Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dig Deep

Recently someone considered that though I might believe myself to love two children I didn't birth, that in actuality, they know that I don't.

When anyone poses an opinion with such resolve, I can't help but envision myself a student of Socrates.
Well? DO you love them as though you hefted their fetal weight around for 9 months and then upon their first breath, forgot you ever cursed the heavens for their foot in your rib cage?
How do you KNOW that you do?
Should you have to choose between them and your children, would the scales tip even minimally in your biological direction?
Are you sure?
Dig deep. Can you be honest with yourself?

6 years ago I wrote a letter to a little girl on her 1st death anniversary.

I told her about how I met her parents. How I thought her daddy was a woman (you'd have to read the original post), how her momma sat beside her as my world stopped and said:
Pay attention to this sleeping child. Pay attention to this moment in your life.
How she looked to me like a pleading cherub, tiny and delicate, palms open to the heavens and bowed head as she slept off chemo.

You can read in this letter how many times I referred to myself as a selfish heart. Keening with my youngest daughter in my arms thinking, 'it could have been my child!'.

From my very first sight of Jasmine, I loved her. In her there were atoms pulling at mine, reminding me that we all came from stardust and are intertwined in ways we cannot ever entirely fathom. That once we acknowledge and accept this, we cannot help but be anchored to each other for ever. While my mind thought selfishly about how SHE could have been MY child, my heart began to work on teaching me that I loved her as though she WERE my child.

Unfortunately this is a story that in order to imprint its lesson, had to end tragically.
Jasmine Uhl never actually spoke. At two and a half years of age she had more surgeries and hospital stays than most adults will have in an entire lifetime. While At/Rt stole from her the ability to communicate verbally, in no way did it rob her from speaking to those who knew her.
Grunts, facial expressions, screeches, giggles...smiles. She'd pat my face and turn it to her. Jasmine liked to look at you like she could see through you. Without asking, you knew she understood your words.
Somewhere on Facebook there's still a page to commemorate Jasmine. There's her own Facebook page too. I see her tagged now and again by one of the hundreds of people that heard her story or knew her in person. She touched each of them wordlessly.
But she changed me entirely.
She taught me to love things you cannot ever own.

I was nervous meeting Clara and Henry. They were the small children of a man I knew I would never be apart from. Loving him, I would automatically love half of each of his children. They deserved to be loved independently of their father however and I would watch them at their worst and at their best wondering: Can I love them? Am I sure? Dig deep.
Clara, green eyed Clara. She was so shy. She hid from me behind a recliner and her peeking face is still with me to this day. It would take me some time to learn that in her most blunt commentary she was simply genuine.
"Oh I see what you did! Instead of using REAL equipment you used TRASH to make those! It's so creative!" She stated after she saw me curing fondant over (CLEAN!!) pieces of foil and paper towel rolls.
Some days she is grumpy. She's not a morning person. She's not even a night person. Once she's too hungry or tired, she breaks apart pretty fast. I've picked her up and carried her to her bed, laid down and sung her to sleep when she's been too tired to go and too sad to do so alone. She's a lot like my Aeva, sometimes people confuse her. It's like Aeva, and not Iris, has a twin that somehow grew somewhere else in a different time.
Henry is ever joyous and loud and loud (did I mention loud??) and also he is loud! As a daddy's boy I didn't anticipate him being the most difficult of the two when it came to acceptance. He vies for daddy's time and attention like no other. Henry idolizes Ian in the sweetest of ways. Ever the right hand man, if Ian is working you can find Henry right next to him.
Or next to me. Learning Henry meant speaking his language. Letting him help in the kitchen endeared him to me. And perhaps... it endeared me to him. We work together on chores and he never tells me no.
"Some people aren't as lucky to have both a mommy and a daddy---"
"And a Sherlin!"
What began as a conversation about children in the adoption world became one of the sweetest interruptions I might ever know.

