Welcome to Living in Left Field, where living with chronic illness, raising three boys, having a child with Asperger's Syndrome, and raising children in general, means that I'm seldom on the same playing field as everyone else!

Monday, July 16, 2018

World's Okayest Mom (and I'm Okay With It)

I've been wrestling with something that happened to us on Friday, and it hit me:  I was mom-shamed. More pointedly, my toddler was child-shamed.  The woman who intruded in our lives had no other purpose than to shame Ezra for her perception of his behavior, and her perception of my inaction about it.  She had no other purpose than to want to make me carry her own personal baggage.

And you know what?

I've been toting that heavy suitcase of hers for her ever since.

I let her get away with exactly what she wanted, and I bet she didn't even give us a second thought after leaving the store.  I have cried, sobbed, apologized to my children, lost sleep, screamed, shaken my fist at the unfairness of it, and written a novel's worth of unpublished blogs about it.

ME!  The mother who stands up for other moms!  The mom who would've commandeered the store's microphone to tell her exactly what she could do with her shaming if I caught her doing that to another mom instead of me!  More importantly, I would have helped that other mother protect her child.  "Hey, whoa, you can't just do that!  What in the world do you think you're doing, crazy lady?"

I know much of it comes from guilt in the way I handled it:  She accosted my child, while he sat in the cart right there next to me, instead of me.  I have a lot of guilt for not protecting my child, for not protecting the next child she will presumably approach because she got away with it this time, and not protecting the children she claimed to have experience working with.  A person who is so bold as to approach a three year old in this manner should not be working with children.  I was so stunned by her behavior that I didn't react the way I wanted to in hindsight.

I've written, re-written, and re-re-written my blog post since Friday night.  Much of it was just me needing to work through what happened.  I've talked with friends, cried with Shawn, listened to an amazing, heartfelt message from our pastor's wife, who also also happens to be our church's connections group pastor, on why being part of church family is so important (hey, that's a plug for my mom's group, if you're not paying attention!), and I heard an excerpt from Truth Bomb Mom on dealing with haters: Just don't do it.

So yeah, I'm only an okay mom.  My kids are only okay kids.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that.  We aren't everyone's cup of tea.  We don't have to be.  And I'm okay with that, too.

And you know what else?  That hater can take her baggage and pack off to Timbuktu.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Navigating My Way Through Teen Dating

The teenager in our house began dating a little while back, and it's been an, um, experience for me to figure out just where I fit in (right between them, right?), exactly, in all of this.

Some might say I don't figure into any of this at all.  It's his life, let him live it.

Sometimes it's hard for me to let the apron strings loosen, especially with my firstborn (okay, with all of my borns).  There is so much between us, I know letting go is going to be so damn hard.  It is so damn hard to let go already.  It's not about another woman taking my place, it's about making sure he takes proper care of her when she does.  I want to make sure he's getting who he deserves, but I also want to make sure she's getting who she deserves, you know?  I want to make sure my son's girlfriend(s), and my future daughter in law are treated with the respect, love and everything else they deserve.  I also want the same for my son.  Okay, yes, I've been known to crash a FaceTime or two ("Hi! HI! HI! I'm Noah's MOM!"), or send Ezra in....  But, I want to meet these girls!  I want to know their intentions, I want to know about their home lives, their hopes for their futures, what makes them laugh, what do they like to learn--they are dating my son, these things are important to me (seriously, do people just not ask questions about each other anymore???)! And I want to have conversations with him about them!

Okay, and let's be honest, I'm always going to be that mom who goes flying out the door, shouting and laughing my greeting, grabbing everyone up in huge hugs, welcoming them home like prodigal children--so really, I'm just weeding out the girls who can't handle me, right!?!?! 

He's brought home several girls.  One openly declared I was overbearing, over-involved and controlling.  Wellll, I've got news honey, he's still a minor, so we're sort of a package deal.  Anyway.  When he broke up with another girl, I asked if I had to break up with her too.  I really like her.  She got our odd family humor and fit in well.  When we broke out our weird, she broke hers out too.  I'm glad we're still friends on social media and we occasionally still talk.  Ezra is still dating Noah's first girlfriend.  She promised me she'll wait until he turns 18.  Shhhh.  Now there's a new girl, one we haven't met yet.  They talk a lot, they've been on a date.  We know nearly nothing about her.

