The Answer to Everything Is…

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It’s been a hard week here. It started out with calling 911 on Sunday because the baby was choking on something she picked up off the floor. It took a visit to the ER and several panicky hours to figure out she had a small piece of thick plastic lodged in her throat that the Doctor was finally able to remove. On top of that, several of my closest friends have been dealing with life-threatening illnesses for themselves or their kiddos, so basically my heart has been walking around outside my body all week feeling the ache of lack of protection and acute vulnerability.

I tend to get mad when things like this happen. I have a strict Don’t Mess With My Loved Ones policy that the Universe does not seem to adhere to. Dangit. I also really don’t like being such a sensitive BIG feeling soul when my lovelies are hurting, and I really don’t like it when all my lovelies are hurting at once. That is just about unbearable.

But, you and I both know I’ve walked this road a million times before. I am a self-certified Tragedy Specialist. So, sitting in the discomfort of vulnerability today, watching my lovelies suffer, I just had to find a little compassion within and tell myself this:

Ok, Megan, here we go. You know what’s happening. The squeeze is on. You’re being ground and twisted and wrung to a fresh pulp yet again…so what will you do different this time, knowing what’s on the other side of this pain is the promise of LOVE, beauty and immense wisdom? Knowing you’re going to come out of this a sweet, sweet cherry-limeade, ripe with empathy and love?

Here’s what I think I’ve figured out about all of this.

Anything…ANYTHING can be made bearable if you surround it with enough LOVE.

Francine Wheeler, Mother to 5-year-old Ben, who was one of the Sandy Hook victims, said someone told her after her son’s death that there would always be a hole in her heart. BUT, if she surrounded it with enough love, that love would build a protective coating around the hole that would eventually make it possible to live with a Swiss cheese heart.

So here’s my answer to everything, I think:
FEED IT MORE LOVE.

Whatever is broken or hurting or vulnerable or quaking in your heart, whatever your holes are, your aches, your dreams, your losses…feed them more love til there’s so much love around them, it doesn’t hurt as much anymore.

In the darkest depths of pain, loss and grief, LOVE is always possible. In the uncertainty of fear and unknowingness on the life to your dreams, MORE LOVE is always possible. When someone has hurt you or betrayed you, MORE LOVE for yourself and for them is always possible…because if we can forgive ourselves, we can forgive others…when we realize EVERYONE’S always doing their best.

When you are scared, feed yourself more love. When you are sad, feed yourself more love. When your lovelies are aching, feed yourself more love…so then you can overflow onto them when they need it most.

Yup, more love, more love might be the answer to everything. 

Are you following me on Facebook? This post was shared on my Writer’s Page over there today. I often post brief musings on Facebook that I don’t post here, so run on over and click like if you want to hear more of my thoughts on life, love, tragedy & everything in between. 🙂 

Dear Mama, You Are Not Alone (READ THIS)

NOT ALONEThe support of other Mothers through all of life’s transitions and struggles has been weighing on my heart heavily lately. I’ve just come through an extremely difficult pregnancy and postpartum period after my 4th child, and I have to admit, I had a really hard time asking for help even when it was a matter of life or death. I hemmoraghed after the birth, then after several weeks, I realized it really wasn’t actually normal to still be in excruciating pain every day. Unknowingly, I’d developed a life-threatening postpartum uterine infection. Yet when my Meal Train ran out and I secretly wished for another, and my husband went back to work, and my Mom went home, I braved four children alone and in pain…because the world taught me not to ask for help. The world taught me I’m only a strong Mother if I go it alone.

The REAL face of Motherhood somedays, right?

The REAL face of Motherhood somedays, right?

I called my husband day after day in tears, sobbing, “I can’t do this.” Soon enough, going it alone brought me to a new level of drowning. A slow and sinking numbness began to set in, called postpartum depression. It was a dark and ugly beast that took up camp in my body. No matter how hard I tried to fight it, my sleep deprivation and overwhelm only fed the beast. And you know what fed the beast best? It’s favorite meal was my, “I need to keep bearing this cross alone,” attitude.

One night, I finally broke. I sat my parents and my husband down in my living room and I shook their bodies with my eyes instead of my hands.