Jasmine lived a short short life. With the ending of her life, came the ending of my own phase in life.
A painful and prolonged divorce came on the heels of a vial of Jasmines ashes being placed in my hands. I endured. I let go of what wasn't meant to be.
Invasive surgery robbed me of my ability to walk for 6 horrible months. A year of therapy. Facing my 4th surgery in mere weeks I remember what sustained me during the last: Jasmines strength through all of hers.
The note her mother wrote on behalf of Jasmine that I've kept all these years.
If a child can smile after so many surgeries, why can't I?

And if someone can love a child they adopt, or a child they watch fight for life....
Why can't I love two children who bring me new light?

I've written about Jasmine many times.
Sometimes I go back and re-read the first time I did.

My ex husband abrasively told me to stay away from Jasmine when prognosis was dim.
"Why attach yourself to someone who ISNT going to live? You know it's going to hurt more in the end."
But my own selfish heart refused to let go of hope and it threw itself into the push and pull match of fighting Cancer. It wrung itself out when Hospice came into sight. Even as Jasmine lost the ability to find clarity and slept away her days, my selfish heart hung on to her. I wanted to be there as often as I could so I could gather into my being all the snap shot memories of her little hands and feet, of her wispy curls. I would hold my breath when hers caught and I would return home aching and tired.
Do you want to do this?? Are you sure? Dig deep.
I'd return again each day.
While the time grew shorter, the roots grew deeper.
And the fear grew stronger.
What would the world be without Jasmine? What would her parents do? What would *I* do?
How does someone exist one moment and simply not the next?
Would I want to be there when she left us?
What right did my selfish heart have to ask any of this that didn't belong to ME.
Can I bare to be there when she's gone?
Am I sure?
Dig. Deep.

6 years ago today, in a mere few hours, Jasmine ascended to the heavens while the world crashed around so many of us in that living room.
Someone new broke open in me as I helped her mother wash her scarred and yet tiny body. Brush out sweet curls. Someone who loved Jasmine like she loved the children she carried, watched Jasmines father hold his daughter one last heartbreaking time.

When she was walked out and handed to the morticians, this new person felt as bereft as though she'd given over her own child.

A year ago today I married the man I love more than myself. A man of unprecedented strength, loyalty, gentleness and kindness. I tethered myself, more than willingly, to a life as his wife and a life with his children.
My children.

A child can only have one biological mother. One biological father. There is no way around that.
But a mother, any mother, can have more than one child and love them. She can split her heart up infinitely and each part be as strong as the others. Their atoms stretching and entwining with the children she belongs to.

Do you take this man and his children? Do you promise to love always, in sickness and in health?
Are you sure?
Dig deep.

Yes. For she taught me.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Is it an irony that for all that I endeavor to keep my life a little on the natural hippie side of the tracks, I am also counting down to the day that I become more metal than I already am? 

Pun totally intended, in case you were wondering. 

Last week we met with my ortho-surgeon Dr. Hoover, to officially mark myself ready for cyborg initiation and start the paperwork. In typical fashion I both blotted a sudden leak from my eyes and laughed nervously as I asked every possible question from my oh-so-patient surgeon. We looked at scans of what my joint looks like and he explained the difficulties of slicing through a graft, the possible complications, how his method of entry varies from my previous surgeries, how we will prep in the last 3 months leading up, as well as what recovery could look like. 

I mostly want to know if the pain will stop and if I can get him to preserve the cut ball joint in a jar for me. Morbid I know but cmon. Would YOU feel comfortable with a discarded piece of your body just getting put in the incinerator?!? 

"So we can get you booked today if you want."

"We're still waiting on Bolt"

"Ah that's right! Good. My secretary can book you when he's ready."

Bolt had his own pin removed the day prior. I got to see him being led off to surgery after waiting the better part of 2 hours for a decision. When his vet met with me and Bolt's foster, he mentioned PT and a concern with limited movement of the injured wrist as well as a 70% healed fracture. It short: It's gonna be a while. 

