An Early Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving came early for me and my family this year. You see this past Thursday, on October 31st, my mom had a heart attack. It feels strange to type that or say it out loud. She had a heart. attack.

IMG_9645

Visiting in the hospital (I’m showing them pictures from Lia’s class’ Halloween event from earlier that day).

She’s fine now, thank God. And I mean that very literally. THANK GOD. It was a stress induced heart attack, so it wasn’t caused by any blockages (they did an angiogram that afternoon and found none). She’s back home, and has to take it easy for the next couple of weeks. Did you know there’s areas of the heart that can regenerate itself?! The damage on her heart caused by the attack is in such an area so in two weeks it should be gone – no permanent damage! PRAISE THE LORD!!!

If you’re going to have a heart attack, apparently this is the type to have. I still recommend NOT having a heart attack if you can avoid it . . .

And there’s SO MUCH to be thankful for. Not just that she’s okay, not just that there aren’t any blockages or permanent damage, but also the timing of it, and the people who were like angels to her throughout this, most especially a very very special nurse, Michelle.

It truly is amazing how things turn out when you put it in God’s hands.

IMG_9693

When the ambulance arrived I told the paramedics we wanted her to go to Tulane Lakeside’s ER, but that wasn’t possible (no cath lab). We wanted her to go to Tulane’s ER downtown. That wasn’t possible either. We could’ve gotten mad or upset but instead we remembered that we are not in control, but God isHe’s got this.

How comforting is that?! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy by any means. But when you stop and really think about it, it is comforting.

If we would’ve gotten our way, my mom wouldn’t have been in the care of Michelle, an amazing nurse in the CCU (Critical Care Unit). Her, along with a gentleman (doctor? nurse? not sure) who was in the cath lab for the angiogram, brought my mom so much comfort and peace that she very much needed. My mom gets very nervous with medical procedures and such. I will forever be grateful to them for that.

And the fact that it happened the day before I was set to leave with my husband and kids for my husband’s half iron man triathlon, I mean, that’s divine intervention! Or actually, more like divine planning. All the scary parts happened Thursday. That was the ONLY reason I was comfortable leaving Friday. Not only that, but I was still able to make it to my daughter’s Halloween class celebration on Thursday (I got there very late, but the point is, I made it). And when I walked in the door and Lia saw me, she came running to me and exclaimed “Mami! Mami! You’re here! I knew you weren’t not gonna come!” Thank you, thank you dear Lord, for letting me be there. 

 

AND, it was Halloween night, but with the events of that day, our original plans of going uptown in New Orleans went out the window. I was not up for trekking down there, and it was COLD and crazy windy! We’re not big fans of Halloween in general, so imagine my reluctance after experiencing the day I had.

But Lia really wanted to trick-or-treat. Can’t really blame her, she’s only 5. What were we going to do? I had nothing. No plans. No ideas. Our neighborhood is pretty dead on Halloween night.

Another angel. Two, actually.

One of my closest friends, who had been checking in on me and my mom throughout the day, told me of her plans – to go to another friend’s house who was having a party and trick-or-treating in her neighborhood. This other friend is also a friend of mine, but we don’t know each other quite as well (they have kids in the same class, so they see each other more often). But she knew that this friend wouldn’t mind us crashing tagging along. (I guess she’s like me, subscribing to “the more the merrier” philosophy, thank goodness!)

So we left our house pretty late, fearing the worst, that we had already missed the trick-or-treating, envisioning disappointed children, dreading the meltdowns . . . you get the idea.

And yet . . . we pull into the neighborhood, take a guess as to which direction they would be walking, and what do we see? Our group! Right in front of us! We parked right there and started trick-or-treating! PLUS, my son, who hadn’t been looking forward to Halloween in general, got to see friends he hadn’t seen since May! He became so happy and started enjoying the night. We had a wonderful time! What could’ve been an awful end to a tragic day was instead an amazing end to an emotion-filled day.

Gratitude. Immense gratitude.

***

As for my mom’s heart attack, as much as it was a relief finding out that it wasn’t caused by a blockage, it’s been kind of difficult to come to terms with the fact that it was stress induced. That means my mom’s emotions and thoughts and reactions to situations caused her body to have a heart attack.

If there was ever any doubt that your mind has a profound, direct effect on your physical state, this puts it to rest!

