My piece on connection and seeking balance is featured at Kindred Magazine. I am delighted to contribute to this great group of women writers.
The day I knew I had to write my heart was in my throat, tears in my eyes, as I took refuge in my car.
I’m in over my head.
I want this.
After completing the first day of a course on writing autobiography, in the obscurity of underground parking and a racing heart, I was hit with fear and love. All at once, I knew there was more.
I fell in love with words a long time ago. Sprawled on my bed reading just one more page before I had to turn out the light. Hiding novels inside text books at school. Excited by every creative writing assignment. I felt abandoned each time a great book ended until I found another. Words comforted, brought revelation and moved me to higher ground.
Before the writing course I began a blog on a dare. Fancy Feet became an online corner to store my thoughts and musings on life until it became more. I had been telling my story to people on behalf of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund, speaking to groups large and small about a 23 year old girl who was in a massive car crash on June 12, 1998. She lost her best friend, suffered burns to her body, the burns so severe her legs needed to be amputated. It was a story of survival and hope, and it began to find its way to my blog. My audience grew, people were interested.
Come join me at Erin Margolins’ blog: The Road to My Writer Roots where you can read the rest of my post. Erin, who is just so lovely, kind and talented (you’ll want to get to know her), invited me to write about writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed looking back on this writing journey and how much has happened since I began my blog 4 years ago. I am honored to be there with her today.
Looking into the mirror I am quick with my face, my hands. I apply make-up, think about today’s schedule, this month’s calendar of field trips and practices for recitals, and as I add mascara to my eyelashes I catch the green of my eyes, the scar that curves around the right side of my chin, the faint lines around my mouth. I see someone who has lived.
On our way to school, in the car, Annie asks me about Ottawa. “Is Ott-o-wa in Ontario?” Yes, it’s the capital of Canada. I tell Annie and Benjamin how we have nothing to do after school – a day of rest! They cheer! We arrive at school in 2 minutes and they lean into me to peck my lips before they tumble out of the car in a blur of backpacks, jackets and eagerness. Annie is the last one to leave. “Bye, mommy!” There is a moment where I see her. How our eyes are the same shape. Her face is changing, she’s growing older, determination set in her small shoulders. I see someone whose life has just begun.
I come home to a phone call from a family member asking can I talk to this girl who just lost her leg. After I find out what happened, I ask, “How old is she?” 23. The same age as me when my life changed. When I suffered burns and limb loss. When my life was divided into before and after…
To read the rest come over to Kimberly Speranza’s blog Sperk*and her fearless examination of life with two adolescent daughters. She is thoughtful, wise, and truly fearless with her writing and her heart. Seriously, her writing is fantastic. What a delight to be Wednesday’s Woman today where Kim honors woman bloggers! Read the rest of my post here.
I met Kelly not too long ago when I became a member of Studio 30 Plus, a great site for writers. I submitted a piece for Weekend Spotlight and I did it all wrong, showing off my technological ineptness. And Kelly was there to guide me with utmost patience and care. She helps run Studio 30 AND she holds court at her own blog, Naked Girl in a Dress. I am honored to be there today.
Kelly is celebrating the two year anniversary of her blog. She is a writer and photographer. I lifted this quote from her blog because I love it so much.“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” ~Helen Keller
Kelly moved beyond the closed door, opened the right door and walked through. I admire her tenacity and talent.
At her blog I write about my family, our dinner-table tradition of best and worst parts, and my struggle to embrace parenthood. You can read the post in its entirety here. Come join me over at Kelly’s!
Benjamin lifts the blanket warm with sleep, and squeezes my arm, “Mommy, let’s snuggle.”
I open my eyes slowly, one at a time. Gray morning light peeks through closed blinds. “Okay, Ben. Let’s.”
He buries his face into my neck and he begins the day with a sigh, “I wish you had your feet.”
I look over to where my ‘feet’ reside. Made of acrylic and metal they lean against the nightstand waiting for me to slide into them. I whisper, “My feet are right there, Ben. I’m okay.”
