In Sickness and In Health

Today as I deplaned from over ten hours of airport travel at my final destination, I saw something so simple, but so beautiful, it almost made me cry.

A man in his fifties, maybe early sixties, bent down and kissed his wife tenderly on the cheek and then began pushing her in an airport issued wheelchair. The kind smile on his face and gentle touch said he was with the love of his life and proud of it. I imagined my sweet hubby and I in that position. He would be the same caring man that would love me no matter what. He is like that and I am so blessed.

I know that because the last couple of years tested us. I am proud to say we stood and are closer than ever. Hubby’s father became sick and was hospitalized for weeks that turned into months and on the eve of his discharge to rehab, he suffered a fall and passed the next morning. His family came and went through our home before, during, after. For weeks, we were the harbor for his entire family during one of their most painful times. We all grieved the loss. My own mother toyed a little closely with that this year as well. Weeks and weeks of uncertainty about the ones we love is heart wrenching at best; emotionally, physically and relationally taxing.

Add to this mix concerns for our own children, two totaled cars after accidents, stress and cuts and change at both of our jobs and the addition of the unknown for my health….it was nearly more than we could take. In many ways, it forced us to refocus on what was important. To simplify our focus was a survival tactic and it was all we could do to cope.

During the time, I was told that I may have MS. A scan of my brain had many white spots that indicate a degenerative disease and I would need to see a specialist. Problem was….it took nearly six months to see him and in the meantime the nagging thought of being a patient for my hubby to care for ate away at me….at him. It was the unspoken conversation in the glances. The fear hanging in the spaces of our conversations. I was scared and tried to be brave. I acted strong and felt as weak as I ever had. Worry ate at my heart. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to hold him back.

When we finally saw the specialist he told us I do have a lot of spots on my brain, many more than normal, but no other symptoms of MS. End of story. I wish I could tell you that I don’t think about it, but I would be lying. What am I supposed to look for? Do I come back? I bravely push those thoughts away and avoid them. Until today…they flooded over me again. But this time, a sweet peace settled just behind those thoughts. IF that ever were the case, my hubby would have leaned in to kiss me and treated me with dignity and kindness like this stranger. I am blessed indeed.

Life, Parenting

Be careful little ears what you hear.

The events of the week have prompted me to revisit a paper and presentation I prepared during my Masters program at Gonzaga.  The topic was “bullying in schools.”  The project, prompted at the time by the horrific burns of a teen boy who was set on fire by others in FL, was a passionate pursuit as a mother, friend, human to answer the question, “How have we gotten here?” I believe the incomprehensible shootings in Tucson, AZ this week have us asking it again.

Safe Schools Coalition reports that students who are subjected to bullying are more likely to carry weapons to school, binge drink, use drugs heavily, take sexual risks and think about or plan suicide (Safe Schools Coalition, 2007). The targeted students suffer physically, emotionally and mentally and are shown to be less likely to finish school or hold jobs later in life (Safe Schools Coalition, 2007).

In order to address this serious issue, we have to honestly take a look at our own lives first…even if we ourselves are indicted in the process.  “What? Me? I’m not a bully.  I think it’s terrible!”  Good, that’s a start, but what have we allowed in our own homes, schools, businesses, churches (gasp! you can’t go there…sorry, especially here), communities?

I do not believe that bullying exists in a vacuum or that it is an isolated attitude or behavior.  Rather, bullying is rooted in prejudice and stereotyping and it begins with labeling. We must take a stand against all forms of bullying in order to stop violence in schools, in our communities. That change needs to start with parents, leaders, faculty, student leaders, our own families if we hope to see a change in this world.

Brenda Allen in her book, Difference Matters, Communicating Social Identity, states that “once a person is labeled (e.g. as ‘gifted and talented’ or as ‘developmentally challenged’), that individual’s identity becomes fixed, and the label can forever have positive or negative impacts” (Allen, 2004, p.27).

Do we really believe we have that much power?  

If we listen to ourselves and how we label things, how we communicate, what words we choose to describe things we don’t like…we just might hear a few things that are alarming!  Better yet, listen to what your little ones are saying and you’ll know exactly how you speak at home.  Nothing like a three-year old to ensure some humility!

Being the mom of teens, one of my least favorite terms that had its day was “retarded.”  That word was used to describe everything from a dance move, shirt food, television show and nearly everything else between. As a former therapist, I quietly breathed a prayer of thanks when that word lost its savor.  Now they are compelled to utter “gay” as the current adjective of choice.  Sigh…it’s a process. We continue to work on the language of all us at home!

But that leads me to my point.  We have to recognize the great power to build or destroy that comes with our communication…and we must commit to use it with care and love!

Be aware of how you speak, label, communicate.  Mind your words and I believe that is the first step to curbing bullying.  Maybe there is something to the golden rule after all.

If you’re still unsure, have a three-year old around for a bit….they’ll teach you everything you need to know about your language!

Parenting, Uncategorized

How did we get here?

This is a repost from my original blog – approximately one year ago.

Looking UP in to the face of my first born, I realize…things will never be the same.  Not that they have been, but in my mind I seek same-ness, I cling to thoughts of when he was little and forget all of the little steps along the way.  How did we get here…talking about his first place, future plans, buying a car, etc.? 

Well, I guess it was the accumulation of those seemingly little things. The things that are easy to forget, but the very things that shaped our relationship.  The first ear infection, the family trips, building sand castles on the beach, scolding you to sit still and quiet through a boring sermon, your first dog, unteaching you to give “head butts” in the face, riding the bike, helping with homework, moving and moving again, teaching you to cook and do laundry, heart to heart talks at bed time and a million other times in between.

Although I swore I would never say this, it seems like you were just a baby.  And yes, there are times when I wish I could do it over again. But when I really stop to think I realize, no, I wouldn’t want to do it over. Sure there have been mistakes, failures and bumps along the way, but I am proud of you son. I’m proud of the person you are. You have a good heart. You’re respectful, playful, gentle yet competitive, smart and a really great person. You care – and that matters a great deal in life.

So I watch as you begin plans to begin on your own and think, I am so lucky.  Lucky to have a nice kid who I enjoy and who will change this world in his own way.  A kid who will be the best friend, the sweetheart to someone, the strength to others. How did we get here?  On a journey of a lot of moments and a lot of love.