“I CAN’T DO THIS ALONE ANYMORE. PLEASE HELP ME,” I pleaded.

It wasn’t easy, but after that, we all found a way to fight the beast together. We did everything we could to make sure we weren’t feeding it. It was hard – I had to ask for help a LOT as illness after illness came. I spent a week in the hospital on hard-core IV antibiotics, then we all caught every flu bug, virus, cold known to man for 7 months straight. Dealing with so many illnesses and caretaking sick kids all while fighting “the beast” was a a monumental task, to say the least. I know one thing, without a doubt, I could not have done it alone.

Now, I’m sitting here, nearly 7 months postpartum, finally feeling like more like myself again, finally feeling joy again, writing this to you, able to say I’m ok now, and you want to know why?

Because I asked for help. And I let myself take it. Again, and again. And not just when it was dire, but when I just needed a smile or a friend, too.

mother the mothersI believe that if we want to change the state of our world, we have to start with the Mothers. We have to change the way we mother our mothers and we have to change the way we allow ourselves to BE mothered as mothers.

We know we need to take better care of each other when we look at the nightly news and hear the stories of Mamas who’ve left their babies in cars, driven them into lakes, drowned them in bathtubs, committed suicide in the midst of postpartum depression, or abandoned their babies because it was all too much – we KNOW something has to change, right?! We know this old paradigm is NOT WORKING ANYMORE. We have let those Mamas down, ladies! We have let them slip through OUR fingers – yes, yours and mine. We have forgotten to tell them somewhere along the way, that even though we are drowning, overwhelmed, and overdone ourselves, they are not alone, and it’s ok to ask for help!!!!!!!!!

We have to TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER, AND OURSELVES.

We must be warriors, warriors of “Compassion In Action.” Compassion In Action is showing up in a Mama’s life because if you don’t, she will drown. It’s showing up in a Mama’s life even when she’s only kind of drowning, just to give her a hug or a hello because without this compassion, she will turn into a harried, overwhelmed, angry/sad/lost Mama, and that’s not good for anyone, because these Mamas can’t feed their baby’s souls. These Mamas can’t feed their own souls. And babies and Mamas who don’t get soul food grow up to be angry, sad, lonely, depressed, vengeful, or empty. Those are not the qualities we need to plant into our world. We have enough angry, sad, lonely, depressed, vengeful and empty in the world already, don’t we?

We were not put on this Earth to go it alone. When our culture shifted from villages to single family homes, we lost our sense of community – the sense of community we were designed to live and coexist within. We were designed to be an interdependent species. We depend on the land to feed our bodies, plants and animals to sustain our physical growth, and friends and family to sustain our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. This is why we get married. This is why we have babies. Because we need others. We were biologically designed to NEED OTHERS. But, here in America especially, somewhere along the way we got the idea that the image of a “good Mother” is one who doesn’t need help, who doesn’t need anything from others, who is “so strong” she can do it all. I call B.S. on that thinking. It takes courage to ask for help, to admit you can’t do it all and most importantly, SHOULDN’T do it all ALONE.

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I am and you are me. Moments like this, when we’re up to our eyeballs in the hardest parts of it all, we need to know we’re not alone, we need tell other Mothers they’re not alone, too.

We have all at some point needed to know we were not alone. We have all at some point needed help. And because of that, we know how important it is now, to show up for others.

I think if we’re ever to shift the collective thinking, we have to start with ourselves, and then each other. Ask yourself right now, are you really willing to ask for help and receive it? Are you willing to ask for help even when things aren’t dire – when you’re just overwhelmed, overstressed or overburdened? Why or why not?

I think if you’re honest, you might reply something like one woman I know in a Postpartum Support Group who said, “I will avoid asking for help at all costs.” Wow.

I think her comment speaks to how so many of us feel. It is TERRIFYING vulnerability to admit we cannot be everything to our kids. But, here’s the thing, Mamas, we CANNOT BE EVERYTHING TO OUR KIDS. Do you get that? We send them to school because we know they can teach them something maybe we can’t. We send them to ballet, to soccer, to summer camp, because we know they can give them something we can’t. We send them to Grandma’s house for a weekend, on a playdate with Daddy and the Uncles, because we know they can give them something we can’t.

