Spots of Sunshine

When I was a little girl I knew all the spots in the house that would warm up for periods of time when the sun would stream through the windows. The best spot was in our front room and the bright warm spot would move as the sun changed position throughout the day. My mom liked to move the furniture around often so sometimes the spot landed on a couch or a chair, but my favorite was when it warmed up a piece of the orange and brown variegated shag carpet. I would curl my body up into whatever size and shape the warm spot was and watch the dust particles float around in the sunbeams. I loved to read or daydream or sleep, and I preferred to have it quiet. Being alone was especially appreciated.

During the winter there were more opportunities to lay in the sun, because the shade trees on each side of the house were bare of leaves and they were more accommodating for my need to feel the sunbeams. In the summer you had to be on top of things and know just when to be there for snippets of time that the sun would peak through a gap in the leafy branches. I actually could have used the warm spots more in the hot Southern Utah summer, because our swamp cooler, and later central air-conditioning, worked quiet well in that part of the house. During the winter we always had a blazing fire in our black coal stove that wasn’t too far from the front window so warmth wasn’t as much of an issue. But I wasn’t picky. I would enjoy it any time of year as the light beams looked the same no matter what season it was.

In all the moves I have made in the years since my childhood I still watch for those special spots in each home I live in. In some homes I have found several, but in others it might take weeks or months to discover a new spot.

In the house we are currently in, a former owner must have been very energy efficient as he planned the trees, bushes, and positioning of the windows and eaves so that not as many of those sunbeams would make it into the house to heat it up. We have been in homes where the air conditioning couldn’t keep up well enough to properly cool the house during our extended summers but that has not been a problem where we are now. While the economical side of me appreciates this, the nostalgic side longs for more sunny spots to get my fix.

A few months after we moved here a tree blew down outside a window in what we call “the piano room.” We were very sad that it was gone as it had housed a colony of busy carpenter bees. I would sit at the window with my little boys each evening and watch as they all flew home for the night and disappeared into the holes they had worked so hard to dig. I knew I would miss those twenty minutes of spying into their busy lives each day. But it didn’t take long to see the upside as it has become the one spot in the house that now has a good sun spot to sit in for a portion of the morning. I don’t take advantage of it nearly enough, but even just knowing it is there when I need I need a few quiet meditative minutes to myself is enough.

What spot do you go to relax and find peace?

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Sun peaking through the window of a pioneer home in the ghost town of Grafton, UT

Your Dash

I was sitting with Brett and my son Lincoln at a local small town cafe. We were killing time before we had to be to an awards ceremony at Linc’s school. We had finished eating and were laughing and talking about the quirky distinct personalities of our four other kids. Brett and I had commented on how pretty Lincoln’s sisters were and that his friends were starting to take notice.

“Hi. I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about pretty ladies so I had to come see what was up.”

The three off us jumped at the close proximity of the deep gravelly voice that had clearly crossed the line into our personal space.

We looked up to see an older man whose weathered skin had obviously spent a lot of time in our hot desert sun. His khaki shorts and oversized striped polo shirt were divided by a large and very full fanny pack. His tube socks were pulled high on his shins and his sun hat dipped low on his forehead.

He looked at Brett. “How’s your dash going?”

“Excuse me?” Brett said with a hesitant smile.

He had leaned over so close and so unexpectedly that my body had set off it’s alarms: tingling scalp, accelerated heart rate, moisture disappearing from my mouth, a sensation of numbness. I was glad Lincoln was on the other side of Brett and further away from the stranger.

“What did you think I said,” the man roared.

“Uh. My dash?”

“Yep. Your dash. How’s it going?”

“My dash? Like the dash in my car?” I could see that Brett was thinking this guy was trying to sell something.

“You know. Your dash! Like on a tombstone. There is your birthdate at the start and eventually your death date at the end and the dash is everything in between. You know. Your life! How’s your’s going?”

(Mostly what I heard was “your death date.”)

