New Video: Poop in the Potty

We are celebrating Kyrie’s latest milestone. This girl has been potty trained for a year, except for regression every time she was hospitalized. We are trying to support and encourage her as we return back to the hospital again in a few weeks. She is so proud of herself!

 

Naming in the Palm

Sometimes I hold a tiny baby in the palm of my hand, and wash the tiny body for burial while the mother washes me with her tears.

Sometimes I am able to help the mother wash the baby herself, or the father, or a grandmother, or even once a big sister.

It’s not a baptism, but an initiation into grief, a formal saying goodbye to one who barely got to say hello.

When babies are that tiny, there is no black or white, only purple, a deep purple that is deeper than the purple in your own veins. It is the purple of a baby who should still be inside its mother, and the purple of blood without oxygen.

And even though it may be horrifying to just open up a blog and read about it when you thought you were sitting down to avoid work on your computer or to hide from your children, a vision of these little ones will quickly remind you how much a life is worth, how every minute matters, and that even the bickering of siblings is something sacred.

It’s not a scary thing, to hold such a tiny one in my palm.

It’s something sacred, even holy, to wash and dress one whose spirit was too noble and mighty to squeeze into their tiny body for long.

And I urge the mother to name her baby, not just so that she can name her grief or have a way to reference the child if anyone ever dare speak of him or her again, but so that this woman can speak aloud the experience of who she has become and will always be: a mother.

And the father, if he is there.

Sometimes there is no father, they say, as if he can hide well enough to avoid bearing the weight of this moment. Sometimes there is a father, but he cries alone in his truck instead of in the room full of beeping monitors and machines that could not save such an early life. Sometimes the father is there, stoic and distant, and sometimes he is there but melted to the floor with abandon.

Sometimes the father holds the mother, sometimes she clings to him, and sometimes they hold each other.

Sometimes she is in danger herself, and not aware, and there is no one to hold the little one for the only breath they will take – except me.

Because no one dies alone.

That’s what we say.

And so there I am, with a perfectly formed body, tiny and purple, in the palm of my hand and waiting for a name.

הֵ֥ן עַל־כַּפַּ֖יִם חַקֹּתִ֑יךְ חֹומֹתַ֥יִךְ נֶגְדִּ֖י תָּמִֽיד׃

I could never forget you! Your very name is written on the palms of my hands.

(Isaiah 49:16)

Because even in this moment, the hardest moment, even then is the plan of salvation, a plan for resurrection, a plan for families.

I try to remember this for the mother while it is too much for her.

I try to remember this for the father while it is too much for him.

I try to remember it for me, on days when Kyrie is not well and fights for each breath, and on days when she has air in her lungs enough to scream mean toddlerish things at me.

Because we fought for that air, for those lungs, for that minute for her to scream.

Screaming is breathing, baby girl.

The naming in the palm.

His arms ever outstretched toward us.

His arms ever outstretched for us, even in death.

It was all so that we could live, and be named, even with covenant names, and then pass away from this hard life and return home to Him again, where still, He remembers our name.

I try to remember that on rainy mornings when I snuggle my children close to me.

I try to remember that on long days when it’s hard work not to scream their names.

I try to remember that on long nights when I am tired, but the elevator doors open and there before me is someone – someone with a name – standing there, with burdens weighing down their shoulders.

I try to remember that when Caren (with a C) comes to mop my floors and take out the office trash, and I help her tie the bags because it’s one tiny way to show that I remember her name.

I try to remember that when the doctor schedules Kyrie for surgery a thousand miles away but wants more money first, when the bank declined the third house sale offer in a row, when the man comes to take our van away, or when the lady in line behind me at the stoplight thinks that honking a Deaf girl will make her drive any faster.

Even you have a name.

And a mother.

And the same Heavenly Father as me.

I try to remember it when I feel extra mortal, and cannot solve every problem overwhelming me all on my own, and seem to mess up even my best efforts at saving the world.

Because having a name means you are loved.

And getting named means you are not alone.

And living your name means understanding both of those, which means believing Him when he says your name is remembered in His very palms.

You are known.

You are not forgotten.

You are not alone.

You are loved.

Pager Anxiety

Pager Anxiety is what they say at work when you are trying to remember when you are on call or not.

My pager anxiety is more about the Deaf girl wearing three pagers by the end of the night, and not being able to tell which one is going off.

I have three pagers because one of them is for the women’s floors (women’s surgery, new moms, labor and delivery, PICU, pediatrics, and NICU), and one is for the trauma room in the ER in the evenings (car accidents, shootings, etc.), and then the other one is the on call pager for the whole hospital after everyone else has gone home (code blues, rapid responses, etc.).