We cannot be the village. We can only be part of it.

Our children benefit by us NOT going it alone. They benefit from every single person we bring into the village. They benefit from every weight lifted off our shoulders that gives us more strength to carry them with now. They benefit from every hour we give ourselves without them to just BREATHE and remember what it feels like to be ourselves, not just somebody’s Mother.

And we can’t just ask for help when we are desperate, Mommas, because then we think then it’s justified. We can’t only ask for the Meal Trains, rides for the kids, carpool exchanges, and playdate swaps when someone has DIED or been born. We have to do it all the time. Want to know why?

Because then…we are helping others as much as we are helping ourselves. Everyone wins! Everyone wins! Our kids get happier Mommies. Our friends gets relief. We get relief. The people who help us feel joy, we feel joy. We ALL breathe a little easier every single day because we know someone’s got our backs – and not just someone, but a bunch of someone’s.

We have to be warriors, Mamas. We have to Mother other Mothers. We have to earn their trust, let them know it’s ok to let us into their lives and their homes to help them. We’re not judging them. We’re just giving what we know we will one day need and receive ourselves.

See these meals? These are the meals it was SO hard to ask for when I got enterovirus at 39 weeks pregnant and knew I needed to nourish my body before birthing. They saved my life and my baby's. Really. They did. They gave me strength to bring her into the world and they came from another Mama just like me.

See these meals? These are the meals it was SO hard to ask for when I got enterovirus at 39 weeks pregnant and knew I needed to nourish my body before birthing. They saved my life and my baby’s. Really. They did. They gave me strength to bring her into the world and they came from another Mama just like me.

TAKE WHAT YOU NEED. That’s what it comes down to. Don’t worry about if, when, or how you’ll get what you need. Just take what you need. Just ask, then say thank you, and take what you need. It’s a back and forth dance that makes us all equally vulnerable and courageous when we do it together, NOT ALONE.

It is time to abandon the old paradigm. But the question is how? Each of our hearts has in it a special place for supporting other Mothers and that’s why we’re here, right? But the question is how? How do we show up for others and help them when we aren’t willing to ask for help ourselves? Or when others aren’t willing to receive it, or both? How do we shift the paradigm?

Here’s how. I’m going to give you a road map with ACTIONABLE TOOLS. You will read this and when you finish you will know exactly HOW to start throwing out safety nets for the forgotten mothers who feel alone in their struggles right now. You know the ones, the ones who feel JUST LIKE YOU HAVE FELT AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER.

#1 TAKE THEM BY FORCE

We need to force our way into other women’s lives when they need us. I mean it! It may sound bad, but it’s true. Just like in my last post, we have to knock on the door and then keep knocking until they let us in. We have to be warriors of compassion who stand in the faces of other women going through transitions in their lives – be they deaths, divorces, births or babies, behavioral challenges, illnesses or just plain overwhelm! We have to stand in the faces of other Mothers, see them as ourselves, and gently, compassionately, boldly tell them, “We are here to help and we’re not leaving until you give us something to do.”

We have to take care of each other as much as we take care of our children. We have to take care of ourselves as much as we take care of our children.

This is the only way we can begin to shift the paradigm of this “strong woman = lone warrior” crap. We can be warriors of compassion. Like Glennon Doyle Melton says, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

other mothers 2#2 ASK FOR HELP YOURSELF 

The next thing we can do is ask for help, and let other Mothers SEE our willingness to do so. We can LIVE our belief that COMMUNITY is more important than INDEPENDENCE by willingly letting the world see us asking for, giving and receiving help. This grants other Mothers permission to do the same.

So, quit putting on your best face for Facebook and the rest of the world. Let them see the harried mess in all it’s beauty. Your courage gives other Mothers permission to be themselves, to own their messes and beauty. You showing your true face, not your best face, SCREAMS to other Mothers, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I FEEL THE SAME WAY YOU DO!!!”

This is terrifying, I know, because there are those “judgers” out there. So, you know what you do? UNFRIEND THE JUDGERS! Or, stand in the convictions of your courage for a new paradigm. Stand for what you know to be true. Think of Mothers like me, who literally would have DIED had they not asked for help, and STAND FOR ME, and all the other Mothers, the forgotten ones we let slip through our fingers.

