I Don’t Have to Worry

Ryan and I as Marvin and Tammi

I worry about my son because that’s what moms do.  

But my worries extend beyond the usual parenting worries.  I worry about how my son is being impacted and affected by my invisible disability.

I struggle each day with being honest about my levels of pain and fatigue, because I also don’t want to shortchange Ryan or frighten him in any way.  It’s not his fault that I hurt.  But “this” (my medical condition) is a part of our life.  And most likely always will be.

Ryan often reaches out a hand to help me when he sees me struggling to stand up.  He knows, and has known for years, about the bottles of medication on the kitchen counter.  In fact, when he was just a toddler he popped a small piece of cucumber in his mouth and chewed and swallowed it with a glass of milk, telling me he was taking his medicine just like mommy.  It broke my heart.  

But I’d like to think that my son is also being raised to look at people with increased levels of compassion, patience, and acceptance.  I hope that my struggles show Ryan that all people struggle with something, even if it isn’t initially apparent.  At the same time, I hope I’m also teaching Ryan resilience and tenacity, and that there are many different ways of demonstrating bravery, courage, and strength.

Still I worry.

And then my son will do something that will totally blow me away, will fill my heart with love and pride.  And I’ll breathe a little easier, knowing that Ryan is alright; in fact, that he’s more than alright.

When Ryan was a little guy, we would often sing along to songs on my computer, using kitchen utensils as “microphones.”  We still sing all the time.  In the car, in the house, in the market.  But for the last month or so, Ryan and I have again been regularly performing one of our favorite duets, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” I love that it’s still fun for my almost-11-year-old to sing with his mom.  And I love that this is one of our favorite songs to sing together.

Because really that is the message I want Ryan to grow up learning.  That we are a family.  We’re in this together.  

“If you need me, call me 

No matter where you are

No matter how far don’t worry, baby

Just call my name 

I’ll be there in a hurry

You don’t have to worry

‘Cause baby there 

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Ain’t no valley low enough

Ain’t no river wide enough

To keep me from getting to you, babe.”

And, if you haven’t seen the 1998 film Stepmom with Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts, click here to see a fun scene featuring a family sing-along of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” 

 

Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’

My curious son and I, on the observation area of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. June 2018 (I climbed all the stairs!)

“What does the doctor do with all the blood after they check it?”

My son once asked me that question.  It took me by surprise and caught me off guard, because it was something I had never considered.  

It’s not the only good question Ryan has asked me over the years.  There have been so many I wrote a personal essay about them.  And I’m proud to say that “Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’: Talking to My Son About My Autoimmune Disease” is now a non-fiction finalist in the Pen 2 Paper Disability-Focused Creative Writing Contest.

Click here to read my essay, and this year, readers may vote for their “audience favorite.” (You must have a free Submittable account to vote).  

Thank you in advance for reading and spreading the word!

 

My Confession About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

In my 4th grade classroom, preparing for Back-to-School Night. 2006

I have a confession to make.  I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom.  I was a teacher before my son was born, and I planned on being a teacher after my son was born.

At least, that was my plan.

But for those of you who read my blog and know me, plans started to change in 2010 when I became ill.  They really changed in 2013 when I retired from my twelve-year teaching career. 

There is a lot to read about the difficult decision to become a stay-at-home mom or the equally-difficult decision to return to the workplace.  But I didn’t find a lot to read about moms who become stay-at-home moms when it wasn’t their choice.  And as much as I love my son, as much as I feel lucky to take him to school each day and pick him up each afternoon, being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t my choice.

You can click here to be re-directed to mother.ly and read my recently published essay, “I Never Planned To Be a SAHM – To Be Honest, I’m Still Adjusting.”

 

Playing in Pain

The other afternoon, my son and I played hopscotch.

That was after we had played handball.

There are a few details that make those statements more meaningful than they may initially appear.

First off, in our neighborhood, we don’t see many parents outside playing with their kids.  Where we live, kids are left to wander on their own.  Most of the families near us are not only-child families like ours so often times siblings play together, or neighboring kids play together.  But the other day, we were the only ones outside enjoying the sunshine so I was my son’s playmate.

Secondly, neither hopscotch or handball are easy sports for me to play.  Me, the woman with an autoimmune disease, the woman who qualifies for a disabled placard, the woman who experiences pain in her legs (primarily the left leg).

But my son wanted to play.  And I wanted to play with him.  So I did, until I just couldn’t.  Until I was balancing on one foot, bending down to pick up the rock from the hopscotch square, and pain began to shoot up and down my leg a bit.  Then I had to sit the rest of the game out, and cheer on my son while he played alone.

That part hasn’t gotten any easier for me — knowing when to stop and knowing when to say “I can’t do this any more.”  Because I do want to play with my son, and because I realize how special it is that my ten-year-old still wants to play with me. 

Our afternoon playtime session got me thinking about a personal essay I wrote a few years back that was published at muthamagazine.com.  Click here to read, “The ‘A’ Word: Parenting with an Invisible Disability.”

 

My Son

Ryan and Grandpa a.k.a. My son and My dad at the King Tut Exhibit

Last month, my family visited the King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibit at the California Science Center.  While we marveled at the artifacts (many of which have never left Egypt before), my ten-year-old son, Ryan, kept focusing on King Tut’s young age when he became ruler of Egypt.  King Tut was only nine years old, earning him the nickname “Boy King.” 

We joked with my ten-year-old son that he was a year behind.  Actually, I think Ryan is a great mix of innocent, little boy and mature, young man.  But in many ways, I fear that my illness has somewhat colored his childhood, prompting him to have experiences and knowledge I didn’t have when I was his age (and younger).

Because Ryan only knows me as I am now — a mommy who has an illness, whose legs often hurt, who takes a lot of medicines, and who sees the doctor fairly regularly.

It got me thinking of a personal essay I wrote last year for www.Mother.ly. Click here to read, “My Son is Already Becoming My Caretaker – And It’s Both Heartbreaking and Inspiring.”

Looking Beneath the Surface

When you first look at the picture above, all you see is a lush, green hanging plant.  But if you looked inside, if you looked down at the soil that is hidden by the leaves, you’d find more than a plant.  You’d find a bird sitting on her nest.  And in that nest, if the bird flew away, you might get lucky to spot the baby birds in there.

A week or so ago, we discovered the nest when I was watering our plants.  I accidentally startled the mama bird, and after she flew away, I saw four small eggs tucked into the nest.

Those eggs have hatched, and now this plant on our back patio is home to a bird family.

Yet when you first walk by, all you see is this plant.  “Our” bird family is hidden.  Just like my autoimmune disease.

It’s funny how the mind works, but discovering this nest, listening to “Tweet Tweet” (my son’s name for the mama bird), has got me thinking about a piece I wrote for MUTHA Magazine. Click here to read my personal essay, “Can Acknowledging My Weakness Actually Be a Sign of Strength?”