Dating is a lot different than it used to be.  I think it's a little scarier than it used to be too, and not just for us parents.  Now there's FaceTime, all kinds of chats and other ways to meet.  Shawn and I dated in the Stone Age, so we saw each other at school, went for dates on Friday nights when we could borrow the family dinosaur, and we talked with conch shell phones when we weren't spending time with each other.  We didn't have the internet until college (dial up!), and it certainly wasn't Facebook or anything like that (email and AOL messaging!).  Now, our son can date a girl from another high school in a different county, and they're still just as close as if they're in the same school.  And FaceTime--hello.  The house rule is no girls in the bedroom or behind closed doors.  Welllll, thanks to FaceTime, isn't that pretty much having a girl in your bedroom/behind closed doors?  Yeah, thanks for that parenting battle, Apple.  There are so many apps and ways to hide things from parents if your child doesn't want you seeing them.

There are other things that make dating different, too.  Sexuality and gender are certainly more different than they were 25 years ago when I was my son's age.  Sex-ed is taught differently in public schools: Less education, more indoctrination.  I feel as though some parents are more lenient now, too. There are plenty of other differences, but naturally, I'm drawing a complete blank.  See the paragraph below!  

There are also more dangers now.  Sexting, social media, revenge texting, stalking, catfishing, and so on, make dating a scary thing to do.  Once what you've sent is out of your hands, you've lost control and ownership of it.  Nothing is private once it gets out on the internet.  If the wrong things get out, there will be severe, lifelong consequences.  And until you meet a person face to face, you never really know exactly who you are talking with on the internet. Teaching teenagers they are not invincible is near impossible.

We do our best.  We talk with him about equally yoked, and God's plans--those plans don't involve us saving anyone, or rescuing anyone or changing anyone.  That's up to Him.  God doesn't want us unequally paired in life, especially in the beginning of marriage, when we need each other perhaps the most.  I want Noah to be happy, to be with someone who is going to challenge him throughout life, help him continue to grow, make him laugh--be a true soulmate.  I always want the same for my daughter in law!  I try to talk to him about the things I observe about these girls--just things I see from my perspective, from my experience.  Shawn tries to talk to him about things from the man's perspective.  Our son cannot be objective, and while many would consider it to be difficult for us to be so, considering our son is involved, part of our job is to be objective in helping him.  This time in his life is for having fun, not for looking for a soulmate.  Shawn and I are an anomaly.  Not everyone marries their high school sweetheart.

I pray daily for my daughters in law.  I love them already, and I look forward to having amazing relationships with them.  There are so many pressures, so many different things that I don't necessarily understand, so I also pray for understanding, as well as wisdom and discernment for all of us.  I pray for caution, that it will be heeded at the proper times and moments--and not just for myself, but for my sons and their wives.

My place may not necessarily be right between Noah and his girlfriend, no matter how badly how I want to be there laying down the rules, but it is God's place.

This mama's prayer is they will let Him in.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Funny Little Story: Full Circle

We sincerely love Elijah.  Not a day goes by he does not endear himself to us, as well as to those on social media.  He's the sweetest duck, the funniest duck, and the best all around duck.  We might be just a bit smitten.  Well, except maybe the cats or Lilly when he chases their tails.  Or Noah, but he's a teenager, so it takes a lot to impress him...

Elijah has also proven he is most definitely a spoiled house duck--certainly not created for outdoor living! I'm not kidding.  Avery usually has to snuggle him up in a blanket or a towel, fresh from the dryer, in order to dry him off faster, and warm him up faster.  Again, I'm not kidding. When the boys return to the house to dry off after water play, and he's left outdoors alone to dry off, we frequently hear, "dink dink dink" on the glass door, and there's Elijah, tapping on the door with his beak to be let it. We open the door, and His Majesty walks right in the house.  He loves his belly rubs, and he receives more foot rubs than I do, too.

Elijah also knows his way around the kitchen, and knows who is the easiest to sucker into the best treats (Hi, Mom! Although, Dad is also pretty fun with food!).  I have heard Shawn mutter on occasion, "You know, when most people say they have spoiled duck in their kitchen, THIS IS NOT what they mean!"  Have I mentioned what a saint my husband is?