#3 START TALKING (Well, that’s easy, talking is one thing we Mamas are really good at!)

We need to start dialogue like this, start asking ourselves and each other questions. How can we do something different now? How will it look? What do we, the collective we and the individual we’s formed between groups of friends and strangers in our communities, do when we hit a bump in the road? How do we adapt and make changes until we teach all of ourselves how to Mother the Mothers again? Start a conversation in your Mommy groups, on your blogs, in your churches, at your book clubs. Start talking about why we’re all so terrified of asking for help, and start telling – no SHOWING – every Mother you see, TO TAKE CARE.

11212779_10153340473319113_4425297987442353630_nDear Mama, Mama, Mama, I know how hard it is to ask for help, and sometimes, even, to give it. I know you are overwhelmed, tired, busy, stressed, and burdened, too. But, Mama, I don’t want you to be alone anymore – whatever it is you’re doing, I don’t want you GOING IT ALONE anymore. Stand with me for our togetherness, now.

Now, I dare you to share this. I dare you to post in on all your social media pages and MAKE IT GO VIRAL. Not for me, for YOU, and all the other Mothers in the world we need to take better care of. I don’t want to stand alone anymore. Will you stand with me, too? (and now I’m crying. Love you, beautiful Mama.)

How To Save A Life or “Send Donuts, Legs & Umbrellas, Please!”

"No One Fights Alone" is the mantra for Brain Cancer warriors. I think it should be a mantra for life.

“No One Fights Alone” is the mantra for Brain Cancer warriors. I think it should be a mantra for life.

Written 5-15-15

I have so much joy in my heart today. I am beyond blessed. I am so grateful for my family and friends, the heroes in my life, the lovers and fighters who I see braving their own battles fiercely each day.

When times get really tough we have to look even harder for joy. Sometimes the best way to create joy when you’re drowning is to throw someone else a rope. A random of act of kindness, a pot of soup for a sick friend, a random doughnut delivery on a rainy day.

Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior and founder of Momastery says, “We belong to each other.” More than anything, these last few years of hardship have taught me that. And I know it’s not just me feeling it! Everywhere I look I see strangers and friends all fighting really insane battles right now. Divorces, moves, financial upheavals, breast cancer, brain cancer, special needs children, you name it.

frodo-and-sam_38056_1I think these crisis’ are happening to collectively shift us back into a culture of basic human interdependence. We have to take care of each other!!!! It unites us!!! It empowers both parties – the giver and the receiver! It creates a give and take that threads us all together as netting beneath the trapeze dances we’re dancing. Every single one of us at some point has needed to be reminded we are not fighting alone! Truly, we can’t go it alone, and we SHOULDN’T go it alone.

When we see someone drowning we should fight our way into their homes and hearts to let them know they’re not alone. A few amazing women have worked hard to let me know I wasn’t alone the last couple years and they have taught me how to be a better friend. My friend Corina is a great example. After our daughter Kama was born in November, some of my friends set up a Meal Train for us where one family brings a homemade meal each day for a couple of weeks. Around here, Meal Trains are standard. I love that about my community.

Baby Kama and I 5 days after her birth - Photo by Three Little Foxes Photography

Baby Kama and I five days after her birth – Photo by Three Little Foxes Photography

So, my friend Corina saw our Meal Train pop on Facebook one day, and not even knowing me decided to contribute. She brought a beautiful meal and secretly hoped knocking on my door would lead to a new friendship. She knocked that day, and she kept on knocking for months. She dropped the meal off when I was in bed recovering from hemorrhaging after the birth. Then, she came back to pick up her dish when I was in bed recovering from a week in the hospital with a life-threatening postpartum uterine infection and the whole house had the flu. Then, she came back and brought us chicken soup when we all got yet another round of the flu. 2 days later, she texted me, “Had a little more soup leftover, thought you could have it for lunch today. Mama’s gotta keep her strength up!”

She had no idea I literally felt like death for 7 months straight, that I’d faced a life-threatening illness in the hospital for a week, that I’d had only about 6 days without a cold or flu in the house over the last 7 months, and that I was also suffering from severe postpartum depression and anxiety. She just kept showing up because her heart told her to.

