Wednesday, January 22, 2014


What do you think makes for a happy life?
Truth's not much.

Something to love.
Something to hope for.
Something to do.

Those are the "grand essentials" of happiness...if you have that, you are pretty much batting 1000.
Sometimes we go through times where we are out of balance:
I have too much to do and nothing to love.
My dreams feel out of "hope for" is a joke.
My "something to do" feels mind-numbing and monotonous.
But, the process of life forces us to find a way to make room for the big three.

And when we's magic...poof: happiness.

So, on this anniversary of the biggest decision of our courts to allow abortion to be legalized I want to ask all of you...
are we better off choosing death over life?

Does our world see the sacredness of life?
In our world of technology and amazing photography we can all clearly see that life in utero is most definitely going on in there.
We have fingernails and toes and full 3-D images that show perfect profiles of the children within.
Can we at least establish that the "clump of cells" concept is out dated?
That's no clump of cells...there's a full fledged human in there.

Now, that human might not be convenient.
It might be the object of very bad timing.
It might be born into poverty or sadness or a messed up world.
But what it takes to be a full-fledged human baby is so miraculous it deserves that chance.

With abortion, we've accepted the idea that life is a convenience.
We have swallowed the idea that some lives are worth living and others are not.
We've been enveloped in a world that takes the sacred and the holy out of conception and birth.

Anyone who has been witness to a birth knows that it is sacred ground.
A portal.
A passage from another world and into ours.

Shutting that down seems like an impossibility but the side that embraces abortion has done just that.

What are the odds that a baby will arrive in your life?
None of us know.
We can try and try and try and still be infertile.
We can have one child and be unable to have another.
We can have sex one time and find ourselves pregnant.

It's a crapshoot.
It always is.

And that's the beauty of it.

It's a leap of faith.
A crazy idea.
A wild, unbelievable blessing.

A miracle.

Yes, friends, a full-fledged miracle.
Healthy or not.
Poor or not.
Crack-addicted or not.


Out of the everywhere and into the here.

I have a child that the world views as disposable.
People have asked me "if I knew"...insinuating in the most despicable way (but always with the brightest smile and most interested face) that if I had known I might have chosen better...
I always answer that I did know -- in my heart, with the strongest premonition I've ever had -- but all of my tests came back 
all-clear.  Including my favorite one, the ultrasound where the technician pointed out all four chambers of Patrick's tiny baby heart, when in fact, he was born with no chambers and needed open heart surgery almost immediately.

Yes, I have a child that many, many people believe should be terminated...his life is too terrible, 
too burdensome, too much trouble to be allowed to breathe another breath.

Ummmm, not really.

Tonight, I had a regular old boring night.
I made breakfast for dinner.
Walked Caroline through the basics of borrowing in subtraction.
Found my son who is "disabled" more able than me with our TV system...finagling some way to watch You Tube on our TV?!?
Read books with both Patrick and Caroline before bed.
Listened to their prayers.
Cleaned up some dishes.
Procrastinated, yet again, on making lunches for tomorrow.

Not one time did I wish my son wasn't born.
Not one time did I watch him interact with his sister and think anything other than I wish they would stop annoying each other.
Not one time.

Babies are
My prayer is that some day our entire world can hold sacred every life:
the unwanted, the inconvenient, the disabled, the difficult, the very old and fragile.
Every life.

I don't believe any of this is a "choice".
Gifts that are given.
People waiting, just waiting, to rock your world...
one tiny baby footprint at a time.

Tonight, I am grateful for my children.
Grateful for all of the children I have been privileged to know and love.
I am also profoundly grateful for the gift of life...most especially my own.
Messy and funny.
Thank you God for this sacred time of being alive.
Man, is it beautiful.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why It Matters

When Patrick was in kindergarten we needed some sort of incentive that he was willing to work for.
  We needed a pay out.  
Since I didn't want an obese child, the pay out couldn't be candy.  
Who am I kidding, Patrick is not candy focused, he's all about the carb.  
He, for sure, would have worked for a fresh baguette every day but I just couldn't do that.  

So we brainstormed and perseverated and finally landed on the library.  
Patrick and I could go to the library every day after school if he had a happy face day.
Oh, those happy face days!  
That meant that Patrick had listened, worked hard and kept it together.  
It also meant that he came in from recess on his own -- a true trial for Patrick -- 
since he couldn't distinguish when his time was up. 
If he saw anyone on the playground, he thought it was his time to play too.

At first, going to the library was a big deal.  
We celebrated!  
We cheered.
We did the happy dance.
And then we waltzed right in and Patrick spent a delicious amount of time 
over the videos and DVD's,
like a guy named Patrick at a bakery filled with croissants and baguettes and other sourdough options.

He relished the moment.
He perused and paused and savored so many choices.
The library was his spot.

Like all favorite memories, the library still makes him happy but it's no longer something he works for.
His happy face days are the norm now.
The library is just a pit stop on our way to the park...or a place to go to directly if there's research for a school project involved.

