And- yes- I was annoyingly loud.)

But- having been the one in a hospital bed before………sick and in pain- well and sitting near someone not well- in fear. I know this: even when you can’t DO anything to help- BEING there, matters.

Even when you think they don’t know.

Even when you think they can’t hear.

Even when you’re annoyingly loud- or awkwardly quiet.

Even when you think it’s too late and there’s nothing left to Do….being there- matters.

Being there- is doing something. It is a gift.

Presence- is a gift. A holy gift. A gospel gift. It matters. To the sick- and to his maker……

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

The hungry. The impoverished. the sick and imprisoned……how we love them- matters.

More than we know.

Hate hospitals? Go anyway. Fear the homeless? Offer a kind word. Just acknowledge that they exist.  How bout the imprisoned? Visit. Maybe even those who’ve imprisoned themselves…. in fear. in isolation. In pain. Visit.

Today I offer a challenge- if you know someone who’s sick- whether long term or not- reach out to them. Offer your presence. You don’t have to have answers or fix anything… just be there.

It’s enough.

A blue backpack has taunted me all weekend. “How are you going to send him out into this kind of world? What IF….”  The backpack stops from this:short.  Even an inanimate object doesn’t want to voice the fear we all feel.

My brain battles back… “What are the chances? Our school is safe. I have to trust God….”  But, still. tonight, I’ll pick up that backpack and do what moms all over America are doing. I’ll check homework. I’ll pack a lunch. I’ll sign notes and layout tomorrow’s clothes. Only, tonight, instead of a soundtrack of mental to do list review and complaints about smelly lunch leftovers in a lunch box, there will be a cacophony of fear:

  • “Maybe I should homeschool.” (Again. I’ve already been there.) 
  • “Are there flak jackets that fit under uniform shirts?” (I’m afraid to google this. If child sized flak jackets exist… well.. it just makes me sad.- Sadder. Which is hard to imagine.)
  • “Can a backpack be retro-fit with kevlar? Are there bulletproof backpacks? Should I talk to my kid about what to do…. IF?”

If I were a bazillionaire- I’d be tempted to buy an island and build a compound where my family and loved ones would be safe from sick or evil people. I’d put a bubble over it to protect us from chemical and biological warfare. I’d filter our air- and be sure to have a sustainable agriculture model that would feed us healthy, chemical free foods. I’d make sure we are UV protected. I’d have internet filters that would keep inappropriate content from ever being visible. (I can’t imagine surviving without the internet at this point…) I’d stockpile:  food, medicine, books and yarn. (We all have our vices.Oh and probably have weapons.. but as you can tell, i’m more about comfort than weaponry.) We could probably survive a zombie apocalypse, but, I’m not sure we could survive each other. I’ve been with these people on car trips.

We’d probably die of suffocation. Emotional or otherwise. Which- would make me a mass murderer, wouldn’t it?

It’s probably good that I’m not a bazillionaire.

Since I’m not, and honestly- even if I  were- I’m not sure I want to be locked away on a secluded island with even just my own brand of crazy….What DO I do next? What do I do Monday morning? After 20 children and their teachers were killed…. in their classroom? And a mother was killed in her home. And a broken, sick, messed up 20 year old killed himself?

Parent’s everywhere have experienced yet another paradigm shift. What once felt safe…. feels unsafe. What once was unthinkable, is more than real. I’ve spent the weekend trying not to think about it. I turn off the news after brief updates. My husband put up the Christmas lights. I did laundry and knit gifts and ordered other gifts.

But now- it’s Sunday, and the blue backpack beckons. The clock is ticking. Monday is coming. So is: carpool and pickup and leaving my child all day in the care of others….

Out of my control. (As if I have control here… but that’s another article, altogether…)

What next?

There’s only one answer….. I will pack the lunch. I will check the homework. I will pack the taunting bag and make sure he doesn’t forget it. I will layout the school clothes. I will wave goodbye as he carpools. I will be there to pick him up. I will do the next thing. Because that’s what moms do. To do anything else would be to let sickness and evil win.

I will be nervous. You may be too. I will have fleeting thoughts of island oasis’ and stockpiles that would make a “prepper” look like a sadly outfitted overnight camper.

I will pray. I will trust.