This duck also rides around in style in his own stroller, now (Shawn wishes I were kidding....).  Both Elijah and Avery enjoy the freedom of being able to leave the yard together, and Avery is hoping to test the stroller and a few store rules.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of being around Avery's age and desperately trying to convince my parents to let me have a duck.  I'd actually forgotten about it.  I told Avery about it, but not what I know now as an adult about the psychology behind it.

I had it all planned out in my head, and if I remember correctly, I even drew it out on paper.  We had a rather large yard, but also a rather maniacal dog, so my plans included a fenced in area for my duck (a mallard!), and a kiddy pool for him.  My mother's answer was an unequivocal, "NO."  But, I was determined.  I was no doubt honing the skills I use on Shawn now (haha), so I'm certain I did not give up (I was also a bit of an obsessive child)!  I could take care of this duck (never mind Virginia winters, or that he would need a companion, or anything that I know now--I was a very naive child), I wanted this duck.  I have no idea how long I hounded my parents.  I'm sure to them it was forever!!  In the end, the answer was still--NO.

It's so funny to me how it's come full circle, and I now have a mallard duck--living in my home, a full fledged family member!  God answers prayers.... It might take 32 years, but He answers them!

Knowing what I do now as an adult, I know I was searching for a way to try to connect with my father, who collected wood carvings of ducks, and I thought--as a child--liked ducks.  If I had a live one, I could actually connect with an emotionally absent father, right?  He would love me, and pay attention to me, right?

Avery loved that story, and will frequently tell me he's sharing Elijah with me, because, "Mom, you didn't get to have a duck when you were a kid."

Now, this sweet little duck is a way for me to connect with my son.

He's not just a duck.

Elijah is therapy.  He is couples therapy.  He is individual therapy.  He is family therapy.

Elijah is love.

Elijah is all of that and more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Check on Each Other

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
 1-800-273-TALK [8255]

Chester Bennington, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams and so many others had it all: Fame, fortune, family, money, accolades and awards.  They were loved by millions.  Adored by fans. Their movies, music, products, and shows were bought, watched, listened to and worn.  These people were envied.  

You know what they also had?  Something they shared with me.  Something they shared with tens of millions of us.  Something far beyond their control.  Something kids and adults in the every day world don't receive the kind attention these celebrities achieved for their suicides.

They had addictions.  They had depression.  They had anxiety.  They had demons.  Perhaps they were bullied.  They had mental illness.  They felt alone in crowded rooms, but played everyone's best friend.  Their neurotransmitters and neurons were misfiring just like mine do.  Perhaps like yours do, or your loved one's do.  Our minds are clouded, decision making is poor.  

We do not think well of others, not even our dearest family and friends.  

We decide they would be better off without us.

Their family members go through hell.  They're left with questions, not answers.  

And there are millions out there, just like them, watching the news, watching social media, watching all of this play out, suffering even worse. There are are millions who are wincing in pain in silence.  Inside, they are crying out in pain, waiting for someone to notice them, waiting for help, not knowing how to ask, dying inside.  They see the attention suicide receives....

Loves, please listen to me.  Check on your friends.  Check on your children.  Check on yourself.  Don't go it alone.  Don't allow your friends to go it alone.

I know the lies the enemy tells you.  I know deep the pit is, and how it pulls you down.  I know how anxiety frays your nerves, so you jump at every little sound.  I know the only thing you want to do is sleep.  I know how it can freeze you in place.  I know the temptation of suicide.  I know the release that drugs and alcohol give.  I know the quiet and relief that cutting and burning bring.  It's like a sigh from deep inside of you that just releases everything you're holding in.  It tells you everything is going to be okay.

Loves, I want to also tell you--there is a sweeter, permanent release Jesus brings.  I want to tell you, but I do not want to preach at you, so I will leave it at that.  

I will never stop shouting your worth.  I will never stop shouting the good that you are, and the good that you deserve.  I will never stop shouting that it is okay to take care of yourself.  I will never stop shouting that you are enough.  I will never stop shouting that the earth needs you, and there is a place for you here.  

Please, don't give up.  Find a reason to cling to.  Live minute by minute.  Don't even take it day by day.  Just minute by minute.  Find a reason.  Find that person who recognizes your struggle.  Hold on.  Please.  You are needed.  

