Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding the Courage to Embrace This Moment

I am paralyzed in fear.  We are living at the poverty level this month.  I don't want to drive the car anywhere.  I don't want to spend any money.  I don't want to look people in the eye and know that I am so vulnerable, so wrong about every decision we have made.  The shame is thick, and it covers me with a gooey, slimy film.  I can't get it off.  I can't breathe.  I am so overwhelmed.

Let's go for a walk, I think.  After battling my son for over 30 minutes, waiting, talking him into getting his diaper changed, then his clothes and shoes on.  I am more exhausted than before.  Fix his snack and drink, grab a toy for entertainment, and we are out the door.  Oops, almost forgot, my phone.  There, now we are ready.

It's warm, and I feel the sun beat down on my exposed shoulders and neck, wishing I had put some sunscreen on.  Oh well, we are out the door, and it will likely only be a short walk.

As I begin to feel the freedom of one foot moving in front of the other, the start of a breath entering my tense body muscles, I come to the truth.  The truth is, I am angry.  I am ready to rage.  I am insanely furious.  I want to scream at the top of my lungs, well, louder even.  My blood is boiling and I am full of hate.

Who is my target you ask?


I think God shouldn't let people suffer.  I think God should have answered my prayers. Why is there so much sadness in the world right now?  Why can't anyone get a little break?  Just one thing go right, somewhere!  All of this, all of life, is supposed to be easy.  Why is God intentionally hurting us?

I am lost deep in this thought when my phone rings.  I see who is calling and my heart stops.

"Hello."  I say.  There is silence on the other line.  A breath, and then, "Aubrey, she's gone."

The flood of tears immediately fills my eyes, my body is weak, I am choking on the pain.  My feet, paralyzed.  My fingers grip the stroller handles.

"No!  Really?  No!"

The tears run over the banks of my eyelids, stream down my cheeks, and my sadness is uncontrollable.  I am in disbelief.  Even though we knew this was coming, even though we went for our last visit to see her, even though she had come to full acceptance that it was simply her time to go, I just thought, wished, hoped she would get better.

The rush of anxiety hits me.  How am I going to tell my husband?  His sadness will be much deeper than mine.  It's his sister.  She is just 40.  She has just died.

On our visit to see her, it was evident her body was struggling.  Waft.  Thin.  Grey.  Nothing like the healthy her.  You try and prepare yourself for it, but it is still difficult, seeing someone suffer, seeing their bodies resist.

It was a beautiful day.  There was a cool breeze.  The barbecue was going.  Laughter in each room.  Joy.  Sadness.  A covert stillness that only the anticipation of death can give.  We all know why we are here, we all know what's happening, and yet, we are all full of life.

It's because of her.

She's come to terms with it.  She's accepted her life path.  Saying, "Well, God knows me well enough that He knows I would want to have all the details organized and done...even for my funeral...that's a great gift.  If I had it my way, it won't be for another 20 years, but we will just have to see."  She talks with us about her fears, our fears.  She's present and available, and she validates the experience for everyone.  She's filled with gratitude, so much so, that you can see her spirit shining out of her sunken eyes.  So much so, that you can feel the divine presence of her soul.  So much so, that you can know, deep, deep down, that no matter what happens, everything will be alright.

We leave the next day, thankful for our time, thankful for her presence, for her love, and her body's willingness to give us this day.  Her relief was evident, she got to say goodbye to her brother, she got to hug her godson one more time, and she was alive, breathing, happy.

The funeral was set, and we made our trip to be with my husband's grieving family.  Her family...her three children and her husband.  She has everything planned and it is beautiful.  Moving through the sadness, the stillness, the silence, is her.  Her "I love Lucy" collection.  Her warm, welcoming personality.  It's still here, it's still in her house her husband built for her, for their family.  The vitality, that's still in her children.  The love, that's still evident in her home, her husband.  It is clear, by the volume of people coming by the house with food, with sadness, with support, that my sister-in-law's impact in people's lives was often at the deepest soul level.  

For the days before her funeral, I kept hearing this reminder to keep the address to the cemetery with me.  Turns out, the battery in my mother-in-law's car went out, and the police escort had to leave without us.  While driving aimlessly until the navigation kicked in with the address I'd been holding on to, we came to a stop light.  There, on the corner, was a big church.  The  church marquee said, "You cannot control what happens in your life, just know that God is with you, in this moment."  My husband and I looked at each other, I burst into tears.  The cemetery was right around the corner and we found our way.

I had intended on calling her when I got home from my walk that day.  Intended on asking her, how, when she was faced with such an ominous thing as her own death, she had the courage to move on, to live, to laugh, to even scold her children to clean their rooms.  How could she still love God for what was happening to her?  How could she know she was safe?

As I traveled through my grief over the last year since her death, I have come to the realization, that she taught me by example.  She always stayed present in her life, her spirit soared in the midst of her fears, her worries, her sadness, her happiness and her joy.  She found the courage to embrace the moment.

My feelings of abandonment from God, my wanting things to happen on my timeline, my resistance to letting go of control, my expectations that things go a certain way, well, my way...all of the animosity I had toward the sense of divine grace, trust in the universe, a trust in God, have all diminished significantly by simply living and embracing this moment.

We don't know how long we have.  We don't know that things will go our way.  We can't control what might or might not happen.  All we can do, is simply know, that God is with us, here in this moment...that we are safe, loved, and our souls have limitless potential.

Thank you, Adriana.  I miss you so.      

My son and his Nina.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do I Save It, Just In Case?

6 months pregnant.  The best part.  No morning sickness.  No waddle.  No kankles.  And, shopping!  I am determined to find anything I might ever need for this baby, and I will be prepared.  My goal--as organic as possible.  

It's a $400 bassinet!  Pottery Barn.  I love PB.  Like there could be anything better than's PB Kids!  I love this bassinet.  It's organic.  It's bamboo.  It's perfect.   It's all my hopes and dreams in having this child.  I can carry the basket from room to room as I fix up the house.  I can wheel the bassinet next to my bed when I take a nap.  When the baby has outgrown it, I can use it for laundry.  (A $400 laundry basket?!  Well, maybe not the dirty clothes.)  I can use my wedding gown to decorate the bassinet.  It is tradition.  It will be beautiful.  I want this.  I want it to complete my dream.  My hope.  My expectations.  My reality.  

Reality.  Sometimes a little more harsh than you would ever imagine, reality.  I got the damn bassinet.  My wonderful-amazing-nothing-like-the-wicked-one-in-Cinderella-Step-Mother somehow talked my Father into getting it for us.  Little girl shriek.  I got it!  I got my dream. Or, so I thought.  But, things aren't always what they seem when you have blinders on.

I tell myself I could go back to work.  I tell myself we cannot afford for me to stay home.  I tell myself I love my job that I am good at it, that the school needs me, that the students need me, that the faculty needs me.  I love everything about my job.  Why would I ever want to leave?  Then, I hold my son.  This amazing and beautiful life, that my husband and I made, that's dependent on us for everything...that's it.  Reality.  My dream.  My expectations.  All changed...forever.

I would have never guessed that leaving my job would have upset my Father so, but it did.  Our relocation was the final nail in the coffin ending our relationship.  He doesn't speak to me.  He doesn't know his grandchild.  The pain, of me not choosing his life goals, was too much for him to bare.  He says, "You are ruining your life, Aubrey.  I cannot watch this destruction."  Destruction?  The financial losses because I am choosing to stay home and care for my son?  Uh, okay.  There is nothing I can do.  Nothing I can say.  The rejection is painful.  It is shocking.  All I have is a $400 bassinet to show for it.  

So, I sit here, 3 years later, in the garage, going through all of my stuff, and I wonder.  Do I sell it?  Do I set fire to it?  Do I save it, just in case?  Just in case my Dad wants me.  Just in case I get pregnant.  Just in case I can have that all-organic-everything-natural-parenting-style that I told myself I would have.  Just in case, maybe, I can hold on to the hope of those things.  The hope that my Dad loves me.  The hope that our next baby will come.  The hope that I am safe and loved and wanted.