"When you check out, we'll give you some reading material and lab work papers."

What he really meant was:

I'm basically assigning you to scrub in as my assistant so you've got 6 years of Med school to catch up on in this 300 page 'booklet'. 

Oh. And a little workshop put on by the hospital for Total Hip Replacement patients where you'll basically be the only one there that isn't retired since forever ago. 

I asked Ian to remind me what the surgeon expected me to attend at the hospital and he said: Surgery. Good thing he remembers so well otherwise I might have sent someone in my place. 


Sitting through the labs the surgeon ordered for me I get a sense of relief knowing that it's official. For the last 10 years I have been facing this procedure and likewise avoiding it. 

There are a few medical concerns to be ruled out through blood work and a good deal of mental processing to be done so in anticipation I asked Ian if I would be allowed to volunteer at the D.C. Temple in the gardens. Through a little bit of networking, I find that there's a group traveling up from Virginia to work in the garden the same Saturday Ian has scheduled for his own Temple trip and sign myself up. 

Ian and I, though vastly different in our religious views, are both deeply spiritual. Worship brings us both a sense of calm and centering. For Ian, the most holiest of places for communing with his God is in the LDS Temple. If you're from this area and traveled through 495 outer loop towards silver springs, you've seen the white castle-like structure that seems to suddenly arise from the horizon with its golden spires and singular Angel, trumpet at the ready. 

When I first moved to Maryland it intrigued me but I could never figure out what it was. There was no cross. No signs. No visible way to make it to the palace in the sky. I have since learned that the Angel is called Moroni, always facing east to the sunrise as though he calls it forth. The Temple, a holy and sacred place for the Latter Day Saints and a building I will never enter whilst it is sealed 

See I am not Mormon. Nor do I plan to be. 

My church surrounds the temple in the greenery and plants and soil that make up the beautiful Gardens that LDS Temples are also known for. Being the beginning of spring I looked forward to planting flowers or bulbs.  

Brother Amaya hands me gloves....and  giant hedge clippers. 

"Today we will prune the trails!"

Brother Amaya is excited about pruning away months worth of growth and collected dried tree limbs because's not yet time to plan the flowers. 

First he sets me to break down large limbs that will be taken to the dumpster on little gator-trolleys. When he sees me struggling with bigger limbs he hands me a saw. A nasty curved thing that eats at wood like it's nothing. I cut limbs and branches and large logs. Each time thinking: This isn't what I WANTED to do...

Which is quickly followed with the Buddhist idea that manual labor is a chance to meditate. Quiet the body and open the mind. 

"Why don't you move over here, and help me prune away the bushes? There are plenty people carrying and breaking down sticks."

Brother Amaya is originally from El Salvador. So is Brother Castillo. He's further up the trail spraying down stumps. I suspect Brother Amaya enjoys speaking Spanish with someone new for a change. 

"Am I to cut down even these lively bushes??"

"Yes. There are not needful here. They choke up the tree that we want growing big and strong."

I'm not one for pruning because I am not one for culling away the plants. 

Children do not see a weed when they pick dandelions, they see a flower. 

I still see a flower. Each plant, is still one to keep. I silently chat with the Earth and thank the bushes for their temporary greenery. 

And I wonder why Brother Amaya keeps pushing me to prune more varied things. 

"You see this offshoot branch on the tree? It's unnecessary. It does the tree no good. Cut it with the saw, close to its bend up and diagonal."

I slice away a limb off the tree we are clearing space for and I run my finger over the jagged slice I've made. 

"It's a good cut for a starter! In time the tree will heal over this cut, and it will not even show a scar."

As we continue down a hill, cutting away and stacking bush and upon bush, thorns through my gloves no longer bothering me, Brother Amaya talks to me about Immigration, the Book of Mormon, and difficult but righteous choices. 

He's aware I am not a member of the church but I am a member of his clan...Hispanic immigrants. 