Pagers, you guys.  Because it’s 1995.

And seriously, three pagers.   It’s hilarious.

Here’s a picture of my new desk (with nothing private showing), including that amazing picture Nathan made me of a Metropolitan Museum of Art painting of Joan of Arc.  I also have a toy for each of the children, some of my favorite books, and pictures of my family.  I will get more pictures up, add a lamp, and see what else I need in the next week.  But that’s a start of feeling cozy.

Not that I ever get to sit around feeling cozy very often, as I am now even busier than I ever was on the BAT team.  I thought I was busy plus having one pager to share for ER patients and other behavioral health emergencies, and that was when there were two of us covering thirty or forty patients.  Now I am responsible for around a hundred patients just on my own, plus the other pagers for emergencies.  I don’t even get to sit down except to do notes sometimes, and I have collapsed every night when I got home.  But I am loving my patients and my work more than I ever dreamed, and I adore the people I work with in pastoral care and on my floors.  They are amazing people with genuine hearts who care so much about our patients.  I even love my little desk, after two years of not having my own space, and it’s nice to have a safe space to return to and rest – it gives me the resources I need for what patients need from me and for the renewal of who I need to be present as a chaplain for patients.

That is, of course, about all I can share about my work.

But the point is that my transition from the BAT team back into chaplaincy was smooth and beautiful and wonderful and I love it.  It is such an integrative experience, using both my clinical skills and my spiritual self, and I am in awe of what I see God doing in and through people all over the hospital.  I have felt welcomed on my floors, and I worked hard to do a good job, and I connected with my tiny patients and their families to bring about healing in the ways that I could – or that Heavenly Father can through me.

And really, that’s what we all do for each other, right?

That’s how we are an angel for others when we believe in them when no one else does.

That’s how we are an angel for others when we set the boundaries we need to be healthy.

That’s how we are an angel for others when we offer counsel that is wise but gentle, or firm but compassionate.

That’s how we are an angel for those who are not even aware of it, cannot respond, and may not remember it.

We do it anyway.

A prayer we read in the chaplain office this week was one from Mother Theresa:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
     Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
     Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
     Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
     Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
     Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
     Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
     Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
     Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
     It was never between you and them anyway.

          ~ Mother Theresa

Whether it’s parenting or just the everyday mundane effort of trying to live some form of a consecrated life, we do what we do because it’s the right thing.

And the sacrifices we make trying to do it? They do matter, even if no one notices.

Because the power isn’t in the noticing, but in the act of faith that is the doing.

Even when it seems impossible, or like you are drowning, or like hope is growing fainter.

Do not give up. Just keep going.

That’s what Kyrie does.

This weekend was marvelous.

I mean to say, it was an actual resting weekend.

For the last two years, I haven’t had weekends hardly because I was working at one hospital or another, and now I am officially Monday through Friday. I will have a Saturday rotation, not not every weekend or every other weekend like before. I rested and napped and rested some more. I played with the children, and let them help me cook, and took them on walks. I even was excited to go to church until I remembered Kyrie still can’t stay for nursery, but at least I got to be there for all of sacrament meeting!

There were a thousand things we needed to do, like paint in the yellow house or clean up the garage here that we moved so quickly. There were a million things to worry about, like getting our van back or wondering how to get us to Cincinnati and back again. But we didn’t. We rested and played and just spent time together, and that was most important – even with Cincinnati looming over us like a shadow, and a hundred other anxieties about life and parenting and children and provision and protection. We let it go.

Besides, it was a weekend to celebrate!

Barrett turns six this week!

We got him when he was two!

I can’t believe he is six!

Not only that, but I will be 41 on Wednesday. How crazy is that? I have maybe, finally grown into my age, just in time to be too tired to care.

Those years of chemo wore me out.

These years of children have worn me out.

Ongoing opposition has wiped me out.

Nathan said tonight he knows God isn’t punishing us because he knows we are faithful and obedient. I mean, we aren’t perfect, but we are trying. We read our scriptures and pray, we do the same as a couple and we do it with the children. We keep our covenants, follow the commandments, tithe on the rare occasion we get income, fast, have FHE, serve in our callings, and do the things we are asked to do and don’t do what we shouldn’t as best we can.

So it must be, he said, that Heavenly Father knows this difficult season is an experience we need and one that we will need to testify of.

And so we endure, because it’s what we do.

And as Nathan said, we’ve made it a lot longer than either of us thought we could in circumstances so difficult.