Then the realization hits, that I have no control over these things.  Holding on to this bassinet will not ensure my Dad calls me.  It will not make me more fertile.  I am not honoring myself by holding onto a hope of rekindling a relationship that is dependent upon my sacrificing my own self-worth and convictions.  I am not honoring my family when I tell myself life would be better with another child.

This bassinet is not the all-giving powerful being I am making it out to be.  These false hopes...these unrealistic expectations...these thoughts limiting me from the now, from the present, limits my ability to see all the wonderful things I have in my life right in this moment.

That's when I realize:  what I want has nothing to do with some $400 bassinet.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sit, Six, Sex, WHAT?

Another trip to the craft store.  Wandering the isles, waiting for creative inspiration.  We find the bead second home..."mommy look at theeeese!"  My son and I have a field day of excitement and joy.  Examining the shine, caress and glitter of the beads, creativity hits, inspiration begins, formulation of the project has started.  I am in the zone.

We move on to the last couple of isles for inspiration, and my son stumbles upon some toys.  He pulls out a dalmatian puppy and plays with it.  I am still in my exhilaration of creative energy, so I am glad that he's found a way to occupy himself that doesn't require my reaction to every new bead he can reach with his little fingers.  We are enjoying our time.  

I am finally done, and we go up to the check out.  In my anticipation of my upcoming creative exhaustion, I forget about the dalmatian bean bag toy.  The woman says, "did you want that too?"  Before I can respond, "oh thank you, I forgot, but no, not really", my son says, "Aah-hun!"  He says it with such conviction, both the woman and I marvel at his determination and confidence.  It makes me laugh.  "I guess so...we'll take the dog too!"  

For two days this dalmatian puppy dog does everything we do.  My son and his toy are inseparable.  To the park.  To the grocery store.  To the library.  Sleeping in his bed.  On the way to our favorite Mexican restaurant, and my mouth watering margarita, my husband asks the puppy's name.  My son, busy playing in his puppy world, is telling the dog to "sit." My husband hears the word "six."  "The doggy's name is Six?" he asks.  "No, he was telling the dog to sit." I say.  My son, simply says, "yes."  Yes what?  Is the dog's name Six?  Was he telling the dog to sit?  (My husband and I still argue this point today.)  The dog's name is Six.    

Then, gulp...wait for mind is busy...embarrassing moments... the realization that every time we take the dogs--Miss Percy (discussed here) and Six for a walk, and some well-intentioned passer by decides to ask my still-learning-to-enunciate-little-boy what his doggies' names are...they will get responses that sound like  "the vile P-word that no woman ever wants to actually have to say" (aka Miss Percy) and "sex" (aka Six).  Wow.  This is going to suck.  How am I going to survive the look of horror on the cute-little-white-laced-Grandma's face when she hears such sex-crazed cult language coming out of the mouth of a three year old?  Ownership...yes, he's mine, and yes, I guess we have a sex-crazed cult family.  Oh. Shit.  Can we change the dog's names?  

It has taken some adjustment, but I love Six...even his name.  He provides comfort to my son.  He helps  him express his emotions.  Six's hugs only come second to Mommy and Daddy hugs.  When I am unable to reach my son's sadness or frustration, Six is embraced.  Six says hi to strangers when he is too fearful.  Six provides comfort, joy and connection.  Six helps him regulate his own emotions.  Six helps validate life experience.  Six is a passie, blankey, nummy, thumb--any and all of the above comfort transitional objects.  Some people might argue that Six is not healthy.  That I should wean my son off of Six.  Maybe by the time he's six he shouldn't have Six anymore?  Maybe Six is going to give him crooked teeth? (sarcasm, lol) No.  Six will always be my son's friend, his support network, his partner in crime.  Here's hoping, after a good washing and some needed mending, Six can even go off to college.