"Your family made a difficult choice in order to ensure your prosperity and in order to do what is right. They left their lands and risked a long voyage to a new country. It is sad that many of the new generations forget the sacrifice."

"I don't. I honor them as I can, always choosing what is right although it is hard.  Standing up for others who may not have that voice."

"It reminds me of Moses. Do you know his story?"

"The Prince of Egypt. I do."

"Before they knew he was a Jew they took him in and he was like them. He was a Prince. But when he found out who his people, his ancestors were...he gave up his inheritance so as to do what was right. Can you imagine giving all of that up??"

We pruned away a while longer before Ian made his way down from the Temple and caught up with me. As he and Brother Amaya chatted down the trails, I hung back to watch the small swarm of caterpillars cling to the side of a sappy tree. I stooped to run my fingers through baby ferns and dewy moss. In the nursery I read the labeled on what would become jasmine and what were the different types of Japanese Maples, a tree I favor. A variety of which I have many in my yard at home. Their leaves are soft and supple, they change colors and become vibrant for their summer.  

In the gardens I can hear the steady heartbeat of Gaia and the humming of the green things that grow. I can listen to the universe and Deity best in this temple of earth and it was whispering to me while I strayed behind the men. 

I met with the Trainer that will be helping me certify Bolt as a service dog that same afternoon. 

I pulled out my journal with all my notes on Bolt from when I've seen him at the vet and then closed it again. 

The whispering became clear. 

"With what we know about Bolt, his need for recovery, and the training he is facing with you.... do you think that it would be more harm than good for Bolt? I want to know now, before I further fall in love with him, if this is the best kind of home for him. Bolt deserves the best family, one that will let him grow fat and lazy and not require him to work. As much as this family loves him...this would be a home where he would have to work. A home where he would walk more than most dogs and be less able to seek out the petting of all the humans he encounters. I want to know, now, sooner rather than later if he would be better served in a home where he is not a service dog."

See while I was out pruning away live things striving to lean into the life force of those trees, I was being given a lesson. 

Those vines and those bushes love that big tall tree. They love the safety of its embrace. But they stifle the tree, and they're kept from much sunlight. 

Keeping Bolt I would have been the vines and bushes keeping Bolt from his best life. 

So, because I love him so, I let him go.

He deserves so much that I cannot give him. Even if he has my whole heart. 

Sometimes I wish the gears were in my heart and not my hip and when it hurt to turn and chug I could just oil it instead of waiting for it to cry it all out. 

Being Bionic sometimes doesn't keep you from being wholly human. 

Monday, March 27, 2017


Let me warn you now. This post is a lot like the Impossibility Drive from the Hitch Hikers Guide to the galaxy. It jumps around and things pop up that hardly should exist in the same paragraph let alone sentence. It's basically what happened when I myself looked up at my apartment ceiling so long ago and yelled to the universe:
What is the meaning of my life?!?

It did not reply with 42.

3 weeks ago I received an unrefrigerated blob resembling a chicken cutlet via Amazon. So I stuck it in the fridge and 2 hours later rushed to get it out. How did I know Scobys weren't meant to be refrigerated??
Currently it's free loading in my laundry room where it digests organic cane sugar dissolved in organic green tea that was steeped in filtered water gather from the rains of the first full moon and boiled to exactly 103 degrees for 10 minutes and 2 seconds.
Sadly only the origins of the water are a fib created out of self imposed frustration.

I'm making Kombucha and quite frankly as it grows....I am less and less inclined to drink its fermented bath water.
But I'm also cheap and the stuff is good for me so the inner hippie is still in the running for bottling it in the next however many days this thing requires.

I don't know. I rarely read instructions all the way through.

I'm mostly self taught and entirely self-to blame for all the troubles I get myself into. Luckily, however, the one thing that DOESNT come with a manual is also the thing I seem to do ok with: keeping multiple kids alive.

Did I tell you I've sprouted 2 more?

