I SAW YOUR SON YESTERDAY

I saw your son yesterday.  Standing on the corner for a brief moment before he jaywalked in front of my car  – blue jeans, t-shirt, flip flops stride wide cross the downtown Seattle thorofare, tall frame and wide shoulders, black hair, the curls all wild. 

Beauty – I caught a glimpse of beauty beneath the emaciated form – the body torn down by a substance that owns him.  Leads him  – ring in nose – under the bridge to where he feels OK.  To an army of ‘ease the pain’ worshipers who sacrifice themselves for a fix. 

I saw your son yesterday, and yelled at God.  “What does it take for you to touch a body and make it whole again?  What if he’s too far gone to reach for You?  Can’t you just take the voices in his head and hush them still so that the fix is not his only relief?”

I saw your son yesterday, as light turned green, I passed him by.  Behind me, he and hundreds of other mother’s sons there to just make it through…

Another crave. 

Another fix. 

Another sleep it off. 

Only to wake up needing more. 

I saw your son yesterday, and asked God to be ‘The More’ for him, and all the mother’s sons with him. 

The Quiet Voice low. 

“…saw her son?  

He’s my Son, too.”

How a Busy Working Mom Finds Time to Write.

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Yesterday I thought I might try to publish some of my work.  And I say so.  Out loud.  As would have it, yesterday left not a minute for writing.  A weekend day filled to the brim with everything but.  Worried husband at the very mention of the thing has visions of our lives falling into shredded bits.  The kids suddenly are very needy.  As are numerous unmentioned others.  There is dinner to make, a friend I’ve promised to call.  The dirty house, the eternally corrupted place of living, reaching to me, wanting more and still more.  Hurriedly, I do what I can, hoping.  Kids, finally kissed goodnight, I rush through my own bedtime busyness, still in hopes of quiet space for writing.  And alas, it’s bedtime – Adored husband reminds me of this fact as I move toward overstuffed writing chair.  In bed, I lay still.  Very much awake, mind spinning with the things paper and I might say.  I behave myself.  I don’t slide out of bed the way I want to, to a lonely laptop.  Adored Husband might stir, and even if he doesn’t, tomorrow is full.  I need sleep. 

Today I wake to the early dawn alarm. The daily race, it rushes me.  Leaving College Girl and Butterfly sleeping, I ready myself for an hour at the pool where our son swims for a team, and where I swim with Mom.  Out of pool, showered and ready for the day, together we hurry toward home, Mom and Son and I.  Gulp down a breakfast, hugs and kisses to Butterfly, still sleepy she has meandered down the stairs – all decked out in a tinkerbell tutu. 

Goodbyes said, I make my way back to the track where I walk with my clients.  Walk and talk, that’s what we do.  Step and then another and another.  7.5 miles my dusty shoe tread takes me round the track.  I listen to the happenings of the week, shame and fear, days past, strengths gained, tears, rage, numb and steps we take together.  Hour after hour we move across the earth, warm and bright today.  The last hour, is overcast, with sputters of rain, and still we walk.  All hours filled with life raw for healing. 

Last client seen, I make my way toward the thrift store for sharing 5 bags of books, clothes and toys that hoard space in the backseat of my kid-mobile.  Home again, Butterfly and Grandma have made peanut butter cookies.  All Mr. Business is listening to an old Spike Jones song – and loud.  Laughing, he plays it one more time for me.  I laugh.  Write.  How am I to write?  A few minutes for hearing the happenings of the day, knock on door, neighbor-kiddo’s face peeks through door glass – the stampede and they’re off to play.

Oh, my chance.  A minute to steal.  Here I sit, stolen moment, and all is blank.  Of all the inner tuggings to write, it’s gone. Nothing.  Too tired to be angry or hopeless, just numb.  Blob on couch with screen and keys.  The only thought that comes to me is a question.  How clean, I wonder, is a writer’s house?  House of working Mom who writes?  And I remember the grand writing projects that form when I’m in motion.

washing dishes

pulling weeds

piling them high in wheelbarrow for hauling away

painting a chair

                                   sorting

                                                                             throwing away

The best of both worlds.  Dig into the ever-reaching house until I’m inspired, and like a hot potato, drop it all to write without ceasing until the beauty unearthed by some grand cleaning frenzy has taken shape on paper.  Then back to daily tasks again for the next gathering of rich and lovely heart things to tell about. 

The family, they will survive.  They will become accustom to the rhythm of the exchange.  With hopes high, I spring off Seat of Nothingness – rush to the pantry to grab a paper bag and two for filling.  Piling high.  Higher.  Tap shoes, plaid shirts, engineering books, games, tupperware lids without a use.  Haul step by heavy step down the stairs, out into the car where they will be rushed off for sharing. 

That’s it!  Scouring and scrubbing, purging the shelves, chopping for soup pot, folding mounds of wearing things, no longer in the way of writing at all.  These tasks are a petri dish of the best of discoveries.  A greenhouse where the bud of good writing blossoms.  Routine motion in exchange for deep and profound thought. 

Our agreement. Writing, Mother Tasks and I.

How to Prevent Hoarding In Children

Once in awhile I do something just right.  The Mom job has left me with a steady drip, drip, drip of ‘what were you thinking, anyway?!’, so when I happen upon the rare ‘atta-boy’ for my parenting, I accept it.  Today as my 7 year old loaded toy after special toy into a Trader Joe’s paper bag, to the top and overflowing, it dawned on me that Butterfly is the last of our 4 kids to have passed the “am a share-er of nice and special things, am not a hoarder’ test.  As hoarding seems to run in parts of the family, it was one test I hoped they all would pass.  The kids have been natural savers of every little thing.  Ticket stubs from a special play, a glass bottle from an unusual soda, shells and stones and really cool pieces of wood. 

When trying to think through what might bring on hoarding, I had a couple questions: 

Might hoarding take root when I force my child to get rid of a thing?

If I discard my kids things when they aren’t looking,

might I create fear and an unhealthy protection over his or her things? 

Would it help to have my child pack up some items temporarily (for the attic), as a way to teach them to practice parting with something special for good?

With these questions in mind, when it came time to clean a bedroom or toy room heaped high with too much stuff, I’d ask the kids which toys they wanted to keep in their rooms, which they wanted to pack away for another time, and which toys they wanted to give away. 

First time around always took more time, they were little and putting a special toy into a box to be put away worried them… but I let them do this choosing and packing while supporting them.  Packing for the attic became familiar over time.  As each child learned that the things they had chosen to store in the attic could be retrieved again, the fear of packing up treasures faded. 

There are drawbacks. 

I had to release my need for an instant minimalist home and attic.

Release my desire for instant personal relief in exchange for

hopes that my kids would mature into open-handed individuals. 

The ideas above were important, but most importantly, when son or daughter wanted to give something away, I tried to never argue about what he or she wanted to part with.  I didn’t always do this perfectly.  Sometimes I didn’t like the idea of losing an expensive toy or book, special for whatever reason.  But I decided if I couldn’t bear to see a thing parted with, how would I ever expect my kids to learn what I was trying to teach.

Hoarders aren’t just junk collectors who don’t like to clean.  They sometimes extend kindness to an unwanted object, as if the thing were were a person.  Finding value in something that is about to be tossed.  Finding value and thinking themselves clever for having rescued it.  They also self sooth their own anxiety by saving an object, experience a feeling of relief and security holding onto a thing.  Difficulty with decision making can be part of the equation.  The more hoarding that takes place, the more difficult decision making becomes.  Some hoarders have a bit of maverick in them.  A bit of ‘ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do.  I ain’t beholden to nobody.’  Owning things, a way to avoid buying or borrowing from another person, living in the fantasy of complete independence. 

Hoarding is no worse a break from the best than overeating or yelling at my kids.  It is, however, very debilitating and very isolating.  And is also somewhat socially acceptable.  We Americans in 2016 love our junk.  I don’t want that for my life, and don’t want that for my kids.  Objects are not able to provide what we really need.  We spend time dreaming and saving and buying the most recent really cool thing, telling our friends what we hope to buy one day, telling them what we have. And while we are consumed with our things, we miss it all.  Miss another catching our eye.  Stop reaching for the hand beside us, there to hold.  The hair for tousling.  I want my kids to realize that some of the nastiest thieves in life are really cool things.  Things are not people, do not carry feeling, and can not meet our deepest needs.  Surrounded by excess I forget to ask, am I comfortable?  My family, are they comfortable?

We long for vacation

surrounded mostly by air and dirt, mountain, river and each other 

Very few trappings. 

If we were to quiet our souls back home

ask what can be done to experience vacation inside our own four walls

much of what is special to us would have to go.

When a thing takes away from living life, it’s time to give it away to someone who will experience more blessing than curse.  I want my children to realize that even a thing with possible future value, something that might be used one day, if taking space in heart and home is a thing that holds more power than it should.

As I’m coming off of three years of being sick, house budging to the brim, finally able to load up bag after bag, Butterfly and Mr. All Business at my side, I’m thankful for what I part with.  Husband, children, Lincoln the dog and myself in this house, all more valuable than its contents.  Extra items, they gasp and choke out a full breath of life. 

Out! 

Away, you choking items of ownership! 

Come near, hands to hold, blond curls, happy paws. 

And together we carve out spaces of togetherness. 

Faded PJ’s

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This morning, through dawn light, sitting in the stillness of my early hour house, eyes yet to focus, I glance along the edging of my soft blue pajamas and I feel a smile creeping now.  Sleepy smile, I feel it spread about my heart and down into my bones.  The fade of pajamas blue hover about me all the day, and I whisper good things under my breath.  Hope that this newest pair of already faded pajamas will become faded, no, just straight ratty.  That they will grow very old until they are ribbons of happy nothing. 

Crisp new pajamas.  I’ve grown to not like them much.  They come to me to be placed in suitcase packed for a hospital every time.  Some of the hospital visits are beautiful.  Baby boy brought home, precious and perfect.  Pajamas that didn’t fit me before, and body too much a mess to wear after.  That pair stayed nice for years. To the hospital for another baby, this time, a perfect tiny daughter.  I’d not remembered to think of pajamas for me. She had arrived before I’d expected, a month early.  Hadn’t packed a thing.  Other than things for her.  Her cotton pink footie-pajamas were washed, folded, held close against my cheek, folded again.  Ready months before.  My friend had thought of me when I had forgotten.  She brought to the hospital a lovely nightgown of soft pink and white, smocked and pleated, buttons down front.  I loved that nightgown.  I wore it year after year.  Don’t remember whatever became of it.  I’m guessing it was loved into shreds and threads as I rocked and fed, made a lap for two babies, a lap for reading and holding and spit up and …. Another baby years later.  And another. Pajamas packed and used until they were no more. 

As of late, pajamas for the suitcase bound for harder hospital stays.  Visits of cuts and drains, blood draws, parts removed, another cancer, another procedure, another and another. 

New pajamas. 

No thank you. 

I want to see how long the fade will keep on fading. 

Will the blue of light seem more white than blue?  I’m hoping so.  I could buy new ones for no particular reason.  And then I wouldn’t be needing another special book for my son on how to build something from nothing.  I wouldn’t be needing running shoes for me, or another hydrangea for my gardener girl, wouldn’t need to save for a night out with my best friend. I’d be too cut off from life to be buying sheet of music to practice with my girls.  I’d be winding down to dead, and I don’t want that. 

I really love how faded these pajamas have gotten.  Their worn down look speaks to how long it’s been since I’ve made a visit to the chopping block.  Long enough to make new fabric old.  Long enough to grow some strength on the legs that wear these pajama pants.  Fabric fades faster than it use to, I think.  Or my machine has more gusto than it use to.  In any case, time has passed without another reason for new pajamas, and I’m hoping my healthy full life thins them down to nothing at all.  I’m hoping.    

Mops and Dirt

A special mop has come into my life.  Such happiness.  A mop able to bolt me out of bed, race me toward kitchen floor for one more scrubbing.  Fan turned to high to erase all evidence before giant feet, medium sized feet, little feet and a pair of paws arrive for one more day of mess making.1004513_10152108847809307_93194406_n  Granted, this mop has special powers.  It comes with built in bucket elongated the length of the handle, a tank of mixture (oxiclean,bleach and water). No need to fill a sink for dipping mop into.  I have a mop camelback of sorts, with a squirt function just above the mop pad which, by the way is velcro like, and removable!

I hate a sticky floor, and for some reason I have never been able to keep it straight for any length of time.  My reasons are many.  Good reasons such as our kids are hungry 75 times a day rather than the mythical 3. Lets see.  There’s the tap shoes that can be used only on the tile, and don’t you realize that floor tapping is so much more fun while using the hula hoop that accidently crashes into the dogs dish!  Just when I’m asking a certain Little Miss to clean it up, the doorbell rings and her long lost neighbor who she hasn’t seen for 3 whole days is bouncing up and down screaming right along her in celebration of finally seeing each other again.  How can I ever stop such sheer happiness, and so I lean down to scoop up dog food while below in the yard they are bounding, racing, jabbering just because they’re together.  In the middle of that task I think to myself, I’d better mop, too. Heading to the pantry where I keep the mop, I remember a niece in bootcamp I haven’t written to in a week or two, and I know if I don’t stop everything I’m doing right now and get it done, it won’t happen for months.  Sitting down at kitchen table, I tell her about swim team for one cousin.  The fish he caught on vacation.  The lawn mowing business he works at.  I tell her about another cousin of hers working at Olive Garden, singing Gershwin with me last night, just for the fun. Tell her of the adventures of Little Miss.  Forts built, the cooking, the reading skills she’s acquiring.  I tell her tales of work life at Boeing for Uncle.  The walks I take with clients.    Address on envelope, stamp intact, I better take this to box or it will never be sent.

Oh no, it’s time to feed the kids again.  

And so it goes, until the whole day through is consumed with ways of ruining my floor. Happy sticky floors.  By time the mess makers of all sizes are tucked into bed I can hardly take a step.  But try, I do, to sweep and mop, for starting tomorrow out really nice, with feet bare stepping across unscathed soft surface.  And as I stirr early morning, house mostly quiet but for husbands noising sleep-breathing, a ticking clock beside my bed, I just can’t help myself.  Makes not a bit of sense at all.  The floors have not been touched since I mopped them last.  Still, I think one more sweep and mop will do no harm toward the cause.  Stealthy sneaking out of cotton sheets, through bedroom door, down the stairs to kitchen floor, I sweep and mop, frizzled hair a-flying, fast I work.  The last edge swiped up, the fan now on, I hear feet on the floor.  It will be dry by the time toes arrive.   Yeah!!!  I did it.