Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Normal

Yesterday morning, clad in a tank top, t-shirt, sweater and coat, I pulled into the parking lot of the local insta-care. Dizzy, pale and sleepy, I stared uncomfortably for a moment at the parking lot across the street. When Jesse died, that's where I parked. The funeral had been so massive that even an hour early, I was forced into the cramped parking stalls of O'Reilly Auto Parts. It was there, in that oily, perpetually pot-holed lot that I really lost my shit for the first time. After the funeral, I practically seized in the drivers seat. I slammed my hands on the steering wheel over and over. Bang bang bang until welts rose up on my palms but I couldn't feel them because I was numb with grief and anger. I was so angry. Angry at Jesse for being gone and angry at myself for not being around more and angry at all of our friends and practically anyone who knew him because I figured someone could have done something to help him.

I snap out of this memory just as quickly and painfully as I snapped into it. I trudge into the clinic where they draw my blood, poke my finger and stare at me in bewilderment at the results. My iron is at staggering low; 4.7 compared to the ideal 12. The nurse can't figure out how to turn down the air-conditioning as I sit shaking like a leaf on the papered table. I leave with a list of prescriptions, a promise of test-results on Friday morning and advise to come back in a few weeks so they can draw more blood. Mostly, I ask just one question: If my blood is so low, why do you keep taking it?

Chronic Anemia is a hilarious disease. Your body see's red blood cells as foreign entities and destroys them. If you think about it, it's like being allergic to yourself. Between the Macrobid, iron supplements, folic acid, and glucosomine (for my knees), I am in a perpetual state of nauseous.


I'm in a sort of frenzy. Once you decide to leave a place, you start to obsess over the place and especially over leaving it. There are certain parking lots I'm going to miss and there are others I can't drive far enough from. I feel completely disconnected and homesick for a place that isn't yet my home. I'm often rambling on about how we have to beat the cold. October 1st is a set date, period, no budging because it's going to get cold.

My mom thinks I've got a sort of post-traumatic stress; that maybe that's why I'm in a frenzy over getting the H out of dodge and doing it so quickly. She says maybe last winter took a toll on me. She also says worst case scenario, we can't leave by October and Kade does well this winter. But actually, worst-case scenario, we can't leave in time and Kade doesn't do well and spends an entire six months in and out of hospitals again. Toddlers shouldn't live in hospitals. I digress.

We made the decision to sell most of our belongings. We decided, simply, that unless they held sentimental value, we didn't need to bring them with us. We agreed that we would take the car and pack it as full as we can. And that's it. I suppose it's symbolic; getting rid of everything that was mine or his and starting over with things that are just ours.

It's a bit surreal to have Him coming with us. I've slipped into a comfortable pocket with this boy. It's a familiar, warm, and strangely new pocket. It's right between where we used to be and where we will be. And a lot of new-found patience, respect and trust have us giddy as school kids. It's extremely comical, this old, worn out and somehow shiny new relationship of ours. We're amused. How did we end up here? When we're in the grocery store, Kade tells anyone who will listen that he has his Mommy and Daddy with him. We give each other sideways glances and smirk. We're proud of one another, we're proud of our son, we're bursting with pride and excitement at the thought of what we're about to accomplish together. Together.

Today, I made chicken alfredo while He was home for lunch. I stirred the spaghetti and listened to the two of them play in the next room, racing cars and acting out some sort of dinosaur attack. We sat down at the table and ate and cracked open a pomegrante and laughed and I couldn't help but notice how normal it felt. 

While I'm running away from everything familiar, I'm holding on to this normal. This Normal.

Onward, to the land of Rain and Coffee. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Kind Kid.

I try to teach Kade kindness. It's something I focus so strongly on, I feel like I'm nagging most days. Be patient, say thank you, give hugs and kisses, clean up your mess. And often, I feel like maybe I'm doing it wrong. Maybe I'm not displaying enough kindness myself; kids learn by example, right? I can tell him all he wants but if he doesn't see it, he won't know that it's necessary. I panic sometimes. I'm afraid he won't learn before he starts school. Or worse, he'll learn and be teased for it when school does start. I sometimes fear the world I'm sending him out into. I hope my sweet, caring boy has a good head on his shoulders. I hope he knows self-respect and stands up for his rights. I hope he holds onto his morals and teaches others how good life can be if you give and teach and learn and love.