“Ooohh,” Brett said. “I see what you mean. It is going great.” He smiled. He was more comfortable with the man than I was.

“Do you ever use the Google?” He asked.

“Yes. Yes we do.”

“Well, next time you are on the Google look up the poem ‘The Dash’. It has been a favorite of mine since I read it many years ago.”

Something about him mentioning poetry took away the tingling in my scalp and allowed the moisture to return to my mouth. I could also feel my limbs again.

“I will look it up when we get home,” I told him as I finally joined in on the conversation. “I love a good thought provoking poem.”

He turned to Brett again. “How old do you think I am?”

I was glad it wasn’t me he asked. He was one of those people that could have reasonably fit any number within a range of at least thirty years.

“Uh….59?”

“You think I am that old!” He hollered.

Brett shrugged.

The man leaned even closer into Brett’s personal space and lowered his voice to just over a whisper and said, “I am 82 years old.”

In my head I had guessed 56.

Anna then skipped through the door to meet us and he put her through the same set of questions and she giggled and interacted with him in a much less guarded manner than I had.

A few minutes of small chat later we said goodbye as we gathered up our stuff and headed for the door. As we were walking away he approached the counter and said he wanted to pay for the $35 order that a large family had just made. It was clear he had never met them as he then began the same set of questions on his new audience.

“Do you use the google?” we heard as the door shut.

As we started to pull away I watched through the window as he shuffled over and sat in a booth across from a woman I had not noticed earlier. As they smiled and started talking I imagined she was his wife or a dear lady friend and that this was probably not the first time she had waited while he asked those around him how their “dash” was going. I wished I had asked him how his dash was going, although, I could see that at this point in his life he was clearly enjoying it. I wished I knew his name and where he came from. I wished I hadn’t been suspicious of him in the beginning.

We started to make speculations as we drove away. Maybe he had recently retired to the area and was hoping to make friends. Maybe he was here on vacation visiting family. Maybe they travelled the country in an RV…him making the rounds at each stop as he shared his favorite poem. I decided he had walked over from the Veteran’s home across the street to have a date with his wife.

I hope I run into him again.

The DASH by Linda Ellis

I Think I Love You

It wasn’t any easier to get up this morning than any other morning, but something stopped me from hitting snooze for the second time. It might have been the thought of my freshly turned sixteen year old daughter Luca sitting on her bedroom floor putting her make-up on. I knew she was anticipating her birthday breakfast of puffy pancake drenched in melted butter, powdered sugar, and fresh fruit and it wasn’t going to make itself. Or it might have been the realization that with Brett out of town all the responsibility of getting kids up, bellies fed, lunches made, and bodies delivered to three schools rested on my shoulders. My shoulders are lucky to have the shoulders of a work at home husband that typically carry much more of the morning responsibilities.

Twenty minutes later, I sit at the kitchen table and just observe for the next few minutes. Usually in the mornings my mind is foggy, my body feels weak, and my mood is salty, as my kids like to say. This morning I feel more alert, despite only four restless hours of sleep, and I feel more present and aware than I typically do at this hour.

Luca walks in first and starts her careful preparation of her lunch. Heated quinoa wild rice topped with diced chicken and black beans, which she then wraps in two layers of tinfoil to preserve some heat. She then cuts up strawberries and washes blueberries and layers it in a container that she will later pour over her honey flavored Noosa yogurt. When she realizes we are out of granola she quickly calls her best friend and asks her to take some to school for her. Everything about her process was smooth, calm, purposeful, and left plenty of time to spare for any surprise road blocks to her routine.

If I didn’t know fourteen year old Lincoln so well, I would have been worried that he had slept through his alarm, but, he never does that. I just realize that my boy is quietly going about his own morning routine of getting ready. He eventually walks into the kitchen and starts to load up his lunch box with the items I have laid out for him. He isn’t smiling, or scowling, or complaining or demanding. He is just calm and that calm slowly sweeps across the room and seeps into me, as he is always so generous in sharing his calm.