I might still have the bruise under my eye from Rocket Six blasting into orbit, across the living room, smack into me. I might still worry that we might leave Six at the gas station on a long distance drive.  But I guess it is all worth it when my son wants a baby carrier to carry Six around in the grocery store and at the farmer's market.  That makes me one proud Mamma.  I am thankful for the laughs when a half circle is placed over Six's head and my son proudly announces, "Astrooooonauuuut Sixxxxxx!" or when Fireman Six uses an old straw to put out a fire in the Lego house.  I have survived and enjoyed several Six moments.  I am so glad that he is part of our family.   

Monday, August 8, 2011

Plucking My Eyebrows

"Mommy!  Give me MY weezers!"  

I remember when I used to have the time to look at my face.  Really look at it.  Put make up on it.  Smile at it.  Now, when I get that split second of a glimpse as I, wow, surprise here, get to go pee pees without my shadow, I am in shock.  What the hell happened?  Did I really go to the park looking like this?  Smudged mascara accenting the bags under the right eye, hair disheveled and unbrushed.  Just trying to pull it together, I guess.  

I try and wipe the mascara off, and desperately resort to the awesome and powerful remover of all things, spit.  Spit thumb does the trick.  Grrr, at least the mascara is gone, but the bags, well, at the airline counter, they would probably charge me double.    

Magically, it is still quiet in the bathroom, I lean in, because my eyes are not as good anymore...or maybe because I really can't believe that's my face, and try to get a closer look.  Oh my gravy, look at those eyebrows!  When did that happen?  I just plucked them, like...(thinking...)...yesterday...(which really means last month).  Do I have the time to grab my tweezers?  Where are they?  Oh shoot, my son claimed them as his tool.  I know I have another pair, but he has my favorite, the ones that get just the right angle as to not make me scream with each follicle's removal.  

Oprah screaming.  Remember that episode when, this GA-zillionaire woman, all powerful and all knowing, screamed and cried getting her eyebrows plucked?  I laugh.  I guess we all have to do it.  At least I don't scream the way she does.  Although, she probably has hers done every day, and by a total professional.  I am lucky to get a single pluck in once a week.  But that scream of hers, it still makes me laugh. 

Back to the hunt for the my son's room...ah, there they are...right next to his favorite puppy dog and some leftover gummies...I don't want to know...but maybe the gummies will aid in my removal of that stubborn hair on my eyelid that never comes out the first thirty or so attempts.  A mommy can dream, right?  I know I must hurry, because I have now stolen his new favorite, and albeit, most creative tool.    
Plucking my eyebrows always leads to a questioning of my femininity.  I am not so glamorous, and let's face it, rich either, to go and get them done.  Although, according to my aunt, it's only 12 bucks...I can get two coffees for that and you know that's my passion!  I worry that I would go to the wrong place, and I end up looking worse!  I have watched the stuff about the lining up on your eye, and the arch, and I figure I can trust myself enough to stop and not pluck too far.  I guess I just always wonder if I did it right.  Pluck only from the bottom.  Brush them with the eyebrow brush, then pluck.  Start from the arch and move outward.  Sure.  Sure.  But, is it right?  Eyebrows have so much to do with our faces.  Our faces have so much to do with our identity.  It even says so in this article from Psychology Today, "The Real Purpose of Eyebrows"...see, I'm not crazy wondering about my eyebrows and their purpose in my life.  My obsession with doing it right...that seems all to familiar...and, I am beginning to think, even if I went and traded my two coffees for the designer brow place, I would still wonder if it was right.  

I have got to attack these suckers and forget the shaping for now, and just remove the strands of the uni-brow.  I am woman, hear me roar.  Ouch.  Eye water.  First pluck is always the hardest.  Right eye going strong, no mascara smudge, and now no random eyebrow hairs.  Then, wait for it,  "Mommy, those are MY weezers!  That's MY tool!"  My scrambling attempts to even start on the left eye...questioning if I really want to put a potentially sharp object pointed at my eye with my son grabbing and insisting I give him back his favorite new tool.  My bargaining..."here sweetie, play with mommy's blush brush..."  His continued insistence..."No, that's my favorite tool!"  

