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.