Manna from Heaven

One week ago today marks the first day of this school year that everything went smooooooooooth.

Yes, the year did start 2 months ago. It takes a bit for this train to start rolling smoothly on the track. From the time that I opened my eyes that morning, till drop off, everything fell into place perfectly.

Karsten was up on time. I gave him a bath in record time. His older brother, Kaedan, actually brushed his teeth and got it done. His usual routine is to paint toothpaste onto the toothbrush with his finger, and then rinse said finger under trickling water in a 10 minute prep to brushing his teeth. While at the same time I repeat

                    Kaedan brush your teeth

                                                                       Kaedan brush your teeth

Kaedan brush your teeth

Kaedan brush your teeth. Each time I happen to pass, back and forth, as I finish my morning routine. After which, I usually catch Krystana, my oldest, putting her hair into a ponytail without brushing it out first.

Another pause to help with her hair, because at that point if she does her hair again correctly, by herself, she’ll be late.

But not that Monday!!! Kaedan brushed his teeth. Krystana was standing in the entryway, early, looking like she stepped off of the set of a Teen Nick show. And, Karsten and his (what seems like) twelve bags and pieces of equipment for school were in the car and delivered on time.

Walking back to my car, after I dropped Karsten the littlest bear off at school, I had that uneasy feeling of a mother that spends all of her time with her children. The one where it feels like something is missing and you don’t know what to do with yourself because they’re gone, and you’re ALONE.

Warily excited by the limitless possibilites of potential time by myself, I decided to take the long way home, just because. It’s the little things. and that Monday that little thing was being able to drive aimlessly, leisurely, indefinitely… indefinitely until 2:30 p.m. but still…

Slight freedom!

As I drove, listening to Adele and Lauryn Hill instead of The Lorax or Yo Gabba Gabba, I took it all in. Feeling, and listening to, every second of every breath. I was present and enjoying every millisecond of this little reprieve.

And then I had the wildest thought… I’d been meaning to go check out the Bikram yoga studio near me. For about  a week now I thought about it, googled it, pulled out my old exercise gear, and got a new yoga mat.

When I have something in my mind it kind of becomes a crazy flurry of research and planning obsession until I experience it. Especially insane, in this instance, because I had never experienced the inside of a Bikram studio.

The next thing I knew I  was pulling over and mapquesting Bikram Yoga. And, then I was on my way.

Now, it was a cloudy day. and I’m sure I was a tad disoriented from the foreign experience of being able to do whatever I wanted. I could feel the neurotransmitters declaring Code Red inside of my brain from the liberty…

But I could swear, that as I drove up to this little industrial building, I could see the hands of God disappearing behind a break in the clouds and bright beams of light gleaming from the walls.

Something inside of me was telling me that this was the solution to all of the aches & pains that had me wondering if my body was falling apart.

I pray endlessly for my body to hold up to the assignment that its been given.

The ache that I feel when I put my head back and look up. The numbness and tingling that radiates from the pinched nerve behind my shoulder blade down my arm and fingers. The soreness in my back. The 40 stress pounds that I’ve allowed myself to gain. I had a really good feeling about this exercise that I had never ever experienced before.

I went inside and met this amazing beam of light named Katie. She told me all about it and I signed up to come back to a class that evening to try it out.

When I opened the door to the 6:30 class and met the wall of heat that was waiting for me… I began to second guess the divinity of my  inspiration.

I’m sure you know since it’s become a sensation, it’s 105 degrees in the yoga room and after the class I found out it’s also 40 percent humidity. Which explains why literally the whole class I kept repeating in my head, “This doesn’t feel like 105 degrees”. “Why is it so hot in here”?! Accompanied by thoughts of running out the door and jumping out of the window. Suffocation. and a daydream, in which all of the yogis and yoginis surround my lifeless body as it lay crumpled on the floor still stuck in half tortoise. and a glance around the room to guess who would be the one to run out of this heat and call 911.

There was an upside to the whole experience. After I learned to breathe only through my nose, the key to the heart pounding panic that I felt initially… as I did each asana, I felt my entire checklist of aches and pains during that class in a way that hurt SO good! I went so far into rabbit I only stopped out of fear that I would snap my neck. It felt sooooo good. Like the bruise that you can’t stop touching.

The torture eventually ended and we left the room. and oh my goodness! The bliss you feel when the rush of cold air hits you after stretching out all of your aches and pains. They should seriously invest in a harp player to sit there in the lobby and strum as people exit the room. It was that good!

I was hooked! Inside of the room, during the panic of trying something so foreign and not knowing exactly what I was doing I had already told myself that this was torture and this was not for me. “This is crazy! How do these people do this? Why would they keep coming back here and actually walk into this room? I am never doing this again” were pretty accurately my thoughts before I learned how to breathe, relaxed, paced myself, allowed the stretch, and left the torture chamber.

But afterward. Oh my goodness! I. was. hooked!