Four year old Taran stumbles into the dining room with an iPad dangling precariously under one arm and his tired eyes half closed. He shuffles to the dining room table and climbs into a chair and lays his head down on the table. He and I had a long restless night as we typically don’t share a bed, but with dad gone, he insisted on sleeping by me. His legs and arms tossed and turned and sought me out until 3am when I finally picked him up to carry him to his own bed. His eyes popped open as soon as I stood and when I explained to him the issues he promised to lay down and be still and sleep. He kept his promise and didn’t move from his spot for the next four and a half hours until he found his new resting spot at the kitchen table.

“ARGH!!! I hate my freaking life!!!” a voice growls as a groggy and wrinkled version of twelve year old Anna lumbers into the kitchen. She had been at a dress rehearsal for a school play until nearly 9pm the night before and the excitement of it all kept her spinning and singing and cracking jokes until nearly midnight. She was tired. She grabbed her backpack and started pulling out dirty clothes, yesterday’s lunch, and containers of dried out slime in search of something she never found.

I glance into the dark corner of the dining room and notice Taran has found some purpose and is dancing and quietly singing, “whip, whip, watch me nae nae.” His eyes are still half closed and full of sleepiness.

I turn and see Anna’s face light up with a grin as she joins Taran with a much more animated version of the dance. In a matter of two minutes she has gone from freaking hating her life to freaking loving it.

The puffy pancake finishes with only minutes to spare before the bus driver (me) pulls away in the school bus (mini van) so I leave them to dish up while I holler down the stairs to see if nine year old Kai is awake. He is the only elementary school kid in the house right now so he soaks up his extra 30 minutes of sleep each morning.

“Kai!” I yell down into the dark basement. “Do you want some puffy pancake?”

I forgot he slept on the blow up bed in the family room so his tired voice answers from closer than I expected.

“No, I’m good. I am just going to sleep until my alarm goes off in two minutes.”

Okay then.

I grab my keys and herd the older kids and Taran to the car, knowing full well that Kai will get up the second his alarm goes off and be showered, fed, have his lunch packed, and be waiting impatiently for me to comb his hair in twenty minutes when I return. School starts at 9 and it takes him no more than three minutes to ride his scooter there, but he feels late if he isn’t out the door at 8:30. Those who know me well question that he is really mine.

The drive to school with the kids is pleasant. They are silly and upbeat and make me laugh. Yesterday’s morning drop off involved sarcasm and arguing from them and scolding from me, but today was a big scoop of agreeable.

I drive home with the warm sun shining through my window and the beautiful backdrop of the red mountains and beyond that the distant blue mountains still topped with snow. I flip on Taran’s playlist and it goes straight to his new favorite (as of last night when he first heard it), “I Think I Love You” by David Cassidy. I sing along and he attempts to sing along (new song) and dances as well as he can in the confines of his five point harness on his carseat.

“I think I love you isn’t that what life is made of

Though it worries me to say I never felt this way

Believe me you really don’t have to worry

I only wanna make you happy and if you say “hey go away” I will

But I think better still I’d better stay around and love you

Do you think I have a case let me ask you to your face

Do you think you love me?

I think I love you

I think I love you

I think I love you

I think I love you

I think I love you

I think I love you

I think I love you

I think I love you”

As You Are

Brett and I drove to Las Vegas a few weeks ago to meet up with some dear friends and former backyard neighbors from Auburn, Washington, who were in town for a volleyball competition with the team he coaches. We moved away almost two years ago after living back to back for eight years. We shared meals, kids, games, clothes, friends, laughter, tears, and religious beliefs.

I felt excitement as we made the two hour drive to see them, but there was also anxiety. Things had changed. We had changed. Since our previous visit exactly a year ago, Brett had come to the decision that the religious views that we had both grown up with did not resonate with him any longer. He had stepped away from our church. The church attendance of a couple of my kids had stopped almost completely and the others had become part-timers like me. My own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs had been swirling and battling in my head for the past few months and there were potential questions I didn’t know how to answer.

