Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Dec. 25th

This morning we spent crying.  Bellies were full, his diaper was dry, we'd both slept for at least a few hours. But we wanted to cry.  His, a throaty, guttural scream.  Mine, silent tears streaming down my cheeks.

I can sit and listen to him cry and not be anxious.  Not because I like for him to cry.  Not because it doesn't bother me.  But because sometimes I can't fix it, and I'd rather sit and listen to him cry than to walk away.  Sometimes we just need to cry.  Together.

Others who are not moms do not understand this.  They hear the cry and they want to soothe and they want to bounce and they want to sway and they want to walk, stand, sit, whatever it takes to soothe the tears of the baby.

Normally, Judah is easily soothed.  But not this morning.  This morning we sat in the hand me down chair and I cupped my hand on his cheek and held him tight.  And we cried.

Because it is Christmas today.  And nothing either of us could do would fix whatever hurt it was we were feeling.

After the crying had gone on too long, I breathed deeply and prayed over sweet Judah.  Prayed that whatever it was that hurt him that I couldn't see, whatever was wrong that I couldn't fix, Jesus would fix.  And quietly, gradually, his breath started to even and his eyes started to droop and through shudders and sniffles and sighs, he fell asleep.

I cried off and on throughout the day and even now, at 8:30, I sit in bed.  Defeated by this day.  With many more tears ready to fall.

This goes far beyond Christmas blues.  This had nothing to do with the hype of Christmas being all over.  All presents unwrapped.  Or even with going back to work.  This had everything to do with the anti-climactic nature of this holiday.  Christmas 2012 went by without me noticing.  Without truly being celebrated.  Alone.  Un-enjoyed.

Judah is too little to really give gifts to.  Next Christmas, or may the year after, we will wrap presents to put under the tree.  We will get up and open them together and then, I truly believe, the magic of Christmas will return.  But this year... I woke up alone.  Olivia and I exchanged small gifts -- hers made me cry.  But I was not able to get her anything near what I wanted to.  I was almost embarrassed by the gift card I handed her.  I know that emotion all too well.

Christmas, we learn from an early age, is not about gifts.

But I did not get my mind right before this holiday.

I counted on spending today differently than I did.  And because of that, I feel like I wasted my day.  What I had planned never came to pass, so I feel like I spent most of my day waiting.  Wishing.  Even crying.  If I had known better, if I had been wise and thought it through, I would have created our own Christmas.  And counted on no one else.

Now the New Year will approach so quickly I won't even be able to think straight.  And I will be overwhelmed with a deluge of memories and regrets and hopes and stories to tell.  This year... this year just about took me out.  But it didn't.  And this week I will tell you that story.

Tonight, I am surrendering.  I'll probably cry some.  And fall asleep early.  Tomorrow will be a casual work day and then Long Avenue Christmas.

I wait and anxiously hope for the day that Judah runs into my room and jumps in my bed to wake me up to open Christmas presents.  When we bake cinnamon rolls and grill steaks and go see a movie and open presents together, one at a time-- because he and I are Vaughans.  And that is what we do.  When maybe one day we bundle up and drive to Aunt Kat and Uncle David's, because that's where all the family gathers.  And I will teach Judah that Christmas is about more than presents, but I will still get to be the next greatest stocking stuffer.  And I will watch Elijah grow up with Judah and we will watch people be added to our family.  And hopefully I won't be the one in the driver's seat.

Things will continue to change.  Be different.  Get better.

But this Christmas is over.  And we'll never have to do that again.  The Christmas tree will go back in the box and we will carefully wrap all the ornaments in the tissue paper from the gift bags.  I will put the furniture back where it belongs and put away the evergreen scented candle.

Even tonight, I just made a huge leap.  A giant step towards closure and hope and resolution.  The greatest gift I could have given myself.  And I marvel at how long it has taken me.  There's a peace, settled on my heart because I know it was the right decision.  And right decisions on Christmas are a sweet thing.

But I still need to cry some more about it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weight of it All

The days now are a whirlwind.  So much moving, so much leaving, ending, coming, and going.  Preparedness is essential, in case something does not go as planned.  Ever in a state of problem solving, of soothing, my mind is more tired than my body.  Spend so much time in the dark, trying to rest, remain quiet.  We are growing, him and I.  Even now I watch as he has learned to pull his knees up under his belly, and I know he will be on the move soon.

This week marks the year, an anniversary if you will.  I have pictures from last December.  And so many regrets. Leaving me with an ensuing dizziness, making colors and all sorts of sense blur.  

And I am terrified, for lack of a better word, that in all irony it will happen again.

It is dangerous to love, it turns out.  To unlock those hefty latches on your heart and feel such a thing again.  The kind of feel, which burns.  It aches like an overused muscle.  When all you want is to be part of their whole, and they a part of yours.  To heal their hurt.  To be what they need -- because they are what you need.  And you want them to see it.  You don't want it to hurt, but you want them to know.  You want to be treasured, as you treasure.  


Not too many days after a horrific tragedy occurs in New England, my mind is reeling.  I was not with my Judah when I found out the news.  Details unfolded as I got ready for my commencement, and I found myself just wanting to hold him.  The greatest moment fear of a parent being, I think, when you realize you cannot protect this small person from the world.  

In an interview, one of the Sandy Hook teachers tells us that while hiding her entire class of students in a bathroom, she told them that "bad guys were out there.  And we have to wait until the good guys come."

My heart breaks at what a young age these children have had to learn what a bad man looks like.  How young they were to have had to stand in the face of pure evilness.  

For my mother-heart to be broken is something I wish I could have postponed.  It happened so early on, weeks and weeks ago.  And our pain, mine and Judah's, can never compare.  But the desire of a mother to protect her child is the same.  The desire to prevent hurt is so strong, instinctual.  But here we are again, worrying the pain like a loose tooth.  We always wish we could delay the hurt.


And so night falls.  This time of year it comes quickly, seeping and fluid, without much hope for morning.  Winter brings the kind of nights you swear you'll never survive. Gloom and noise and frigidity.  You're not sure you can make one more bottle.  Or that you have the energy to take him back to his crib.  The heat kicks the door open again, and the fear that kicks in your heart means sleep won't come for a while.

You find yourself waking, even when he does not, waiting to hear the familiar sound of the door being opened.  It catches, my front door.  And from the back of the apartment you can hear it open and then shut.  You hear him meander heavily, finding his way back to us.

How is it, I wonder, he always finds his way back?  

I am terrified, those nights the door doesn't open.  The things my heart needs are too many and our lives are too complicated and I am certain, in the most worried part of myself, that this makes me unloveable.  I am certain, in all my fear, I will keep getting left.  I want to delay this hurt too.

But he finds his way back.  Like the greatest of promises.  And the instant his giant shadow darkens the door, something is righted in our world.  A peace falls over our home, and it scares me the way it reminds me.

Reminds me of cold nights on Long Avenue.  Usually Mondays and Tamera is cooking dinner and the windows in the kitchen and the water glasses are sweating.  We'd hear his car pull up -- the old '69 Chevelle.  And he would sit in the car for half an hour sometimes, talking on his phone.  When he came in, he would put his keys, loose change, and half eaten roll of Certs on the short dresser in the back room.  Then he would play the piano.  

That kind of peace.  

A coming home, a family kind of peace.  


