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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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 . . .

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

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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! ❤️

Faith in Grief

So here I am writing my first post, and I never thought it’d be about this. I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for years now, but with two littles (one that only until recently started taking naps), I’m just not that person who has been able to sit down to write, no matter how many ideas I had.

But recently, my friend’s father died unexpectedly, tragically, and shockingly, when he got hit by a car while on his way home from work (he was driving a motorcycle). And that event has challenged my faith, and my idea of what having faith is…

I don’t know about you, but for me, it seems like faith is always described as “believing in something even when you can’t see it”. A frequent story told to depict this is that of “Doubting Thomas”, the apostle Thomas who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he could see Jesus himself and put his hands in Jesus’ wounds. The call to action then is to believe not as Thomas did, who needed physical proof, but to believe without seeing.

I feel like I’ve been on this path of spiritual growth the past few years, but I still have a long way to go. I think too much. I’ve never doubted the fundamentals (I have my parents to thank for that), but it’s the nitty gritty that gets me. Things you probably don’t ever think about until you’re older (if you’re lucky) and you hear of stories and circumstances, are faced with personal challenges, etc.

So at my friend’s father’s funeral, my friend, his sister, his brother-in-law, and mother all gave their eulogies. The mother was last. It was all hard to hear of course because this was a special man. A genuinely good man with a heart of gold who married his high school sweetheart, put his family first, was adored by his grandkids, and respected and liked by his peers. A sports fan who wasn’t shy of yelling at the tv. So many beautiful qualities in a man who was taken away far too soon. And I’ll admit, though it may seem selfish, what made it even harder was that it all sounded like my dad.

So I’m sitting there trying to process it all… why did God let this happen? How do I not live in fear of something like this happening to my family? How would I deal with such a thing if it happened to me? Would I survive it?… and the daughter finishes her eulogy and proceeds to read her mother’s on her behalf. And at the very end, her mother had written that though this is an extremely difficult time, with her faith and her family, she will get through it.

That struck me.

To specifically mention that she will get through this, as if to say, don’t worry about me, I’ll be okay, took me by surprise. I mean, in essence, she was trying to comfort us by saying that.  Imagine, HER comforting us?! And then saying that it is her FAITH and family that will allow her to do so… it all really resonated with me. First, I admire her beyond words. Second, I wondered if I’d be able to face such a loss the same way. Would my faith be enough? The same faith where we pray to God to ask for His protection, the one in which we are supposed to trust in Him and not live in fear. That faith. And yet, even in light of what happened, she wasn’t reproaching God. How could she get there?

And then it got me going down this rabbit hole of thinking of others who have had such difficult losses. Specifically, of Anna Whiston-Donaldson, a wife and mother who lost her son at the young age of 12 in 2011 when he drowned in the neighborhood creek in a freak storm. I found her blog some years ago and have had her on my mind ever since. She’s doing really well now actually, she just had a baby believe it or not! (Please check out her blog, An Inch of Gray. she’s an amazing writer and her story is truly inspiring and filled with hope. She also wrote a New York Times bestseller about the loss of her son called Rare Bird). 

And in all my thoughts, questions, and doubts, I realized something. Faith isn’t just believing in something you can’t see. It’s more than that. Harder than that. It’s believing in God’s promises to us even when bad things happen. And that’s where I struggle. I won’t ever doubt the existence of God, or that He is good, or that He loves us. But somehow, I can’t get the idea of not being afraid/trusting in Him to mesh with the fact that shit happens. And to good people.

Something I have learned from others who have faced such tragic loss but have done it with faith, is that Jesus is with us every step of the way. He’s there in the suffering, in the darkness right by our side. And if we take His hand, He is the one who will lead us into the light. But we have to take it. And though this is comforting, I’m not quite there with relinquishing all fear and truly trusting in Him.

I’m trying though.

Image that appeared on Anna's phone when she plugged it in to charge two weeks after the accident. (Copied from her blog post.)

Image that appeared on Anna’s phone when she plugged it in to charge two weeks after the accident. (Copied from her blog post.)