And so yesterday I casually suggested that we go to the library while Caroline had basketball practice.
Since he is still known for his slow pace of perusal, I was a bit worried we might be cutting it too close.
But we gave it a try.

Like a salmon finding its place to spawn, without thought, he honed himself straight into the kids' section and started the monumental task of choosing a video.
It only took about 5 minutes and we were done.
He had nothing.

"So, what do you think?" I asked.
"I need the computer." he replied.
so big

He gets on the computer and types in his item: Macbeth.

He finds all sorts of options but zeroes in on a Macbeth video in the adult section...we repeat the call numbers to ourselves over and over as we cross through the library.
We find the Shakespeare section and attempt to locate the video.
My mind: tick tock, tick tock
I suggest that we can put in a request for it and he agrees.
We walk right up and talk to the librarian who happens to be a young guy -- 
note to self: when did that happen??

He says it should be on the shelf...he meanders over to the section with us, finds it for us  
(library newbs) and Patrick is smiling...fired up...for Macbeth???

We don't have time that night to watch the show.

So I wake up to my husband leaving for work and telling me, 
"Yeah, Patrick is fully dressed and watching Macbeth."

I come out a half hour later to check on Patrick and he's engrossed...
full middle English +Shakespearean drama + early morning = confused momma.  
I shake my head and keep my morning pace.

He comes out for breakfast asking questions.
"Who killed Macbeth?"
My mind needs simple gimme questions like, "Where's the toast?"
I do what all motley, sleepy, busy parents do...I tell him to Google it.

He does.
Fascinated he tells me that Macduff kills Macbeth -- 
because Macbeth had killed Macduff's wife and son.
I start to get interested.
I can't help it...
this whole weirdness is also super cool.
It starts to break through my early-morning mind fog: my kid is curious about Shakespeare?!?

I tell him that Macduff got revenge on Macbeth.  I ask him if he knows what that means.
He pauses and lets me continue...Macbeth gets killed because he killed other people...he had it coming.
He understands...and he reveals others that Macbeth has killed, Duncan and one other whose name I can't understand.

But here's what I do understand.
Talking to my 14 year old son about the plot of Macbeth in the early morning time before school was an unanticipated miracle.
My son has Down Syndrome.

The statistic most often given is that women who find out they are carrying a baby with Down Syndrome abort that baby 90% of the time.

I like to think that number is a little high...but if it's 75% or 50% it really doesn't matter.
Women are terminating their wanted pregnancies because of fear.
Because they don't think they will be talking Shakespeare to that child, ever.
Because they can't imagine someone with Down Syndrome being clever or funny or 
with dreams of their own.

Because all they know is mis-information.

My son is no "gifted and talented" child with Down Syndrome, trust me.  
But here's what he has had...access to the curriculum.
He's been fully included alongside his typical peers and exposed to rich literature, big ideas like 
social justice and freedom.  He's been in on class discussions and wrestled with morality.  
He's learned about the arts, history, science and math...just like any other kid at his school.

Once in awhile, his curiosity gets the better of him and he gets sucked in.
It happened when he had to do a big project about New York City in 5th grade.
It happened when he pretended to attend Apple Valley (a school set 150 years ago) in 3rd grade.
It happened with the Terra Cotta Warriors and with 6th grade science camp and music.
And now it's happened again with Shakespeare.

The problem with limited curriculum for people with cognitive disabilities is that we limit the menu.
I don't know if Patrick will become a vegetarian, passionate about mangoes or obsessed with granola.
Who am I to decide??
He gets introduced to new foods all the time...that's part of living.

It's the same in school.
People like Patrick deserve to have the same menu as anybody else.
We can't know what will intrigue or light the fire of anyone's mind -- people like Patrick most of all.
If you would have asked me if Patrick would love Macbeth, I would have guessed no.
I would have guessed wrong.

People like Patrick love learning; they light up with excitement when they figure it out.
Just like anybody else.

People like Patrick deserve more opportunities and more depth and more enrichment in school.
Because we can never guess or know what will touch their hearts and speak to their soul.
Their individual passion and interest is unpredictable and incongruous.
Just like every human on the planet.

So, yes, it matters if people like Patrick get to learn alongside their typical classmates.
Yes, it matters if opportunities are limited.
If the curriculum is watered down and dull.

No mind should be wasted.
Nobody should be denied.

We should all get the chance to hate Shakespeare...or in Patrick's case, love it.
It matters.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Seventh Heaven

Little girls in a nutshell.

Giggle and it down pat.

I've been hearing some new sounds around my house.
She whistles now.  Loud and clear.  Can even carry a tune.
I'll hear her whistling to herself...singing a song too.
It's breath-taking in its lack of self-consciousness.

She's seven.

And I don't care what people tell you about five, or six or even eight.
Seven rocks.

She is itching to play games.
She's an Old Maid card shark, that one.
I'd teach her poker but I'm pretty sure I'd lose my shirt.
She loves board games and counting up her money, saving up her get-out-of-jail free card and rounding the bend.