I am learning we have to meet people where they are.  To truly, truly love someone you have to help them be the best version of themselves and love them in the way they need.  Sometimes "the way they need" is for you to understand how to accept their love.  And, God Almighty, if this isn't the hardest thing I've ever had to learn how to do.

Already this story is so different than I imagined.  Six months ago, had I been asked how I wished things would "work out", or resolve, I would not have painted this picture.  Not exactly.  Even ten weeks ago, when the story took a sharp right turn, I could not have told you the sweetness of this.  Perhaps the beauty of being chosen is greater.    

Fear grips and I grit my teeth against unwanted tears.  And I remind myself, who I really am is not unreasonable.  I remind myself not to mess up something sweet.  To be gracious and merciful and to accept grace and mercy so I can become the kind of woman worthy of love.  My son's love, his love.  

I am a mother now.  This revelation still baffles me on a daily basis.  Desperately I want to raise my son to be strong and gracious and kind.  I don't know how else to do this other than to show him how.  To show him how and also allow people so strategically in our lives, who both need strength and kindness and grace, and are the manifestation of it.     

I find these attributes hard to come by when I am lonely.  Loneliness is a bear all itself, hurting my heart and making me question.  Question everything I should be certain of.  Making me defensive and completely unlike myself.  But on those dark nights, I can't talk myself out of it.  And I beg sleep to come, if peace will not.  Reminding myself I can try harder tomorrow.  To love harder -- be sweeter and less weak.

This, then, is what I carry into this next chapter.  Perhaps, what comes next will come like morningtime.  I can only pray.  This is not a story about delaying hurt, of protecting ourselves from any and all danger.  But a story, as it has always been, about risk and trust and hope.

There's just a lot of weight to it.  This story.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Chapter

And so begins a new chapter.

As simple as that, I am done.  Camera flashes, walk across the stage, hands by my side, they snap a photo.  Applause, you're done.  I have finished -- against all odds.

I have not done more than most.  It may seem like it, but I have watched at least two other women this weekend graduate.  Both have husbands and two little girls each.  What I have done, with only Judah to care for, is probably not so hard in comparison.  Which is why, I have learned, we do not play that game.

Yesterday was supposed to mark the end of a stressful season of life.  "Supposed to" is a horrible phrase, always letting me down.  On Thursday I got some disheartening news and a new level of stress was piled on.  Expecting a decrease and experiencing an increase will boggle the mind.

I have been learning so much.  Outside the classroom, life has been teeming with lessons and learning experiences.  I work in a field shaped by heartbreak and hardship.  If I thought I knew anything about human behavior before... I was sorely mistaken.

I am watching my son grow up.  I had never paid much attention to the growth of children before, as strange as that seems.  Taking for granted the daily changes and the growth spurts and the developmental milestones.  My life is characterized by children who operate with a delay, whose childhood has been stolen because of maternal drug use, physical abuse, and severe neglect.

So when I lay my three month old on his belly and he raises his head to look at me, when he rolls from his belly to his back, when he reaches up and grabs a toy (or touches my cheek), I am amazed at the miracle he is.

He is the miracle I cling to, when all else seems to fail.  The way he looks at me and smiles, regardless of whether I've left his sight for eight hours or three minutes.  Every day he gets stronger and becomes more animated, I fall in love even more.  And I think quietly, so not to make it come too quickly, about special days to come.  When he walks, talks, goes to school, and has a decent amount of hair on his head.

I will take one more day then, before I take the necessary steps to enter into this next chapter.  One more day of rest and peace and remembering before I start doing scary things again.

I hope this next season is characterized by love.  Learning how to love one another the way we need to be loved, receiving love that's offered.  Asking for and receiving grace and mercy.  Learning how to write again... and how to operate within my gifts and outside my comfort zone.

Tonight, the good words just aren't there.

Eight Weeks


I have nothing to do today.  Submitted a 15 page paper last night, which means I have 75% done with my last class for undergrad.  25% left, 5 weeks to go.  I bought my cap and gown the other day and on December 14th our tiny little cohort will walk across the stage and accept diplomas.  And I can't really help but think how, except for our small group of family and friends, no one will really know all it took to get us there.  How symbolic it all is, that we're finishing together.  That after so long, after so much, we will soon be done.

But today I am choosing not to do anything.  There's another paper to write.  And a quiz to take.  Research to be done.  But today is Saturday.  And the lights are switched off in my apartment and Judah is asleep on my chest.  We will take this day as our own.  We will settle in this day, the third day of November, and enjoy each other.  My precious weekends.

I got a few pieces of mail yesterday, which sent my stress level skyrocketing.  I made a mental checklist of the things I have to take care of on Monday and I created a mental image of myself... franticly spinning plates.

That is how I feel right now.  Like I am trying to keep so many plates spinning.  I can't keep up with all the obligations and deadlines and fax numbers and well, there are days when each of those plates teeters precariously and I wonder... will it all fall down?

Here soon, while walking across that stage, I will be able to gently take down one plate.  It won't fall and break.  It will just slow down, slow its spinning.  And I will walk over and take it down, wrap it up, and put it away neatly.  It will be done.


Last night, he winked at me.  Walked by and grabbed my waist like he used to.  And I'd be lying if I said my heart didn't skip a beat.  I was overwhelmed with the remembering.  Oh my.  I wonder sometimes if when we meet people, we got a glimpse of a year down the road, how different we would handle our relationships.

You meet him and know, a year later he is gone already.  

You meet her and you can't see it now, but in twelve months she will be the best friend you've ever had.

You meet him and normally wouldn't think twice.  Assume.  Reject.  And there he is... this time next year... one of the most precious people in your life.


The words don't come like they should.  And every time I reveal a bit of my breaking heart, I worry you question my love.  

Only you, you who have children, might understand.  The way you feel like your most vital part is missing when your child is somewhere else.  

Those moments, deep and at 4 in the morning, when he decides he is awake.  He lays beside me, cooing with his deep little man voice, staring at the world, as if he can see all its beauty.  And I wonder if I will yell at him when I teach him to parallel park.  Or if I will cheer for him at a ball game.  Or if we will cry over algebra.  And I daydream about the first time he kisses me and the first time he presses his forehead up against our big man's.  Or ... be still my heart ... when he squeezes my hand three times.  

And I think about the first steps.  Who will be at the receiving end?  

I'm tired of being told it is selfish, and I am tired of worrying if others think I don't know... that all things work out for the good, and the right man will choose us, and Judah is better off.  

I know these things.  I KNOW THEM.  And I am broken, in so many parts, and there is so much healing in my Judah.  And life is beautiful right now in all its purity and all in every act of provision and every baby wrinkle.

In every night that door is darkened.  In every sleeping breath and in the contrast of the big and the small.  And in the whispered words of Jesus when he tells me about redemption.  When He reminds me of Boaz.

Of Ruth.  

And damn it if I can't stop crying. 

Crying about little boys lost in hurricane waters.  Crying about daddys back from deployment.  Crying because I am selfish and I sat beside a sweet young woman who found her love, like the love I'm praying for, and she has to be away from him.  And I'm not sure which is harder.  But I am sure it doesn't matter.

And I just think that eight weeks has gone by so quickly.  

And that just makes me cry more.  All while spinning all these plates.  All while trying to see farther than I am supposed to.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Graduate

Your story continues here...

I saw the words on a van as I drove, through the misty rain, towards campus.  And it struck me in such a way, I knew those words were meant for me.  The slogan of a local retirement home, actually, had found me in traffic.  And meant something wholly and entirely different in this -- what we have come to call -- pivotal moment.

I presented my research project, proposing an increase training for foster homes willing to take foster youth with a LOC higher than 3.  Very few people who walked up to my poster had any interest in my topic of research, however.  Instead they looked around frantically, asking where Judah was.  My research professor feigned interest, then quipped some bad joke I didn't get, and announced to the people standing around, "isn't this the best poster?  Even for a homeschooler, don't you think she did the best?"

The Dean of Admissions, my favorite professor/seminar instructor, and old practicum instructor all made their rounds, looked me deep in the eyes, and told me they were proud of me.  "You did it" they said.  I almost cried.  "We're so proud of you."

One classmate came up to me, in her typical frenzy, and I looked at her and whispered "it's time to calm down now.  Just breathe.  You're done."  The wrinkles relaxed around her eyes and mouth and she started in on her characteristic rambling.  We'd gotten through two and a half years of classes together -- and it had taken me a year and a half to learn any kind of patience for her.  I am a better social worker now, because of her.  If only because she taught me to meet people where they are.  Before the end of the night she came up to me and said "I know you don't like being hugged, but..." and wrapped me up in a big hug and said "you knew I could do it.  When no one else did.  I couldn't have done this without you."

I looked around the room, repeatedly, and was overwhelmed.  I remember the first time I saw these people.  I remember the day I chose social work as my career.  As a classmate gave her speech and said, in a sweet eastern Kentucky accent, "your sense of humanity increases the sense of humanity in me", I remembered all the life that's happened since then.

And I missed Judah terribly.

I did this for him.  Even though that wasn't how it started out.  Even though my mind and heart could not comprehend him, years ago when I chose this career path.  Now it is over, it has ended, and it has all been for him.

On Friday I will go through the motions of "graduating".  But I am already done.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


It's the most dangerous of things.  That moment when you can no longer deny it.  When eyes are swollen from tears and the sun set long ago, but bedtime is far away.

You have spent the hours, days, weeks, months now making ends meet.  And at the end of each night there has always been this moment, this moment of holding your breath.  Of sadness as the door shuts and there are no more grown up voices.

Last night, we stretched ourselves too thin.  And as darkness crept into our small apartment, it was filled with cries.  His and mine.  Responses, perhaps to pain, hunger, discomfort, exhaustion.  No matter.  We just cried.  Me, laying on my side, him crooked in my elbow.  Staring at each other, as if we were the only ones who could fix each other's pain.

Not as if.  This is true.  We are the only ones.  

And we fell asleep like that.  Waking up when it was still early, and still very dark.  Him eating and me forgetting to.  Counting down the hours, it seemed.  Not until morning.  But until 2.

His shadow darkened the doorway and all the hurt I'd been feeling, all the uncertainty, all the fear was gone.  Scared away by his big darkness.  And Judah laughed and I laughed, breathing deeper than I had all night.  Sinking back in the first gesture of comfort I'd made in six hours.  And we stay this way, us.

Judah keeps smiling, waving his arms and kicking his legs -- because he knows he can.  And he responds to the deepness of his voice with a deepness of his own and stares, even in the darkness finding the light in his eyes.

I saw it the first time they met, though I contributed it to something different.  I remember when Judah fit snugly in his two hands, no effort, just safely cupped there like such a small thing.  

And he doesn't fit there anymore.  But he still fits there on his chest.  The broadness of it too much for the span of all of Judah.  He lays there, sliding, burying his face, absorbing his smell. 

And I know he loves him.  In the way you can only love something if you've known it for as long as it has existed.  Someone, for as long as they've been alive.  In that same way, you can only understand growth if you were there before it happened.

I lay there.  Thinking this may be the first moment all day when I felt that everything was right.  The first moment all day when I felt whole and unafraid.

And I reprimand myself for this, before you beat me to it.  Because what truly makes me whole, is the little boy.  The one who looks like me.  And seems already too big to have ever been inside of me.

But the peace I felt then... I guess we call it hope.  That biting of the tongue, to keep from saying what just welled up in my heart.  The wishing and the knowing... I cannot only feel peaceful now.  I cannot count on this in such a way that every other moment is effected.

Perhaps, it is just that we don't want to feel alone.

But I know better than that.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Sometimes we get the chance to rejoice with someone.  We've walked this journey with them, and here they are.  At a place they never thought they'd be.

I did it with both my parents.  Watched both of them walk down the aisle.  Watched both of them build a brand new life, transforming into brand new people it seems.

I did it with my sister.  With her David.  From beginning to today -- every cup of coffee and late night run and every calming hug.  I was there.

I did it with Marty.

Today, I am doing it with Ashley.  At four o'clock she is getting married.  And I just smile, remembering all those times we sat at Starbucks, and all those times we walked down Second Street.  Both of us wondering: would our lives, our stories, always look like this?

I knew she'd find it.  The life and love she was hoping and praying for.  I knew it, in the way a friend knows things, because I saw her in a way she wasn't capable of seeing herself.  I didn't know how, or when.  But I knew.

And so today, we're going to go watch Ashley get married.  I'm already crying about it.

Partially because I am the most selfish of women.

But mostly because I just love Ashley, and I've been praying for this day for her for a very long time.

Mostly because she found a man who makes her laugh.  Who is her best friend.  Who has chosen her and is never going to leave.  A man who has followed her to Haiti and back.  Who understood her need for commitment... and family.

Good grief.  These tears.

I was looking at their engagement pictures, loving them, until I got to the ones of Chris, Ashley, and Chris' daughter.  Chris, you see, is a single dad (for about five more hours).  And during part their engagement photo session, Sophie was there.  Because little Sophie is a part of their lives.  She is a part of their story -- part of who makes Chris the man he is.  A big part.

So I'm sitting here right now with Judah asleep on my chest, he's wearing an oversized t-shirt, and breathing heavy.  And I just can't stop crying.

I keep thinking things are getting better.  Surely, they have to, right?  Surely it won't be like this forever.  But as far as I can see... this is how it is.  I feel like I'm always leaving him.  Like I blink and the weekend is over and we're back to long days apart and loading ourselves in and out of the car and coming home and crashing.  Waking up at 3 in the morning, wishing someone was there who isn't.  Staring at the shadows on the ceiling and the light through the windows, from the brightest security light.

I make meals for one and shower with the curtain half open.  And I get up in the morning and do it all over again.  Going days and days with no physical contact.  No hugs.  No spontaneous "I love you"s.

I don't want Judah to grow up quickly... but maybe it will be easier when the day comes that he can hug me.  And tell me he loves me.  Because he will mean it.  And he's not going anywhere.  He needs me.  And I need him.

And we will be fine, just the two of us.  I know that.  I wouldn't trade him for anything.  The thought of raising him and watching him grow up, blesses my heart in a way I never could have imagined.  Things are not bad.  I have built a solid, healthy life for us.  I have made ends meet and have laid out a solid foundation.  This morning, when we lay in bed laughing together, I was thrilled.  Saturdays are my gifts.

And everyone, I know, is tired of me worrying about this.  If I had a dime for every person who had told me to be patient, every person who had said "the right man will choose you", every person that said "Judah doesn't need a daddy", I'd be a wealthy woman.