Because of that, we now have a beautiful friendship, which fills both our hearts with joy. She has become one of my greatest friends and teachers. And you’ll never believe it. Once I finally had a chance to open the door and let her in, we realized we had something pretty amazing in common. Remember Dana, from Safeway?

She’s his daughter.

WHO. WOULD. HAVE. THOUGHT?!

We had no idea.

But, I’m not the least bit surprised. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My BFF Ashley and her son Kayson

My BFF Ashley and her son Kayson

Corina, and people like my BFF Ashley have taught me how to really “show up” for others. Today, Ashley is home with her special needs “hero” and son, Kayson, who just barely recovered from complications after a minor surgery to end up with the flu! The flu can be very scary for a kid with special needs and I know that. I know that being Ashley’s BFF means one day I might be sitting at a hospital bedside holding my lovely Ashley as she huddles over her lifeless son. We try not to think about that, but it’s a job I willingly signed up for because she is a piece of my heaven on Earth and I’d do anything for her. She’s saved my life again and again by showing up for me when I needed to know I was not alone.

IMG_1825So today, I didn’t care what was going on in my world, when I heard “flu” I just put on my boots and my “messy bun” do and ran right over there to just show up because I know how it feels when one thing after another after another goes wrong, and your faith is wavering, and you just need someone to look you in the eye and say, “Hey, I know this sucks. I’m here. We’ll get through it together. You’re NOT in this alone.” I brought her a donut and another friend sent chocolates and I stood in the rain outside her door and I told Ashley she could have my arm or my leg if she needed it. She said, thanks for the donut, and I won’t be needing a leg today, but I’ll call you later if I need a margarita or a bag of sand to put my head in.

THIS is how we throw each other ropes. This is how we get through all the hard and wonderful things of life. TOGETHER.

Corina, my BFF Ashley, and a few other amazing loves in my life have fought hard to let me know I’m not alone. They have taught me how to be a better friend, how to show up for others even when it’s hard, how to be relentless in the persistence of SHOWING UP WITH A BASKET OF LOVE AT OTHERS’ DOORSTEPS. Sometimes, when you’re drowning, you don’t even have time to come up for air to figure out what you need or how to get it. It’s those times, you need someone to just show up and bring donuts, or toilet paper, or pizza or soup or kleenex!!!!! More and more, even when we are busy and tired and overwhelmed and sad and hopeless ourselves, we need to “suit up and show up” for every stranger and friend we see drowning, transitioning or fighting their own battle. If nothing else, to hand them an umbrella and stand together beneath it ’til the storms pass.

Get your boots on and your donuts out, and just show up at a doorstep today and see what happens. Or, just open your door and let the person knocking…in. That’s how you save a life…one knock, one heart at a time. ❤

The Safeway Story: Be a Miracle

Do you believe in miracles & magic? Do you believe that without any doing of your own, an opportunity can be put in your path, a promotion can come your way unexpectedly, or a simple, kind gesture from a stranger can completely transform your day?

I believe in miracles, because I have seen they happen to me frequently throughout these last 5 years of loss & hardship.

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Lighting our candle for her best friend this year. She passed away unexpectedly at age 5, when my daughter was a precocious 3 & 1/2. Each year brings new waves of grief for us both in losing this beautiful child.

I was having a particularly rough day last week. Lots of emotions have been hitting on every front, one of which was the anniversary of my daughter’s best friend’s death. After several days of holding my 6-year-old while
she cried, seeing her understand death at a new level now, I was feeling emotionally exhausted. All the memories of the worst conversation of my life, telling her the news, hugging her best friend’s Mom at the service (meeting her for the first time at her daughter’s funeral), and years of her grievous outbursts of pain…all came flooding back.

I went to the grocery store with a tear-stained face, trying to hide my pain from the world. Continue reading

My Most Unusual Gift

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Sometimes I get scared to keep sharing my story, because there are people who see me continually speaking to death and pain, who perceive that to mean that I’m stuck in the grief, not moving on, not living joyfully, dwelling on the past. And it’s perceptions like that, that made me feel like a lecherous Grim Reaper Girl for years.

What these people don’t understand is that these 20+ tragic deaths & 4 years of inconceivable loss were my gift.

Continue reading