She's creative and sassy and funny and full of joy...bubbling, oozing, crazy joy.
She's tapped into that divine source, effortlessly, and I try to stand right by her just to rub shoulders with the source...
sometimes it works.


A reader.
A thinker.
A curious cat.

Asking questions.
Yesterday's: "Mom, when you go on your walk with Buddy, can you pick up that litter?
Me: Huh?
"I want to have this...and she points to a sticker that says "pick of the litter"."
(Our world is so confusing.  How do I explain that this litter is good and that the "pick of the litter" is the best of the bunch, regardless of the word's proximity to trash?)

I smile at her and try not to snicker.
"Oh baby, you definitely have the pick of the litter.  Buddy's the best."
Careful, trusting acknowledgement.  She knows.

On Sunday, we had a few minutes together with no one else around.
I asked her if she wanted to go out to lunch...but the enthusiasm was lackluster.
How about a tea party?

Eyes B.I.G.
Instant hug.


Houston, tea party it is.

So we made our egg salad sandwiches but improvised with tortillas -- we had run out of our delicious sourdough bread -- California problems.
We steeped our ginger peach tea.
We peeled baby oranges.
And found ourselves pausing and resting and truly being leisurely with our tea.
It's a little slice of heaven.

So tonight I'm grateful for the dancing, singing, twirling little girl that graces my days.
Grateful for her exuberant love of living in our amazing world...
where shoes can get tied, mouths can whistle and little girls finally learn 
how to flatten the gum just right to blow a bubble.

There are so many tricks to know.  So many games to play.
May we always stop to dance and sing.

Spinning, laughing dancing to
her favorite song...

Eyes wide open
Always hoping for the sun
And she'll sing her song to anyone
that comes along.

Fragile as a leaf in autumn
Just fallin' to the ground
Without a sound

Crooked little smile on her face
Tells a tale of grace
That's all her own

Spinning, laughing dancing to 
her favorite song...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Salt Water

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
--Isak Dinesen

For the last few days, this has been my view.  That isn't enhanced.  It isn't altered in anyway.  It was taken with an Iphone and the glory was captured in miniature...but the beauty is so stunning, it comes shining through without effort.

I'm at the beach.

I was born in Pensacola, Florida.  
As far as I can tell, I spent only a couple of years there and then moved around to various locales in Iowa, Illinois and finally California with my family growing up.  I attended college in California's central valley and have lived pretty much right around there my entire adult life...but I've always had a tug, a strong one thats just keeps getting stronger, pulling me like a magnet, to the ocean.

I've always loved the ocean -- enjoyed our honeymoon in Bermuda -- but never could explain its magic.

It was calming, soothing, refreshing, invigorating, beautiful but most especially healing.

When Patrick was sick with leukemia, he had 60+ days of no detectable white blood cells.
He was not hospitalized but he was house bound.
He could be around no one.
He was isolated and by association so was I.

At first it was no big deal...I wandered around with Patrick in my car and would find empty parks.  Zip him out of his car seat, let him swing and play by himself, and hop back in.  Usually that effort would wear him out and he would nap, I'd listen to music and I would muse on the starvation of the soul without connection to others.

I became acutely aware of the poison of solitary confinement.

I related to castaways alone on an island.

I felt imprisoned when truly the only prison was in my mind.

And then I stumbled on an idea...I could take Patrick to the beach.
While the other two were in school, I would pack a picnic, drive an hour and a half and head to a lonely strip of sand with Patrick.
The sea gulls would be our welcoming committee.
The waves our hometown band.
The sand and shell collecting and castles and other creations would be our distraction from white blood cell counts and the language of leukemia.

It worked.

Like some sort of alternate universe, at the beach, we were healing and whole.
We were refreshed and vitalized.
Baptized in a way.
Over and over again.

Slowly, those 60 days chipped away...Patrick's counts got better and he could be with humanity again.
Most especially, preschool!

We've visited the beach in good health and in celebration many times since.

But, when my mom got diagnosed with lymphoma and didn't want to deal with the horrible news...I headed to the beach.  I put on my same T-shirt, made my same picnic lunch but this time I had a little companion named Caroline and she made the joy of the beach all her own.

I can't explain it's majesty.

I try to think of people who are land bound and have never seen the surf:  
never felt the waves tickle your toes, bury them and reveal them all in one fluid motion.  
I try to imagine never knowing this healing balm but I can't.

I like to think that my beach connection was created at birth, on that panhandle long ago.

All I know is that when I am a marriage, in good times or in bad, in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, the beach is my steady companion, constant and unyielding, always comforting.

Its rhythm, its cleansing presence, its energy is now a part of me.

I'm getting closer and closer to finding a way...demanding a way... to stay here for bigger and bigger chunks of time.

It will take sweat and tears, I am sure...other gifts of salt water...but I am willing.

My new year's resolution: find new beaches.

I can only smile at the opportunity of 2014 and share my grateful heart.
Life is rich with ordinary magic.
Find yours.