This was it all along. Another reminder to dwell more in trust than doubt. It was the answer to everything I was asking for and more. The “and more” I knew that I was yearning for, but I never expected it to come in the form of hot yoga. The “and more” that I found is a moment, for a moment it gives me a sense, illusive, but still a sense… of certainty. You must follow the rules. The rules are concrete. Certain. You know what to do. You know when to drink. The way you should breathe to relax. Your body is molded by the work that you do but guided by someone outside of yourself. Your job is to listen to them, follow the directions when you hear them, and only when you hear them.

For 90 minutes I am not at the helm of my ship steering in calm water that at any moment can turn into the perfect storm. I am clay laying and waiting to respond to the call of the one there to shape me. In fact, my practice is better when I wait for their instruction and follow it. As I watch myself in the mirror, it looks effortless.

Strangely, it is very structured but it makes me feel so free. easy. relaxed.

I’ve finally found something that can combat the unavoidable stress that is a part of my life. In the most absurd place. hot yoga. The image of me torturing my stress away makes me smile. But in the philosophy of Bikram, which makes so much sense, “if you want to make a knife what do you do to the steel”?

In my everyday life I have to be a razor sharp sword. This amazing place molds, stretches, releases, focuses, makes me endure, strengthens. So that when I leave I am sharpened and ready to fight the battles ahead.

Infinite Love

“…there are things that you will only be able to learn by the weakest among us. And when you snuff them out, you are the one that loses.” ~Gianna Jessen

November 8th two thousand and twelve… I caught a glimpse into the infinite that is love… and I now know with every fiber that it is the only reason for our existence. To love and be loved. Not duty. Not honor. Knowledge. Responsibility. No. On November 8th two thousand and twelve I met the ferociousness that drives us all. It filled me and radiated from my fingertips. And it was love.

That day started like any other not too worrisome Karsten sick day. First thing in the morning I  phoned the pediatrician. “Good morning Children’s Primary Care”… their voices soothe me in times of uncertainty.

  A sigh of relief and a tiny pause to express my gratitude as I thought.

 They know me, they know Karsten, I know them, they fit me in. I can count on them. Thank you.

“Dr. Robbins is busy till the afternoon we can fit you in sooner with someone else if you’d like”…

                                  His fever is only 101.

and I responded “that’s ok I’ll wait. Doctor Robbins knows him.” Fast forward a few hours. We get dressed. One last temp before we’re out the door. It’s staying steady at 101, I feel relieved. We make it to the appointment. I’m giving him water in the lobby. His breathing is a little noisy. He’s worn out from the fever and our sleepless night. They quickly get me a room so that we can have privacy. I pick him up and pat on his little chest as we wait. Karsten drifted off to sleep. The doctor came in and listened in his always attentive and calm way. He listened as I told him that we were up all night and Karsten was sweating all night. How his feet were cold and I thought that he had the flu because I had a horrible flu with the same symptoms a couple of weeks before. He replied “I’m not terribly worried, his vitals don’t look too concerning. His heart rate is elevated, but that could be because he’s sick……………….the only thing concerning me is how sleepy he is. I know him and he’s usually very alert.

                       My heart feels like it stops and then restarts twenty times faster.

“Well he was awake all night so I think he’s just sleepy”

    I started to justify. Why am I justifying?

Looking back I think I just didn’t want anything to be wrong. Not another thing. Not again. Denial never keeps me from getting the job done but it does creep in with fear when I can feel in my spirit that something is brewing. So when Dr. Robbins told me “I’m probably ruining your night. And it’ll probably be nothing. But just in case, I want you to go to Rady’s and have some labs drawn” I knew what I had to do…

                    ” I didn’t pack for the hospital, can I go home and get his things”?

“Yes just go sooner rather than later”. I pack. We make the drive. The triage nurse is looking him over and asks “is his belly always that distended”? Time slows. down…. What? Thinking back it feels like it took me an eternity to look down. I can’t count the questions that raced through my mind as I looked down to see what he was seeing.

              “What do you mean his belly is distended”?

                                         “Is his belly distended”?….

                                             “Dr. Robbins didn’t mention his belly”?….

                                                  “I didn’t notice his belly”?……

                                     “or did I”?

I looked down and there it was. And that is when the replay in my mind hits fast forward. They take me back. help them pick him up. he’s on a table limp. yell for RT. ask me what he ate. they move him to another room. people SURROUNDING him. I can’t even count them. Karsten looks so cute in his jammies and bare feet. God I love him. talking about blood gas. and intubate. RT asking over and over how old he is…..

He’s six years old”, I answer.

I don’t think that they knew that I was there because all of a sudden a doctor swirled around and filled the void between me. and him. Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. My love. She mentioned putting him on a ventilator and, for the moment, the last bit of my strength was used up.

And that’s when the door opened and I met it. Infinite love. I know that it’s in us all of the time, but at that moment it was like the trap door that only allows love to trickle out between its hinges (probably for good reason) exploded and I had access to it all. All of the love that is, that ever was, and ever shall be. All of the love that anyone in the universe thought was theirs at that moment was mine and I was feeling it for my child. It filled me. It was so strong it could have given me the strength to tear that whole building down, or in a millisecond could have spontaneously squashed my heart. I’m convinced it could have lifted me right off of the ground and left me to levitate right there in the emergency room… the forces of gravity did not apply against what I was feeling. I wanted out. Now! Rewind time. Not again. Why is this happening. Why him. Kill me now. Take me instead. I don’t care because what I’m feeling is annihilating me anyway. My heart is crushed.