But there's very little chance for me now.  To find a husband.  A father for Judah.  Working in a female-driven field, graduated from college, living alone; I attend a church occasionally where the men look at me and my bi-racial son as if we are untouchable.  They see me, carrying what they call baggage.  And can muster up enough grace to say, "you are beautiful, we love you, you will find someone".  But they do not mean it.  They just want me to stop talking.

I know that just because we cannot see "how", does not mean it will not be.  I know that so often, God is just calling us to believe him.  Believe Him.  But I can't hear anymore.  If I could hear what He had to say, then I would.  I know well enough to know, what He says is true.  That I can trust Him.  But I can't hear.  I can't hear past the quiet moments of hoping I cry out all of these tears before Judah is old enough to know what they mean -- that by the time it matters, I can be strong for him.

Especially since it's my fault that he won't have a dad.

But days like today, when I get to celebrate with Ashley, I swear there is a small part of me that still hopes.  That sees a silhouette, just beyond what I can see clearly.  Who will love us.  Us.  Who will take care of us.  Who will go to the door when a stranger knocks -- because that is a man's job.  Who will carry the heavy groceries and whose arm I fit perfectly under.  Someone who will be able to carry Judah on his shoulders.  And teach him how to shave.

And you will say, I can hear it now, that there are men to fill that role for Judah.  You say: he has what he needs!  He has his uncle David and his poppy and a bunch of well-intentioned men who swear, who swear, they aren't going anywhere.  Who love us, both me and Judah, in a very special way.  A way, which I am so thankful for.

But they are not "daddy".

My heart hurts through it.  Thinking maybe, I almost had that.  Not daring to be bold enough to ask for it.  Because asking just makes it hurt worse.

I sat in my mom's house the other night and watched her talk to her big man, arm reached high up and around his shoulder as he washed the dishes.  Across the room from me, brother David sat on the couch and Kat came from across the room and sat on top of him.  Not on his lap.  But on top of him.  Laying back, in the funniest, sweetest expression of comfort and trust I'd seen in a long time.  He reached up and kissed her jaw.  And talked in her ear.  And kissed her again.


I read this the other night, and it was the closest thing to "hearing" I'd managed in a while.  This little girl, Katie, in Africa makes me feel like less of a woman.  Like a hateful Christian.  And I know she would never mean to make anyone feel that way.  Which makes it worse.  But last month she wrote about how sometimes, trusting God is like leaving the edge of the pool .  About how He teaches us to swim, and we forget.  After so much time, we forget.  Then He calls us to the depths again, reminding us, I was the One, Anna.  I was the One who taught you how to swim.

How to risk.
How to trust.
How to be brave.
How to be strong.

Come, leave the edge.  The last time you were uncertain, I changed your life.  I will do it again.  I am doing it again.

Katie said, can I trust that He is making it good right now?  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

6 weeks

I went to the doctor on Thursday.  Caught the nurse's eye as I sat down in the waiting room and watched her face light up in recognition.  They hadn't seen me in a while.

The last time I was there I was 39 weeks pregnant.  Skin itching and feet swollen and Judah curled up in a ball, kicking and squirming, inside of me.

He is kicking and squirming in his sleep right now.  Laying next to me on the couch.  I watch him move and recognize the movements.  I look at his long arms and legs and large feet and hands and understand just now, the movements I felt then.

I weighed in.  Walked to an exam room and waited.  The minutes ticked by and Judah lay sleeping in his car seat and I just wondered at it all.

And I had a flashback, ever so quickly.  Of a rainy Thursday in January.  I cannot believe it is over, I thought to myself.  I remember thinking I couldn't do this.  I remember wondering how I would make it.  I remember little things about that day so vividly it might as well have been yesterday.  Now here we are.

The two of us.

We did it, I think quietly to myself, as the door opens and my dr comes in.  The last time I saw her it was all a blur...  but I feel like I've lived so much of a lifetime since then.  "How are you doing?" She asked in her knowing, simple way.  "You two getting along alright?"

I laughed at the phrase and Judah wrinkled his nose and I just nodded.  "Getting along just fine", I said, as if he wasn't my most favorite person in the world.


I was reminded just last week about how things change.

It was an ill-timed contact.  Just checking in, but at the worst of moments.  I had to dig deep to remember, recall, all that I once felt about it.  But it was there as part of my foundation.  A necessary and very important part of stability I'd really rather never look at again.  But in it all, I heard Him say, "you thought you knew then.  And now?  Look where we are now.  You think you know now?  Just wait."

I am trying to build all over again.  Trying so hard to find and create beauty.  I feel the need on the inside manifested in the most creatively frustrating ways on the outside.  A need for order, for art.  I am drawn to colors and textures and am more brave... I want to try and I want to make and this is all a reflection of the condition of my soul.

Because on the inside I am needing both order and artistic chaos.  I want to make something of all of this, all of this which so long goes unseen.


So we keep going.

The newness of it all is wearing off.  Others are forgetting, we are falling into routine.  I sleep more than most new moms, I am so thankful for my sweet boy's temperament.  

I realized tonight, though, after a weekend of work and paper writing, that three weeks was not enough time to recuperate.  I suppose I would have been waiting a lifetime in order to recover from the year I have had -- I am not sure one ever bounces back from something like that.  But I am tired.  Tired of running full force, of wearing four different hats, tired of talking myself into finishing one more assignment.

Tomorrow, daycare starts.  I can't shake the feeling that starting tomorrow I am going to miss most of his life.  Little Judah.  My baby.  What I wouldn't give to be able to do what my sister is doing.  Some would say, the right way. 

But they also say comparison is the thief of joy.  And I am trying desperately to find the joy in the days to come... reminding myself babies go to daycare every day.  Children, beautiful healthy well-adjusted socialized creative loved and loving children, go to daycare every day.

And I am not a bad mom for sending him.

But I sure am going to miss afternoon naps.  And I hope the woman taking care of him knows well enough to not tell me if I miss something important... something I should have been there to see.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cleaning Up the Mess

I am sitting on my couch, watching colorful leaves blow in the wind outside my window.  Judah is fussy, fighting sleep.  I've wrapped him up in a blanket and he is laying on my chest, sleep will come.  I am jealous of this kind of comfort, but am learning how much comfort I find in the holding.

For the past few years, I have been asked a question.  Persistently.  It never fails that I tell a story and they ask the question quickly after.  They assume the answer is no.  Based on physical characteristics and circumstances of the story.  A lot of times they are right.

But I have a few stories, which confuse them.  They ask their question -- their go-to, fix-all question.  And I debunk their beliefs by telling them about that one time... that one time that led to this time, that one time I told no one about that led to this hurt and now here I am with Judah on my chest.  And I wonder if their question means that much anymore.

Five weeks.  Judah is five weeks old.  He smiled today -- aunt Liv caught a picture of it, sent it to me during my work meeting.  After the week I've had, I needed this.  I needed class to be cancelled today.  I needed team meeting this morning -- to rejuvenate my passion for my job.  I needed to be off work at 1 so I could eat lunch with Olivia and snuggle J and catch the big man before he left for work.

We are a family.

And there is a quiet, desperate section of my heart, which thinks maybe we always will be.  Me, J, aunt Liv, the big man... The brother is moving to Kentucky on Sunday.  He's never met us before.  But he's staying with the big man the way Liv stays with me.

You'd think after the night I had earlier this week, my heart would be ripped to shreds.  I admit, I felt trampled.  I feel as if I have been pulled in four different directions and I feel as though everything is falling apart and I feel as though I've been as strong as I know how to be, for as long as possible.