Our early dinner reservations made for a very private and intimate dinner, as most tourists like to go out when the sun has gone down and the lights of Vegas are blaring and flashing. The high backed round leather seat in our booth blocked most of the few other patrons anyways and the dim light, the brown, gold, and black decor, and the mirrored walls instantly made me think of my favorite Broadway show, “Chicago”, and of scenes from “The Sopranos”. When Brett ordered a beer my heart sped up and I held my breath a little as I watched our friends out of the corner of my eye for a reaction that never came.

I don’t remember our dinner conversation turning to religion or beliefs. It takes awhile to catch up on the lives of the eight kids we have between us and the many friends we have shared over the years. I was immediately cognizant of the familiar comfort level that we have shared with them since we first met. The laughter was just as rampant as it has always been, as the men share a similar ridiculous sense of humor and us girls share jokes of a much more dignified and classy nature. (eh hem.)

Later that night my friend and I found a couple of hours to ourselves to chat on a deeper level. It takes time to warm up to some topics and we found our groove as we sat in front of the Monte Carlo at 11pm, eating gelato. We watched couples and groups of friends, more attuned to the night life, make their way into the bustling web of sidewalks and overpasses leading to the hundreds of crowded clubs and bars on the Las Vegas strip. We still loved to people watch. We had moments of tears, laughter, and sappy looks that said, “I get it”, as we talked about some of our struggles over the past year. I found myself sharing thoughts I hadn’t been able to put into words yet, knowing that it might surprise and concern her, but feeling safe in that moment to try to sort through them out loud.

When her husband showed up to take her back to their hotel, I walked up to my room, not feeling like I had let her down with my questions and thoughts, but feeling warm and filled to the brim with acceptance and love.

The four of us met again to have lunch the next day before heading back home. The meal was light hearted and fun and instead of being full of family updates and travel logs, was dripping with dry humor and inside jokes.

He had a volleyball team to get back to and we had kids anxiously waiting at home, but as we walked to our cars the conversation took a sudden and unexpected turn to the sadness and hurt we have felt at times by comments and innuendos made by friends or family about our situation, or our character and values. Some made innocently and some not. I found myself trying to keep the tears back as I explained how it feels to hear people say, or to hear of people say, that they are worried about our kids or that they hurt for our kids. Or that they are worried about our marriage. Or to suggest that Brett must not be living his life the way he should or he would still share their faith. Or to ask questions about where things went wrong….as if things ARE wrong. I felt the anger and hurt I have tried to ignore come back to the surface as we shared some of our experiences, anger, and pain. I could feel my cheeks grow hot and my head start to pound as I relived watching our kids experience hurt, confusion, and exclusion because others weren’t happy with their dad…and possibly me.

They slowed down and then stopped and heard us out, despite being late for a team meeting. They gave us hugs and comfort and left Brett with the words, “We love you because you are you, not because of what you believe.” I saw Brett tear up as we walked away, and again later as he told me how much that meant to him.

It has been two weeks and that phrase has played over and over in my mind. “We love you because you are you, not because of what you believe.” They are not the only ones that have made us feel loved and accepted, we are fortunate to have many good people in our lives. But their words were especially right in that moment.

If this last year has taught me anything, it is that I want to be the person to say words such as those that will make someone feel that they are enough for being just who they are.

Picking Pansies

As a young girl I often preferred to play alone. I had no problem going for long slow walks by myself as I filled my head with outrageous ideas and stories that I concocted as I observed the people and surroundings in my small town neighborhood. I could often bring myself to tears as I imagined witnessing a terrible car accident and singlehandedly dragging the small unconscious child from the backseat of the burning car as his poor mother went up in flames with the green paneled station wagon. Or, the common daydream I had, of being snatched away by a “stranger” and shoved into the back of a seatless van with small drapes covering the tinted windows. I could walk and think for hours about how I would make my daring escape and find my way back to my devastated family. I loved to imagine their joy and the tears they would shed when I limped back through the front door, dirty and bruised and exhausted.