Days before this we got the keys to the house that was made for him. and now there I was sitting on a brick wall on the side of the emergency room giving Karsten’s history through streams of tears to a medical student and an intern as my baby lay down the hallway

                                                                                                  and his life lay in the balance.

I wondered to myself… Is life bittersweet or just bitter? Where is the justice in this happening to Karsten for the second time? He IS innocence. WHY? Is there a lesson in this? Part of me hoped not. That would be a piercing pill to swallow that my son was in this state for a lesson. My sheer will wouldn’t allow a testimony to someone else as a reason to justify his suffering.

                                                          Breathe.

We spent a month there. Day by day he recovered. Day by day he surprised his doctors. Not every day was tear filled. My baby was fighting to come back to me. One day I’ll tell you the story of Maria… the sixty year old woman with cerebral palsy that I met downstairs in McDonald’s on Karsten’s second day there. She felt like a guide and I felt like I don’t have all of the answers but nothing is by chance.

We are both mostly recovered. His lungs give him some trouble from time to time.

                                                                                    And my heart gives me some as well.

I don’t have any profound wisdom that I gained from that experience. I do know something more of the depth, breadth, and infiniteness of the love that we are capable of. I feel more. It surprises me that feeling more was even a possibility.

I fight not to fear more.

The one thing I know even more than ever is that love is the only thing that matters. Its been almost a year. Now I can talk about it. and now I’m revisiting that experience to sift through the rubble it left behind to try to find closure. I want to move on with my whole self, my whole heart, and not just the fractured pieces that are left after the second time that I almost lost my son.

My mother once told me that my great grandmother’s words were life is grand as long as you don’t weaken and I know them to be true. As bitter as life and love are they are absolutely just as sweet. And it is more than worth it to me to move on and risk with my whole heart to taste that sweetness again.

                       …there are things that you will only be able to learn by the weakest among us.

Patience. Acceptance. Appreciation. Perseverance….. Love.

The spot where ________

If I asked you to drive me to the spot where you grew up, or went to high school, had your first kiss, or got married…how would it feel? As we saw it in the distance, slowed down, and the brakes began to squeal. When we opened the car doors and the air from outside rushed in…as we got out and the sun beamed down on us. How would you feel? As, you showed me around? For me, moments like that are almost their own energy. It’s like, as I stand there, if I inhale deeply enough I can inhale part of that moment because it is thick in the air. Like that energy abides there though the moment is long gone.

I actually enjoy reliving those kinds of moments in my mind. If you really connect you can feel just like you felt that day. Hopefully when I’m a ripe old age I’ll be able to tell a story just like Ninny Threadegoode, from Fried Green Tomatoes, that brings you right back to that day….

Well, so…you showed me around and we’re getting back into the car… and I ask you to take me to the place that changed your life. Not for the better (that you knew at first). Not the place that you were born. Or the spot where you bought your first home….the spot that changed YOU. as a person. That grew you. That was hard…the hardest thing that you’ve ever experienced. But now. looking back you know. that it changed you. For the BETTER.

Would you pause? Would you take me there? If you would happily take me there then I might question whether you actually have experienced this place yet…

Well yesterday. I revisited “the place where ____”…. where my life changed forever. A family member was in the hospital and I chose to go. I had to go. My love for her was greater than how difficult I knew that this was about to be. I pulled up. I felt the knot in my throat. I took some deep breaths. I looked around.

There was the tree that I parked under.

There were people still milling around, unaware that my life was forever changed here.

I expected to go back. I drove myself there. So I decided to use the opportunity to show myself that everything was ok. God had allowed my life to take this left for a reason…I know that now…and even though it has brought with it the worst pains of my existence…

It has brought such awareness and connection that I wouldn’t change it just to make my life easier.

So I walked. Instead of making a beeline for the elevator and heading up to the room. I walked. And breathed. To take some ominousness out of the big dark place that changed my life. I walked around the lobby, past the information desk, and into the gift shop. I’ve always thought that they have the best gift shop.

In God’s infinite wisdom and grace…I came across a sign that read…

Life is a chance to grow a soul.

Life is a chance to grow a soul…

Where I have been led has grown me…so much that sometimes I can actually feel myself being stretched. But, I have such a deep connection. Such an awareness of the beauty of things. Laughter. Light. Life in all of its forms. Touch. Feeling.

You think that you know love until your child who can’t control his head takes all of 60 seconds to lift his head and give you his open-mouthed version of a kiss on the cheek as you carry him to the car.

I don’t just live life. I feel life.

And that’s the intention of these times, these places, these spots where our lives change forever. If we embrace them in the midst of the pain and the tears. They force us to climb to a new plateau SO HIGH that we would never achieve it on our own.