Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love Letter to Meghan...

Meghan week comes to an end...

I love a good love letter...

This one is for my sweet and beautiful niece Meghan.  I have never been more honored as I was this year, when I stood behind her as her Confirmation Sponsor.  She spent the last week with Team Fergie, and she knocked my socks off with her faith, her love and her honesty.  This letter is to her, but I share it here because I hope it leads you to an opportunity to openly love the people closest to you... And I can't help but share, because, well I love her so very much...

A little background:

Meghan lives with her mom and older and younger brothers.  Jen, my sister in law, is one of my longest friends. We met for the first time when her mom was my third grade teacher and we became very close friends in high school.  Jen and I have been through the joys and struggles of a faith filled life. We are godparents to some and aunts to all our combined five children.  And when you share a lifetime of wonderful moments you also share the difficult ones too. Like when she ended her marriage to my brother. Jen handled the entire experience with the grace and love that emanates from her whole being.  Of all the women who love me and I'm blessed to know, I don't know any that are better, more loving, faith filled then my Jen. She is a gift. So it's no wonder that her sweet girl would be just as wonderful.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Dearest Megs,
I have had the loveliest week with you. Last Sunday, Uncle Jeffrey and I loaded the Beauties into the stinky Mini-Van and road tripped a couple hours to "borrow" you for what we called "Meghan Week" .  We grabbed you so you could experience a week as a Ferguson, but more selfishly so that I could have some high quality one-on-one time with you.

You want some "exquisite everyday moments?", let me tell you my cup is overflowing. You are exquisite my lovely, absolutely exquisite.

Meghan, as women of faith, some of the hardest decisions are the ones that seem so counter to what we have grown-up learning, but they can be exactly what God is calling us to do! You learned that lesson when you saw your parents' marriage end. It is ever so painful, when we experience that type of loss. But, we have to understand that even in the toughest of life's challenges, the beauty of God is present, waiting and open to loving us in all the foolishness and messy.

So as I sit her reflecting on Meghan Week, I learned something about myself--I had received a gift that the Spirit clearly sent just for me. Last week (in my blog) I shared this quote about Norah:

"As she lives with my chronic disease, she has been honing her skills from an early age. This is how you frame life's horrible truths. You realize that someone else will benefit from your struggle. We are paying it forward in the most unorthodox manner."

I learned that I too was "paying it forward", that my pilgrimage to date, had some very real experiences that I could share with you and only you.  What I learned, is that for all of the blessings in my life, I have also had moments of pain and disappointment, like most people. Our sweet chats, gave me the chance to share my truth, my silly stories from my high school adventures, and my big picture ideas for this world we live-in. You patiently listened and smiled, you laughed at me, and with me...

It was very special. But don't you worry my Beauty, you taught me a few lessons, a few gems and some spiritual lessons, that I will be adding to my life tool box. You are just as much teacher as you are student-- so thank you.

If I can teach you only one thing, about the challenges that you will face, it is this: we must own this concept of paying it forward. It is the only real good that comes from suffering, the ability to empathize, to love and support those we love most and even those strangers we meet. Yes, even strangers.  To quote from Hebrews, I love this translation from the New American Standard Bible:

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

It just means you never know when your words can be a gift to someone in need of a little light: at the grocery store, when you smile, when as you get a little older someone shares a private truth. When we give a little light to someones suffering, we provide a small but o' so important gift. We show our soul. We let the Divine in us do the heavy lifting, God shines through us. We enable the Spirit to move among us, to really work. It is the most powerful super power, it's how we find the good in the horrible, the grace in the tragic and the light in the darkest corners. That is the power of the Divine, its ability to create love among us. I promise, you will be on the receiving end of this power, this love more than you will ever have to give, but when you are able to provide comfort, strength, forgiveness and a soft place to fall for another, it is these moments that you understand what God's love is.

While with you, I feel the Spirit moving, quietly, beautifully-- and I delighted to see, to witness and to watch, one of the most precious and beautiful creations that God has ever made, and see the true gift. The real GIFT, that the Divine gave me, is to be graced to know you so closely, to love you and to be loved by you daily, and always.

For the record, I do love you more, Miss Meghan... I do.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you sweet one.

Always and forever your,
Aunt Kathryn

photo credit: PilgrimageGal

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Vacations, Field Trips and Medical Procedures...

Field Trip Selfie at NIH...

For the last two years, on one of our extremely hot summer days, I load the Beauties into our dirty minivan and we road trip to NIH (The National Institute of Health: Clinical Center). It is a 15 minute drive from our house. I check the Beauties in at the gate and they get awesome visitor's badges, they go through the metal detectors, watch the car get tested for explosive devices and then we drive on campus. They love this day. According to Norah, "It's the best cafeteria in the world" and she also said, "Yep, I really think I could work here one day!" and Ian "loves the architecture and design of the building".

