Stress fracture = boot = big adjustment

A local community advocate that I know from running the non-profit circles suggested that I embellish my story a bit rather than my version – “I was wrestling around with Super Tall Guy trying a little stuffed-animal soccer when my foot hit the bed frame.” It seemed mild enough. In fact, I was shocked to find a little bruise in the morning and it took a minute to figure out why it was there. But when the foot was still hurting 2 weeks later, I visited a very friendly sports medicine doc (and might have talked her into becoming a foster parent! I mean, why not? I’m always encouraging!).

She looked at the x-ray. She looked at my foot. She pushed on the bones – “does this hurt?” – “well, yes!” She looked at me. “Uh, what were you planning to be doing for the next few weeks?” Well….I was planning to run the JP5K for the crisis nursery we just opened up (and I wrote a little piece for)! Ahhh!the boot

Instead, I now hear:

“Mommy, you got a boot?”

“Mommy, why you got a boot?”

“Mommy, why you not carrying me down the steps?”

“Mommy, where’s my boot?”

“Mommy, you got a boot?”

“Mommy, CARRY ME DOWN THE STEPS!!!!”

Pain-free, functional use of both my feet is certainly something I’ve taken for granted for, well, my whole life. And the ability to run after my boys is something that I’ve just assumed for the past almost 8 years….which means I’ve had to learn a few lessons this week.

1. Slow down – actually, it’s okay to sit on the couch a moment longer and put your foot up.

2. Do not kick immobile large metal objects.

3. Be patient – and try to answer the 2-year-old’s same questions over and over.

4. Take care of yourself – such an age-old mothering challenge and a huge struggle for me, despite how often I’ve heard the advice given. By day 4 of the boot, I was ready to kick it off and move on. Then I reminded myself how important it is to make sure that I heal as much as possible so that I would be healthy again for my boys.

Even if the 5-year-old does want to win against Mommy....might still not be the best idea!

Even if the 5-year-old does want to win against Mommy….might still not be the best idea!

So, how to “Take care of yourself”….

1. Exercise – keep the body healthy and limber and strong and has excellent benefits for mental health as well (but running to the point of stress fracture is not necessary).

2. Eat a varied and balanced diet – food intake affects more than weight, it affects mood and health.

3. Sleep – it’s okay to nap and get to bed shortly after the kids do (rather than stay up into the wee hours blogging …).

4. Schedule and go to appointments for your own health – not just those of the kids.

5. Let people help you, especially if they offer….and use the kids if no one has (“hey, Mr. Ornery, can you please run upstairs and get…”).

6. Keep up with a hobby or something you enjoy.

7. Smile often, laugh more.

8. Be present in as many moments as you can and enjoy them.

9. Love matters – so don’t just give it, receive it as well.

10. And before you fall asleep each night, tell yourself “You did good!” (and if necessary, stop worrying….. for tomorrow is another day).

 

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The Opening of a Crisis Nursery

The week has been just a whirlwind and even though everyone’s been saying, “Wow, Easter is so late this year,” I still feel like it snuck up on me. I don’t think I slept much at all last week. There was always something to be working on in the evening. Mostly it was for Jeremiah’s Place, the crisis nursery I’ve been working to bring to Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday, we had a “ribbon-cutting” ceremony and press conference. We did not have the Ribbon-Cutting portion well-planned out…as we were upstaged by a visit in town by the President and Vice-President of the US (the nerve!) so our senator on the board couldn’t be with us. We had a great time, nonetheless.ribbon cutting

It hit me a couple days prior to the event that I really would like my boys to be there. We had decided that we’d have kids cut the ribbon, but I hadn’t done much to get organized. I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate my mom – whom I can say the day before, “So….if I trade you cars, can you pick up my younger two from daycare since you have the older two boys home for Spring Break….and bring them all to Jeremiah’s Place….and pretty much watch them while we’re there as I’ll be distracted by the media contingent….oh and try to have them wear something relatively nice!” She’s a saint…for that’s exactly what she did.

It was so meaningful to have them there with me. I know that at their ages, they were definitely more concerned with the toys they could play with and how many brownies they were allowed to have. For me, it was wonderful to share my dream and what I’ve been working on for so long. Why I stay up on my computer for 3-4 hours after they go to bed. Why I am often off to meetings in the evenings. Why I am sometimes more grumpy with them when I am stressed by the project.

Super Tall Guy was just 3 when I started working on this project. The Little Guy arrived right before my time dedicated to it really exploded. Sometimes I’ve wondered how much of their early childhood I’ve kind of missed out on because of my “volunteer work” in addition to my pay-the-bills work. I know that I’ve been physically gone more than I would like and often mentally and emotionally gone more than I would wish. This is the part where “Mommy guilt” weighs down, the part where it lets you know that no matter what you’re doing, you’ll feel guilty.