I'm trying to find randoms acts of kindness that he can relate to. Like giving a wide-eyed toddling passerby a quarter for the Ninja Turtle arcade game after his mama says they're out. Or helping a lady at farmers market pick up a crate of peaches that were knocked over. Kade normally does these things because I initiate them. I say something like, "Uh oh.. we should help!" and he cheerfully follows my lead. Other times, he initiates the kind acts. For example, breaking off a piece of his organic chocolate bar and giving it to a random baby in a stroller. Luckily for us, her mother was okay with that and recognized it as the sweet gesture it was. These acts are few and far between but they give me the encouragement I need. It's a gentle reminder, you're doing something right

I'm finding a new balance with Kade. He's shifting into a more independent, brave and stubborn kid. It's necessary for me to shift with him. There has to be a balance. Finding out how to do that, however, hasn't been easy. Bedtime was our biggest struggle. Kade would get up over and over again. I always started out calm and reassuring but by the 50th time out of bed, I was frustrated and tired. I often threatened, go to sleep or else!  He would cry and I would feel totally lousy. 

One night, we walked into the bedroom and told him he didn't have to go to sleep. We recognized that maybe he's just not ready. Maybe he needs to ease himself into it and wind down on his own. He stared at us in bewilderment as we turned on a small lamp, insisted he play or read books and that he put himself to bed when he was ready. The only catch was that he had to stay in his room. The conversation went something like, "Kade, this is Mom and Dad's time. You had your time today, now it's ours. You are welcome to stay up and play or read but you must stay in your room. When you're ready to sleep, you can climb in bed yourself." Now, Kade plays by himself for about 15 minutes. When he's ready, he comes out and asks for hugs and kisses. I tuck him in and he stays in bed until morning. 

This was a big success. Of course, there are other things (whining being number one) that we haven't cracked the code to yet. But we're learning that freedom within boundaries is the key. He also insists on picking out his own clothes and shoes now. I've decided that's fine as long as they're weather appropriate. He also has to wear pants. He hates that rule but usually agrees if I let him pick out which pants.


I'm in a state of total, complete restlessness. I'm anxious and itching and irritable. I'm ready for the ocean, I'm ready for clean air, I'm ready for a job that doesn't leave me bruised and raw and sore. 

Fourteen hour shifts in a freezer are overwhelming. My hands don't work, my anemic blood is frozen solid in my veins, my head pounds out the same rhythm as the slug former machine. I'm ready for Seattle. I'm ready for growth and change and moving on

This city is tugging me back. It says stay a while. My sister has always said the only place she'd live other than Ogden is New York. It's a city that Al Capone said was "too rough" for him. But if you really know this city, you'll fall in love with it. And saying goodbye to it is bittersweet. Like saying goodbye to an old friend. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Boys Will Be Boys

Since the day I found out I was pregnant with Kade I was convinced that He was a She. I couldn't imagine it any other way. We'd always joked in my family that my sister, athletic and comedic, would have the boys. Me, being emotional and willowly, would have the girls. We had a girl named picked out-first and middle- and had hesitantly kicked around only a few boy names.

When the doctor asked, "Do you want to know the sex?" We both grinned and nodded. I was discreetly praying that it would not be a boy. Please God, spare me. My doctor told us it was a boy. He said it's a boy! Congratulations! and shook my limp hand and left the room hastily and excitedly. I sat in utter shock. Ian grinned and hugged me and grinned some more and practically hugged himself. 

What am I going to do with a boy?

 It all seemed surreal, to the very day he was born. The baby shower gifts; overalls and blue blankets and basketball clad onesies. The sweet patchwork animals I had bought before we knew the sex; pink and white puppy and giraffe, now out of place in his all-boy bedroom. When he was born, of course, I was overjoyed. Who cared about the sex? He was mine. 

I've been very fortunate to have a well-behaved, well-natured, calm boy. In Kade's first three years of life he was so well-behaved that I had sworn it was because of his health problems. God gave me a good boy because he knew I couldn't handle health AND behavior problems. Kade has excellent table manners. He sleeps through the night regularly, eats his veggies and (usually) remembers his magic words. He's sweet and smart and kind.