We look at the photos of the Presidents who have visited and compare notes on the exotic fish in all the fish tanks. I show them where I get my blood drawn or where I have received various treatments. It is an all access pass.... The day we go is always a day that I put on make-up, a pretty sundress and feel good. I want the children to see me at my best.  Today we went to pick-up some medical records, but we also scored lemonade, sandwiches and some tasty chips. Then I watched them as they went around and around in the revolving front door at the hospital.

It was a fun day. Hard to believe, but it was...

And it was supposed to be. We are in the business of educating and de-stigmatizing the experience. I own this conversation, I shape the dialogue, I guide with my hand what the Beauties' understand about my disease. I own that... So I frame NIH as my place of wellness, it is the place I get better and so it should look like a fun place, a happy and safe place.

Norah suggested that Jeff and I go there for a date night. It looks like the lobby of a grand hotel!

Make no mistake, it is a hospital, the inhabitants are very sick, and for many it's the last stop. But that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be a place of great hope; and that is what I have made it for my family--a place of hope.

I mention this day for two reasons. One, I get to talk about my fantastic Beauties! But more importantly, I can share with you how I frame the tough stuff.  My children aren't shielded from much. Not the divorces in our family, not the mental health struggles of loved ones, not the horrible case Jeff sat on as a juror this week. Nope they get a ringside seat for all of life. Almost everything can be explained to the children in age appropriate language.

This past Friday, we picked up my mom and took her for an endoscopy. This was Norah's second time, we had done it a year ago when she was 7. This was Ian's first time. So we are in the car driving to pick-up grandma and I start to remind Norah and explain to Ian what the day entails. We have electronic devices charged, water bottles and some chocolate stashed, we all ate a huge breakfast and were ready for the day.

I explained that we would be in a doctor's office, and back behind the waiting room would be a hospital, filled with gurneys and medical devices. But before I could explain to Ian the set up, Norah speaks-up, "Mom you drive, I've got this" and then she begins...

"So Ian, Grandma needs to have a camera put down her throat to see if her throat and stomach are healthy. But you can't put a camera down your throat when you are awake. So the doctor gives Grandma medicine that makes her fall to sleep.  When she is asleep, she is also monitored for her heart and breathing with a pulse-ox like mom's and a blood pressure cuff. But she is going to be just fine, she has no chance of dying because she and mom have done this A LOT. And the doctors are there to keep her safe."

Hard to believe, but I just read it to her to make sure the quote is correct. My ever technical daughter said, "Good."

As I drove, I witnessed my daughter offer bedside manner from her booster seat in the back of my mini-van. I almost cried as I listened to her, thinking that some future patient is going to be blessed by this childhood- blessed that my Norah has been on this Pilgrimage with me.  As she lives with my chronic disease, she has been honing her skills from an early age. This is how you frame life's horrible truths. You realize that someone else will benefit from your struggle. We are paying it forward in the most unorthodox manner.

Norah also talked about the wires and beeping that you would hear, and that while it looked scary it is all safe. I also explained that Grandma would be super hungry because she hadn't eaten and that I thought she would treat us to a tasty lunch. (which she did!)

When we saw my Mom she was fine, antsy to get going. The nurse was nervous about Norah wanting to read the report with the photos of mom's esophagus, duodenum and stomach. But Norah was all in, Ian was sitting in the chair playing on the DS saying, "Grandma, I'm just glad you lived." More on Ian's version of this trip in a later post.

There we are in post-op, in the the equivalent of an ER, I have my beautiful anxious Aspie, my junior medical intern and my mom who is a little stoned and ready to roll... Trying to keep them all organized, managed and comfortable was my challenge for the day!

So when I say Norah is going to be a doctor, I'm not kidding, she wanted every detail. She watched the vitals, we had to talk about if they were high or low. While sitting on my lap reading the report she is watching the nurse pull out the IV. Norah was enthralled.  The nurse was worried Norah would faint. My mom said, "Ah no, she helps give her mother shots." The nurse was gobsmacked. Not the right choice for every 8 year old, but good for my daughter.

I have too many gems from both these trips to share today. I need a whole post on my sweet Ian's worries about my mom's procedure and perhaps another on the challenges of raising two divergent beautiful souls.

I try my best to use every opportunity to teach, to guide them for the future. We work through situations with training wheels so that when adulthood comes-- all too soon with too many challenges for anyone, they will hopefully have the skills and ability to take off their own training wheels and pedal on without me.

Peace be with you,

Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal