Thursday, July 4, 2013

Setting the Record Straight

July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!! 
          Yesterday, my 12-year-old made me feel like a certified genius when he asked me, "Mom, does England have a 4th of July?" 
          Thinking this was a chance to put on my schoolteacher hat, (which is, admittedly, rather dusty) I replied, "No, honey. See, July 4th stands for-"
       "GOTCHA!!" he crowed. The hat slipped off my head. What? Huh? How...?
        "Mom" he said, in that tone of voice. "Every place has a 4th of July. They just don't call it Independence day! What, do you think England goes: July 3, July 5th?"
       Wow. Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader, please don't call me. 
        I had a conversation with God this morning that made me want to write to you. Now, my conversations with God are frequent, but they are also often one-sided. I HEAR His voice. I literally do. I just don't give Him a chance to speak that often. It goes back to that listening thing. But anyway...
         We had an answer to our prayers last night. And the angel whom God worked through would flip the Pope in his grave. A gay HIV+ man that we hardly know is giving us $5,000 to buy a new car. When Jared told me this over the phone, I was truly speechless. Then I laid down on the floor in the YMCA next to the climbing wall, and laughed and kicked my feet in delight. Not because of getting a new car, but because of how wonderful and appropriate the vessel is. Can you imagine what the traditional church would think if I told them that this type of man listened to God, and worked with Him to provide our needs? I can imagine the look on my ex-husband's face, and I'd almost give the full $5,000 just to see it!!
          So this morning, I'm thinking about it, and I'm awed and humbled by the way God works. No one can argue that God colors outside the lines! And the whole idea that He worked through a social and religious outcast just delights me. It would have been an awesome gift no matter who it came from, but it is just so perfect that it came from this man. So many would argue that, because of his lifestyle, he is miles away from God. Some would even go so far as to say God hates him, and that St. Peter put a lock on those pearly gates the minute this guy winked at the busboy. And yet here I sit, smiling at the thought of doing some car shopping with my baby boy, whose first--and sometimes only--conversation consists of, "Car! Car go! Car have tires?"
            At this point, God tapped me on the shoulder. "You know," He said gently. "I never asked that that guy fantasize about Halle Berry. I only asked that he be compassionate and generous to those in need."
           I focused. Instantly. So He continued. "I have never asked that you speak eloquently, and be full of witty comebacks, and always have the right thing to say. I only ask that you speak the truth in love and humility, offer comfort and encouragement, and give me the kudos when something great happens in your life."
          "I have never commanded you to be a size 10. I only ask that you look to me for your emotional needs instead to the ice cream carton."
           "I have never asked you to keep a spotless, Martha Stewart home. I only ask that you are welcoming and gracious to whomever steps inside your door."
           "I have never asked you to provide name-brand clothing or private flute lessons to your children. I only ask that you appreciate them for who they are, and let them know differences should be respected, not judged."
           It is magnificent and exciting to live in a country that offers us the freedom that we are celebrating today. But so many times, we fashion our own chains to wrap ourselves and other in, so we aren't really living in freedom at all. Our ancestors didn't fight so that hate groups can scream insults at a funeral. And Jesus didn't die so that we could live in a cage made of fear, self-condemnation, and hollow rituals. 
           He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. And because He did, the whole town came and heard the words of Jesus. He ate dinner with Zaccheus. And because He did, many many people got to see first-hand how Mercy and Truth can change someone's life. 
            This evening, I'm going to watch fireworks and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. (Okay, lip sync) And I'm grateful for the opportunities my country provides. But even more than that, I want to recognize and celebrate the freedom that Love brings. I'm going to rejoice that I can be free of bitterness, guilt, fear, and shame. Open the doors of your cage, people. He's handed you the key, and the lock is on the inside.   
           He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to deal justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.--Micah 6:8
          As always, He gets the last word! Love you guys!

