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At Bat

I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

-Dr. Seuss

How do you protect yourself? What do you bring in defense?

Anger? Denial? Projection? Indifference?

I usually bring intense energy, a knotted stomach, and resourcefulness. I may not always solve a problem right away, but I keep swinging at ideas in all directions until something connects.

That’s how I protect myself and those I love.

That sense of defense and preservation goes beyond having children. All ages and walks of life do what they must to protect what they love. It’s an instinctive and pure reaction.

Taft school called at 11:00 this morning to tell me Abram was in the office again. Recovering after radiation and chemotherapy has its own set of cautions. Plus, his compromised immune system creates an easy target for germs.

The secretary said his stomach aches and his throat “feels funny” not sore, but not funny “ha, ha” either. When I talked to him on the phone, he sounded shaky. I immediately sprang to action and got him home.

He’s in his cozy recliner but looks unwell: dark eyes, pale skin, and that listless slump we get when we’re tired. He has no fever, but says it doesn’t feel like a normal stomach ache. On a pain scale he gives it a five.

Those details leave me without answers to what is really wrong with him, but I can work with that.

After I got him comfortable, I gently rubbed his neck and abdomen with essential oils: ginger, marjoram, and fennel to alleviate the pain and soothe his throat and stomach. Now he is resting.

For the past 27 months our two duffel bags have been packed in case we need to respond to a medical emergency and head to Chicago. I don’t think I will ever fully unpack; I need to always feel prepared.

Today, I finally realized on a deeper level, that I made the right decision staying home to take care of my family. I had doubts. I miss my classroom and friends, and I’ve found over the past two weeks that the view of the stay-at-home mom is to some, an old joke.

On a few occasions, I found myself accounting for how I fill my time now that all I do is “stay home.” That’s been a sensitive subject for me. I’ve worked hard at every job I’ve tried since I started babysitting at eleven years old. Now I’m trying to reclaim my home and my life after being blindsided by pediatric cancer and the onslaught of grief that goes with it.

I don’t know what I expected these back-to-school weeks to feel like, but defensive wasn’t something I’d figured on.  Their comments made me feel a bit selfish. After all, why should I get more time to my family and myself? Do I/we really deserve it?

Today, I can firmly say, “yes.”

Being sick is easier with a mom around. I miss my mom every day, and when I’m feeling low, it’s twice as painful. Abraham, although improving, will remain medically fragile for some time. Since I have been fortunate and blessed with this special child, I will treat the honor with the dedication and patience it deserves.

Tommy needs me, too. He got by without his mom’s help for much of his fifth and sixth grade experience. I’m here for him now to support and guide him through the challenges of junior high. I can clearly recall my friend, Jane, telling me as a school administrator how she firmly believed that although it’s obvious how younger children need a solid home to offer nurturing and guidance, during her years in education she has seen time and again how vital it is to be there for tweens and teens as they transition into adulthood.

After helping Abraham today, I know where I am needed most. Chris and I have always put our children first, and I am proud of that.  Yet, “Only by pride cometh contention,” so it’s a thin line to defend. The hard part is keeping hostility at bay as we raise our precautionary bats in defense of our love and commitments.

I like to cooperate, and I prefer defense to offense; however, when the health and harmony of my loved ones is compromised, I’m going to stick with my basic instincts and come out swinging.


Shaping our Days

Our thoughts determine our attitude, and our attitude shapes our day.

I realized during some of the toughest days at the hospital with Abraham, I felt the strongest. I credit that to hope.

On the other hand, some of the quieter “easy” days during his recovery, I found myself snappy and sad. I credit that to fear.

That proved to me that my moods, positive or negative, are due to more than the happenings of my day.

The things we brood about limit our approach to life: we remain bound and shadowed in traps held from yesterday’s pain.

Instead, if we cast aside dark thoughts, we can then bring in the light of hope. And when we have hope, it’s always a good day.

Peace, hope and light…

Trauma and Transition

The trauma said, ‘Don’t write these poems. Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.’

Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase

When a deeply distressing or disturbing experience occurs, it takes time to heal. For some, the healing takes a very long time; for others, recovery is never realized at all.

For most, sharing the experience is difficult. Perhaps, it is because we can never fully understand another person’s grief. Maybe, we are afraid to relive the nightmare.

For me, I share to put distance between myself and my circumstance. I hold on to the memories like the string on a kite, but I allow the winds of change to carry it far above me.

During Abraham’s cancer treatment, it became my job to go from appointment to appointment, managing medications, side effects and emergencies.

Now, he is no longer under the constant supervision of a team of exceptional medical professionals, and the psychological and emotional processing of all we’ve been through has begun.

When cancer treatment ends, patients and caregivers must find a “new normal” during the adjustment period. The appointments, medications and emergencies are fewer, but not ended. Only now, we are on our own to determine which aches and pains might be “normal” sick, and which ones require further evaluation for “The Big Sick.”

Just as this transition hits, friends might begin to figure the dangers have passed and we should be celebrating. We are indeed celebrating, but it is a cautious enthusiasm. The security of the hospital is hours away, and the active fighting is over. The scary part becomes the realization that our weapons are down and we are hoping the enemy- the tumor- stays away. But there is never a way to know for sure, and a lifetime of vigilant defense against a silent killer has actually just begun.

So what of it then? Do we sulk and cower? Do we live in fear of the unknown?

No, we adjust. We accept the change and grow in faith that what lies ahead is ours, and what is ours is to be lived most fully.


Kindness Costs

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali

Pay it forward.

Be the change.

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

So, which is it? What does it really cost to be kind?

This week, repeated situations seemed to be a test in sufferance for me. I focus on leading a compassionate life, and because of that, when others are insensitive around me or to me, I am defenseless. Their unkind acts feel like an intentional punch to my gut. I loose my breath, and my focus scatters into doubt.

As a result, some days drain my “emotional bank account.” Those few callous souls left me low, but it’s worth it. Kindness currency never truly depletes, even when empty people try to rob your stash.

There may be less to go around somedays, but it doesn’t take much to matter. The smallest act of kindness can make a life’s worth immeasurable. If I have to take a few bumps along the way to change the course of even one life, I’ll take the tactless turbulence that comes along with it.

After all, when we engage in a life of kindness – despite the doubters and the haters- we are expending time and energy on the welfare of compassion and tolerance.

And that’s a life well spent.

Sunflower Shadows

Writing about wellness and kindness does not mean I can’t be ill-tempered or ill-humored, or even just-plain-sick. Oh, I be illin’ sometimes;)

But I prefer to feel good.

So, I choose to assess my situation, and make a mental list of the reasons I’m lucky to be alive. I start with what I love most and end with the basics like clean water (denied to many) and shelter.

Finding sunshine in the shadows begins with a desire to seek it, and being honest about our preference can take a lot of the pressure off. Sometimes the stillness and solitude of the dark is where we want to be.

After all, the real world can’t promise endless happy days. Sadness comes. What life can promise us is that when we are ready to feel the sun again, we can always find it by looking to the bright side. It’s as basic and cliché as that.

Helen Keller beautifully brought it back to nature.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.”

I realize being a grateful human is trickier than being a healthy flower. But if we think like a sunflower, our choice is easy; we go sunshine.

Peace and light…