I will pray that God will protect…… I know He does… but I will also pray that God will be present – even here. Regardless of the circumstance. As he was- in Sandy Hook. In the heroic acts of teachers- and first responders, and the invisible loving arms that welcomed little ones too soon, into eternity. After a year of facing several surgeries, and cancer and financial struggles and all the rest of life we’ve experienced…- I know this for sure: Awful things happen- But- he is near. Even here.

Friday- I chose love. Today? I choose trust. In my fear. Trust that no matter what happens Monday- God will get us through- as he will those so hurt on Friday and everyday.  To choose to withdraw and to try and seclude ourselves into safety… would only be letting evil win.

Which is all grand to say… but that backpack. It still taunts. I am still afraid. The world is not safe. I want to choose trust… but how do I manage the emotion?

What works for me:

  • Honesty. I will talk about how I feel. Even though I’d rather avoid it.
  • Connection. I will listen to the fears of others. I will find solace in not being alone.
  • Compassionate Action. I will do something to help others. I need to remember that this isn’t about ME. Nor, is life.
  • Prayer for me. I can’t change my emotions…. but God can, and He can help us get through anything- even a normal Monday shadowed by fear- which is what most of us will experience tomorrow.
  • Prayer for the grieving. I don’t have words- but I can weep with those who weep- and pray that God will be present in their pain.

So- let’s start now…. together. Pray with me?

Dear Jesus-  I come to you with a weary, fear  and grief burdened heart. I come to you with a backpack taunting me…. how can I send my child out into a world that is so dangerous? A world so full of all the things that cause tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting? How can I trust …  when I know that death, murder, sickness, abuse  and accidents all happen? I trust by remembering your presence in other pain. I remember your tender care at the cancer center. In hospital rooms. In funeral parlors. I remember your love in the darkest pains of my life and how you [eventually] bring light into the darkness. remembering helps me trust. I love you Lord- and ask you to be near the broken hearted. I ask you to be with every parent fearful as they pack backpacks for Monday. I ask you to be present as we face fear and choose trust. Lord- I know that in the end- sickness and evil will not win….let the defeat begin in me. In Jesus name- amen.

Moms, dad’s how are you feeling? How are your kids feeling? What works for you?

And… if you happen to be a bazillionaire… do you have any room for a nice family of five in your compound? (Just saying…… still feels like an option….) If you’re new to my site- and are wondering why the nest pic? Enter  “Even here” into my search bar…. you’ll find the stories of how God has shown himself  in nests….

**note: I use the term evil — not as a moral judgment- but to represent all that can break people and create fear and acts like SandyHook… – abuse, mental illness, sin, evil…

“Toes pointed. Dip, swoop step. Dip, swoop, step. Now, right hand extends- REACH- Lean forward. Stretch. You can do this….. Hand Down. Kick legs up. 1, 2 Legs over…..”

“BAM”

All the self-talk and coaching in the world couldn’t have stopped it from happening. Instead of a graceful round-off- as planned-I landed flat on my butt. On the floor. The balance beam a few feet away- mocking me with it’s blond wooden sheen. Which wouldn’t have been a problem (I was well padded  even back then.Yup- I’m butt cursed. Or blessed. Depends on your perspective.)except my lungs quit working at the same time. Apparently they are not as well padded.

I couldn’t get up. Actually? I couldn’t move. I fell over in slow motion, like a rag doll left in a breeze. “Shake it off. You’re ok.” I heard my “coach” call out. (This was in the old days, when gymnastics cost less than a college education and was mostly for what we called: fun. The term “coach” applied to a tall bald guy who liked to wear shorts to work. Which is okay- because I was no Nadia comaneci. Obviously. Hence the Butt slam that left me breathless.)

Except- I wasn’t  okay. I knew it. Actually-  I was pretty sure I was dying. My chest was making all the movements that normally caused oxygen to flow through my lungs- but it wasn’t flowing! I felt like someone had held a Hoover over my mouth and sucked the air out of my lungs like deflating a balloon. Then, it felt like they’d put just enough Elmer’s school glue in to make the sides stick together and make it impossible to refill. I wondered if the world had suddenly “vaccuumized” itself. Or if maybe the Earth’s atmosphere had suddenly gone AWOL. But, since I was the only one drooling on the floor mat-  I knew it was probably just me. Dying. Possibly due to my round- off. Which was more like a flop- off and onto the floor.

