Flying…

25 Jun

It was June 20, 2013 at about 4am when they knocked on the door.  Right on time. Sweet Pea didn’t know what was happening, but she hadn’t gone to sleep that night anyway.  Like most nights, she stayed awake, playing games on the computer.  “Who are they?” she asked, barely looking up from the screen.  I took a deep breath.  “These are some friends of mine.  They’re going to take you on an adventure.  I love you.  You’ll be fine.”  I traced a cross on her forehead and kissed her brow.  God keep my sweet girl.  

And then I walked out the door.  Like I’d been told to do.  I went down the stairs and sat in my car to wait until they were safely on their way.  Sweet friends held me from a distance with encouraging words and prayers…I don’t remember much about those moments, except the sound of my sobs, and the darkness.  And the feeling that this couldn’t possibly be real. I couldn’t possibly be sending my daughter with virtual strangers to live 1300 miles away.  I had met the staff; I knew she would be in good hands.  I had shipped boxes of bedding and clothes and a few personal reminders of home.  But now it was real.  She was REALLY getting ready to fly across the country…without me…and I was facilitating the whole thing.

We had tried everything.  Our Sweet Pea was first diagnosed with mental illness when she was 3 years old.  Long story short, for the last 11 years she had been in every type of therapy, on every medication combination, and in every special school situation we could find.  And now at age 14 we had hit rock bottom.  Sweet Pea was completely locked into her own little world; she refused to leave the apartment (we feigned homeschooling, but even that was a failure), refused to do basic hygiene, and worst of all, refused any help.  She was falling deeper and deeper into a pit of depression and anxiety and I knew it was time to take an extreme step or she would lose any chance at a real future.

From my hiding place three floors below, I saw the door open, and the three of them walked out of the apartment.  In the shadowy light I could see the confused look on her face; I can’t imagine how scared she must have been.  I tears me up to think I had to put her through those moments of fear.  And then they got in their car, and drove away.  

Hardest moment of my life. Even as I write this a year later, I have tears in my eyes as I think about that night.  All the things I ever understood about being a mother were put to the test that night.  I wanted to keep her under my wing, but I had to push her out of the nest.  

It was time for my baby bird to fly.

I received a phone call a few hours later that she had landed safely and had arrived at her new home, a small therapeutic boarding school for girls just like Sweet Pea.  There was great relief in knowing she wasn’t the only one.  There was great pain in knowing she was indeed one.  One who needed specialized care 24 hours a day.  One who had to be within arms’ length of a staff member at all times.  One who couldn’t choose what she was going to eat that day, or what time she would wake and sleep, or whether or not she would participate.  All decisions were made for her, and the journey began.  

The last twelve months of Sweet Pea’s life have been filled with tiny steps and giant leaps, little wins and huge victories.  In any given week, she participates in one-on-one therapy, family therapy (thank you, FaceTime), group therapy, equine (horse) therapy, recreational therapy (think Survivor-type games, with therapeutic lessons), plus a full academic load.  She is responsible for her own daily self-care.  (This in itself is a minor miracle.)  She participates in the daily chores of a large home and a large barn.  (She mucks!).  She does her own laundry.  She has been successfully weaned off of four different medications that she was on when she arrived; she is down to just one, and that one is on the way out as well.  She has lost over thirty pounds, significantly reducing her chance of developing diabetes (something that always concerned me).  By her own choice, she wears her hearing aids and glasses every day.  (Another miracle!)  And on top of everything else, the girl who would never brush her teeth got braces!  

At least every other week Sweet Pea meets on her own with the entire team:  all therapists, teachers, and staff.  They give her constructive feedback and she then advocates for her own needs.  She is able to converse easily about her diagnoses, her strengths and weaknesses, and the steps she needs to take to continue to make progress.  Most recently, she was nominated by one of the staff members to act as a mentor to a new international student. This required a written application process and commitment to supporting the new student 24/7 through her first few weeks.  By all reports she is doing a marvelous job, and is now considered a leader amongst both students and staff.  

We passed the “one year” mark a few days ago.  I pulled out a picture that was taken a few weeks before her departure, and compared it to one taken this week.  The difference is unbelievable.  

Image

These pictures speak a thousand words about the progress that she has made in the last year.  But unfortunately the news isn’t all good, at least not in a conventional sense.  Sweet Pea is just getting her feet under her; she will need another year of therapeutic boarding school to get all of these new behaviors ingrained into her being.  After that, the professionals tell me she may still not be able to live at home; she may require a more structured setting (i.e. boarding school for special needs) than we could ever hope to provide at home.  It is an investment I am willing to make, because I believe in Sweet Pea and her future.  

The honest truth is that I’ve wiped out my retirement savings in order to pay for her treatment.  (And I would do it again – it is obviously worth every penny.)   So many of you generously gave to Sweet Pea’s Journey in the first year, and I am humbly asking if you would consider making another gift.  And if you’re new to our story, I would certainly welcome your help as well.  You can go to www.paypal.com, click “send money” and put in my email address (kathrynsmoore@gmail.com) and the gift will come directly to me.  If you’d like to become a monthly sponsor, do the same thing, but jot a note in the message box and I’ll add you to the monthly reminder list.  And if you just hate Paypal but would still like to make a gift, please contact me at kathrynsmoore@gmail.com.  

They say it takes a village, but in Sweet Pea’s case, I think a flock is more appropriate.  My once-broken-winged bird is FLYING, in no small part to all of the encouragement, prayers, and financial support of our many dear friends and even strangers, near and far. Your gifts are precious.  My heart is full.  