I admit, I knew the mind was powerful, but going through this with my mom, witnessing this, seeing the effects, it just takes it to a whole other level.

Years ago, actually 2 years ago, my therapist showed me a quote from a book she was reading. I took a picture of it:

IMG_3834

Note that it’s an MD saying this. A medical doctor. Obviously a “woke” one, because I hate to admit it, but the vast majority of conventionally trained physicians disregard the mind/body connection (and the gut/brain connection!) and simply resort to their prescription pads to “treat” their patients. I digress . . .

But as I think over recent events, I find myself being drawn to this quote again.

My mom had had an argument with someone. That’s what caused her heart attack! Obviously, the stress had been mounting for months, it’s not like she was completely fine and all of a sudden one event sent her body into overdrive. I had actually noticed it for the past several months, her intense upset over things (mainly the state of world governments, the Catholic church, y’know, no biggie). I had talked to her about it to no avail. But still. That’s what it came down to? An argument?! You really think we, her family, could give a sh*t about that man she was arguing with? Can you imagine if we had lost her forever because of this?!

IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

Yes, it’s good to have convictions. It’s good to speak up. It’s good to seek truth. It’s good to shine light to the darkness.

I actually firmly believe it’s not just good, but it’s our duty. God calls us to be and do those things.

But that does not mean literally making ourselves sick with worry, frustration, or fear.

That’s where having faith comes in.

IMG_9690

Yes, we need to do our part, but at some point, we have to give it up to God. The whole point of our existence is to realize that we are nothing without God. We can’t do it ourselves. That’s okay. We’re not supposed to.

Easier said than done, I get it! My mom and I are wired the same way. I’m as much saying this to myself as to anyone else. It’s HARD. We have such strong convictions and a strong sense of justice that when we see what’s wrong in the world and witness the people who are supposed to do right stand by and do nothing, or realize those same people are actually working against God, well, it becomes almost unbearable. Really.

I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I do find it fitting that I’m a Libra . . .

lady justice

Statue of Themis, the goddess of justice and law, aka Lady Justice. She is holding the scales of justice which is the symbol for the astrological sign Libra.

But going back to managing emotions, I’ve had to not read things, not look at things, because I don’t handle it well. One time, I was in the waiting room at a doctor’s office minding my own business, casually flipping through a magazine. I came across the story of the nanny in New York who killed the children in her care. I don’t watch the news. I didn’t know. Yet there it was in black and white, the words on the pages staring back at me. I started crying so vehemently I couldn’t catch my breath. I had to step out and I called my mom. She helped me calm down.

Healthy boundaries.

We have to figure out what that means for each of us.

In the meantime, I’m a whirlwind of emotions, trying to process what happened, what could have happened, and all the other things it brought up . . . as I was standing there in the ER next to her, I felt like it was a sneak peek into the future, of what’s to come . . . not that she’ll die from heart issues, but just that, she will die, one day . . . and having the roles reversed, where the child takes care of the parent, and you see the parent become like a child, nervous and scared, and you find yourself shielding them from information and situations so as not to worry them further . . . it was all . . . different . . . unpleasant . . .

***

And I’m well aware that it’s “easy” for me to sit here and write about having faith, and all that feel-good stuff, when we got a good outcome. I get that. I wrestle with guilt – guilt that others didn’t get the outcome they wanted; guilt that I struggle with the little I have to deal with (compared to some); mom guilt, etc. I think of my friend who’s father was killed in a car accident, or a mother whose son drowned in a freak flooding, or my aunt and uncle who lost their daughter.  It is very present in my mind that so many families don’t get the result they wanted. 

Then what?

IMG_9704

Life here on earth ends. That’s the reality we face. But is that it?

No, there’s more. As a Catholic I hold onto the promises He made us. I’ve got to. Sometimes it’s the only thing I have. The best is yet to come.

IMG_9691

 

Growing Pains

My son started third grade at a new school this year. He was at a Catholic school and now he’s at the Waldorf School of New Orleans.

Thanks to a teacher last year, and the gross failure of the school to do what was right, my son is scared of speaking up, scared of standing up for himself, scared of making a mistake, even scared of going to teachers for help. I highly doubt he’s the only student that was affected (actually I know for a fact he wasn’t because several families left the same year).

