Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Posted

"It's slice of life monnnth..." she says curled up across the table in her comfortable smile.

"I know," I squirm.

"You could just post every Tuesday and Thursday."  Her eyes brighten with a little mischievous flicker.

"I do wriiite.  I have lots of drafts." 

"Then post one!" she giggles.

"I can't do that." 


"'Cause they're all crappy, that's why."

She laughs, "I'm sure they're not, but how would I know if you don't post!"

I answer back with a quiet eye roll and a grin.  

Nudges.  Honesty.  Smiles.  Squirms.  Laughs.  Acceptance.  

My mentor.

My dear dear friend.

My Ruth.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Heavy List

Night terrors
Mother killed in a car wreck, but he survived
Given acid by a 40-year-old man
Mother died of cancer
Cut her arms
Father beat him
Hoarded food
Father smoked pot in front of him
Parents didn't want him, moved between extended family
Attempted suicide
Pretty sure parents were making meth
Mom was in jail
Father pinned his over 6-ft tall frame to the wall and screamed in his face
Moved about every six months to avoid bill collectors
Mother missed a meeting with the school because she was drunk
Dad in jail
Couldn't bring himself to read The Outsiders because it's too much like his own life
No one wanted to sit by her, not even the teachers
Dad took him to the bar, gave him a cup of quarters to play video games in the family room while he partied all weekend -- every weekend
Restraining order against her mother
Only got to eat at school
Mother told him he was stupid
Restraining order against his father
She hung on the guys because that's the only love she's ever known
Father committed suicide
Locked in his room

These thirteen to fifteen-year-olds have floated into my life around August and then left about June.  I rarely ever get to see them again.

I taught in special education for over ten years.  There were nights that the heartache I would carry home would be almost too much to bear.  His or her name tumbling over my lips in whispered prayers as I'd make dinner or fold the laundry.  And not just for the kids, but their families too. 

I knew that was the best thing I could do for them. Pray.  But also to be a gentle light in their world of darkness.  Talk about bowling and fishing and cosmetology with them.  Speak a few words of hope to his mother.  Tell her father about her strengths. 

I moved to teaching English this year and a few more were added to the list.  My heart is weary for them.  It's their face, especially their eyes that get me.  At times, I can hardly spit out the lesson when I see their eyes. Sometimes they're blinking back tears and I can barely hear the whispered, "...today's just not my day."  Another's eyes stare right through me, grey-faced, lost in painful thought and yet, protected by it's veil at the same time. 
There are a some of my dear colleagues that also pray for these young lives.  However, many others seem to able to just acknowledge the situation with a "That's too bad" and move on.  There are times when I wonder if I need to toughen up, not worry about it.  I mean, really, what difference can I make? 

And the more I think on it... I'm right.  I can't make a difference.  Not without the power of Christ that lives within me.  And it's not just me.  It's me joining forces with all the others that chose to stop instead of turning away.  We by the power of Christ make the difference.

Those looks from these kids strike a deep chord in my heart...not pity. 


Thursday, April 3, 2014


Mommy, I have to tell you a secret:  i have an imaginary friend
Oh, that's nice. What's 'is name?
Fancy Dancy
Oh? (I stifle a little giggle) Is that a boy or a girl?
A girl. I'm teaching her English.
(more giggles) Oh really? She can't speak English?
No, not very much.

Mommy, I've been writing a letters to a leprechaun. 
Oh really? Did the rest of your class write one too?
No, just me.
Oh? (I giggle) Well what did you say?
I asked him where his gold is, but I told him I didn't want it.  That was a trick, Mommy!

This is just a little slice of how awesome this kid is. His imagination is so stinkin' fantastic that there are times that I wish I could just pretend with him the entire day.

Things with this little one didn't start out so awesome though.

To begin with, the day he decided to make his appearance in this world, I decided that he needed to stay IN. Needless to say, I was petrified. Me? Really? God, you sure you want ME to take care of this little life? I did not want to get in that Durango. No. Way. Kim's calm, but firm voice knocked over my thoughts, "Becca.  We have to go.  Now."  Then he climbed into the truck and patiently waited.

It was a balmy morning in late May, grey and misty, just starting to feel like summer.   I wondered up and down our long gravel driveway one last time.  Finally I just had to blank my mind and get in.  By the time Kim got me to the hospital, and all checked in, I was already 7 cm.  I was showered with praises by my midwife for making it so long at home.  ...She didn't know my little secret.

I'll spare you the scary details of the actual, natural, labor. [Although I did offer, more than once, to go into the sex ed. class at the high school and explain every last scary detail.  The teacher never took me up on it.  I think I scared him.]  It was all very intense, and I was not very good at helping this poor baby out, but thank God he made it so my body did it anyway.

By the time I heard my little boy's cry I felt as though I'd been thrown through the windshield of a car and was now lying on the pavement.  Utterly shaken and honestly more than a little surprised I was alive.

It is in this moment, they place this teeny little soul at the nape of my neck.  I can't even hardly lift my arms to hold him.  I knew I was supposed to be so happy, that all that had just happened was supposed to vanish instantly and I'd be head-over-heels in love.  But I wasn't.  And I felt so ugly that I wasn't.  I mean, I loved him because he was my son, but I just couldn't get over the fact that they'd placed him in my care.  I wanted to yell- What do you think your doing!?  Why aren't you taking care of him?  Can't you see that I can't do this?  I didn't say anything other than, "Oh my..." over and over, but they didn't let him stay with me for long.  I don't know what the reason was exactly, but that time of bonding slipped through my fingers, and I'm afraid my dear little boy paid the price.

Dakota was exceptionally alert as a newborn.  When visitors came through they remarked at how he could fix his gaze.  When he looked at you, it was as if he was reading your mind.  He can still do it to me.  He has eyes like a polished Tiger's Eye stone.  When he was tiny, they'd almost hypnotize me.

I think it was partially because of this hyper-awareness that we struggled so much.  It was like he knew how drastically his world had changed and how fragile he was.  I called him my little pea pod.  He would roll up like a little armadillo and squirmy-wormy into the nape of my neck.   I think if he could've crawled back down my throat to my tummy, he would have.  He wanted me and me alone.  Of course it's a natural thing for a baby to want his mother, but Dakota was different.  He was desperate for me.  It was as if he thought that if he lost sight of me for a second, I'd be gone forever.  Not the easiest thing when you're used to having time to at least take a shower and use the bathroom by yourself.  Of course I'll never know if it was because of those lost moments of initial bonding or not, but somehow he'd lost his sense of security somewhere along the way. 

Little by very little though, we grew our love.  Tiny root hairs dug into the hard clay.  I was scared.  I was unsure.  I was used to wrangling 14-year-olds at school, not providing every single need for a tiny little baby.  But, watching him sleep, and praying, watching him wrap his brand new fingers around mine, and praying, feeling his kitten-soft hands brush the side of my cheek, and praying, reassured me.  The dirt became softer, and soon a small sapling uncurled its leaves stretching to the sky while roots drove deep to the soul. 

I'm so thankful that I was given the chance to figure to figure out that I'm not supposed to have it all figured out.  Today my love for this child is an oak: living, breathing, steady and secured in God's grace. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Night Song

refridgerator humming
low lamp-light buzzing
t.v. muttering

puppydog licking
keyboard clack-clicking

breath shushing
breeze shooshing
baby monitor snoozing

blanket snuggling
eyelids batting
mommy yawning
daddy napping

"the magic of a quiet evening at home"

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Before You're Too Far Gone

Never Think - Rob Pattinson

I should never think
What's in your heart
What's in our home
So I won't

You'll learn to hate me
But still call me baby
Oh love
So call me by my name

And save your soul
Save your soul
Before you're too far gone
Before nothing can be done

..... ..... ..... ..... .....

Through this song, Christ saved my life from the lie of depression.  Through a movie soundtrack, Jesus found a way to crack into my heart when I'd decided I didn't really matter any more.  Through my self-induced darkness, He found a way to send a thin strand of light. "Save your soul, before you're too far gone, before nothing can be done." 

Six years ago, my father took his own life.  Little did he know he would be taking the lives of his family with him.  We were swallowed by a great abyss of sadness and silence after he left.  I felt as if I'd been dragged to the bottom of the ocean and left, alone, in a deep black cave with no light and only a pocket of air.  

A year went by.  I breathed in and out.  I swallowed some food.  I survived.  

I had been on maternity leave when it happened.  A year later I was headed back to work.  In a way, it was good for me to rejoin "normal" life.  But my soul had been scraped from it's shell.  I was robotic.  I literally had to remind myself to smile at Dakota when I came home.  There were almost no voluntary positive responses left in me.  

Then work started to pile up.  It was too much to bear.  So I just sat there one night, with my cheek flat on my desk, staring at the mound of work to complete.  I didn't even feel the need to move.  Ever.  I know I sat there for hours, half expecting to just be absorbed into the desk.   I never considered taking my own life, I just decided I'd be done functioning. Completely.