But to be honest and vulnerable and prayerful over our flocks all Alma like, it feels like that story toward the end of Alma when the guy is like, “Hey! Why aren’t you helping us? We are going to die. We need serious help over here, and it feels like you aren’t helping us.” And they send all those emails back and forth about being in crisis and needing help and it turns out they weren’t betrayed after all, just the king was under siege and needs his own help, too.

That’s what our life feels like sometimes, like we are out of provision and out of resources and tired of being in crisis, except then find out our calling is to help others who are themselves more besieged than us.

Because that’s consecration.

And acting in faith.

And hoping against hope.

It was two months before Kyrie was born, when I turned 38, that for my birthday Nathan gave me the book Re-Reading Job, because of course my life had been hard so it made sense to give me a book about the Old Testament Job story.

We just didn’t know it was preparatory, that life was going to get harder yet.

And it’s hard not to worry about how much harder we still have yet to go.

But what we know is that we don’t have pager anxiety.

Do you know why?

Because even when life is really, really hard, and even when circumstances are impossible, and even when you don’t even know how to keep breathing… we still know who is our God, and whose children we are, and what He has asked us to do.

And that’s what we are going to do, as best we can, as messy as it is.

Because nothing, long as we are faithful to our covenants, nothing can separate us from Him.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I know who holds the answers.

I don’t know when deliverance will come, but I know who will be the deliverer.

I don’t know what this story is that He has asked us to live so that we can tell it, but I know of whom I will testify.

And that is sufficient for my needs.

Reality

Nathan somehow has been holding out on us, apparently having had these virtual reality goggles of the “cardboard” type the entire time we’ve been married.

Now, though, it’s becoming more popular with fancy technology and expensive equipment, so there are more opportunities to use virtual reality apps and videos for different things.

And last night, he found that the Olympics have a virtual reality app!

So we spent the evening watching figure skating – a treat in itself since normally we don’t watch sports on Sundays – but watching it via virtual reality. It was intense! I had no idea! It was really like being there, where I could turn my head and see the camera men behind the rink, or look behind me and see the crowds, or look straight ahead and almost feel the rush of air as skaters passed me!

Then, on a commercial break, I went skydiving and also scuba diving and also he took me to France!

It was amazing!

He totally wins best valentine’s date ever, taking me to France for a bite of cheese under the Eiffel Tower while the children were sleeping.

By the time we were done playing, I was actually a bit dizzy. I don’t know if it was the tad-bit blurry VR cameras, or if it was all the excitement, or just that one time I tried bungee jumping and almost fell on the floor in real life. But regardless, the more you moved around, the more you got out of the experience.

I was thinking about this as I did my scripture study this morning, in those pre-dawn moments you try to relish without watching the clock counting down the seconds until the children wake.

I know I am a daughter of God, right?

And I know I am here on earth for my very ancient spirit to learn to use this physical body (that seems less “new” as I prepare to turn 41 next week), and to practice making choices regarding living up to that very godly daughter-ship-ness.

And if those choices have to do with serving my Father who is my God, then I’m going to get the most out of life the more I look around and explore ways I can serve others.

Except, obviously, it can’t be a virtual existence. I really have to do it. I can’t hide behind cardboard glasses and wait for life to happen for me. I experience life by living it, and experience is the only way to progress.

Today will be my first day in my new position as a chaplain at the hospital where I have worked for the last year and a half. I’m anxious, like anyone would be for any new job. But it’s also true that I know who I am, and being me is really my only job.

That makes it a lot less scary.

Even when part of reality is going out to start the day, which means facing six hungry children who need shoes tied and hair done and homework started and helped and finished.

But we did it just fine, and had as good a morning as we could have on such a pretty day, before I left for my new job.

I gave them a good breakfast of eggs, bacon wrapped dates, and fresh fruit. We got through everyone’s scriptures and praying and family scriptures and praying, and finished homework (even Mary’s multiplying double digits by double digits), remembered violin and piano practice, and made it all the way to playing outside before lunch.

I even got the girls’ hair done.

So yeah, I’m as ready as I can be.

Griefing

Today I gave a six hour seminar on grief, which is always a good time.

And by six hours, I mean I had to be here two hours before, plus an hour not to get lunch, and an hour cleanup. So that makes it a nine hour seminar, and I am exhausted. My body hurts and my back aches and it was all worth it. I loved it, and I loved the people who came, and I love how much they taught me while I was supposed to be teaching them. It was a good group, and I am super excited about doing this every month this year.