Friday, June 7, 2013


June 7, 2013

             This past month has been pretty draining for both Jared and myself. One of the joys of AIDS is insomnia, which means that he sometimes goes more than 24 hours without being able to sleep. Guys, I love my husband. BUT. I don't think I need to say another word. I'm sure you get my drift!!
              We have also been playing a balancing game with our finances. Jared did get qualified for SSD, but it won't start til October. When it does, our money situation will be amazing! We will be able to actually PAY our BILLS!!! I know, it sounds sooo exciting!! October is the promised land, people. Onward, ho!!
               There's a travel-related saying that you may have heard: "getting there is half the fun." No. It's not. It's not even 1/4 of the fun! Yet there's another saying, this one for anything we make our kids do: "It builds character." This one, I think, is true. This past week, I had an experience that left me with that warm delightful feeling you get when you try on your skinny jeans and they fit. Here's what happened:
         For as long as I can remember (and I'm talking toddlerhood), I have wanted to be someone else. I never felt adequate just being little ole me. For reasons I won't go into, I joined the comparison game very early on in life, and played it with all my heart. It's a vicious game, as I'm sure you know, and there aren't ever any winners. I realized that about 6 years ago, and have been struggling to break free of that mindset ever since. 
          Since the divorce, my ex-husband has moved into a neighborhood where people are very well-off, and appearance is crucial. He has always been materialistic, wanting the biggest and the best of everything, while I'm more of a thrift store and yard sale girl myself. Normally, I love my bargain hunting lifestyle, but when I'm forced to attend an event on his turf, I start feeling like the ugly duckling in the midst of a feathery beauty pageant. I can't actually PROVE that they are all looking me over, and shaking their heads in pity, but they are. I just know it. And I feel so small and less-than. It's awful! I hate it!
            So the other day I was driving to one such event, cringing inwardly because the baby had rubbed graham cracker across my left shoulder, and I hadn't gotten all the smears out. I was thinking how stupid it was that a trivial little thing like that could ruin my confidence, when I was smacked by a mental bolt of lightening! IT DOESN'T HAVE TO.  I am a warrior, going through some very hard stuff, and if those snooty-snoots knew the details, they'd put their hand on that sticky shoulder and hug me. And we'd probably cry together, and start swapping stories about our kids.  
           I also had the epiphany that IT'S OKAY THAT THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND. I live in a different world than they do. I don't know what it's like to be them, and they don't know what it's like to be me. I've never vacationed on a cruise in the Bahamas, and they've never lived with AIDS. I don't need to feel like I fit into their world, and I don't need to hang my head in shame because mine doesn't sparkle like theirs does. 
                This might seem like a D'oh thing to some of you, and that's okay. Ultimately, it's an epiphany we all need to have, and if some of you have already "gotten it", that's great. But there is a HUGE difference between "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge" and the bridge that connects them is sometimes one of those rickety rope kinds with boards missing. That evening, I realized that my harshest judge was probably myself anyway, and I lifted my head with a smile, and told myself to SHUT UP! I attended the event with as much grace and dignity as I had available to me, cared for my children, supported my son in his competition, and smiled without insecurity at anyone who looked at me. It was a good feeling, let me tell you. Thank you, AIDS, for reminding me that I am strong.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