I give up.  The left eyebrow will have to wait...until I get another quiet visit to the bathroom...until I can find my favorite least my son and I have that in common...MY tweezers are our favorites. 


Monday, August 1, 2011

Let Me Introduce You to Miss Percy

We searched for a long time for Miss Percy.  We tried the local shelters.  We tried Petfinder.  We tried the Penny Saver and, of course, craigslist.  It was good old Google searching that proved successful in the end. We decided on a Golden Retriever, known for loyalty and good nature, it would be the perfect fit for us.  We found the rescue organization, Homeward Bound Goldens, and filed the paperwork.  When the representative came to the house to interview us, I asked the her how, among so many dogs in need, she found the right one.  Her answer, a midst teary eyes, was simple:  "The dog found me."  Hun?  What, did it pee on her leg?  Did it vie for her attention?  How would you really know the dog found you?  Her answer seemed sentimental, and clearly had depth of meaning for her, but I really didn't get it.  I had the dog resume check list ready:  Good dog.  Fetch toys.  Don't bite.  No fleas.  Plays nice.  Goes potty outside.  Likes to wear the occasional costume for laughs and fun.  Doesn't jump up on the couch.  Walks well on a leash.  Loyal and loving.  I would find the right dog.  

We drove for over two hours to the ranch.  Adoption day.  Among the hundreds of dogs here today, I was confident we would find right dog.  We were brought to an open yard and three dogs were roaming freely.  Sasha and Lola were the first two we met.  Sasha is the mommy dog.  She barks and wags like a pro.  Lola is her pup.  Lola had been hit by a car she had given chase, and suffered partial paralysis in her hip.  If we took one, we had to take the other.  Rough on the finances and the small house.  What to do.  What to do.  What's this...where is my son?  He is in the corner, behind the dog kennel, hugging a shaking and sheepish dog.  The dog follows him out of the corner.  The adoption representatives respond in shock and awe.  Evidently this cowering dog never follows humans.  Never lets them touch her.  Rescued from a breeding facility, her human touch was limited to feeding time and removal of her pups.  She is skiddish and lives in fear.  How do we decide?  Maybe this isn't adoption day.  This scaredy-dog does not meet my dog resume check list.  Well, she's goes potty outside, but that's it.  Sasha and Lola fetch toys.  Hell, Lola fetches cars!  There's got to be a way.  We ask the representative for help on how to choose.  She encourages us to choose the dog that we can give the most...that reflects us...that chooses us...  At this point I feel my eyes welling up.  Are you kidding me?!  I am in a field among strangers and I am about to start crying!  Am I pregnant?  PMS-ing?  Why am I about to cry?  The chin quiver.  Oh man, there's no more fighting it.  There go the tears.  Our dog just picked us.

Quitting my career job to stay home and care for my husband and son is the best decision I have ever made.  I question it every day, and every day I am blessed with gratitude and confirmation that it is the best lifestyle for our family.  The biggest consequence of these big life changes--LIVING IN FEAR--who am I we have enough I doing this will this all work out?  Yes and thank you, in walk the dog choosing us.  This skiddish dog, cowering in the corner, wanting to engage in life but not sure how.  Following my son out of the corner...the inspiration for the both of find Miss Persimmon, aka Miss Percy.  She picked us!  She picked me.  There I stood in shock.  Dog list resume out the window.  How much Miss Percy and I have in common!  Living in fear, cowering in the corner.  It was in that moment that I knew Miss Percy and I were going to embark on a fear-less journey together.  Dog walks, vitality, courage...we were going to find life, love it, and live it.

Miss Percy continues to bless our lives for over a year and a half now.  She still likes her place of comfort under the dining room table.  She still runs when there's a loud noise.  But there's nothing like taking her out for a walk, or to the beach, or on a new hiking trail.  That tail wags.  Her long hair blowing in the wind, her tongue out to the side, smile on her face and light in her eyes.  Adventure.  Life.  Breath.  We have arrived, Miss Percy.  We have arrived.  I hope she feels it as much as I do.