And for those of you who have already survived, and know it's a day to day process, please live out your testimony for those who need to hear it.  There are others who need to hear it's going to be okay.  

We need to end suicide.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Seven Years

I can't believe it's been seven years.

It was a day that rocked our little town to its core.

I will never forget those primal screams of maternal grief.

"My" girl wasn't the only one who died, but her death, and her brother's injuries, were just--yeah, that.  I loved her as my own.  And every time I see him, I greet him as my own prodigal son.  He will always be one of my 'extra' sons.  Hers was a loss that was a punch right to my gut.  It took the breath right out of me, and it felt like months before my lungs could fill back up.  She was like a daughter to me.  I had a fondness for her that transcended mere friendship between her mom and myself.

That night when we got home from the hospital, I crawled into bed with Noah, just needing to be close to my own child.  I could not be close enough to my own children.

The events that followed in those next few days were so incongruous.

Death overshadowing life overshadowing death.

I rocked my not-quite-a-baby, but not-yet-a-toddler, just shy of his second birthday, holding that still new life close, as we buried three kids and brought two badly injured kids home.  As we sent three kids home to Jesus, Noah gave his heart and his life to him, and was baptized.

So many of us barely kept it together in the subsequent weeks and months. 

She was one of the few who knew the secret who was Avery before anyone else--her mom was one of my best friends, and my friend found herself giggling, unable to keep the secret from her daughter.  We had a youth retreat the weekend I found out I was finally pregnant, and I was just so afraid of losing him.  I wore a hoodie with a front pocket so I could keep my hands protectively on him without anyone thinking anything of it.  She would come up, wrap her arms around me, and tuck her hands in the pocket with mine, resting her chin on my shoulder.  When no one was looking, she would bend down close to my belly and whisper, "I love you."  She paraded him around, so proud, when he was born.

We were so afraid of losing him, and we lost her.

 I often wonder what she would've been today.  Her brother is one of the reasons I fight so hard for Avery.  He fell through so many cracks. I see many similarities between them.

Some anniversaries come and we celebrate them. Others come and we think, "Has it really been that long? It doesn't seem possible the earth has been missing her for (seven) years."  Not a day goes by you don't miss that person with every fiber of your being, then you realize the anniversary is upon you.

Sometimes I'm still so angry over the circumstances, but I realize anger does no good.

Instead, I just hold my own kids a little harder.  I celebrate them a little louder.

I tell myself it's what she would have wanted.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Place Called Home

For many, home is a place with floors, four walls, windows and a door.  It is merely a place to live.

For some, home is nothing more than that.

Perhaps home has people in it, and/or pets.  Maybe fake house plates were chosen instead.

Home might be a place, but it can also be a person, or a feeling, a thing, a memory, a smell, or anything else or anyone else that (who) makes them feel connected, safe and loved.

They may not see home every day, but when they do, they know--they are HOME.

All too many in our broken world long for home. Sadly, they do not have that connection and love which makes a home.

My own home is Shawn and our boys.  As much as we love our 4 walls, all they provide and everything inside, as long as my family and our pets are safe, I know we would be okay.  It wouldn't easy, but we would be okay. 

I'll be honest: Goodbyes were the hardest part
However, as I discovered the very moment my feet hit the earth when I disembarked the airplane last summer, home for me is also Jamaica.  I knew the second we landed, I belonged there.  I had heard it said before, missionaries tend to know their 'home turf'--where their heart belongs--straight away.  I didn't really believe it until I experienced it firsthand, even before meeting our children at the orphanage.  The missionary in question may work in other places due to the need, God's call, or personal desire, but there is always that one place which calls them back.  It occupies serious headspace, and even more heartspace, the missionary thinks about it daily, prays constantly, and is always looking for ways to go back.

That said, I have been eager to explore other countries and other mission fields, so when a trip to Peru for February 2019 opened up, I was all in.  I've seen pictures, I've heard testimonies and stories--let's do this!!!  I started my vaccination process, had everything on track--and completely missed the application deadline.