And yet, I also try to tell myself that I’m hoping the boys will one day see that putting together a huge project like this can be done if you remain persistent and committed to your dreams. That it’s possible to work together with a team of passionate people and bring a new service to life in a world that needs Hope and needs help in moments of crisis. That they will understand that it requires a lot of work to accomplish your goals. I’m imagining they might be able to look back on this when they’re 20 or 30….but for now, it’s too much about “them” and about “why aren’t you in bed yet so I can snuggle in?” …. “why are you going out again?”….. “why are you on the phone again?”

And really, my passion for this mission stems from being a foster parent. From the moment I heard the definition of a crisis nursery (4 years ago this week) as a “24/7 safe place for kids under the age of 6 when their families are in crisis,” I knew this was the work for me. For in my mind, an image of The First foster kid came to me and his mother who just needed a little support and probably a lot of sleep! And she loved her son, but every time she got stressed out as a parent she turned to drugs and then lost her kids and would work to reunite. I know that what she wanted most was just a break from the all-timing-consuming nature of parenting and a service such as Jeremiah’s Place could have given her that, as well as connections to other resources. Maybe, just maybe with all that support, The First Guy might still be living with his mother.

So, I thought – maybe if my boys see the place, they will understand just a tad more why this mission has consumed me. Maybe if they feel the excitement. Maybe if they cut the ribbon (with kid safety scissors). Maybe, just maybe, they’ll say – hey, mom did something really cool here. But really, what they said was, “Can I have another brownie?”

So I sit here on Easter Sunday, slightly regretting the fact that in my whirlwind of a week I never thought to get the boys matching Easter shirts (for the first year) and thankful that I did buy Easter basket innards much earlier as I was too exhausted last night to do much other than dump things into a basket and wonder where to hide them. But mostly I sit here eager for our first day tomorrow at Jeremiah’s Place. I am hopeful that it will be able to make a real difference in the lives of mothers, who like me, just need a little support and who definitely need a mother like mine who blessed me with a nap today in the warmth of Easter Sunday. Thank you, Mom. And thank you to everyone who has helped work on this dream. And a huge thank you to Super Tall Guy, Mr. Ornery and The Little Guy — you guys inspire me daily and exhaust me continuously. Keep it up! For I love you.

 

 

Losing the Art of Interpersonal Connection

I read a wonderfully written commentary the other night about violence and mental health and anger. I agreed with Laura Hayes – violence is not a product of a mental illness, violence is a product of anger and the inability to control one’s anger. She asserts that the US is “a culture awash in anger”….and I wondered “how did we get here? When did we lose our ability to handle anger? When did we lose our ability to communicate?”

We stand in line at Starbucks and can barely tear ourselves away from the phone to give a drink order before rapidly returning to the distraction. Head down we wait, sometimes unaware that we’ve stopped right in the middle of the aisle blocking others. We are not “available” for a smile or a comment about the weather or the hometown team. We are “busy.”

We walk down the street weaving through streams of silent stares and budded ears. They are within their own cocoon. We are within ours. We are not “available” and we bump and jostle along the way.

We stare blankly on the public transit, the music in our ears filling our minds. We do not need conversation. We do not need the “other” over there. They clearly don’t need us.

We send text messages that communicate some of our deepest feelings….words punctuated by an emoticon. Yet, the “feeling” is subject to a variety of interpretations depending on the “receiver’s” state of mind, level of attentiveness, time at which they finally saw the text. We hit “send” in the attempt to connect, but have no control over whether we did at that moment or whether we even “connected” at all.

Even more than this vague attempt at connecting for ourselves, we are often unaware of the response of the person reading the text. We are not aware that we might have interrupted a very personal or intimate moment the person was having….now lost forever because of a beep. We do not know that they might have turned away from the windshield to look at the phone and swung the car into a pole. We do not know that they might have looked down from their toddler and missed the catch as the body dropped from the high bar. We cannot begin to fathom the effect of our “message” on its receiver…..because we are not actually connected.

We laugh at the “auto-corrects” and how information became twisted, but we forget the fact that someone’s stomach twisted, someone’s heart dropped, someone’s breath got caught in their throat when they read the text….until the correction came through and they sighed.

We sit across the table from each other in a restaurant, lost in the virtual world of a flat screen, neglecting the three-dimensional breathing, speaking, vivid person in front of our own eyes. We interrupt our conversations with a “let me check this” or “oh, it could be…” – as if the information coming in was more important than the person we chose to be with at the time.

We are isolating ourselves and isolating each other all in the name of being “connected” by our technology.

More importantly we are isolating our external communication from our own inner emotion. We are becoming more and more distant from our feelings and from understanding the feelings of others.

When we feel happy, we try to text our joy….or “Facebook” our excitement….but the response can never match our euphoria. We want someone to hug us in excitement. We want someone to jump up and down and do the happy dance with us. We want someone to feel the excitement and increase it by their shared joy. The text goes off into space….. “yay” is the empty reply…. We are deflated.

When we feel hurt, we spew out angry words into space….We want someone to acknowledge us, to validate us. We want someone to say, “I know. It stinks.” We need reassurance that our emotion is “correct” and “normal” and will pass. But we cannot find that in the two-dimensional space….the silence that follows the “whoosh” of the sent.