By the time we were done, my car had a thin layer of ice and the sky was spitting snow.

It was bitter cold, especially without a coat, but somehow crisp in the quiet calm as I sat by the lake warming up in my car.

It felt like life, cold and harsh, except also everything is okay.

I felt at peace, relieved by the seminar being completed well, and the at home in my own skin in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.

There was no begging for it not to be cold anymore, and no yearning for summer, and no trying to pretend it’s not as cold as it is.

I was just there, in the cold, but okay.

Like life, right?

Like how a moment with a friend can change everything, how loving your husband changes the world, and how watching your children play somehow softens the hard work of raising them.

And I loved how, even though I use more self-disclosure in this seminar than any other, I was okay. My grief wasn’t present, or drowning me, or right now. It was somehow, finally, “back then”, and dealing okay with Kyrie as far as whatever kind of day she is having or not. I have grown some, it felt like, and healed lots, and just there for a while knowing that and being glad for it.

It’s okay, you see, to just be okay.

And Nathan is still here on the other side of it.

And so are friends.

And so is my God.

And I am okay.

Not finished, and there will be more hard things because winter is always cold.

But I am okay, and I can finally remember what Spring is like – even if it isn’t quite here yet.

Endings and Beginnings

When I am up in the tower on just the right side, those nights I can escape the ER long enough to follow up with patients who were admitted, then I have the best view ever of Hillcrest as the sun sets through the blinds in the hallway.

 

I spent what felt like two years in that place, though really it was only one year.  But that year was broken up by Kyrie being born, and life flights, and working two jobs and sleeping four hours a night.  They were hard years.  It was where I finally started talking about losing my parents, where I finally started thawing to the idea of friendship again, where the chaos of fostering began to be replaced by the settling that comes with adoption.  It was where I knew it was time to just go home to Owasso, and accept palliative care for Kyrie, and just be with my family.

When I see that place, it is like a college campus to me.  I was called to chaplaincy and sent there, dove into my pastoral studies there, and “grew up” with colleagues near to my heart whom I will never forget – because they were in the trenches with me.  It’s where we walked dark hallways alone at night, laid down to sleep only for the pager to send us to another code blue, and where we learned to sing someone to sleep for eternity.  We prayed there, and cried there, and laughed there.  We had to face our own selves there, and figure out what to do about it, and managed to come out on the other side again.  Residency is intense, and exhausting, and there is nothing left of you at the end of it, except what was really you all along.  Everything else is stripped away, and it’s painful and messy and beautiful.  That’s what I remember when I see that place.

But now I work down the street, and have spent the last year as a therapist in the ER instead of a chaplain-in-residency.  Our team assesses those who are homicidal, or suicidal, or psychotic, or drunk, or high.  We make safety plans, transfer people to psychiatric facilities, and refer people to treatment.  Clinically, it is very intense but I have loved it.

The schedule is grueling, though, with two weeks of work and then a weekend, and then repeat.

And I don’t usually get home until midnight, which makes me exhausted for getting up to care for the children in the mornings and do their homeschooling, or when I have to sleep then I miss them all together.

And also, I’m a chaplain, so it’s been hard not having that part of me functioning.  Serving as a chaplain integrates for me my clinical skills and my spiritual strengths in a way I have never experienced before.  It is not easy.  It is gut-wrenching to walk alongside a person in what is the hardest moments of their lives, the kinds of moments you can’t undo or fix or help lift them from or from which you can rescue them.  It’s hard enough that the church calls us to meetings every October, for personal interviews and blessings and trainings, to be sure we are okay and to be sure we are caring for our communities well.

And now it’s time to return to my chaplain duties.  After six months of interviews, lots of Bible Belt discussions about what Mormons believe anyway, and being able pass the questions on Catholic biomedical ethics, I am going to be a chaplain again.

I have accepted a position transfer at the hospital, and I start Monday morning, officially as a chaplain again – approved by the hospital and endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I send monthly reports (about me and my work and my family, not about patients) to the church, and get interviewed again in Salt Lake every October.  I will be starting an hour and a half earlier each day, so I can still be home with the children in the mornings but also get home in time to sleep. And I get weekends off, except a Saturday rotation every couple six weeks or so.

I will be serving the women’s floors, labor and delivery, nursery, and the NICU.  I will also help cover the ER and carry the on-call pager in the evenings, so I get to help with that work as well to balance things out.

The church told us three years ago this day would come, and it seemed impossible then.  We were already sacrificing so much for the children, and there have been times in the last three years that it seemed everything would fall apart (if I did).  But we endured, and did our best, and are coming through the other side just like we were promised.