Okay, so Peru wasn’t God’s plan for me.  I was a bit bummed, but I’ve learned there is always my plan vs God’s plan when it comes to missions work and disaster relief/response (ever since I was trying to get pregnant with Ezra 6 years ago, and God kept slamming the door in my face each time a missions trip opened up in our church, and I knew I could not be newly pregnant during such a trip), and I’ve really been praying (asking, pounding God’s door, being a brat…)—what’s going on here?  Because I have to know, I always need the reason, there must be a reason and I. HAVE. TO. KNOW.  What’s Your plan?  Am I just supposed to stay here right now because of everything going on with Avery?  Concentrate my efforts on my family?  Is there something else?  Is God worried—knowledgable—I wouldn’t be able to concentrate my efforts on preparing for this trip properly because of Avery? Then a friend of ours from church told Shawn how disappointed he was he  wouldn’t get to work with me in Peru because he’d been looking forward to it. That felt like such a pat on my head!  Working with him in WVA, I adore him and the other contractors, how they work so patiently with those of us less (not) skilled, how they work with and around my kids, and for him to heap that praise on me—WOW.   It was then I did allow myself to be more than a little bummed about not being able to go to Peru.  And really—with everything going on with Avery, this mama needs a break.  If I'm going to be honesty, I was a little sad to be missing out, but for many of the wrong reasons.  I need a break, I need something to look forward to.  I just really, REALLY need a mission trip, disaster trip, SOMETHING (oh hey, hurricane season is coming up....).  Selfishly, these are the trips that recharge me.

Then our church made an announcement for an upcoming trip to Jamaica.

I'm sorry, what???

Oh my gosh—I had tears!  My home!  I’m going back to Jamaica!!  Shawn turned to me and whispered “You’re going. I’ll put in for vacation on Monday so I can stay home with the kids.”  God said the same thing.  He told me this was His plan all along!  I would love to explore other countries, but I BELONG in Jamaica.  I can’t even type that without crying!


The trip isn't to see my babies, sadly, and yes, I'm more than a little heartbroken over it.  I promised them I will be back, and I plan to make good on that promise, no matter how many mountains I have to move. In the meantime, I’m laughing at God’s insane humor; we will be facilitating women's conferences, and going into homes to privately pray with women.  If you know me, you know I hate women’s conferences about as much as I hate moms groups (go ahead and laugh, those of you who have been in my moms group!)!!!  I'm also incredibly shy and self-conscious about praying with/over others, but looking back, I can see how God has been preparing me for this moment.  God really sat me up straight and spoke to me about this, though—if we are to prevent these young girls from becoming orphans, and prevent these young women and moms from turning their children into orphans, we have to start by building these women up, and teaching them their worth.  We must give them the building blocks for their own lives, so they can, in turn, give them to their own children.

Beyond all of that, the most important thing is what I will be bringing home.  The many things these women will teach me.

Oh my gosh, shivers and tears!!!  Praise God!!!  I’m going home.  I'm going home.  I'M GOING HOME!!!  I have faith I will see my precious babies another time.  Perhaps God will even surprise me and I might have a chance to see my babies this trip.  Until then, as Noah said, I'm off to “make” new babies!

Thank you Jesus, for this incredible opportunity.  I promise you I will not waste it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"Even Miracle Babies Can Be Jerks"

When I saw that post on social media the other day, I sat there shocked.  A little dumbfounded.  I stared at the words for a few moments.

Then I burst into tears.

What I felt was relief.

As I read through the post and the comments, the weight of the guilt for taking my miracle boys for granted still felt like concrete on my shoulders, but I also felt--relief.

There are other moms like me.

There are other kids like him.

I prayed so hard for my boys.  I wanted them so much.  And now I have them.

What I also have is a sh**ton of guilt for the way I feel sometimes when I really don't like one of them for the way he behaves.

I did not pray for this.  I did not want this.  But now I have this.

There is no way to absolve myself of this guilt because what I have, other women and grieving mothers with empty arms still pray for.

They would do anything for one day with my problems.

And yet, I dare to complain about the gifts I've been given.

This mom of her own miracle baby jerk was doing her best to absolve the rest of us of our guilt.  Her insightfulness saved that day for me.  I've been thinking about that post ever since, reminding myself it's okay to let go of the guilt.

My son is not perfect, and neither am I.  Neither of us ever will be.

Praise God for other moms who are inside our own heads, speaking wisdom and loving truth.