But there was music playing.

I hadn't even noticed it until I heard the words of the last few lines.  I reached up and played the song again.  I started to mouth the words.  Waking my numb limbs, I stretched out to the zing of a hundred ants stinging my legs as they started to wake up.  I played it again.  I was singing along, my head on my hand.  How long had it been since I sang? Again and again I played this song.  Down in that deep cave, under miles of black waters, Jesus came looking for me.  Once I accepted what those words were meant for, I felt my entire body flush with remorse.  A timid, weak whispered prayer was sent; my savior sitting right next to me.

I wasn't on the surface yet, but I was ready to leave that cave with Him and never come back.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Peaceful Parenting - Day One

"If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men."  Romans 12:18

For the most part, I feel that I am a fairly peaceable, likable person.  At work, I think I get along with everyone (as far as I know).  I was even voted "Nicest Girl" my senior year of high school.  Kinda dorky I know, but I suppose it proves my point.  

However, this easy going image of myself tends to go up in the puff of smoke billowing out of my ears when going toe-to-toe with one of the most masterful foes I've ever come across: my six-year-old.  He and I both are struggling with my current tactics so I've been doing some real soul searching lately when it comes to disciplining.  

I come from a line of feisty Dutchmen, a laser-eyed Indian, and booming Germans who tend to pride themselves on gut wrenching guilt trips and making their children cower in fear.  They're not evil, horrible people.  My brothers and I were never ever abused or unloved.  We were deeply cherished, but strictly punished when we were small.  And I guess I turned out okay, so I've been attempting to parent this same way.  I don't punish nearly as harshly, but it's still there.  But I'm not convinced that it's the best way.

While looking for some validation that I was not the only one with a kid who does this or that, I was skimming the internet when I came across, "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Dr. Laura Markham.  Her website is www.ahaparenting.com.  Her website had a handful of videos and several really struck a cord with me.  I've not read her book, but I plan to.  I don't know if this is good stuff or not, but I do know that I'm ready to have more tickle fights and bear hugs than arguments and hurt feelings.  

My son doesn't need to get away with everything, nor does he need to be punished every time he turns around.  He deserves a parent that will stay calm, or take a break herself when she can't.  He deserves to be treated with sympathy and respect when he's upset.  If it depends on me to live at peace, then I'm going to keep trying.  He deserves to know that it is possible.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's Okay Mommy, You'll Fit!

Quick shallow breaths, struggling to keep my eyes glued on my son while maneuvering all kinds of hidey holes, mini-slides, and iron grate ladders in near darkness, picking our way through a sea of hundreds more giggling, squirming kids.  Through the dim light, I could just barely keep up with him.  Two terrible fears of mine were clogging my brain: One - getting stuck in a small dark place, where I wasn't completely convinced that help would even be able to hear me call out over all these munchkins and Two - losing my son in this twisted mess.

The Saint Louis City Museum gave this girl a run for her money. By the way, I would not categorize this tri-level jungle gym a "museum", but I guess there were a few historical corners of this place.  If you're thinking about going you either need spider monkey ninja skills to be able to stay with your kid or absolute faith in God's ultimate protection of your family.  Because when you let your child slip off into this Alice in Wonderland labrynth  and see them pop out an entire story above you, it can be a bit unnerving. 

Needless to say... I was scared.  Scared for me and scared for Dakota.
But.  Dakota was amazing.  He was the perfect size for this place and though it was dark a lot of the time, he was having so much fun he didn't even notice.  He was totally in his element.  The best part was him leading me.  Not just him picking the direction, but he was choosing the way with me in mind.  Picking paths that were challenging, but doable.  And more than once came a little voice over the crowd, "Come on Mom, you can do it," or, "This way Mom, this way will work". Sometimes he'd take my hand or scout ahead a little then come back to show me the best way. 

After I finally hauled my cookies up through a hole in the floor under an elephant skill, I had to call it quits.  I was emotionally exhausted (and physically!).  Later, after I regained my adult composure, I scooped up Dakota, gave him the biggest bear hug, and whispered into his ear, "Thank-you for helping Mommy to be brave." A huge smile crossed his face and he simply nodded his head.  

That day I was lead through my "what-if's" by my child.  As adults, I think we tend to forget what kids can feel like when adults are pushing them out of their comfort zone.  It can be downright scary, but by letting them know we're looking for the best way for them, being positive, and yes, maybe even taking their hand once in a while, the reward is a huge sense of accomplishment and a stronger bond than before. 

And I guess I don't always have to be in control, or even completely safe to have fun.