Truth is its own magic: A Mother’s Day message

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When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange:  “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.

As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind.  I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.

Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me.  For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.

When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets.  There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity.  Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe.  Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.  

Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church.  One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure? It’s that easy?”

I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”

Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church.  All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes?  Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.

In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them. 

To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul.  It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.

As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence.  She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.

I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost.  (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)

I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling.  (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.)  Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss.  And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.

Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.

C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.

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Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #26. Theme: Evening #aprpad

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Thursday Evening

Her evenings were spent
not shuttling her child
to practice or lessons
or herself to the next job
but eating a home-cooked dinner
prepared by her husband,
watching “Wheel of Fortune,”
reading and singing to her daughter
and asking her the questions
only she could answer
but could not,
for her little girl
was a brightly-colored door
with a panel of frosted glass
that was shatter-proof
and a lock that was foolproof.
Sometimes this mom went to an event,
and sometimes she made it to the Y,
for she believed in getting your money’s worth
out of a gym membership,
not a buffet.
She was an anxious person,
understanding that just as some drank
to silence the voices,
she sometimes had to take a pill
to silence the stories–
a temporary solution to
“Writers’ Flow.”
She tried to remember to tell Jesus
to let her mom know she said, “Hi,”
but sometimes she forgot–
just as she forgot if she shampooed her hair
until she squeezed the green gel
known as Prell
into her hand
and her muscle memory kicked in.
She’d put the clothes in the dryer
and forget to turn it on,
take something out of the oven
and forget to turn it off.
She’d try to tamp down her anxiety
when having to watch a movie
without closed-captioning,
feeling mentally exhausted
trying to piece together
what she did hear.
Maybe being able to see the words
was why she had become a writer
and why,
when the hustle-bustle of the day
died down
and her little girl had been put down
for the night,
she could lose herself in all the words
she could not see.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-26

Why I Tell My Daughter She’s Beautiful

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When I mentioned to someone I trusted that my daughter was getting genetically tested, I explained, “To find out why she is the way she is.”

It was never to “figure out what’s wrong with her,” because I don’t see anything wrong.  She isn’t broken, in need of fixing, but rather, in need of additional guidance and patience to help her be the best person she can be.  Just like I needed math tutors last semester.

All test results were normal, though I’ve been asked by many people (all health professionals) if she was autistic.  She is definitely somewhere on the spectrum, but on the high-functioning end.

When my mother was alive, all she saw was her specialness, not her special needs.  “That’s just who she is,” she would say, because for her, and for me, and for all who love her, it was that whole unique and wonderfully-made thing.

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My child has the most incredible memory, whereas mine is pretty crappy.  Sometimes I ask my husband if he remembers if I ate anything for breakfast.  I feel like Kelly Bundy from “Married With Children” in that episode where she loses a fact every time she gains a fact, because there’s only so much space in her airhead; she forgets on a game show a football trivia question about her father–something about these things called touchdowns.

However, a memory like my daughter’s has its challenges.  It took me forever to get her to unlearn “shit,” after my parents thought it was freaking hilarious when she tipped out of her Minnie Mouse chair and said, “Awww, shit!”  When they told me about it, I couldn’t help but laugh, even though I admonished her later that young ladies don’t use that word.

That’s said, salty language and an overabundance of sweet snacks are truly the stuff of grandparents.

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My daughter also has an incredible ear for sounds–she actually corrected the teacher on the difference between a helicopter and an airplane.  As much as I would love for her thing to be words, I believe it will be music.

*

When a “neurologist” (I’m not even sure what she was, she didn’t even bother introducing herself or familiarizing herself with my child’s medical record before her appointment) said that our daughter’s face had a trace of dysmorphia, my husband got pissed while I got so upset, I started crying.

On the way home, I kept looking back for some trace of what this woman saw, but all I saw was this stunningly beautiful little girl with perfectly symmetrical features and enviable blue eyes.  I like to joke with my dad that all other kids looked like dogs after I had mine (not really, but parents are biased).

*

I know it’s a Thing for girls to want to be superheroes over princesses, to major in STEM, and for their parents to praise their strength rather than their beauty, and I get some of that, but there will be plenty of people in my daughter’s life who will say something unkind.  It is my job–my calling–as her mother, to build her up without tearing others down.

My mom grew up thinking she was ugly because her mom never told her she was pretty (and she was!), and so my mom always told me I was–even when I was going through this hideous awkward stage where I looked like the female (and brunette) version of that bully in A Christmas Story.  (At least I did in one of my school pictures.)  Of course, I believed Mom only said that because she was my mother, but I know she meant it, too.

That said, my mom always told me that her grandmother told her that “Pretty is as pretty does.”  I let my daughter know when she is being ugly, just as I tell her that she is strong and smart and all those other things.

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I’m not blind to my daughter’s quirks, but it rubbed me the wrong way when the people at the center seemed like they were trying to push us into “family planning” (like to have another one like the one I have would be so horrible).  I don’t even like the way “family planning” sounds,  and I don’t practice it.  I don’t feel that way because a man in the Vatican or a bunch of men in Salt Lake don’t believe in it (Jesus died for me, they didn’t), but it’s my personal, spiritual belief.  (I will, however, concede that I would probably feel differently if I had more than half a dozen.)

Sometimes you just want to say someone, “Let they who are without imperfection be the first to cast the first birth control pill,” because we’re not talking Tay-Sachs or Huntington’s chorea here.  My daughter isn’t suffering–she is one of the happiest kids I know.  She’s never even thrown a tantrum.  She’s gotten upset and frustrated, but she’s never been one of those little horrors you see on that British nanny show.

*

My daughter has shown me that we are more than our genes, our chromosomes, our cells, for they only tell part of the story of who we are, and what amazing things we can become.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #405: Money

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What Money Bought Her

It bought her healthy food,
respectable clothing,
safe and clean shelter,
reliable transportation,
and quality medical care.
It paid for her college education,
which paid off with a career she loved
so that she could escape the job she loathed.
It bought books the library did not have
and toys for those who had little.
It paid for the technology
that connected her to the world.
It gave her family the ability to see that world,
unfiltered through a screen.
It paid for the piano lessons
for her autistic daughter;
for the horse she rode
to alleviate her anxiety.
Whether the money came from herself,
from taxes,
or from charity,
it was money that afforded her these things.
No, it didn’t buy everything,
but it bought everything else.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-405

Poem-a-Day 2016 Writer’s Digest Challenge #20. Theme: Things Left Unsaid

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What She Left Unsaid

Why she wouldn’t date a man whose culture shocked hers
Her unrequited love for a happily married man

When she lost her husband’s faith
Her feelings about the President on Facebook

The obsessive love she had for the daughter who was whole–her second chance at parenthood
The wishing to love as much the son who was broken, who loved sameness and repetition

The anger she had for her career mom, for saying being her mother wasn’t enough
The ire she felt towards her stay-at-home dad, for being less than he was

The resentment she had for her disabled brother
who stole her mother’s scant time home

The jealousy she felt when it was brother Byron who brought Mom home,
just because he needed her, when her wanting her mother mattered not

Her understanding for the beloved aunt who left the family
The disloyalty she felt for the uncle who drove her away

Her rage at the grandmother who taught her mother that children only grow up to leave you
Her envy of the friend whose star rose, even as hers dimmed

The particulars of the memoir that lay in wait for her parents’ death…

She wanted the world to see her as a good person,
and so she kept her private thoughts just that—
knowing what to reveal,
and what to conceal.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-april-pad-challenge-day-20

Submission for the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize

So I am working (feverishly–after all, isn’t “genius” 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration?) on finishing up a collection of “medical poetry” for the aforementioned contest (I found it through a scholarship website, but I don’t think you have to be a student; it’s not a lot of prize money, but the entry is free).  The submission had to fit a theme, and since I had the most poetry written about medical anomalies, I went with it.

I’ll admit, I’m not much of a “theme” person–I like to just “write whatever” (as evidenced in this blog), but this was a real challenge and I love challenges (writing ones, that is).

The collection must be at least 20 pages, so this, I believe, would cover it.

Complexities of the Mind and Body

Table of Contents

The Last Dance (Huntington’s disease)
Petals in the Wind (Capgras delusion)
The Moon is Blue (depression; lobotomies; electro-shock treatment)
Raining Bullets on the Fourth of July (PTSD)
Ace in the Hole (compulsive gambling)
Jeremy Johnson (autism)
The Memory Thief (Alzheimer’s)
The Hells of St. Mary (multiple personality disorder)
The Daily Mirror (body dysmorphia)
The Annexation of Angela (chimeras)
Her Fearless Symmetry (OCD)
The Color of Happy (synesthesia)
Seven Beautiful Days with Genevieve (bi-polar disorder; suicide)
Chasing Summer (seasonal affective disorder)
Waiting for Huntington (self-explanatory; I did a lot of research on this disease, and there was enough material for a book of poetry)