I remember one such walk when I found myself in the backyard of an elderly man and woman in the culdesac across from my house. WelI…I was physically in their backyard…but in my mind I was wandering what I imagined to be a deserted island. I was excited as I unexpectedly came upon an abandoned cottage which was surrounded by beautiful wild flowers. I immediately saw all the possibilities I could create with all these flowers so I started picking and gathering them up in my arms without a second thought.

I was startled when a loud gruff voice with a English accent called out, “Who is out there picking my pansies?”

I looked around, but didn’t see anyone. I slumped a bit in an attempt to hide myself and began creeping around the side of the house to make an escape.

“Why are you picking my pansies?” the voice called out again.

I peeked up over the planter box into the covered carport-turned patio- and saw my neighbor, who was only the topic of childhood gossip to me, sitting in a vinyl lounge chair surrounded by a halo of cigarette smoke. I squirmed under his gaze as he squinted at me and waited for me to respond.

“Um. I’m sorry. I didn’t know they were your flowers.”

“Well who else would they belong to?” he demanded. “They are in my yard!”

“I didn’t know I was in your yard,” I said, as I started to drop them back into the planter box.

“Well, you might as well take them home to your mother now. I sure can’t do anything with them like that.”

I mumbled a quick thank you and scrambled away back to the safety of my house.

I took my walks in different directions for awhile, but something pulled me back in that direction after a few weeks.

“Hey! Aren’t you the little girl that was picking my pansies?” He called out one day when I walked by his house.

I hesitantly walked up his drive way and noticed that his wife, or so I thought, was sitting next to him.

I slid into one of the lawn chairs that was set out and for the next few minutes answered questions such as, “What is your name? Are you Lewey and Dorothy’s granddaughter? Why were you picking my pansies?”

The thought crossed my mind as I sat there getting to know this couple, that my mom and dad might not be happy if I went home smelling of cigarette smoke. Also…. that I was spending time with a couple that, as I found out in our chat, were not married, but lived together in the same house! That was sure to be a problem with my parents.

Well, those thoughts weren’t given time to reside long in my head as I learned from Bob and Jeanette that they knew my parents and grandparents quite well and thought fondly of them. My grandmother had been visiting Jeanette regularly for years and my mom had taken meals in to them on many occasions, so they must not be all bad. My mom later confirmed that she would be happy for me to get to know them better.

My walks took me more frequently in their direction and I enjoyed my short visits, even though I was still quite intimidated and a little scared of Bob.

I quickly learned that Jeanette was an artist. She had paintings all over her home that she had painted. I also had an interest in art and she loved to show me her work and tell me about why and how she painted each piece. I remember her being particularly fond of painting flowers.

A few years later when I was in my young teens with my time much more dictated by friends, boys, homework, and MTV, and my visits had become very infrequent, even many months apart, my mother informed me that Jeanette had become sick with cancer and was bedridden and needed people to sit with her often to help keep her spirits up. It was decided that I would take art lessons from her. I would pack up my paper, pencils, and water colors, and I would walk down to her house, and sit next to her for an hour each week while she gave me direction and advice on whatever I was working on. Bob would answer the door, and after all those years he would still greet me with, “Oh look! It is the little girl that picked my pansies!” But the tone of his voice was very different than it had been when I was seven years old. Even though he still did not remember my name, I could tell he had grown some sort of affection for the little pest down the road. Looking back I understand how he must have appreciated the break in the monotony of his day as he took care of his dear Jeanette, whose body was slowly deteriorating. My mom’s brilliant plan had given both Jeanette and I the idea that I was there primarily for art lessons. She did not feel like a burden for needing someone to sit with her and I didn’t go to my lessons out of pity, but instead, excitement to learn from an artist that I admired.

I don’t remember how long the lessons lasted. Not long. Maybe four months. I also don’t remember any details of the stories she told me as I sat and attempted to create a picture worthy of her praise. But I do remember as we talked the picture in my mind of Jeanette developed from an elderly shut in down the road to a fascinating woman who was highly educated, had extensively travelled the world in her youth, and had been a successful business woman in her prime. I remember the feeling of contentment and warmth and love for this woman, and even her gruff intimidating partner, as they welcomed me into their home and allowed me to be a part of a difficult and emotional time in their lives. What I didn’t realize at the time was that they were the ones helping me through a trying and emotional time in my life, as I dealt with the hardships of a changing body and hormones, difficulties from peer pressure and trying to find who I was, and an ongoing struggle with fatigue and school attendance. My hour a week with Jeanette was my sanctuary from the drama of my adolescent life.

Jeanette’s illness came to a point that she was no longer able to give me art lessons, and I was not able to stay longer than just a few minutes to hold her hand and tell her I loved her, before I had to slip out to let her rest. And then she was gone.

I still visited Bob off and on throughout the next few years as I accompanied my grandparents or parents on their regular visits. Even into my later teens I was still “the girl who picked his pansies”, but it had become an endearing name to me and I didn’t mind.

Then he was was gone.

Reaching Out

When I was eight years old I had my tonsils out. I remember not feeling very bad the first day I got home, but by day two I was miserable.

My parents had pulled out the hide-a-bed in the t.v. room so I could watch movies and so they would be closer to me while I recuperated. My mom spent the first two or three nights sleeping on the pull out bed with me so she would be close if I woke up and needed her.

The second night I did wake up in the middle of the night in a lot of pain. I still remember lying silently in the dark as tears streamed down my face and into my ears and I felt like I had a pile of broken glass in my throat. It was more pain than I had ever been in up until that point and I felt helpless.

I could feel the warmth coming from my mom who was asleep right next to me. I knew I could just reach out and tap her on the shoulder and she would happily get up to get me medicine, a popsicle, or just hold me as I cried, but for some reason I didn’t. I didn’t want to wake her. I felt like I had to endure the pain on my own. I laid there crying for what seemed like hours until I finally drifted back to sleep.

I thought about that time yesterday as I sat in a Women’s Conference yesterday and the speaker talked about his mother being there for him during a time he most needed it. My mother had also done all she could to be available to me when I needed her, but I had not done my part to let her know when that time had come and we both missed out.

It made me think about how many times in my life I had missed out on other’s willingness to help when I needed it. I could certainly think of times when I had made offers of help to friends, but because I didn’t know exactly how to help and they didn’t tell me, nothing came of it.

I am sure I will still be on both sides of this scenario many times in my life, but I am hoping that by being aware of it my heart will soften and I will humble myself and ask for help when it is offered and that I will be more in tune to the needs of those around me.

In Seven Years

Seven years ago today this little girl taught me that my capacity for physical pain was far greater than I ever thought when she raced into this world with no regard to my hollering, “Epidural!”

She showed me that she has things to do and places to go. Right now. She was born half an hour after I slipped on my hospital gown.

In the following weeks she taught me endurance, determination, and faith as we put our house up for sale, suffered through mastitis (yes, we ALL suffered through that), colic, ear infections, and the flu, packed up our three bedroom home, said goodbye to dear friends, and moved three states away all by the time she was six and a half weeks old.

If I thought I was a pro with the first two kids I was wrong. In this child’s first month of life I found myself simultaneously making my one and three year old lunch, talking the phone, and loading the dishwasher. While nursing.

I gained a new level of strength as I carried her in her car seat on one arm, carried my not yet walking one year old on my opposite hip, and dragged my three year as she clung to my belt loops. I was convinced I could handle Target without help and I did.

She showed me that it is okay for a baby to prefer grandma over mom. It makes grandma feel really good and at the end of the day it is mom that gets the final smile as she drifts off to sleep.

In the seven years since since she raced into this world-into the hands of the astonished on-call doctor-she has lifted my spirits when nothing else could, shown me a compassion I didn’t know young children could possess, softened my heart when it wanted to be cold, shared the wisdom of her fresh from God eternal spirit, and raised my joy beyond my greatest expectations.

I hope you will still be dancing on the beach when you are my age.

I love you forever A. Lynn.

Feeling Safe

I was lying on the couch tonight watching Home Alone with the kids. Kai was rolling around on the floor, unable to hold still. He was antsy. It was just after 6pm and he had not had a nap. It is hard to squeeze one in with our church schedule so I was trying to keep him awake long enough that I could just put him down early for the night.

I started to doze off when something slammed into my head, knocking my glasses askew. I braced myself before I fell off the couch and then I was slammed again.

Kai was running at me from the other side of the room and grabbing my head and then backing up and doing it again. He was making a frustrated sound and I could see that he (nor I) was going to be able to finish the movie.

I carried him upstairs and laid him in his bed, even though I knew it would mean he would be up late tonight.

“Lay by me mom,” he said, in the way that only I understand.

I laid down by him in his bed and he grabbed my neck and squeezed it tight. He was asleep in less than one minute.

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As I held my warm, sleeping, freshly-turned three year old, I thought of a meeting Brett and I attended recently to learn about some assessments that had been done on Kai to see if he qualified for a preschool and speech therapy program.

When he was being tested he completely lost it. Completely. I was across the room talking to the psychologist. The speech therapist and preschool teacher were with Kai in a corner of the room asking him to count some beads. I could hear in his voice, behind me, that his frustration level was building, but I didn’t want to interfere.

The protests escalated to crying and exclamations of defiance. It was nothing I hadn’t heard on a daily basis, but it was unsettling to hear it in that setting.

Soon Kai came running across the room and jumped on my lap and squeezed me while hiding his head against my shoulder. I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted them to be able to finish their assessment and I didn’t want to interfere, but he was very agitated.

I stood up and took his hand and walked him back to the table he had been sitting at. I sat him down and talked gently to him to calm him down. Nothing helped. He did not want to count beads and he was not going to do it. Each time I tried to sit him down on the chair or redirect him for the camera he was trying to grab, he lashed out at me with his little fists. One time he lunged at me like he was going to bite me, but the teacher caught him and he missed his mark.

His eyes were red and tears streaked down his face and I couldn’t catch his eye or connect with him. I was near tears myself, but was trying desperately to keep control while surrounded by therapists, teachers, and the psychologist.

We finally were able to redirected him to an art easel and we quickly finished our meeting.

Two weeks later, as I sat across from the same group of women that had witnessed Kai’s breakdown, we were told he had made it into the program. As we talked I asked them about why he lashes out at me as he had at the previous meeting. I felt hurt that he always chose to hurt ME when he was frustrated or upset and I wanted to know what I was doing wrong.

One of the therapists paused and then looked at me and said, “He feels safe with you. He knows that no matter what he does to you, you will still love him and protect him and care for him. He needs to get it out, so he turns to the person he most trusts. You are his safe place to fall.”

Duh. (sniff)

As I lay in bed with him tonight I thought about that again, as I have many times since then. It hasn’t stopped me from getting angry when I get smacked in the head. It hasn’t kept me from raising my voice or sending him to him room when I just can’t take it anymore. (Although, it has stretched my limits a smidgeon.)

But it has made me view it in a new perspective. A much better and a much broader perspective. I am grateful to be the one that he trusts enough to know that I will show him love and forgiveness when he needs it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I sat in church today listening to a lesson on trusting in the Lord (and others) it made me think about how this same concept applies to all the members of my family.

I cringe at times at the things I hear my children say to each other in a moment of anger. I cringe at times at what I hear MYSELF say at times when I am angry, whether to my kids or my husband. Sometimes we use a tone with each other that we would never use to our friends, coworkers, neighbors or even a stranger. When I see my daughter grab her brother in frustration and pinch him I find myself repeating, “You would never do that to your friends!”