May12, 2013

         I'm sitting in my dark, quiet living room enjoying a cup of coffee that is mostly flavored creamer. In just a short while, I'll drive 20 miles across town to pick up my children so we can spend Mother's Day together. I've got some fun activities planned, and my camera ready, and I'm sure it's gonna be a special day. 
          Before I absorb myself in being a Mother, however, I'd like to spend a few minutes explaining why this Mother's Day is so significant to me. I'd like to define what I'll be celebrating. 
          This ties in to the topic of my last post: honoring dreams. In that post, I mentioned that I had no idea what truly lies at the bottom of my lake. Something HUGE came to the surface a couple days ago, and if it's alright, I'd like to share it with you, and pay my respects.
            Several years ago, my first marriage shattered in a brutal, heartwrenching way. It had been dying for a long time, but it didn't go peacefully, and it's last moments were sheer agony. In the months that followed, I shoved much of my grief and hurt to the side, and concentrated on looking forward. My big focus was the three children that I left with my ex-husband, and the baby I was carrying inside me. My goal was simple: get on my feet and get stable enough to petition the judge for shared custody. I wanted to live in the same school district they are in so I could ask for a week with me, a week with their dad. 
            Over the last couple of years, this goal has been challenged at every turn. Financially, there have been multiple setbacks, and I've struggled deeply with the feeling that I've failed them. Yes, I'm in their lives. I'm close enough that they can come and stay with me for weekends, and I can make it to school programs and special events. But in my mind, it's not enough. I spent months convincing them that, just because I left their father I wasn't leaving them. They seem to have healed from that, but I just realized that I never did. 
              When the screen door slammed 3yrs and 2 weeks ago, more died than just my marriage. My identity as a mother died too. Not that I wasn't still their mom, but what that meant to me; how I defined myself and my role, that died. In the slam of a door, I went from being a full-time mom who was there to dry every tear, listen to every story, and schedule every dentist appointment, to being a "sometimes mom" who would pray fervently that her oldest daughter doesn't start her cycle until it's my weekend so I can support and guide her. 
               When my son was born, I worried that my other three would resent him for getting to be with me all the time. I have wobbled back and forth on a tightrope of guilt and sadness that I am not the mom to them that I'm "supposed to be", and confusion and self-loathing that when they are here, it's loud and messy and just plain exhausting to be the mother of four. I've berated myself time and again for loving the silence that settles over the car after I've dropped them back at their dads'. I've wondered what's wrong with me, that I get worn out after a weekend, when other moms, real moms can handle it 24-7.
                Jared's recent diagnosis of AIDS has added some new ingredients to the concoction. First, there is a tangible reason to be thankful that my custody dream hasn't come to fruition. See, if there is one person who can't EVER know about this, it's my ex. He will hit the stratosphere if he knows that his children are around someone with AIDS, and he won't come down. He will allow fear, rumors, and his own opinions to consume any shreds of common sense, and he will do everything in his power to take the kids away from me completely. There will come a time when Jared is feeling better and AIDS isn't center stage in our lives. But right now it is, and it would be impossible to keep it a secret from the kids if they were here day in and day out. 
               Then there's this. My three older kids didn't resent their new brother, in fact they adore him! Never has a little boy been so spoiled as when he has three older siblings fussing over who gets to play with him! It has been such a joy to watch them love on him. But because there is a significant age gap, and because they aren't here all the time, Jared and I wanted another one. I had a wonderful relationship with my siblings, and I want that for my baby too. Someone close enough in age to hide in forts with, share toys get the idea. 
                With the miracle of my negative HIV test, another dream died. The blood test that would confirm my immunity is thousands of dollars, and not covered by insurance. Jared and I are in awe at God's blessing of protection on me, but we are not willing to take risks. So here is something I have learned. Many times, when a woman experiences a miscarriage, or can't get pregnant, or the adoption doors slam shut, people don't understand the depth of her loss. When Mrs. Dugger recently lost her (18th) pregnancy, I heard comments like, "She's too old to be having kids anyway." "She already has too many." And you know what? Those comments made me mad! And I cried for her. Because if there is one thing I do understand, it's that mothers hold their babies in their hearts long before they hold them in their arms. There are physical miscarriages. Those are heart-wrenching. And there are emotional and spiritual miscarriages. And those are equally heart-wrenching.
                Although I believe this, I have struggled with how to grieve this baby-who-won't-be. And in the struggle, God showed me something. It's not enough to let that dream die. I also need to acknowledge the death of the Mother I thought I should be. The Mother I wanted to be. Who I was as a mother to my children died on the driveway the day I left. But instead of grieving those dreams and expectations, I have been lugging them around with me, day after day. As a new mamma tries to emerge, I hold her up to the ghost of the old one, and criticize her for being different. I look at the other mammas around me, and hang my head in shame that I'm not that kind of mamma anymore. I freely give grace and understanding to other women who get tired of noise and mess, but I won't give that grace to myself because my way of being a mamma is different than theirs, and in my tortured soul, that is the only good kind of mamma there is!
                 So. All this nasty stuff came floating to the surface last week. I listened to this song: and I cried. I finally cried because I'm not the mother I wanted to be. But in those tears came release. It's okay! God has this facet of my life in His hands as well. He knew how my decision to leave would impact the kids. He knew all of the doors that would close as I tried to make my life the way I thought it should be. He knew my heartache and anguish, and as I allowed myself to cry for that dead mamma, the guilt and the heaviness washed away.
            I replayed the song, and as it finished a second time, a peace that I thought I would never have settled over me. New mamma timidly lifted her head, and for the first time, I smiled at her through my tears. She is worthy. She is enough. She loves my children fiercely. She answers the phone when they want to tell her about their day at school, even if she was just about to watch X-files. She shows up at school conferences, arranges testing for a struggling kiddo, makes all the phone calls, and sees the process from beginning to end. She teaches them how to shave their armpits, buys them female supplies, and sings dumb songs with them even when her head hurts. Her job, any mamma's job, is not to dictate the path her children travel. It's to cheer them on, take their hands when they reach out for support, and show them how to see God in whatever they face. 
              So this Mother's Day, I am celebrating being a new mamma. I am wiping away a tear for the Mother I thought I would be, and I am laying her to rest. She's gone. And it's a little sad. She was a good mamma. But my children don't need a shame-filled woman who can't accept her unique contributions. And, my sweet, beautiful, friend, neither do yours.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Casualties of the Storm

May 9, 2013

            I'm going to ask you to stop and listen to a song for a moment. It's just a short little song, but the message is SO powerful. Here it is.

              Amazing, isn't it? Tell me you didn't cry. I had never seen the video that plays along with it, so I cried too. Especially...well, no, there was no especially. Every image was potent and represented something significant to me.
              This post has been sloshing around inside me for a long time now. I thought I was just putting it off so I didn't have to feel unpleasant, but I know better now. I wasn't ready to share my heart on this topic until I realized what is actually in my heart. Because what I knew was just the tip of the iceberg. There are things inside me that I had no idea were there. I had no idea
             When an intense storm hits an area, there are often casualties. People who didn't hear the warning. Or heard it and couldn't-or wouldn't-heed it. Sometimes people die saving someone else. These people are acknowledged as heroes, but their families, the people who loved them, are just casualties of the storm.
               Life storms produce casualties too, but unfortunately, for many reasons, these casualties often don't get the recognition and honor they deserve. I'm talking about hopes, dreams, and plans that get uprooted and swept away. Many times, we minimize their loss, especially--and please understand, I'm not picking on anyone here! But especially Christians, with their "count your blessings" mentality. We are led to believe that if we have something to be thankful for, we have no right to gripe about what we don't have. It's good to count your blessings. I do really believe in that. But I'm going to paint a picture for you of what can happen if we don't pay tribute to our lost dreams.
                This is a vision that God gave to me a few years ago. It's very vivid, so I apologize in advance for any stomachs I turn. Imagine a lake that looks calm and clear on the surface. If you want to totally get into this imagery thing, add some beautiful trees, plants, and maybe some mountains in the background. These represent the beauty in your life. The blessings. With me so far? Okay, good. Now.
               Imagine that somebody throws a bunch of dead bodies into that lake. Some are people, some are animals; all are newly dead. They hit the water with a splash and sink quickly out of sight. The ripples slosh against the shore for a minute and then everything settles into its peaceful state once again. There is no discernable difference. Not yet.
            As time goes by, however, those bodies begin to rot. Bits of decaying flesh drift throughout the water. Bacteria thrives, and before too long, the lake is contaminated. It may look the same on the surface, but drinking or even swimming in the water can make you deathly sick.
            The same principle applies to our souls. If broken dreams aren't brought to the surface, honored, and released, they decay inside of us and contaminate the essence of our spirit. In order for life and health to flow through us, we have to regularly "dredge the lake" and eliminate the longings, however small, that died an untimely death.
           So that is my wisdom for you today, my friend. Dredge your lake. Allow yourself to mourn. It may be a letter written to that child you never had, a song or a poem that puts words to your feelings. I have a sweet friend who planted a flower for each of her miscarried babies. I think I'm going to try making a scrapbook of images that represent the wishes and hopes that were taken from me. And one final note: performing this process will NOT detract from the beauty of the blessings around you. You can look up from your lake and still appreciate the trees, flowers, and mountains. I guess it's just one of those funny things about life, that pain and beauty can exist in the same breath, and we can smile through our tears.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Forty Days and Forty Nights