But I prayed certain prayers... specifically for resolution, for protection.  I remember whispering, so quietly only the spirit could hear, asking God to not let it hurt so much.  It was this kind of hurt, which got me here.

I relived every one of those moments this week.  Every rejection, every unkind word, every act of abuse, every deferred hope.  I wonder why it happens, why it has to happen again.  I question myself, turning inward and examining myself.  Perhaps this is all my fault.

But the certain prayers I prayed, after I finally thought to pray them, worked.

I pushed the hurt down.  Deep, deep down so I didn't feel it anymore.  I let the tears fall and I swallowed -- like you do when your throat is sore, out of curiosity.  Just to see if it still hurts.  I swallowed and swallowed and swallowed.  Laid down to sleep, determined on waking, I'd walk away from it.  I don't have time for hurt.  There is not space in my life for it.

Life doesn't make sense.  This situation doesn't make sense.  The hurt, the cowardice, the irony, the sadness.  One day I will tell this story and wonder how I survived it.  The thought of being so far away from it that it no longer hurts is what propels me forward.  Press forward.  Hard and fast.  Leave this all behind.

It has been a long time -- if ever, I told her -- since I questioned God.  "Why?" is not a question I ask out of doubt and bitterness.  I ask it every day, wondering what is next and what the purpose is behind it.  So often, He answers me.  So often, the answer to "why" is evident, even if obscured.

This time, I asked "why?" and was met with echoing silence.  Every time I asked and was not answered, the hurt dug deeper.  I refuse to ask why "bad things happen to good people", because I no longer necessarily believe I am a good person.  I also know we hardly ever understand pain in the thick of it.  Just... usually I do.

And this time I don't.

Until today.

I say this lightly, knowing tomorrow when it hurts again I will forget this epiphany.  Knowing that if I end up being wrong... the pain will happen all over again and I will question my ear.  Even though I used to hear so clearly.

I heard clearly just then, though.  In the confident and assured way I used to.

How many times have I told you my sister's story?  The story of Kat and David?  Today I remembered a very, very vital part of their story.  And while I do not want to wait ten years for my love, hope I am not in my mid-thirties before a boy walks out of the bathroom and grabs me and kisses me and tells me he loves me, I remembered the important part of the story.

The indignant, very insistent conversation with a dear friend of mine  today was the trigger.  It happened mid-step, mid-sentence, right as I was about to laugh and dismiss it all.  She'd asked the question and I'd thought it was ridiculous again.  But all at once and all very slowly, it trickled down the back of my neck like the first few moments of a shower.

And I don't really know what to do with it.  Because it requires the kind of hope I have been boycotting.  The kind of hope, which continues to be deferred -- which continues to break me and break me again.  I don't know what to do with this realization, because there's no way I just saw so far ahead.  Surely I won't get what I want...

But I used to believe in the power of prayer.  I used to believe in this voice enough I'd follow it to the ends of the earth.  Others believed in my ability to hear it.  And whatever it was I saw and heard was enough to propel me forward into whatever God's plan was... whether it was what I had anticipated or not.  Perhaps this is what hearing God is about.


The kind of movement, which gets us to where we need to be whether we meant to go there or not.  The kind of shaking loose and bravery good stories are made of.

And He said, in His quiet, matter-of-fact way, "Anna, that sure did take you a while.  I'm glad we're on the same page again.  You remember how.  I'm still listening.  Tell me... tell me what it is you're asking for."

It is the important part of the story.  The part of the story, which sets my sister and her husband apart.

I am not so deceived.  My story will not look like theirs.  My story already does not look like theirs.  But... David looks likes Jesus.

That's what I remembered.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bear Hunt

I remember a book from when I was younger, when Tamera would read books out loud to us.  

There are a few I distinctly recall, mostly because of the animated way she read the words.  I didn't even remember the pictures for this particular children's book.  But I remember the way she read it.  The same way each time.  Like a chant.  Magic in these words, I think.  Magic in the way they dig their roots into your memory.

"We're going on a bear hunt, we're gonna catch a big one."

"What a beautiful day! We're not scared."

"Uh-oh!  A river!  A deep cold river.  We can't go over it.  We can't go under it."

"Oh no!  We've got to go through it!"

Judah was a month old on Saturday.  The first month of his life has been the sweetest, most challenging, deeply emotional month of my life.  The first month of pregnancy coming in at a close second.

There are things I was sure would get better.  Uncertainties I was certain would be resolved.  I didn't think it would all magically "get better", and I was not under the impression anything would be easy.  But there is a weight on me now that wasn't there before.  And I'm getting stronger.  I think I can carry it.  But there are some things I would like to lay down.

I said it out loud for the first time the other day.  Realized it as I said it.  The sound of the words to my own ears brought an understanding I hadn't yet had.  

I don't want to hurt him.  

I mentioned this before.  I want to protect him.  I want to put off the weight and danger of this world as long as I possibly can.  But in saying that, in putting that thought onto paper, I realized I was the one responsible.  The greatest hurt he may ever feel... will be my fault.  

And I don't know how to make it better.

I've been facing a lot of realities head on.  I've been learning how to function on less sleep.  I'm coming to terms with stretch marks.  Graciously nodding and smiling when people say "you look great for having just had a baby!" And I wonder what that even means.  Learning how to do things with one hand, take two minute showers, and sleep with one eye open.  I am learning to do what I have to do, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how sad it makes me.  And I am learning to stand up for myself.  A lioness, my mom called me.

No one has any idea.

Talking about the hard things, I am crying because I don't want people to think I don't love my son.  Truth is, I wouldn't trade him for anything.  I wouldn't change a thing if it meant I didn't get to have him.  He is who has fixed the brokenness.

So when facing the hard things last week, a familiar chant whispered behind my ear.

Can't go over it... can't go under it...

The rest of the book, "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" takes the characters to, and through, obstacles.  One after the other.  They stop... but they can't get over it, around it, or under it.  

They have to go through it.

Every time.  

I am on a bear hunt.  And there are rivers and gates and boulders and mountains and big, open fields.  And for some reason, they seem scarier than the bear I'm hunting.  So scary, you forget you're after a bear.

Don Miller posted a blog the other day about this very thing.  Eventually, it seems, if you continue to move around, over, under the fear, rather than through it, the fear itself is never resolved.  You have to say "I am afraid". 

Tonight, I'm doing another hard thing.

The last time I did something of it's nature... it broke me.  

It is still there.  The fear.  And I am still feeling it. I am afraid.  

But these hard things, you can't get over them.  You can't get around them.  You can't go under them.

You have to go through them.  

And like Don says, that's the way we build character.  That's how the story changes us.

"We're going on a bear hunt.  We're going to catch a big one.  What a beautiful day!  We're not scared...."

I'm going on a bear hunt.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Four Weeks

I got up in time to shower and get ready this morning, but the words on my heart are like lead in my feet.  It is cold in Kentucky now.  I woke up to the sound of the weather man saying "it's colder in the Bluegrass than it is in Fargo!"

And my sleepy mind thought only of the old movie, of Joe, and somehow, of Fried Green Tomatoes.  And his impish little grin saying "I done r-u-n-n-o-f-t". 