Well, of course she wouldn’t. She knows her brother is going to walk away and come back fifteen minutes later excited to share a new plan to rule the world (or the house). He will forgive her and look at her with adoration again long before the fingernail marks have disappeared from his arm.

This doesn’t mean that I think treating each other poorly is okay. I don’t. I would love for unkind words to never be spoken again in our family. We do show each other love much more frequently than not, but there are those times we are weak and we regret the things we say.

As my family learns to curb our tongues and watch our tones we also learn about love and forgiveness. We learn to say “I’m sorry” and we learn to say “It is okay, I still love you.”

I have watched so many of my Facebook and blogging friends write about what they are thankful for this month and I have not chimed in.

This month, I am grateful for my family and for feeling “safe”.

Love Is A Beautiful Thing

I was sixteen years old and spending the afternoon at the mall with my parents and grandparents. I wasn’t one of those kids that was embarrassed to be the youngest in the group. (By thirty years!)

We window shopped, chatted, and I probably held hands at some point with each of my grandparents.

We ate lunch at my grandma and grandpa’s favorite place, Taco Time. We were relaxing on the benches next to the food court when my grandma decided to walk over to the bakery across the wide hall and get some cinnamon rolls.

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She would have been in her late 70’s. I am sure she had on solid colored pleated polyester pants in a pretty pastel with a coordinating button up top with a catchy pattern, topped with a cardigan. I don’t remember every detail, but I know she had on a long necklace, probably beaded, and matching clip-on earrings, because she always did. Her hair and makeup would have looked perfect. She would have had on comfortable, if not bulky, walking shoes with crisp white anklet socks and a medium sized purse with short straps slung over one arm.

Grandpa put his arm around me and gazed ardently at grandma as she walked across the hall and stood in line.

“Isn’t she beautiful,” he whispered.

I don’t think he saw the pastel, the L’Oreal, or the Aqua Net covered curls. He didn’t notice if the purse was alligator skin or vinyl. The necklace was just one of many he had given her.

She turned to wave and gave us one of her magnetic smiles.

Yes. Yes. She was beautiful.

A Hard (and Painful!) Lesson Learned

The kids got new rollerblades last weekend. They have been saving their money and talking about it for weeks. Brett and I decided to kick in the remainder of cash they needed to ease the disappointment of a cancelled trip to Utah.

We laid out the rollerblades and padding and explained each piece of equipment. We showed them how to put everything on and make sure it was secure. I drilled it into their fragile little heads how much trouble they would be in if I caught them skating without their pads, and most importantly, their helmets. I told them all the ways they could get hurt if they forgot to take the safety measures that they were being taught.

Then we took off. I had a blast skating with them even though I hadn’t worn my rollerblades in years.

We skated each of the next few days and I was feeling good about my balance and proud that I hadn’t fallen once despite being out of practice.

When Kai slammed into me from behind with his bike causing me to flip up and back onto the pavement, landing on the back of my head, I thought, “You idiot.”

After all my nagging to the kids about pads and helmets I thought I was okay with just my wrist guards and knee pads because I “knew how to fall”.

After laying stunned in the road for a couple of minutes and thinking, “What have I done?” I shakily got up and took Kai in the house.

The kids hadn’t been skating long and they were doing so well and I knew they would be disappointed if we stopped so I put my helmet on and went back out. My head was still numb and I skated slowly around with them for a few minutes until I realized I felt like I needed to throw up. I didn’t, but it made me realize it was time to go lay down.

I spent the next 21 of 24 hours in bed with a horrendous headache and feeling exhausted and thinking how lucky I was that it wasn’t worse.

As a mom of four I should have realized sooner that it was just as important for me to protect myself (their mother) as it was for me to make sure they were protected. I have a responsibility to them to keep myself as safe and healthy as I am trying to keep them.

I am sure as the headache and nausea fade over the next few days it will give me ample time for me to think about how hypocritical my actions were to my kids.

Lesson learned!