I was panicked and paralyzed. The more I tried to breathe- the more I couldn’t. (more…)

“It should be in the glove compartment.”

There may have been some reproach in the tone of my voice when I said that. I mean- isn’t that where the proof of insurance always is? Why does everyone think I know where everything is? It’s not MY car.  Besides- I get tired of my uterus being mistaken for a GPS. (And I may have a slight case of PMS- just a heads up.)

I spent the next hour digging through glove compartment boxes, the fire safe and the dreaded “mail basket.” (AKA: the basket -where mail goes to die.)

Apparently my GPS is as glitchy as our Garmin that sent me the scenic route to my last speaking gig, because I did not find it. ANYWHERE. I did, however, find approximately $327.00 dollars worth of un-mailed thank you, birthday card and holiday cards. And a pair of leopard print shoe laces. (I wondered where those were.) (FYI- your insurance company can probably email you a temporary copy. Just in case, you know- you also have the filing skills of say, a senile beagle- as I, apparently, do.)

Fortunately- the email arrived in time for middle child to take it with him for his road test. (And the printer was not out of ink. For once.) Bullet dodged. In addition-hubby’s car was cleaned out- because I could not search through that mess without cleaning it up. (Which is probably why searching for things takes me sooooo long. I make huge messes then have to clean them up as I go. Okay- I clean them up after I find what’s missing- griping the whole time. Hmm could it also be a clean-up conspiracy where my guys know if something goes missing- I go cleaning?)

Anyway-once the road test was passed- we needed to gather the child’s “puppy papers” so he could become a  legal driver. (more…)

We were 15 minutes late. Which- while it is  typical of being- well: me. Is  NOT what you want to be for your husband’s first appointment at radiation.  Talk about heaping extra stress on yourself when in an already stressful situation. Oy. However- you do your best when trying to get a kid to the bus and still manage to put on enough makeup to not scare the cancer patients.

Or maybe it was because we really just didn’t want to go.

Walking (like a ridiculous race-walker in pumps because the 12 seconds I saved running from the car to the oncology/radiation center’s doors makes the difference between living and dying. Forget the doctors. We have speed.) into the oncology/ radiation center is yet another slap in the face of cancer- denial. Even though it’s about getting well- it still stings.

Late or not- the staff was great and we only waited a bit for our appointment. (Weird- you never see doctors running in late cause they feel so bad…. yet- they are always: late. But- I digress.) It’s not necessary to go into medical jargon- but suffice to say we’re moving on to the next steps required to kick prostate cancer’s butt.  We’re ready to fight and are thankful we have a God who both “gets” us to our cores- and loves us- in addition to friends and family who love and support us.

However- a slap in the face of cancer denial- also makes you feel… well… a lot of stuff.

Like:

  • Moments of panic. Because while we know God is both good and in control and has the power to heal- he doesn’t always.
  • Moments of overwhelming sadness. Because talking to your kids about their Dad having cancer- just. sucks.
  • Moments of uncontrolled giggling because of the irony of a “siemans’ CT scan machine being used to detect prostate cancer….(Say it out loud. Think about it. I’ll give you a minute…;)
  • Moments of  being afraid to make a decision about care- because: DUH. We aren’t doctors. I Don’t WANT A CHOICE. Just tell us what will kill the cancer!!!
  • Moments of overwhelming love for the superhero-survivor that is my husband.

Sometimes all at once.

Especially when you walk out of yet another consult appointment, feeling like your head will explode due to fear/ stress and choice of treatment overload and have to wait while he gets his photo for his official “I’m a cancer patient” get out of everything free card. (Still don’t know what that was about- but seriously- they had to take his picture before we could leave.)

My neck and jaw and head felt like molten lead as I plopped into the nearest chair to wait for his glamour shot. I wondered if my brains could leak out through my ear for just a split second. For another second I kind of wished they would… cause the THINKING about cancer is almost as bad as the HAVING of cancer…. (i.e. the stress sucks. I’m not just talking about ME– I’m talking about my husband….we’d both like a lobotomy to help us cope- k? Thnx.)

Which is about when my glassy, overwhelmed eyes landed on this:

Which looks suspiciously like this:

My inked reminder that God is with us….

In pain. In beauty. In Peace. In fear.

Even Here.

And I knew he was.

Dear Lord- thank you for being with us in this cancer- I hate this.. but I love you— amen