Mostly, Nathan is very excited for me to get some sleep once in a while, and the children are very excited for me to be home again on the weekends.  I am excited to finally have Sundays off after these rough years.  I know that’s part of hospital life, having to take your turn on Sundays, but I will be glad to be back at church more.  I have missed it!

We brought the children this week to see my new office in Pastoral Care, and to check out the new chapel.  They are so anxious about any changes at all, and will do better now that they have seen where I will be.  They like to know where I am and that everything is okay.  I know their sweet evening prayers have saved me and comforted me and kept me sane and safe these hard years, and I am so grateful for their sweet love.

So tonight when I leave the hospital, it will be the last time I leave as part of the behavioral team.

When I come back to work on Monday, I will be a chaplain, just like that.

And on my first day there is a potluck right at lunch time when I come to work.

Because you know why?

Because that’s what chaplains do: they break bread.

In the Beginning

You guys, you guys!

Those who pre-ordered In the Beginning can finally start watching for shipment!

It’s officially released!

It will show up on Amazon in the next month or so, but in the meantime, everyone who pre-ordered will be getting their copy in the next week or so!

If you haven’t ordered yet, you can CLICK HERE to get it! It’s a look at the creation process and it’s application to everyday life, as a study guide with workbook type questions at the end for those who prefer some guided journaling or pondering prompts. We are so excited!

Resting Day That Wasn’t

This is my last two week stretch of working on the behavioral crisis team in the ER at the hospital. I work all weekend for the last time, allegedly, which makes today my only day off. That comes out to a lot of spreading me out to be sure everyone gets some one on one time.

It started with sweet Barrett, who has come so far and grown up so much this winter. He hasn’t been in any trouble this week, and I wanted to be sure and recognize that! He got to go out to breakfast and play at the indoor playground!

Then I spent the morning with Alex, who cheated on his homework while at the grandparents yesterday, and is today covered in rashes after going out to eat with them at a place he is allergic to because they add pancake batter to everything, even the eggs! How sad is that? So frustrating.

I also hung out with Kirk, who also cheated on his homework at the grandparents yesterday, but also lied about it. It’s so unlike him, and he took it hard when he was caught. He felt terrible, and it was so sad because he couldn’t undo it. It was too late.

He completely melted down, which was actually a relief because he does that about twice a year and was overdue. We let him take a break from his homework and go cry in his room, except because he was finally releasing some feelings, all of it came out. He and Mary both do that, work too hard at being good, and then fall apart completely a couple times a year.

Mary has already had her six month meltdown recently, so her week was fine! She’s doing great in school, and pulling ahead of the boys in almost every subject. That’s partly because she is so bright, but also because she is consistent. When they cheat and have to repeat things, she just keeps moving forward. When something is hard for her, she struggles until she has mastered it. She isn’t a girl who gives up!

We used her gift card to go out to lunch:

She always wants Mexican food on her dates. Barrett had his breakfast date, the boys were out of commission, and Nathan had also given Anber consequences for her behavior with the grandparents, so it was just us. We had all kinds of lovely girl talk, and I can’t believe how quickly she is growing up!

By the time we got back, Alex was actually finished and back on track. I was proud of him for getting through it instead of making it an all day drama. He was able to rejoin activities with everyone else, while I finished up with Kirk who had calmed down and was finishing his homework. We came full circle with both boys, and let the natural consequences be enough.

That meant that by afternoon, everyone was finished with homework and chores and consequences, and we could “increase in love” and all have a fresh start together.

That’s what playgrounds are for!

What they most needed, all of them, was to run and play and be free for awhile. It’s so good for them! They need it developmentally, and being that active cleans them out of cortisol – the stress hormone they all have too much of from all they’ve been through. Fresh air and sunshine and playtime can be as healing as anything.

And this girl just naps anywhere she wants.

Because when it’s not a good day, you still don’t want to miss out.

Nothing makes everybody better faster!

Even this boy felt better after some solid playtime!

And this boy proved himself to be a good big brother, playing with Kyrie the whole time she was actually able to try and play.

They are growing up so much so fast!

By the end of the day, we made it to the nacho playdough party! With all six children able to participate. Whew!

After everyone was showered and in pajamas and prayers said and half of them tucked in, the babysitter arrived right on time – and with cookie dough to bake with the other three.

Because now it was my turn to hang out with Nathan. Finally, Nathan, and a real date thanks to gift cards and helpers at home and one resting day in this long two week stretch. We will take it.