May 03, 2013

      Nearly everyone in the universe knows the Bible story of Noah's Ark. We're all familiar with the pictures of animals going up the wooden ramp two by two, or floating about on the water with giraffe heads sticking out the top. We discuss whether dinosaurs could have been on the Ark, and seriously, why were cockroaches allowed to board? If I were Mrs. Noah, I think I would have accidentally forgotten to watch where I stepped! 
         It isn't very pleasant to think about the people who didn't get their heavenly cruise tickets. but just imagine with me, for a moment, what it must have been like when the clouds rolled in and those first drops fell. See, up to that point, it had never rained! And Genesis says the skies "broke open"! What did they think? What did they say? Someone invented the first umbrella that day. Too bad they don't get any credit!
         Now let's switch scenes to the floating zoo. I can't even begin to fathom what those first couple days were like! The noise, for one thing! Did the animals wander around freely, or were they penned into stalls? Where did Mrs. Noah do her cooking? How did they keep the animals out of the people food supply? (There's that cockroach question again!) And who got the honor of "pooper scooper"? The chaos must have been overwhelming! At first.
         Eventually, however, things must have settled down. Some sort of routine developed, and the novelty began to wear off. After all, it rained for forty days and nights. And then they floated around for another year waiting for things to dry off. What did they talk about? What did they do? They didn't even have Monopoly or Full House reruns! Even in the midst of a mighty move of God, surely there were thoughts of, "Are we there yet?" and "When I get off this boat, the first thing I'm gonna do is..."
           We are in the forty days and nights stage. Since AIDS became a part of our life, there have been specialist visits, a hospitalization, applications, phone calls, interviews, and out-of-state company. Most of that has tapered off, and we are left trying to find the balance between pretending it all isn't there, and letting it consume us. And I have to confess, I'm feeling a little whiny. Is he gonna feel this way forever? Do you even know how long it's been since there's been any bedroom action? Am I destined to have my home decorating theme be "pharmacy"? I'm ready for it to stooopppp rraaiiinninngg!!!
                As weird as this sounds, I am proud of myself for feeling this way. I know, I need to explain! See, as long as I can remember, I've always worn rose-colored glasses to look at life. My mother used to say I was her PollyAnna baby. While this outlook is nice in theory, the yang to the ying is that I end up developing expectations. This is the way life should work. This is the way I should feel. And since life doesn't often take my opinion seriously (what's with that anyway?), I'm left with two choices: bitterness or denial. I've opted for denial, ignoring or minimizing unpleasant emotions. So recognizing and allowing them is kinda grown-up for me!
            I guess one lesson God wants me to learn right now is: Wherever you are, be there. Don't dance around the pain, or paste a plastic smile on your face. Find a way to acknowledge it all, and don't be afraid. It will pass. In fact, it WON'T pass unless you DO experience it! Respect your soul by listening to everything it has to say, and somehow, somewhere, find someone else who will listen. It's only by leaning into the wind that we weather the storm. I think that if we minimize pain, we are limiting God. Telling Him to use His "nice" voice. His "inside" voice. I never thought of it that way before, but it makes sense.
          I don't want to end this with some wise, superior words of advice. I just want to open my arms and heart to whoever is reading this and tell you that you are beautiful. Every part of you, even the parts with scars or open wounds. I see the beauty in you, and slowly, I will learn to see the beauty in myself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