When we lose touch with our emotions…. when we lose the ability to share those emotions with others….we lose the nature of our own personhood and we lose others. Then we have no qualms about walking through a high school hallway wielding deadly knives. Then we hurt someone who “bothered” us that moment. Then we engage in violence because that “someone” is just a faceless, empty digital someone. We have lost our connection.

  • Today…. we need to connect.
  • Today we need to feel.
  • Today we need to label our emotions and share them deeply and meaningfully with someone else.
  • Today we need to be able to cry with someone.
  • Today we need to hold someone.
  • Today we need to help our children sit in the moment of their emotions and name them and feel them and know that it is real.
  • Today we need to visit someone or call them and hear their voice.
  • Today we need to put the phone in our pocket and read a book or giggle at the splasher in the bathtub.
  • Today we need to remember that we are a human, created to be in relationship with other humans.
  • Today we need to and can change.

Today we must.

 

Finally writing Part 2: The Arrival of Mr. Ornery

There are three things that I remember about the arrival of Mr. Ornery (well, four if you include the fact that he wasn’t “ornery” from the beginning….it’s just that he’s earned the name from learning over time that he’s so stinkin’ cute that he tries to get away with things!).

1. You should never ask someone, “Are you sitting down?” unless you’re a bus driver about to take off and you genuinely want to make sure your passengers are safe. But if you’re my nate newsister and you’re calling my cell phone fifteen minutes before the start of my second-ever board meeting at my new job, I start panicking that something has happened to one of the two-year-olds at daycare! (At least our day care center has the courtesy to call and say, “Hi, this is KinderCare and the boys are fine. Now, could you please turn in that health physical form before our inspection next week!!)

My sister, however, asks, “Are you sitting down?” “Um, should I?” “Well, Super Tall Guy has a brother.” Then she paused. And it took a while….but then I got it! Oh, my goodness, a new baby was coming into the house!

2. Which leads me to “thing” number two about his arrival – I was about to go in to a 4-hour-long board meeting (oh, I’m sorry, a “strategic planning session”), and, I was just four months into the job and really worried about my role and what I was supposed to be doing. So when my sister said that they wanted us to pick up the baby in 15 minutes, I said that she should go (she was working from home at the time) and I’d get home as soon as I could. I have regretted that decision for 5 years now. I’m not entirely sure why….but it sort of feels like I missed his “birth.” I know that’s not the case, but I missed being “there” the very moment he joined our family and I mourn that in a way. And particularly because I have since figured out that my boss would have been fine with me taking off to go pick up my newest son….had we known all this looking back. I know it’s not that big of a deal in the scheme of things, but isn’t it funny what events really stand out to each of us in terms of wishing we had been present at that moment.

2.5 (I have trouble counting, so I like to sneak in numbers in my listings). Let me go back to that, “when do they want us to pick him up?” “In fifteen minutes, but I asked for an additional fifteen minutes to find the infant car seat.” Let’s think about this. The baby has been in the hospital for 2 full days. The mother is in the county jail (where children do NOT go), so we all know that the baby is not going home with her. And we know that the baby is going to foster care. And we know that the CYF agency is going to call the foster parents who have the sibling first in an attempt to keep siblings together. So, knowing all these facts….they still want to call FIFTEEN minutes before they would like this little tiny baby out of the hospital!?!? This is why I sometimes say that most people have around eight months to think about the fact that their family is about to expand….we have fifteen minutes!

3. The third thing that I remember about Mr. Ornery is walking into the house later that Friday afternoon and seeing Kathy holding him while sitting on the couch. I sat down beside her and she handed him over – my second son. A beautiful tiny little bundle with soft fine hair and a sweet sweet smell, and do you know the first thing I said to Kathy? “You put THAT outfit on him to bring him home??!?” Isn’t it funny – 5 years later, you could put all our newborn baby clothes of five boys in a pile and I could pick out that outfit. I see it in my mind still. Guess I didn’t like it much!.

Okay, one more thing that I remember about Mr. Ornery’s arrival. Kathy told me all the “facts” about the newborn….I vaguely remember that he was a little over 8 pounds (much heavier than the 6 pounds 4 oz of Super Tall Guy who rapidly grew into his enormous hands and feet). What stuck in my head, though, was that he was “white.” That made sense. He was fair and we knew the birth mother is white. A few days later, however, I took him in to the pediatrician’s for his first check-up. I told her the story of his arrival while she examined him. I was telling her how brown Super Tall is and that his brother is white….when she said, “Actually, I don’t think he is.” And that’s the moment I learned how to identify races in newborns (ahem, shading of the “privates”….if you’d like to know. So when they said the same thing when we picked up The Little Guy a couple years later, I just thought in my head, “I’ll see….wait till I get him home and undress him a little”). Of course, the skin coloring of the boys doesn’t matter to me at all. Their ethnicity doesn’t matter to me at all. The fact that they are beautiful and healthy boys… the fact that the brothers are growing up together….the fact that they are my sons…..that’s what matters to me. That’s what matters.