That's how my mind works in the morning.  With Judah curled up in my arms and the bedroom dark and echoey.  Sometime in the night, whatever show I was watching on TV switches over to infomercials and weather reports.  And the thermostat drops from 72 degrees to 65.  The blankets I'd thrown off, I'm now scrambling to pull on top of us.

Judah is four weeks old today.  And we have slipped into some sense of normalcy.  A quiet sense of knowing each other, of protecting each other, of surviving together.  I'd like to think I saw him smile at me when he opened his sleepy eyes this morning.  But I'm wishful.

He has eyelashes.  Did I tell you that?  And he's gaining weight at a slow but steady rate, filling in his old man wrinkles.  His neck is strong and his ever-changing eyes looked green yesterday.

I had to introduce him to a bottle last week, because, I say as I sigh deeply, I went back to work this past Monday.

Three weeks in, three weeks of being a mommy, three weeks of Judah being alive, and I am back in the game.  Waking up to alarms and putting on real clothes and having to pay some mind to my appearance.  Back to the real world where people, who have only ever seen me pregnant, are marveling at my narrow waist and big behind.

Three weeks later and I'm back to 9-5's.  And packed lunches.  Kissing Judah's sweet neck goodbye in the mornings and waiting anxiously to see him again in the afternoons.

This is not ideal.

But I am thankful.

Thankful for a job where people care about me.  Care about Judah.  Who helped me make ends meet.  Who took a risk on me.  Who I enjoy talking to.

All these things make the coming back more bearable.

Today, Judah is four weeks old.

He's sleeping on aunt Liv again right now.  As I drink my coffee I secretly wish I could just steal him and go back to bed and avoid all that is going to be thrown at me today.

Today is a big day.  Today is a scary day.

And I am so tired of scary days.

I am depleted of the strength I need to deal with this even for one more day... but I have to.

My story is full of things I've had to endure.  Triumph out of necessity.  Progression because of "had to"s, responsibility, and sheer... gumption... for lack of a better word.

Not because I am a good person.  But because I love my son.  Not because I am a strong woman.  But because I know what needs to be done, and I must do it.

Do hard things.  
This, perhaps, is my life's motto.

So I will go today.  Reluctantly.  Hesitantly.  Hold my breath and wonder what it is I truly want -- because until I know the truth, I won't understand my heart.  Like flipping a coin, your heart's reaction comes mid-air.  We just don't know sometimes... And we certainly don't know what to do.

What I wouldn't give to just settle quietly in this home today.  Stir up the creative energy I feel and produce something beautiful... clean the dirt off things, drink more coffee, wear less clothes, snuggle him closer.  Coax that smile again.  Oh, I am waiting for it.

But today is Thursday.  He is four weeks old.  And I will slip him down into a Bjorn and we will go traipsing around campus, discussing ethical issues and human behavior theory, and he will listen to our voices and look into the lights.  Because this world is so big.  So big.  And it has not hurt him yet.  Not in a way I cannot fix.

Not yet anyway.

And then I will go.  Damned blue paper, you will be the first thing, which could hurt him.

This morning I spend mustering up all my gumption, all my courage, all my love, to try and figure out how to protect him from that hurt.  At my own expense, perhaps.  But it doesn't matter anymore.  Protect is the word on my heart.

He is too young to know the world can be such a dangerous place.

Friday, October 5, 2012


It is my last weekday at home.

I have had my days confused this week, thinking Thursday was Wednesday, waking up to this Friday morning, wanting it to so desperately be Tuesday... I think the calendar thought about changing for me.  Just out of pity.

My house was full last night.  In the middle of the night I got up to feed Judah and I heard the TV blaring in the living room.  I walked into the living room to find Olivia and Abby sprawled out on the floor under blankets and on body pillows.  TV on, candles still lit, coffee pot still on,  door unlocked.  I laughed quietly to myself, turned down the television, blew out the candles, locked the deadbolt, unplugged the coffee pot, and went back to bed.

This morning, Larry showed up with breakfast.  Got to cuddle Judah before his day started.  I hope he felt the same magic Liv does in the morning time.  A sweet, little, sleepy boy fixes so many things.

I keep having to do hard things.  I keep having to run smack into myself, address the shit and then acknowledge my multitude of shortcomings.  I keep having to take a deep breath -- the kind of breath that envelops and pulls up underneath the hurt and pushes it out.  My mantra used to be "don't freak out".  It continues to be along the same vein, but I find myself closing my eyes and breathing a deeper breath and whispering, "this is not harder than anything before".

Which is usually a lie.

But I believe it, when I breathe it deep enough.

It does keep getting harder.  Like a deceptively steep hill.  Gradual, until you're panting and sweaty and you look behind you, looking downhill at all the way you've come.

I am at the top of a hill, stacked on another hill, stacked on another hill, facing what looks like a mountain.  He says, "keep your head down, put one foot in front of the other".  But this mountainous hill looks slightly more difficult to me now that I'm carrying someone.  I am more concerned with falling than I ever have been.  I am not just responsible for myself.

I have to get both of us to the top.

I look at him as he sleeps beside me, dreaming and smiling and all wrapped up and warm.  My heart hurts with all the love I have for him.  Three weeks and I can't remember my life without him.  I feel like who I was before him, before the pregnancy, didn't ever even exist fully.  My body won't ever look like that again.  My heart's capacity has multiplied.  My skin is thick and tough and the battle scars I bear from this year alone have transformed me.

I don't want to go back to work on Monday.

And I don't want to get the phone call on Wednesday... because I don't know honestly what I am more afraid of.  Like how I avoid checking my mailbox, I just don't know that I want to know.  Maybe it would just be easier if I didn't...

If I just shut the door, dead bolt it against the options, the chance, and said "we will choose our own way, you and me.  Just us, we will go on."

And I know we will, go on I mean.  Every time I hold him and he stares up at me with those blue turned brown eyes and wrinkles his forehead, my heart swells to bursting.  I think of a conversation we will one day have.  About our story -- mine and his.  And I think by then, by the time he thinks to ask, the only thing I will remember is that he taught me how to love.

How to look at someone and see.  How to sacrifice.  How God used him to humble and reconstruct me.  My Nehemiah, my builder.  My Samuel, the one I asked for.  My Judah, my lion.  By then, that's all I'll remember about the hills called mountains.

Monday, October 1, 2012

both of us

It is completely quiet and dark in my house this morning.  Around seven in the morning, we slip through the apartment to the living room where Aunt Liv sleeps.  She started, a few weeks ago, telling me to bring Judah to her in the mornings so I could get some sleep.  But I get enough sleep.

So I sit on the couch with breakfast and coffee.  Afraid to make a noise because the quiet, rainy, peacefulness of this morning might be broken.  And Liv lays on the air mattress, squirmy and fidgeting in her sleep.  With my son laying in the crook of her arm.  He has fixed so many things.

I am overwhelmed this morning with what this next week will bring.  I want to cry.  I want to be strong.  But I want the tears more.  I wait at night.  Hoping to hear the chime of a car locking automatically.  Heavy footsteps and the front door resist, just so much, before opening.

I wait on this, because today it feels like my only chance.  It feels like my only chance at any sort of normalcy.  As if, without intention, we became a family.  And then the rug was pulled out from under my feet.  In my vulnerability, I let my guard down.  Mistakenly, I let myself hope.

People say horrible things.  People say unwise things.  People give empty, insensitive, unhelpful advice.  And my heart is weary from hearing it.  Everyone has the answers.  Everyone knows how to fix this.  Everyone, apparently, but me.