April 15, 2013

   Welcome to anyone who is just joining my story. By now, some of you have been sent my friend requests. I created this blog for several reasons. One is purely selfish. Writing helps me make sense of things. My old journals used to be 10+ pages per entry. I have destroyed most of them. There are parts of who I was that just don't need to be acknowledged anymore!
    The second reason is because there are wonderful people in my life who care about how I'm doing and want to know where I'm at. I need that. I need you. But it gets exhausting explaining the same thing over and over. I don't know if any of you read that link on my first post to the spoon theory, but I don't have a lot of spoons right now, so I'm holding the ones I've got pretty carefully.
   Last, I am hoping that if I can ever make this blog public, it might bring encouragement and support to other people who are dealing with life. At first I was gonna say "sickness". But that's too narrow. Like saying, "tornado survivors" or "flood victims". It just feels like it leaves people out. And since storms aren't selective, I don't feel like I should be either.
      So let's get everyone caught up. In November, my husband Jared started coughing. So badly that he lost his job at TMobile, because he couldn't be on the phones. The cough got worse and worse, and nothing the doctor gave him would help. Then he started getting other weird stuff, like thrush, and a rash that only babies and old people get. Our doctor, who is an amazing woman, decided to do some tests on his immune system. On March 11, 2013, the skies broke open. He is HIV+.
       Our doctor told me later that she struggled with how to give him the news. She didn't want to call him into the office or tell him over the phone because she didn't know if he would be able to contact me, and she hated the idea of him having to be alone with the news. But one of the amazing "God things" about all this is that he and I were working for the same company, even though we were contracted through different agencies. So when she called him, all he had to do was sign off the phone and come over to my office.
       I don't remember very much about the conversation we had. I remember hugging him and telling him, "We'll get through this." We didn't talk very long. I work with business taxes, and March 15 is their deadline. We had to get back on the phones. Like I said in my first blog, life has to go on.
       I DO remember how I felt, for that day and the week following. Fear like I had never experienced soaked me to the bone. Not for myself. I immediately took it without saying that a positive Jared meant a positive me. But the baby! What about the baby? If I was infected when I carried him, he was positive too, right? That's how it works. And my other kids! Had they been exposed? Oh My God! My daughter had helped mop up my blood the week before when I sliced open my hand with a kitchen knife! She. Touched. My Blood! What did that mean?
        In situations like that, time becomes surreal. Every heartbeat is a prayer. I don't know anything about those next 5 days. I woke up. I did the dishes. I went to work and told people that they can't file MI business returns if they don't have any fancy credits. I functioned. But I'm not sure how, because I know I didn't breathe.
        On Thursday, the baby and I went in and had labwork. The lab people at the pediatrician told me I could get the baby's results in about 24 hours. I was also receiving a follow-up exam to see if I still was at risk for cancer. The doctor asked me how I was doing, and told me how she had worried about telling Jared. I thanked her for her concern. I assured her I wasn't mad at him. That I would support him through anything that was coming. She commented on how strong I was, but she didn't know-couldn't know-that I wasn't strong. I just hadn't been lashed by the wind yet. I was waiting to break.
       She informed me the bloodwork wouldn't come back for a few days. She told me with that head-tilt-sympathetic look that told me she was already confident of the results for me. I think she expected more response than she got. I'm pretty sure she hugged me, and I know I thanked her for everything. The baby went to daycare, and I went to work. I smiled at my coworkers, and joked with my clients. I did a good job. No one but me heard the second hand ticking so loudly as those 24 hours passed.
        Friday was March 15. I recall giving myself a pep talk as I prepared for work that morning. Something along the lines of, "Everyone on the phones today is going to be rushed and stressed. Don't take it personally. Don't get intimidated. They don't hate you, they hate their jobs. Just focus on one call at a time and you can do this!' 
          The lines were flooded, as I expected. So I was on the phone with a client when Jared came up to my desk. He stood there for a minute, and then grabbed a sticky note and started writing. He did this pretty often, when he has a  question about efiling. When he set the pad in front of me, I glanced down at it, but the message didn't compute. NEG? What??? What kind of efile question was THAT? He must have seen my confusion because he grabbed the pad back and scrawled, "Negative!"  oh. OH!!! The baby was negative!! They had called Jared instead of me! 
         Tears flooded my eyes as a thousand lb. weight lifted from my chest. The client on the phone continued rambling about his bonus depreciation adjustments, and I continued responding. But inwardly I was floating out of my chair with fireworks exploding around me and the entire host of heaven singing "hallelujah!" Yes, the storm still raged. Yes, there were still some very hard things to come. But at that moment, I felt warm for the first time since the storm broke. And I breathed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Storm Warning