I’m PISSED someone was able and allowed to so negatively affect his psyche, at such a vulnerable time of his life. I’m PISSED this teacher KNEW his struggles with anxiety and yet proceeded to treat him in the same manner and even in one instance MOCKED him. And my son SAW her do it. What do you think my son felt when he saw a person he’s supposed to trust, feel safe with, who’s supposed to protect him, instead make fun of him for having been scared?

On another occasion, this same teacher told her second grade students they weren’t allowed to cry unless they were physically hurt. I found out about that when I took him to my therapy session and in the middle of it he said: “I’m not allowed to cry at school”. You can imagine the look of bewilderment on our faces. The therapist gently prodded, and he then shared what had happened in class.

Unfortunately, I could go on and on with examples of students not being treated the way they should.

Saying things like that and treating children in that way is DETRIMENTAL to their development. Any healthcare professional will tell you the same thing (and quite frankly you don’t have to be a professional to know that).

I’m PISSED that I SPOKE UP, met with the teacher and administration repeatedly, and they did NOTHING. She never apologized to him. And that was not lost on him.

This place was more than a school to us. This is our parish. My family has been going to this church and active members of the community for more than twenty years. Heck, we’ve been there longer than the current pastor! I grieved when I came to the realization that my children could not go there (my daughter was in Pre-K at the time and the plan had always been to enroll her there for Kindergarten. My kids were so excited to be at the same school.) They were not the people I thought they were; the school was not the place I thought it was. They failed my son. They failed me. I think I’m still bouncing around the different grief stages. (I’m in anger at this moment, can’t you tell?)

Why am I posting this now? Well, even though I know in my heart of hearts he’s where he’s supposed to be, no place is going to be perfect. And right now he’s having a hard time navigating relationships with his new classmates. And because of this, I’m now seeing the NEGATIVE EFFECTS that teacher and that school environment had on him.

Two nights ago he was telling me about something that happened in class with a student (nothing major, but to him, it’s like a knife through the heart; he’s very sensitive and has a big heart himself so he doesn’t understand when kids are mean for no reason). I asked him if he told the teacher, and he responded with (1) fear because he’s scared they’ll get mad at him, and (2) disillusionment, because he doesn’t think they’ll care or they’ll do what’s right and stand up for him. I wish I would’ve jotted down his exact words. They were loaded with those emotions. Fear and disillusionment. Because that’s what he experienced last year. That’s what he knows.

In that moment it clicked and my heart broke a little. I got down to his eye level, put my hands on his shoulders and told him, these teachers (the ones at Waldorf), they CARE about you! They WANT to hear from you. They WANT to know what you’re feeling. Oh the look in his eyes when I said that… it brings tears to mine as I write this.

With the sadness, anger quickly follows.

How dare that other teacher and other school do this to my son?! And a Catholic one at that?! The hypocrisy infuriates me.

But on to the acceptance…

As a Christian Catholic, I know I’m not alone. I’m not walking this alone. My son isn’t walking this alone. Through my faith and trust in God I am able to see why this is part of our journey. My son was not meant to stay at that school. He was not going to thrive nor reach his potential there (honestly I don’t think any child will in that environment. It’s a complete disservice to our children.)  You may be thinking, why did God allow him to go there in the first place instead of somehow guiding me to the school where he’s currently so that we wouldn’t have had to go through all that? (I’ve asked myself and Him the same question.)

I think for various reasons, my son, me, and even my husband, we needed to experience what we did firsthand. Maybe we needed things to get so bad that leaving was the clear right thing to do. Maybe all of this is part of what my son needs to grow. I was bullied in grammar school. I had to change schools twice. I don’t want that to happen to my kids. I want them to have the confidence that I didn’t have at that age. Something I’ve learned in therapy is that in order to grow, you have to go through the discomfort, you can’t avoid it. So I think maybe, what he’s experiencing now, is an opportunity for him to go through the discomfort in order to grow.  Not only grow as a person, but grow in his personal relationship with God. And finally, I believe my son went there for three years to give both of us the opportunity to make friendships that will last a lifetime. I know what it’s like to not have friends, even as an adult (sometimes I had friends but they were more my husband’s friends than mine, if you know what I mean). And I found some of the most amazing and genuine women I’ve ever met while there, and we’re still friends to this day. I thank God often for bringing them into my life. And they were all brought to me through that school.

So of course I, as a human, would prefer to not have had to go through any of that nor see my son go through what he did then and what he’s going through now, but I know that God has been with me every step of the way and He’ll never leave my side.

footprints

My son is now at Waldorf School of New Orleans, a place I can honestly say truly cares about child development and their well-being. Their entire curriculum is based on it! A place where the teachers BUILD UP their students, EMPOWER them, NURTURE them. In their information pamphlet they have a quote from a parent and ever since I read it, back when I was just looking at other schools, it was like it spoke to my soul, so I’d like to share it here with you:

“in traditional schools kids are taught how to conquer the world, but in a Waldorf School kids are taught how to save it.” – Sidney C. 

 

2019.10.23 lucas at waldorf

My son, Lucas, third grade student at the Waldorf School of New Orleans, October 23, 2019

 

Have you had to witness your child go through a struggle to then see him/her emerge from it stronger? I’d love to hear about it!

Please like, share, and comment below! ❤️

How Bittersweet: A Heart Full of Love & Fear, Gratitude & Longing

I started writing this post on January 7, 2019 but didn’t finish it until now.

I was running an errand today with my four year old daughter, Lia. As I was driving she asked “Mami, why did you want to become a mami?” And before I could even answer, she says “Because you wanted to have a baaaaby? And have a family?” A smile came across my face. I reached back to touch her leg and she squealed with laughter. My heart was full. Thinking how blessed I am to have what I dreamed of – a family of my own, one son, one girl – I felt so deeply grateful it almost took my breath away…

IMG_5930

But then came the unthinkable thought – will I one day be looking back at this moment with a deep, painful yearning because my daughter had died? I shudder at the possibility. But it’s something I think about…

often?

Because isn’t that the crux of it? With deep, pure love comes fear of losing whom you love. And with deep, pure love comes immeasurable pain when you experience such a loss.  As Anna Whiston-Donaldson said after losing her son Jack:

grieving is the price we pay

***

You see, when I was a freshman in college, while my parents were away in Cancun, I received a phone call from my aunt in Costa Rica telling me the unthinkable had happened for my aunt and uncle – their four year old daughter Marisol had drowned in a pool. I had to call my parents at the hotel and tell them every parent’s worst nightmare. They immediately decided to catch the next flight back home so mom could then take a flight out to Costa Rica to be with the family.  I begged to go with her but they didn’t let me. Perhaps they were trying to shelter me from what we would have to encounter. I regret not going, even though the decision was out of my hands. The regret stems from the reality that as heartbreaking as it was, for me, staying home did shield me from the grief and suffering my family was experiencing and I felt really guilty about that. But even if I had gone, now that I’m a mother myself, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have registered or cut as deep as it does now. Because even though it’s been more than eighteen years since she’s gone, having kids really puts it in perspective because one can imagine one’s very own child being the one who passed.

I remember the day of my son’s fourth birthday party when it hit me the most – Marisol was four when she died. My son was four. It would be like him leaving now.

***

After the unthinkable thought, my mind stayed in a dark place, but not as grim. It went to how it was incredibly ironic and frustrating that what had made my dreams come true – being able to create life and bring new little humans into this world – is also what precipitated my biggest health struggle of my life – depression – something that drains the life right out of you. It’s the antithesis of feeling alive.

Obviously I wouldn’t give up my kids for anything. I’m still eternally grateful. And I’m well aware that there are much, much worse things that could happen. But we all have our struggles, right? And I don’t think keeping it in helps. So what has motherhood surprised you with? Good or bad?

What I Wish My Kids Knew

I’m sitting here at the dinner table, looking around at all the dirty dishes I need to clean up, and I’m not moving. I’m drained. I looked at the clock earlier and saw 7:30pm. It had been three hours since I picked them up from school (I ran late because of a doctor appointment; they’re in first grade and PK-3). ONLY THREE HOURS. Are you kidding me? Surely it had been longer than that; I felt like I had just gotten beaten up I was so spent physically and emotionally. But no, time doesn’t lie. It’s my freakin’ enemy but it doesn’t lie.

Now, I should mention that those three hours included a trip to Whole Foods…and yes, I’m willing to argue it’s as bad as a trip to Target. Those damn little kid sized shopping carts. Who’s brilliant idea was that?!?!?! Now I not only have to wrangle my children as usual but I have to deal with their arguing over what item goes in which cart, having them race across the floor cringing that they might run into someone (or me, and man does it hurt when they do!), and overall acting as if they were raised in the wild by wolves.

I get the rambunctiousness. I get their energy (it dumbfounds me and I obviously can’t relate but I understand that kids have more energy). I get their excitement. I do NOT get, however, their disobedience. I just don’t.

I. Was. Not. Like. That. I’m not trying to brag. It’s just true. I wasn’t. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t understand why others don’t just do what their parents tell them to.” Yep. No joke. It was so matter of fact to me. You do as you’re told. Period. And I wanted to. I wanted to please my parents. I wanted them to be happy. To be proud of me. I didn’t want them to be upset because of me. So yes, I was an easy kid. I really was. So I don’t get my kids. Not right now. I can’t relate.

Why can’t they see when they’re draining the sheer life out of me and making me really, really sad? Do they not care?!

Is an “okay mami”, “yes mami” too much to ask?! Are they some kind of sadistic little creatures that enjoy watching me slowly intensify in anger until I’m losing it? Is it some type of competition to see who can get me to scream first?

Don’t get me wrong; my kids are wonderful. Really. I’ve had strangers walk over and tell me how well behaved they are (sometimes). It happens. But here’s the catch: they don’t live with them. Or go to Target with them. Or Whole Foods. They’re not their mother.

A wise teacher once told me, when we were discussing why children behave one way in school (great) and another way at home (awful), that you raise children to behave well for others. Great. I get crapped on but they’re little angels for the rest of the world. Ah, the joys of motherhood.

I just want to shake them and say, don’t you see mami getting upset?! Going crazy?! Losing her mind?! It’s because of YOU! You want that?! Why can’t you just be obedient dammit?! Aren’t they teaching you that at (catholic) school?!

I kid you not, this past Sunday the second reading spoke of how Jesus was obedient to God to the point of death, and when I put Lucas to bed tonight I pulled out my handy dandy app and re-read it to him and talked to him about how we’re supposed to be obedient to 1. God and 2. our parents. I’m desperate man. But what better teacher (i.e. fear instiller) than the Bible? I mean c’mon, I’m not asking them to die for me. I’m just asking them to listen when I say “No, you can’t have cereal for dinner”, or “Don’t run off, this is not a playground, stay be me”…basic stuff people!

But he’s not going to get it, is he? Probably not tonight. Hell, I’ll be lucky if he gets it before he ever has kids because isn’t that how it usually works? You don’t “get it” until you’re in those same exact shoes? Well, somehow, even though I didn’t truly “get it” when I was a child, I did manage to see it from my parent’s point of view for the most part. That, coupled with the fact that I was eager to please them I guess was a good combo (lucky for me they are awesome parents so not like they ever led me astray). And I guess that’s a character trait I’m proud of – I can empathize and am good at seeing others’ points of view (well, apparently except my children’s like in this instance, go figure; and I’m still opinionated as hell, but that’s a whole other topic LOL).

Sigh. Lord, grant me patience, perseverance, and any other “p” word (or any word for that matter) I need. Because man, this mama is done.

Until I do it all over tomorrow.

Thank God for wine.

To the Mom in the Carpool Line

I see you walking your child to school in your perfectly pressed blouse, perfectly fitted pencil skirt and fashionable high heels. Man you look good. So put together. You probably work out every day. Here I am sitting in the car wearing my bathroom flip flops, yoga pants, braless in a ratty tshirt hidden by a zip up hoodie and sunglasses hiding the smudged eyeliner and mascara from the day before. You and me, we’re on two opposite ends of the spectrum.

Or are we?

Today (and most days, let’s be real), I may rush out the door in my pjs but there are days when I’m dressed nice (or just not in pjs, hey, it’s still a step up), and feeling “put together”. My makeup is done, my shoes aren’t flats, and I feel like a woman who happens to be a mom, not a woman who has “let herself go”.

And on those days another mom may look at me and think badly about herself and highly of me.

But if she only knew…

Yesterday I was the mom in pjs
I got dressed but didn’t shower
I have the same makeup on from yesterday, just touched up
Tomorrow I’ll probably be the mom in pjs (again)

Obviously that’s not the case every time. But it is true some of the time.

Turns out, we’re not so different you and I.

So carry on ladies. Carry on mamas. Don’t be disheartened by this phase of your life. It’s the best and hardest thing you’ll ever do. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself grace.

We’re in the trenches. Together.
Pencil skirts and yoga pants welcome.

 

IMG_3858.jpg

IMG_3855.jpg

IMG_3856.jpg