I want to just and only enjoy my son.  He is a morning person, this small boy.  Over the past eighteen days, I have learned how precious mornings are with him.  He is sweet, cuddly, wide-eyed.  He smells like Johnson's and what's left of nighttime.

And I don't know if it is my stress, or his stress, but when all the guests leave and we are waiting to see what the evening will hold, our nights gain tension.  The 8 o'clock hour is painful for both of us.  I am lonely.  He is hungry, tired, cold... things I can fix, but only one at a time.  Nighttime, I remember.

I remember we are doing this alone.  The part of the day when a daddy is supposed to come home and we are supposed to share dinner.  I am supposed to tell about our day and listen to adult voices and sink back into someone who is stronger than myself.

And you will tell me I don't need him.  You will mistakenly tell me Judah does not need him.  You will tell me there are no "supposed to"s and I will create my own sense of normalcy.  You will remind me I am not the first to do it this way, and technically I am not "doing this alone".

I will smile then, and nod just enough so you think I heard.  Or better yet, so you think I agree.  And I will remind myself silently not to bring this up with you again.  My list is forever long.  My list of people who do not understand, and thankfully may never have to.

Judah's umbilical cord fell off yesterday.  17 days old, he now has this adorable belly button.  And we can take real baths.  Last night, we tried.  He screamed, louder than he's ever screamed before.  I picked him up, wet and naked and wrinkly, and he buried his face in my neck and immediately stopped.

I am still waiting on him to smile.  He will grin, almost impishly in his sleep sometimes.  Gummy, all lips and crinkly, squeezed-shut eyes.  But when he is awake, he is the most serious of boys.  His eyes, I saw yesterday, are a nameless color.  Full of personality.  But still no smiles.

His brow furrows.  Wrinkles.  He snarls his lip and opens his mouth wide.  But no smile yet.  Just serious, dark, thoughtful Judah.  This does not surprise me.  Except when I take a moment to think about how early character develops.  How much he is like me, and yet all his own already.

These are things my family notices.  This boy is so loved, so cherished already.  The wisdom, already whispered in his ear, is a lifetime's worth.  The prayers prayed over him are ones full of knowing and anticipation of the life ahead of him.

I feel selfish even wanting more for us.  But I know the wanting comes from a place of fear.  Comes from a place of doubt.  Selfish is the word, because I have no doubt in my mind someone will come along who will love him.  Who will love Judah and care for him.

What I don't know, is if anyone will ever love me.

A thousand words of rejection swirl in between my ears when everything gets quiet.  Questioning my ability as a mother, most deeply.  Echoing deep-seated, ancient fears of inadequacy and unattractiveness.  A loneliness so bitter and old.

This morning, I sit here looking at Liv and Judah while they sleep.  Her, so fidgety.  He has sunk, settled, deep in sleep.  I can just see his ear, over Liv's curled shoulder.  The down on his head, and the steady rise and fall of both of them as they breath through sleep.

And I count on the spirit this morning to pray the words I can't seem to form myself.  Daily, I write a letter in my head to my son.  My son who will grow up one day and have lots of questions I may never be able to answer.  Who may be angry at me for choices I've made, or confused by the outcome.

I have a journal somewhere.  The last entry in it was the day I found out I was pregnant.  I can't write with a pen fast enough for the words coming out of me.  So this space, this space ends up my journal. My place for most irreverent prayers.  For holy arguments.  And child-like petitions.

I cannot even get the words out.  About how guilty I feel for not being diligent in prayer the past few weeks.  How I have no evidence of the words I've prayed, or the milestones already came and went.  I am so afraid of being a bad mother.  With too much on her plate.  Who is not big and strong enough to be both parents.  Who is the one to blame for there being no daddy around.  I am afraid of the day he asks.  I am afraid of the day he wants to learn how to play basketball.  When he learns what Father's Day is. When he needs someone bigger, stronger, than himself to look up to.  When he needs to shave his face.  When he identifies himself as coming from a different culture, a different family, than that of his cousins.  Will I be enough?  Will he resent me for shutting doors?  My heart wants this to never be an issue.  I hold my breath, looking at our life, and wonder if maybe... just maybe... You could send someone to fill that void.  Someone who will not leave.  Someone bigger, stronger than both of us.  Who will love us like You do.  In a tangible, meaningful way.  Both of us.  They say we don't need it.  But You know that isn't true.  Until then... help me be enough.  Protect him.  Let him love me, know me.  My face and my heartbeat and my voice.  And help me not miss a single moment.  Not a single moment to love, cherish, teach, learn.  To protect and hold close this gift of mine.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Key of Z

When I was a little girl, we lived in Richmond.  On the top floor of a house on Idylwild Court. Abby was born while we lived in this house.  We got a puppy while we lived there too.  I tasted sweet tea for the first time in the kitchen of the basement neighbors, and played in the creek in the backyard with my Barbies.

I remember getting a cassette tape while we lived there.  Katherine and I shared a room, I think, and we had a tape player.  I don't remember actually being given the tape, but I know I couldn't sleep without it.

Larry plays the piano.  In the mid-nineties he had somehow recorded a two-sided cassette tape for my sister and me, which we would play whenever we laid down to sleep every night.  Religiously we listened to this music, so if we didn't play it, we couldn't sleep.  I remember the first few tracks by heart.  Inevitably though, I'd fall asleep before side "A" was ever finished.

But I'd wake up as soon as the cassette player clicked and flipped the tape over to play side "B".  Similarly, I have the first few songs on the second side memorized.  To this day, I'm not sure I ever stayed awake long enough to hear the end of the tape.

This music was night music.  It was not to be played in the day time, it was meant for sleeping.  This music was our lullaby.  Our gift.  And a very intrinsic, innocent part of my earliest memories.

Later, when cassette tapes were no longer common and Katherine and I had our own bedrooms on Long Avenue, Larry gave us CDs for Christmas.  New sleep music.  New lullabies.  And the same thing happened... to this day I am not sure I have ever heard the end of the CD.  Sleep somehow finds me halfway through, every time.

A few weeks ago, I can't remember quite when (but it might have been while I was in the hospital having Judah), Larry told me he was at it again.  He was creating new lullabies.  A new generation needed sleep music.  My little boy and my little nephew.

Last night Larry called.  Friday night, his social schedule is more crazy than mine has ever been.  So when he called and asked if he could come by, I suspected two things.

And I was right about both.

Something inherently similar to Aunt Liv's quiet, snuggle time in the mornings... we all crave alone, uninterrupted time with these little boys.  A still apartment, no others vying for cuddles, no one talking too loud, nothing specific to be done.  Just a sweet sinking, deep breathing, warm baby, same heartbeat.

And the lullabies.

I wouldn't listen to the new CD while Poppy was here, because I knew I'd cry.  But once he left, Liv, Judah, and I curled up on the couches, and we listened.

I woke up three hours later, Judah hungry and stirring quietly like he does.

I hadn't heard the end of the CD.

Friday, September 28, 2012


When I was seven months pregnant, I moved into a new apartment.  Part of my unconventional nesting included finding a whole new nest for me and my son.  The small cubic space I lived in before was just not going to cut it for two of us.  No matter how small we were.

So I found a new apartment.  With an extra bedroom.  I called this bedroom the nursery, but it only held boxes and bags for months.  The "nesting" I needed to do revolved much more around logistics, necessities, time management, than valances or changing tables.  But at the end of the summer, due date approaching, we finally put together this nursery.  This small space for this small new person.  Teasing, now that it was set up, Judah would decide to come.  Ready or not.

As I set up the nursery, I would occasionally notice when we were lacking something important.  I would move things around, until I figured out the functionality of the room.  Knowing myself, I rearranged until the room no longer caused me stress.  I folded and refolded, stacked and separated tiny, baby clothes until I knew what was where.  And then I did it again.

Due date was just around the corner and I walked into the room and noticed one last thing, one intrinsic piece of this nursery was missing.

Judah had no books.

I distinctly remember being read to as a child.  All the way through the early years of high school, part of our every day curriculum at home was Tamera reading to us.  She still reads to us now, whenever she gets a chance.  But then, when we were younger, it happened on a daily basis.  Eventually she would get a job as a librarian, but even in the years before she would return from trips with stacks of books two feet high.  In our family, we cherish children's books.  In our family, this is how we learn our words.

Closer to term, the books started piling up in Judah's room.  Essentials.  There were clearly more people than just the Long Avenue women who knew what my boy needed.  Board books, paper backs.  A box of books from Amazon, ordered from Bosnia.  The classics are stacked on an old end table in his nursery.  Some of my favorites include,

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.
Where the Wild Things Are.
Guess How Much I Love You?
Goodnight Moon
Love You Forever

Yesterday was a bad day.

We have those, every once in a while.

Olivia and I went for a walk and my once-strong body was worn out from two laps around the park.  I get this deep sense, as I test the limits of my new body, that after recovery I will be stronger than I ever was before.  My baseline has changed, if this can make any sense at all.  My starting point is leaps and bounds ahead of where I started years and years ago when I decided, chose, to take control of my body.   I am anticipating hitting the pavement again.  Craving some heavy weights, rapid heart rate, and good sweat.  Hell, I'd settle for a good stretch.

Too bad right now a walk in the park makes me feel like I'm falling apart.

This physical "exertion" contributed to my exhaustion last night.  Emotions contributed to the other 95%.  I found myself eating chinese food on the couch with one hand, watching a new episode of the Big Bang Theory, bemoaning my sore body, while Judah slept fitfully in my lap.

My mind kept returning to the stack of books in his nursery.  Kept thinking about my sister's story about reading to my nephew and the way he stared at her, listening intently.  I didn't anticipate my son reacting this way.  But I was overwhelmed with the need to start teaching him now about story.  The same way he will watch my face and learn how to smile, he will listen to my words and learn.  If not how to tell a good story, he will learn how to live a good story.

So I went to his nursery and picked up a stack of paperback books one of my old friends brought us after we got back from the hospital.  I turned the television down, cradled Judah back in the crook of my elbow.  And opened up a thin, red book called Corduroy.

As I expected, my voice put Judah to sleep.  But I kept reading.  With every page I thought maybe I would stop.  Maybe I would start feeling silly. But... as it so often happens... the words of a book meant for children pulled at my heart.

"The store was always filled with shoppers buying all sorts of things, but no one ever seemed to want a small, brown bear in green overalls..."

"I didn't know I'd lost a button..."

"Could this be a mountain?" he wondered.  "I think I've always wanted to climb a mountain..."

"This must be a home," he said.  "I know I've always wanted a home."

And I sat there.  Tears streaming down my face.

Judah smiled in his sleep, then furrowed his brow, then raised his eyebrows -- all with his eyes closed.  I do think he could hear me after all.

And I cried for a little while longer,  feeling like a small bear who's missing a button.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Purest Form

There is a sort of hurt, settled so deep down and buried you can choose to live above it.  Breathe deeply.  Avert your eyes.  Let it settle like sediment at your feet, swirling like eddies.  To look would cause too much pain, to acknowledge it would be like releasing the dammed waters.  So you rise above it.  It becomes a part of you, nestled under your arms, lingering like old perfume behind your ear.

You can live with this sort of hurt and still experience the most immense amount of joy.  Actually, to be able to feel immense joy, the pain might be necessary.  

It might be inevitable.

I prayed.  Asked.  Begged, even.  

For a different kind of story.

For those so called desires of my heart.  

But that is not how my story will go.  

That is not how it was meant to be for me.  

I held Judah close, his face snuggled in a space between my collar and my chin.  A space hollowed out for him.  A space I hope always fits him somehow.  I think may I can grow.  I think life may stretch me, so no matter how big he grows, I may be his safe place.

And I whispered thank you.  Even though no one was there to hear me.  

Two weeks old. His eyes are changing color.  And his umbilical cord is about to fall off.  His head is growing, so his hair looks like it's thinning.  The baby soft skin on his hands and feet is peeling off, and every single day he spends more time with his eyes wide open. Staring.  Absorbing.  Learning.  Sometimes he smiles in his sleep.  And grabs my finger with his not-so-small hands.  

Thank you.


What then, will this story look like?  

The hurt is still there.  A tender, aching place I can find when I breathe deeply enough.  A hope, deflated.  Like so much saved room, laying empty and unfulfilled.  

There is a space I fit.  And I've been praying ever since I found it.  I've cried over it, walked away from it, always returning.  Always missing it.  I found myself there, again, on Tuesday.  Feeling as though the levees had broken and if I breathed just too deeply, I might be wracked by the weeping.  I had known, somewhere deeper than I wanted to dig.  I had held my breath, waiting, bolstered against the pain.

But it came anyway.

Much like a contraction.  

A wave of pressure and escalating pain.  Rising.  Intensifying.  Instinctually, you stop breathing.  Your shoulders tense, tighten.  And you push at whatever your hands can find -- as if to keep the hurt from finding you.

But you learn, too late sometimes, the only way to survive it -- the contraction -- is to breathe through it.  

How, I continuously wonder, can you feel such pain and joy at the same time?  

How can our testimonies be so full of hurt, making way for joy, and yet in the middle of it we forget the purpose.  They are the strongest of us, those who breathe through the pain, knowing life and peace will find them.


And it’s right there at the beginning….

and it’s quite something….

how even at the sharpest edge of things, there are wings (Voskamp)


I wonder, now, where we go from here.  

How will our story be written, what will the road look like?  

How long will it take before I look back to this day, understanding all this we had to wade through?

Everything works out for the good.  The desires of our heart.  The promises and encouragement are abounding, but I am not sure my heart believes them yet.  Not in regards to this.  

My heart has swollen, stretching to occupy the unmatched love I feel for this small little boy.  This small little boy who is mine.  

One day I will tell this story and today will not be the end of it.  There will be some conclusion, and there is some redemption waiting to happen.  A circling back around, a wrapping up of things, just like a good story... Intertwined and built up and connected in a deep and intrinsic way.  

There is this I hope for, but dare not say.  

I settle back and watch the stories of others, trying not to compare.  Trying not to be jealous.  Rejoicing with them as they rejoice in their marriages, in their homes, in their dreams come true.  All stories are different, she said.  

And I just nod quietly.  Just hoping mine is one worth telling.

Stare quietly into his eyes, blue transforming into gray then brown.  A soul in its purest form**.  Perhaps, my story will be about making his story worth telling.  Perhaps my desires will never be met, but I can pour myself into his life.  Into raising a good man.  

A good, strong, lion of a man.  

**Not my words, but the words a friend used to describe his first encounter with Judah: "Amazing to see a soul in its purest form".