It was a buy one husband get 2 kids free deal and boy was I sold. They're the long lashed, light eyed models and they came next to fully potty trained (ask me some other day why I say it that way).

Oh. The husband was a pretty sweet deal too. I seem to be doing ok at keeping him alive so far.

So there's 6 of us now, and 3 fridges, a NOTminivan SUV with 3rd row seating, one nutty dog and more calendars than my iPhone can track.

I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing about 99.9% of the time.

I have no idea how to dress a boy. I've never stared at a clothing rack as long as I have since Henry became one of my tribe. So far I know that if it's red, has a sport or a Pokémon on it, he will wear it. I'm never sure if he's matching but I have been informed that bow ties are not appropriate. Nor is the word: cute.

I've also figured out that yelling is basically the way children in excess of 2 communicate. What they haven't figured out yet is that yes. I certainly CAN hear you whispering to your sister that you plan to tickle your brother even though I just made it a crime punishable by last row seating delegation.

Then there's the teenager.
Anyone want to take on a capstone project? She's pretty smart. And in the full throes of teen-hood.
I don't know that I'll need a haircut until she's 21 and I have stopped pulling my hair out in frustration.
Honestly I always wanted to be a blonde but God has a funny sense of humor and instead of granting me the genes, he simply sent me my own image with the golden locks.
Good one Big Guy. I see what you're saying.

Speaking of the Universe and its sense of humor, I was recently matched with a service dog.
Remember years ago how I had that Tetris operation where my bones were re arranged and I likened my recovery to climbing a mountain? Well. The apex of that mountain involves a full hip replacement. As you all well know I am simply THRILLED at the prospect of surgeries that involve bone saws and staplers.
Doc says the joint must go.

Anyways, while I'm trying to figure out how to grow Kombucha in a jar without it escaping and eating my laundry on its way out and keep 4 kids (3 of which resemble triplets) alive and socially well adjusted, I am freaking the hell out.

Here I am, about to undergo yet another surgery. The 4th in 10 years since that fateful day and I don't know how to process it while I laugh at the sheer irony of it and cry because I am genuinely scared of the OR and recovery.

Then I get this message from my friend who has recently founded a canine rescue. There's a grant for a service dog. And there's a dog recently identified as a candidate for training.

Except that he's been shot. And he's got two pins, a bolt and wire keeping his bones together so they don't have to amputate the leg.
Would I consider him?

I remember looking at my own elbow, wrapped in titanium, screwed together with a bolt and two pins and thinking: God? Is that you? Are you freaking kidding me?!?

God and I, we chat a lot. Prolly in a way most would find to be far too informal.

Anyways. Here's this dog. And he's like the male 4 legged version of me. I ask for pictures and I ask to meet him.

He was in an X-Pen but he saw me and he was scrambling to reach me over the top of his gate. I knew then he was meant for me.
I've fostered so many dogs and never failed and here is this under-weigh Bionic dog fighting to keep his leg and I want HIM to be the one to walk me through the OR doors and spend too long at Target with me and come nudge me when the anxiety is reeling and it's time to let him do his job while I focus on breathing.

I have no idea what it's like to have a service dog, or care for one that will set off metal detectors with me for life. He seems to think it starts with my holding his bad leg every time I visit him at his fosters house while he mesmerizes me with his soulful eyes.

I've named him Bolt.  Because he and I are both quite literally screwed.

Apparently this is a huge win with the kids. I've become popular amongst the tiny dictators for choosing to bring home a huge dog that is supposed to work with/for me. And can go in the car. I've been told he will sit in the back where there's more space for him. Clearly meant for his comfort and not their enjoyment.

So I have a million things going. None of which I was fully prepared or trained for. But for all the improbabilities out there, I got kids and a husband I love, a dog that might be my spirit animal and possibly something resembling an octopus growing in a jar.

Recently someone explained the theory that '42' is computer language for 'asterisk' (*) which denotes 'anything you want it to be'

Seems like maybe that was my answer after all.
But someone forgot the instruction manual.....