And I mean it…
I am honored to be featured over at Studio30 Plus today! I just became a member of their wonderful blogging community for people age 30 and up. I submitted an original (not from the blog archives) piece and I am absolutely delighted to be in their magazine. I wrote it in response to their writing prompt this week which was changes. You can find the rest of the story called Whole here. Please join me, won’t you?
I am thrilled to have Kate from The Big Piece of Cake as a guest on my blog today. I can’t even tell you when or how I found Kate’s blog. I just know that when I did I subscribed immediately. I was hooked by her humor, heart, and honesty. I was hooked by her. If you aren’t reading her blog yet you should…you really should. While we haven’t officially met, Kate and I have become friends. What you are about to read is one of my favorite posts. It’s beautiful and heartwarming and makes me think. And that is Kate. I can’t wait to finally meet her in NYC this summer. It’s going to be epic!
Oh, and I’m over at her blog today where she posted one of her favorites from Fancy Feet! Pulled from the archives it’s called Summer and you can read it at The Big Piece of Cake.
Here is Kate’s post…
A few weeks ago when we were at the beach, my mother in law and I packed up the kids to visit one of my friends at her nearby house. She and her sister were staying there with their five children, four of whom were boys.
Once we all found each other, we spent most of our time by the water. We stood sentry watching all of our boys hurl themselves into the surf. And we counted heads in the foam while trying to hold a conversation between exclamations of “don’t throw sand!” and “that’s too far, come back here!”
My boy was right in the middle of this. This sensory overload of wind and water and squishy, grainy sand between his toes. He was in his element – in the elements. He needs to feel things and he needs to immerse himself in the moment without inhibitions. And what better place than the beach?
He also loved being in the middle of all of those boys. They were his people. They understood the joy of throwing wet sand in the air just to feel it splatter all around them. They wanted nothing more than to live in that moment with the waves crashing around them, drowning out the sound of their screams of laughter. They were just like him.
In that moment.
But only in that moment.
They called to each other and knew when to push and when to pull. They knew when to stop and when to start again (obviously when mom was looking the other way). They understood the rules of the game. They both made and discussed the rules. In bits and pieces of course – but still, they communicated. Communication came easily to them.
Communication does not come easily to my boy. He doesn’t know when to stop. He doesn’t know when pushing isn’t welcome. He doesn’t know the rules. He doesn’t know how to join. He wants so much to join – to play. But he doesn’t know how. So he just watched.
And I watched him from behind my sunglasses, happy to see him having fun even if it seemed a little lonely. Happy that he couldn’t see the tears welling in my eyes. Happy that my friend couldn’t see the tears either and only heard me talking about doctors and school and how well he’s doing. Because that’s really all I want anyone to see.
When I was a teenager, all of my friends wore sunglasses. but I never did. I didn’t like them. They gave me “raccoon eyes” in the summer and felt out of place with my coats and hats in the winter. Not to mention the fact that they never did look good on me. Back then it was always about how I looked.
Now I’m the one doing the looking. I don’t care as much about how I look. Sunglasses will never compliment my face with its long, slightly crooked nose – but I need them to see my children through the glare. I need them to see the road when I’m driving on a sunny day. I need them to be responsible. So I wear them. And I’ve found that they are pretty useful. They allow me to be the observer and they can hide what I don’t want people to see.
I also wear my sunglasses at the neighborhood pool where I take my children most late afternoons. After the twins wake up from their nap, I load up all of our towels and waters and changes of clothes and snacks and push the double stroller uphill, calling for Oliver to wait for me at the corner. Which he always does – but I ask him to anyway, just in case.
When we arrive, we head straight for the baby pool. At two, the twins are still too little to stand in the shallow end of the big pool like their four year old brother. This suits me just fine since Oliver is still young enough to be satisfied with the baby pool and I can sit with a magazine while they play. Or at least I can for a few minutes at a time, since I frequently have to administer warnings and time outs for bad behavior.
One thing I like about this time of day is that the pool tends to be rather deserted. More accomplished mothers are thinking about cooking family dinners at 5 p.m. My children will only eat kid food and my husband and I don’t usually have formal meals together due to all of the corralling required before their late, but “works best for them” bedtime between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. When no other families are at the pool, only our own rules apply.
If Oliver is splashing, I can ignore it. That is, as long as his siblings don’t mind. And they often join in. If Oliver is being too rough and pushing them as part of some inexplicable game of his, I can just watch and see how it goes. I don’t need to stand or look alert as a show for the other parents. I can see just fine from my shady seat. My sunglasses cut the glare. Everything is crystal clear and I know exactly when to step in and when to let them work it out.
But more often than not we arrive at the tail end of another family’s pool time. And I have to stand and administer twice as many time outs as I would if we were alone. I have to find ways to tell the other mothers that Oliver has a hard time knowing when to stop. In Oliver’s mind, if another child seems to like being splashed at from across the pool, why wouldn’t they like it at closer range? And at that point, why not cut out the middle man and just shove them back into the water? Sounds fun to him!
So I can spend an hour having the same one-sided conversation with him over and over. Telling him to stop. Asking him to be gentle. Pleading with him to listen.
He wants to comply. I know he does. He wants to please me and he wants to please these desired friends (he has the makings of “a pleaser” – something else that worries me – but that’s another concern for another day). He wants to get it right. He just doesn’t know how.
I always keep my sunglasses on when we’re at the pool.
The other day, a few kids a year or two older than Oliver were in the baby pool during adult swim (everyone seems to call it “break” now – is “adult swim” no longer PC or something?) Anyway – they were being rowdy and Oliver was thrilled. They were pulling out the hose that was supposed to be filling the pool with more water. They were spraying each other with it and splashing and eventually ran to get their water guns.
As they stood there spraying each other and yelling unintelligible things about Star Wars, a movie that I doubt any of them has actually seen, Oliver decided to join in.
It didn’t work. He didn’t know the rules.
He splashed around in the middle of them when no one was splashing. They asked him to stop, but he didn’t understand. If they were shooting water at each other, then why wouldn’t splashing be allowed? A younger sister in the group, exactly Oliver’s age, explained, “we’re playing Star Wars now – you can play Star Wars too, but you can’t play with us if you keep splashing.”
So of course I had to intervene.
At this point, I didn’t think I had ever said, heard and thought the word “splash” so many times within the space of five minutes. It had completely lost all meaning and was just a rude noise that made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. It was an expletive. A swear word. I wanted it to not exist anymore. I was done with it.
But Oliver wasn’t. He didn’t understand, and I had to pull him aside. No time out though. How could I when he had only the best of intentions? Instead I offered to drag him around the other side of the pool. Something he loves and I hate. He loves the feeling of the water rushing all around him from head to toe. I hate the feeling of hunching over to pull a 60 lb. four year old from one end of the baby pool to the other.
Meanwhile Star Wars continued, Oliver still didn’t understand what was wrong with “splashing” (excuse my French) and I hid behind my sunglasses.
And I made plans.
Apparently shooting water at each other is generally okay at the pool. Or if it isn’t, it’s not unusual for kids to not know when to stop. Quite simply – it’s not weird.
So while I pulled Oliver around the pool, I made plans to take the kids gun shopping the next day. We didn’t own any water guns, but we would soon own an arsenal.
Oliver could learn to shoot a water gun. And the next time there was a game of Star Wars at the pool, we’d be ready. You don’t need to have good communication skills to play shooting games.
I never thought I’d like sunglasses. And I never thought I’d encourage my children to play with toy guns. But I guess I never thought I’d be doing a lot of things.
I have a friend who also has a son with special needs. His are very different from Oliver’s but there are so many parallels to our lives… I love this girl. She speaks my language. The language of mother grief. Of future worry. She worries that her son will wear all black and write dark poetry about death and Japanese anime. I worry that Oliver will be Tommy Boy. We have to laugh. It’s necessary – and we both understand this.
It’s nice to be understood. And that’s probably what most breaks my heart about Oliver. No one really understands him. So I’ll give him a water gun if that helps. And I’ll laugh, and I’ll hope. And I’ll always wear my sunglasses. Just in case.
I am honored to have Kim Kircher here today. She is an incredible woman with an incredible story – one you have to know. Read this. Tell your friends. And then get her book. You’ll be inspired, I promise.
Most of the time we don’t need inspiring stories. We might hear about a car crash victim that survived or a cancer patient that beat the odds, and think to ourselves, “that’s nice.” But we don’t let ourselves go there. It’s easier to stay inside our cocoon of safety, pretending like nothing bad will ever happen to us.
But that’s not how it works.
When I first met my husband, I thought my life was finally getting better. Here was a man who loved the outdoors as much as I did, a man with lofty aspirations and a sense of adventure that rivaled my own. I work as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain in the winter. It isn’t a high-paying job, but the view from my “office” is amazing. The year I met John, I was living in the back of my pickup truck, transitioning from my summer job leading kids in the backcountry to my winter work in the mountains. John is the owner and General Manager at Crystal, and when we started dating I couldn’t believe my luck.
No Longer a Fairy Tale
A few months before our first wedding anniversary, things changed. John had a rare liver disease and needed a liver transplant. Worse, he’d developed cancer in his bile ducts from the years of inflammation. The doctors could do chemo and radiation, but if the cancer spread outside the bile ducts, the transplant was off and he would die. It didn’t seem fair. John had kids and a new wife; I’d found the man of my dreams and was ready for the Happily Ever After part. I was quickly reminded this was real life, not a fairy tale.
I found inspiration on the slopes. I had been through tough times before; I could get through this. As a ski patroller and EMT I use explosives to start avalanches and my first aid skills to save lives. I’ve been on scene of tragedies; I’ve narrowly escaped death myself. The trick was to break time down into smaller increments. I learned to get through the ordeal just fifteen minutes at a time.
When John was first diagnosed, and in tremendous pain in the hospital, he was put on a patient administered pain management system, in which he could push a button that delivered medication every fifteen minutes. At times, John claimed, it felt like an elephant was standing on his abdomen, the pain was so intense. During those moments, I helped him get through the next fifteen minutes until he could push the button again.
Once out of the hospital, when we returned to the ski area while he waited for a liver, I returned to my job, finding inspiration in the details. By not looking too far ahead, focusing instead on the task at hand, John and I endured a harrowing year of pancreatitis, a battle with a deadly infection, cancer treatment, and the long wait for a liver transplant.
The Next 15 Minutes
Now I find inspiration everywhere. Every one of us faces hardship; the trick is to learn from it and build your strength for the next battle. In my book, The Next 15 Minutes, I extract strength from the mountains and get through the ordeal by breaking it down into smaller increments.
I met Heidi at a writer’s conference this summer, and I was immediately intrigued by her story. Once you’ve felt death’s cold knock on the door, you are forever changed, and I could see Heidi and I had that in common.
In my case, I stood aside as my husband battled for his life while I searched for inspiration to get us through it. I wish I had met Heidi then; her courage and strength would have come in handy.
Thank you Heidi for having me here today. I’m honored.
In Kim Kircher’s memoir, The Next 15 Minutes: Strength from the top of the Mountain (Behler) her job as a ski patroller teaches her to slow down and deal with her husband’s in smaller increments. She has logged over 600 hours of explosives control, earning not only her avalanche blaster’s card, but also a heli-blaster endorsement, allowing her to fly over the slopes in a helicopter and drop bombs from the open cockpit, while uttering the fabulously thrilling words “bombs away” into the mic. Her articles have appeared in Women’s Adventure, The Ski Journal and Ski Washington Magazine. You can find out more about Kim at www.kimkircher.com. Her memoir is available everywhere.
I am guest posting over at The Big Piece of Cake today. Kate is the author of the site. She’s away on vacation and she’s asked a few of us blogger-types to fill in for her. I began following Kate’s blog around the same time I decided to fumble my way through blogging. Kate is someone I look up to. She can write. She’s a mom of three which includes twins. She is funny, smart, knows who she is and makes no apologies for it. I love that about her. I got all tingly and thrilled when she asked me to write for her.