March 12, 2013

         Experts have suggested that people under tremendous stress can create alternate personalities to help them cope with unresolved trauma. I wonder, would they have such issues and need so much medication if they could just use the internet and create a new personality for themselves in the virtual world? Who knows-maybe the cure for Multiple Personality Disorder is literally right at our fingertips!
        Well, I'm not sure if I can convince the panel for the American Medical Association, but I've decided that I'm going to be the lab rat for this theory. Because that's what I am. A second personality. My name isn't real, but my heart is, and the life that I will be sharing with you on these pages is brutally real. I have to do it this way. I have to protect myself and everyone I love. But I am carrying a secret that is going to kill me, and there is no way, just no way I can carry it alone. We weren't meant to, you know. Carry our secrets alone. Maybe that's another cure for MPD. Good friends. I better be careful or the pharmaceutical manufacturers might come looking for me!
      Satellite images and dopler radar allow us to track the movement of clouds and predict the arrival of storms up to the hour. I saw a report on the weather channel recently where they were showing all the possible scenarios of snowfall for the Northeast, just by modifying one tiny little piece of input. It was impressive, and pretty vital, because the difference in a few little numbers can give people time to prepare and prevent them from being stranded somewhere when the storm hits.
      Have you noticed our personal storms don't work that way? We don't get that kind of tracking device, I mean. We just wake up, drink our coffee, and go about our day, never suspecting that in a matter of hours our whole world will be changing. There we are, debating whether to get cheap dog food or name brand, when the phone rings. And just like that, the storm begins.
      Another difference about weather storms and real life; when a physical storm hits, there is evidence all around you. Wind lashes the trees, rain pelts the rooftops, and snowburies everything. Not so with personal storms. Very very often, there is no outward indication that our lives are turned inside out. The dog still needs us to make that dog food decision. People still need to wear clean clothes, so the laundry still has to be done. At work, there is laughter, small talk, and the same responsibilities that existed yesterday. And although none of those things deserve the priority that the did yesterday, life has to go on.
     The thing is, it's exhausting to act normal when you aren't. When a storm hits in the physical world, we stop. We drive slowly, or we stay home. Schools delay or close. Businesses shut down. Flights are cancelled. I know that if a genie popped out of a bottle and granted me three wishes, my first one, no contest, would be a magical pause button. It wouldn't mess up anyone else's life, but it would allow me the peace and time I need to process.
    Since I haven't found a genie yet, (and I've rubbed every bottle I've encountered, believe me! The closest thing that I got was a Diaper Genie, probably from rubbing my son's baby bottle!) I guess we have to construct our own shelters. We have to ration our energy, both physical and emotional, wisely. For instance, I have some serious researching to do. I need to know facts, choices, and available resources. So I guess I'm not gonna show up on Facebook for awhile. Or volunteer for the nursery duty in church like I've been doing. Please understand, I still care. I recognize the importance of your needs, your mission, your responsibility. Please don't be offended if I don't take your calls for a few days, or ignore the fact that your daughter is selling girl scout cookies. If you knew, you'd understand. I know you would.
           So the survival message that I offer you today is this. Take shelter. Find areas in your life that you can close off for a bit. Maybe you can't quit your job, but you can stop volunteering for overtime. You certainly don't want to be rude to your customers and coworkers, but it's okay to hang a "Do not Disturb" sign on your office door for 1/2 an hour so you can close your eyes and just breathe. Cancel appointments that aren't crucial. Let the kids watch an extra half hour of tv so that you can unwind.
And don't berate yourself for things that you forget because your mind is elsewhere. Or don't have the energy to do because managing your emotions has taken all your strength. Order pizza, grab McDonalds, eat on paper plates. You wouldn't judge yourself if you were handling a physical storm. Give yourself the same love and grace for the inner storm. The rain may not soak your hair, but it is hammering your soul. The wind may not lash your face, but it is buffeting your mind, threatening to blow away your sense of peace, hope, and security. Someone wise and dead once said that it is better to do a few things well, than most things poorly.
       I'm going to include a a link to a wonderful story, written by a beautiful woman with tremendous insight. Sometimes, when I read stuff like this, I think that angels speak through people. Stories like this are so helpful to me. They make me feel like someone handed me an umbrella, or at least a towel to wipe my face and glasses. The purpose of sharing my story like this is to be an umbrella to someone else. When the power goes out, and someone else has candles or a flashlight, people band together for support and shelter. So if this is the path that life has set me on, I'm going to find any opportunity for good that I can. The Spoon Theory
             I don't know who is going to read my blog. And they may not even be impacted by what I say. But perhaps one of the links I share will lead them to truth, hope, and support. That's all I really want; is to take something that doesn't make sense or seem useful, and turn it into something that blesses my life and the lives of anyone who takes my outstretched hand.
              I have to leave now. My two-year-old son and I both have doctor appointments this morning to get bloodwork done. Mine would be a miraculous scientific anomaly if it were negative. I know that. But please be gentle with me today. Because I won't be able to breathe until a few days from now, when I know if my sweet precious baby has HIV.