Flash forward to Tuesday afternoon, in my kitchen. Kade is standing on top of my kitchen table. I ease him off and remind him, as calmly as I can, that we need to keep our feet on the floor. He does it again. This time, spitting at me and smiling. As many times as I pull him down, he gets back up. Time out? A joke. He won't sit no matter what distraction I provide for him. I tell him to go to his room to cool down. He goes to his room, knocks everything off the shelves and goes back to standing on the table. When I reach for him this time, he lunges, kicking my milk glass bowl off the table and onto the ground, where it laid in a million tiny pieces.

Kade felt bad for this. He started crying and even reminded me today, Kade broke mamas thing. Kade sorry. I felt bad too. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I raised my voice and shouted, Go To Your Room Now.  When did I lose a grasp on him? I was sure that my parenting was "working," whatever that means and that Kade respected me. I think we put a lot of emphasis on whether what we do as parents "works." I also believe this is especially true for boys. 

At the library, titles glare down from dusty shelves. Titles like, "Why Boys Fail" and "Raising Boys; A Full Contact Sport" can be discouraging. Boys in general have a bad rap. Lower test scores, poor social skills, higher risk for drug abuse and criminal mischief. Boys go through their "phases" and by the time they're teenagers, it's common to hear mothers exasperate that they've given up. They insist they can't parent their boys anymore, that it's time to "let them go."

This is my biggest fear as a parent to Kade. I fear that I'm just not equipped to raise a boy. How do I teach him to be a gentlemen? How do I show him the path of least resistance? Convince him to get good grades, to be a hard worker? Teach him how to choose good friends? Encourage him to go to college, not spend time playing video games, be active in sports and march to the beat of his own drum all at the same time?

It all seems like a big game of "follow the leader." I've had to learn to stop and pay close attention to Kade. To follow his little drum beat. Every day is a learning experience- but I'm getting the hang of it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Canvas and The Painter

I write about writing itself more than I write about anything else. I think that's because of my on-again, off-again relationship with the sport. Yes, I said sport. I can associate writing best to the Wasatch mountains. For my entire life they've been there, glaring at me from the east. They're a constant reminder of where I am and which direction I'm facing. They're also a sore thumb, throbbing; a reminder that I'm still here, in the same place I've been my entire life and that makes me panic a bit. There is an entire world out there waiting to be seen and I've been crowded to this corner. Everyone once in a while, it feels nice to be lost. Writing is the same for me. It feels nice to be expressive and get my thoughts in an orderly manner. But sometimes, it's better to be lost. At least then you can push thoughts to the back for a while. 

Having a writers brain though, thoughts don't stay hushed back there for long. They lunge themselves to the surface, aggressive and urgent. We're running out of room in here, they say, let us out. 

I've been trying to.. chill out, if you will. I think people are hurtful, by nature. They talk about others without hesitation and things are said that can't be taken back. Word travels fast and friendships are ruined and pride is damaged and reputations don't go unscathed. I guess I could dwell on this but I've decided instead to focus on me and my little family and forget the rest. You know that old saying, those who mind don't matter... 


We were sitting in an In & Out burger when a young woman started swearing, profusely, loudly across the restaurant. She was chatting with her boyfriend, nonchalantly, as her language forced rosy red color to any sweet old lady sitting a few feet away. An elderly man very politely asked her to speak quietly, not even suggesting she change the words themselves. There's young kiddos here, ma'am. She swore at him, telling him she didn't give a flying fluff and maybe he should, ahem, turn his hearing aide down instead. 

I tried to ignore the language but this woman took the incident as a reason to start talking louder. Soon, Kade started watching her, fascinated. I gently explained to him that those were angry words and that he needn't use them. She laughed, a sort of sneer, and said to me, "He's gonna learn it anyway." When the woman finally left the restaurant, the nearly full lobby clapped. They actually applauded her departure.

The statement itself makes me uncomfortable. In my humble opinion, that attitude is the force driving our kids to be careless and disrespectful. They're going to learn it anyway. Unless, of course, we change the way we speak. If we all teach our children respect and love and kindness, they don't have to learn it. Who said that's a common thing to learn as an adult? They're going to learn swearing and disrespect anyway but not forgiveness and patience and charity? This is backwards; it's wrong. 

Working at the daycare, I saw a lot of violent kids. It was a regular ache in my heart because I knew that they must have learned it somewhere. Kids aren't born with violent thoughts or intentions to hurt others. Children are born pure and wonderful. They are a blank canvas. We are the painters. 

I hope I'm painting a masterpiece. I hope he learns to love without condition and give without reason. 


We're getting ready for a Seattle, slowly but surely. We've applied for two apartments and are getting the car ready for a 863 mile trip. I guess you could say I'm settling down. That feels good. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Time to Thrive

I have a tendency towards over-sized sweaters and combat boots. I drink copious, nauseating amounts of coffee and in fact, if you sliced me open, would bleed espresso. I call rain "writing weather" and have been known to wear long johns in July heat waves. Winters in Utah leave me manic and sleepless, summers leave me sticky and cranky.

Do you know what happened when the search for the best asthma air in the U.S. began and turned up with Seattle, Washington in the number two spot? I choked. I literally choked on my white chocolate mocha and dribbled it down my chin and onto my sweater.

On October 1st, we're moving away. Onward to the land of rain and coffee, where sudden exposure to cold air is less than likely, inversion is unheard of and rain in a constant sprinkle, 300 days a year.

Last winter was hard. Hospital stays blur together in a haze of thick black coffee and monitors and half-sleep. Terms and triggers float through a numb mind; sudden exposure to cold air,viruses, oral steroids, inhalers, duo-neb treatments. Kade was poked, held down for suction treatments, tested for cystic fibrosis, hooked up to oxygen and forced through breathing treatments. Veins were blown, noses were bloody and answers were few and far between. The term most familiar, made a dull and aching home in my chest: failure to thrive. It's scribbled across most of Kade's medical records. Knowing my son, you could shake your head at this. Kade thrives. My baby loves life, he teaches us joy and love. He is fantastically silly, his giggles erupting an entire room into a ball of light.

It's time now, for his health to thrive as much as he does.

Things are going to be hard and different. But they're also about to be wonderful and adventurous and new. We're ready to thrive, as a family.
It's time.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Losing your shit

Okay, I lied. I'm a big fat liar, promising to blog often and giving myself deadlines that I'm incapable of meeting. People around me often urge, write a book. My response is always the same. I become exasperated and snap back that publishers require dead lines and I am incapable of meeting deadlines. Case in Point.


I am truly exhausted. I know, people say that all the time. They put their heavy heads in their blistered hands and sigh I am so exhausted. But those people pick up and truck on, right? Despite their apparent exhaustion, they keep moving. Another day of work, another meeting, another long drive home, and finally, another one bites the dust (er.. falls into bed). I guess I'm one of these. Every day grows longer, more worrisome; I look at myself in the mirror for a long time and think for a few uncomfortable moments, how are you going to get through this?  My feet shift and I pull down my shirt and I tighten my pony tail. I put on a tense smile and return to work, exhausted but still moving.

Everyone has a breaking point. You can be strong for a long time- years even. But there will be a moment when you lose your shit. This shit-losing process can produce a number of reactions. You might be lying in a bathtub, chain smoking and humming Johnny Cash songs until the break of dawn. Maybe you're one who will make sudden moves- quit your job, leave your family, shave your head, do drugs. Maybe you'll reduce yourself to a pile of dirty clothes and empty ice cream tubs, watching reruns of I Love Lucy.

When I lose my shit, I work harder. I play harder too, which is probably why I work harder. I'm trying to compensate the late nights out with pancake breakfasts, trips to the zoo, the park, warm milk before bed, extra bedtime stories, hours of puzzles and lego building. I go out until the sun comes up and when I get home, back to reality, back to Kade, I muster up what's left of me to be a Mama.  Really, I'm always a sort of Super Mom. I like to focus my energy on my parenting, especially within the walls of my home. It's important to me that Kade's childhood is whimsical and wonderful and honest. It's imperative to me that he learns things like patience and kindness and respect. But when I lose my shit, I really lose it.

For example;
I have slept an average of 3 hours a night for the past month and a half. If it's 3 o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday night, you will find me in my kitchen, sprinkled with flour. There is butter in my hair as I'm whisking and baking. Apple Crisps, animal crackers, breakfast cupcakes, home made veggie nuggets... you name a healthy and vastly complicated recipe suitable for children, I've conjured it up. And if I'm not baking? Sewing. Quilts and baby pants and mittens and coasters fly from my sewing machine quick as lightening, into a giant pile beneath my desk. 

Some nights, I glance at the clock with blurry eyes and it's time to get ready for work and my kitchen is covered in flour and empty bowls, dripping with batter. I wake Kade up and serve him a breakfast cupcake. I whisk up some eggs and ham and brew yet another pot of coffee. I lay my head in my blistered hands and sigh I am so exhausted.

At work, it's like I'm switched on auto-pilot. Before I know it, the day is over and I'm on my way home, wondering where the day went. I smile warmly at parents and redirect students and solve all sorts of frustrating issues but I am not present for any of it. I am in the background, resting. Resting while Super Mom, Super Worker steps in my place. She's sensitive and clumsy and has an awful memory... but she gets the job done.

Things will get better. I know they will. But for right now, they are hard. I'm frustrated and sleepy and fuzzy headed. I try to focus on my faith and that in itself seems a daunting, truly exhausting task. I know how I should take care of myself; get enough sleep, don't drink, eat, for hells sake, EAT. And, maybe most important, surround myself with people who matter. People who I count on for long hugs and warm beds and poured shots, toasts in the air, "To Jessica. For being a kick ass mom."

This will blow over, I know.

And until then, I will keep going. I'll buy myself flowers and keep ice packs on my head and maybe sink into a hot bath humming Johnny Cash, minus the cigarette. And I'll surround myself with friends who are warm and who care and they'll help me escape for a night or two and all will be well again soon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Giant Piece of Humble Pie

I've said before that February is my transition month. And it's proven year after year- so much so that if you look in the proverbial dictionary of my life at the word February, it has a one word definition: change. This year, I'm expecting the same. I'm preparing myself for the worst and hoping (fingers, toes and arms crossed) for the best. Sometimes change is refreshing- its arranging the furniture, getting a new job, changing your hair color, moving into a new house, getting married. But, in my experience of many a February, the type of change that happens in this frigid month is not the refreshing type. The February Change that I've experienced is usually sad, sometimes frustrating, often leaving me feeling shaken up and lost. This year, I'm determined. This February will be different. There will be plenty of change; but it will be the good kind of change. It will be the kind of change that beckons slower days, being more appreciative of what I have, more time for myself, more time for Kade. Change that involves more church, less stress, eating better, taking care of myself.

I found myself getting the February jitters last week. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with how things are right now. I needed a change. I felt like I was ready for a change but God wasn't giving it to me. Let's stop right there for a minute and recognize how absolutely ridiculous that statement is. Like God is supposed to give us exactly what we want, exactly what we're ready for, when we think we're ready for it. Ladies and gentlemen of the blog world, that is not how it works. Let me rain on your parade for a moment with this reminder: IT'S NOT ABOUT US. I prayed, hard. Why aren't You giving me what I want? I'm ready to move on. Let me move on. OH boy was I humbled. God answered, wait. Be still and know that I am God. Ouch. I sat, completely and utterly shocked. I pulled myself up and began wiping the Humble Pie from my face.

There is nothing great and new and exciting on the horizon for me as per right now. My mission right now is this: stay still, stay focused, love your baby, be healthy, be whole, be well. And that is the grand, master plan. After all, it did come from The Master Himself.

 Kade is an artist. Paint, play dough, chalk.. it keeps him going for hours.


Lately, certain surroundings leave me raw around the edges. Bridal showers, baby showers, Mission farewells. They seem a giant reminder of where I am right now and the fact that I am staying here. I am so elated for my friends and family. My heart fills to the brim with joy and excitement for them and everything that is splaying out before them.  And at the same time, there is a dull ache. A little, uninvited pang of this could be you but it isn't. Yes, that hurts. But I'm shoving past it.

Kade is overwhelming me. I'm in disbelief at how quickly he's learning and growing. He's finally doing all the "catching up" the doctors promised he would. Like lightening speed he's picking up new words and behaviors. And last week I had to buy him new pants for the first time in six months. He actually outgrew them, an odd concept for me to grasp considering it's a rare occurrence in Kade's life. This makes me happy. This makes me squirm with pride. He is smart. He is wonderful. He is mine.

Little niece. 

I swear I'll get better at this.