 

 

 

 

 

Drowning

5 Jun

I stand on the shore, feet in the hot sand, and watch her.  She’s making her way out past the waves; jumping, splashing, smiling, waving.  She is happy.  And then, in a heartbeat, she disappears.  The deep sea of her disease overcomes her once again and she is drowning.  I yell for help.  I splash through the water trying to get to her but she is carried further and further away.   I push my body against the water reaching my arms to her, desperate to grab her hand and pull her out of danger, but she is always just out of my grasp.

I call to her.

I call to God.  I beg Him, “Please save her!

But there is just silence.

She is drowning.  And I cannot save her.

 

the d word

5 Jun

I’m depressed.  I hate to admit it.  It kills me to type this.

And yet I must.

I need to say it, if for no other reason than just to own it.

I’m not blue, I’m not “down”, I’m depressed.  And it hurts worse than any physical pain I’ve ever endured.  (And remember, I’m a person who knows what it feels like to have 800mv of electricity run through my body.)

It is a deep, surrounding, all-encompassing pain.  It clouds my view.  It suffocates my lungs.  It strangles me with the unrelenting squeeze of it’s power.

I gasp for air but find none.  I rub my eyes, but I cannot clear them.  I rage against the stranglehold but I cannot release it.

I panic, I cry, I scream, I toss and turn.  All in vain.  Nothing seems to ease the darkness.  Nothing lifts the heaviness from my chest.

I must get better.  I must.  I must.

But I can’t.

It has me, and it won’t let go.

 

Start of Something New

10 Apr

Let’s change the subject, shall we?  Lately it’s been all dreary here at funnygirl, but that’s about to change.  I mean, seriously, what’s the point of having a reputation for being funny if all you do is write the blues?  Oh geez, see what I did there?  I acknowledged the fact that people think I’m funny.  Now I’ve gone and killed the funny.  Dang it.

Last night I went to the first rehearsal for my newest project, The Drowsy Chaperone.  I am playing Kitty, a dimwit chorus girl a la Gracie Allen.  Boy is she a lot of laughs!  The nasal voice, the New York accent, the stupid quips…I love it!  AND….drum roll please….I GET TO DANCE!!!  Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

There is an immense joy that comes with the start of a new project.  (And no small amount of fear, either!)  Sitting around that table last night was a heady experience; many of San Antonio’s very best performers are cast in this show, and everyone brought their A game.  The script is genius, the music is catchy, the costumes are being built from scratch…there is much to be excited about.

So now the fun begins.  Who is this Kitty?  How does she walk, stand, sit?  How does she talk, how does she laugh?  What are her expressions, her subtle movements?  How does she feel about these people she’s onstage with?  What is she thinking as other performers are doing their bits?  Oooo, I love getting into a character’s head.  (Especially a dumb one; how much can she really be thinking anyway?)  I’m a geek, I know.  But I eat this stuff up.  ‘Tis my passion.

Tonight we learn music, Thursday we start choreography and blocking, and in a few short weeks we’ll be ready to open.

Cue the “let’s put on a show” music, and we’re off!!

 

Brokenhearted

5 Apr

I hate it.

 

My heart, that is.

My stupid, broken, can’t-do-the-right-thing-on-its-own heart.

My heart that has a little umbrella sitting in it, closing a hole in the wall.

My heart that only works with medications to make sure it doesn’t beat too fast.

My heart that needs a pacemaker to make sure it beats fast enough.

My heart that needs a defibrillator to make sure it beats at all.

I wear the scars on my chest from all the invasions.  Vertical, horizontal, diagonal…they cross my chest like a poorly sewn quilt, making patchwork of my skin.  The lumps and bumps are many; the vanity I once had vanished long ago.   And always I know that there’s more to come.  More cuts, more seams – the external signs of the internal workings of this wounded heart.

It thumps in my chest, reminding me of its inadequacies; the gulp of a missed beat, the quick steps as it plays catch-up.  Each time I panic – is this it?  Is this the time it’s not going to remember what to do next?  Is this the one that’s going to set off that damn defibrillator, sending volts of energy through my body to force a beat?  It hurts, and though I can stand the pain, I don’t want to.  The kick is violently traumatic; it literally throws me to the ground with its force, so fast I don’t know what’s happening, but not fast enough that I don’t feel it with every fiber of my being.

I have a hard time reconciling my disease with this journey I’m on.  Wouldn’t it have been enough to lose a brother?  Did I have to have a broken heart too?  And did it have to mean I couldn’t bear a child, and that I can’t run, and that I can’t just live life free from worry?  Couldn’t there be a cure?

So many questions…so few answers.

 

I don’t want this.  I DON’T WANT IT.  But it’s mine.  So I’ll deal with it the only way I know how.

With a whole lot of heart.

Miss Independent

2 Apr

“For your information, mom, I don’t need you.  I don’t need a mother OR a father.  I don’t need this house or any of my stuff.  And I definitely don’t need YOU!!!”

 

Oh, my sweet precious girl.  I know.  I know how desperate you are to be independent; to do life on your own terms.  I know I drive you absolutely crazy with my audacious daily request to “do school”.  I know you want to do your OWN thing, every second of every minute of every hour of the day.

 

But here’s the thing, my love.  I’m getting you ready.  Every time I ask you to learn something new I am teaching you what you need to do life on your own.  When I repeat myself over and over to make sure you understand, it’s because one day I won’t be there, but my voice will play in your head, telling you what you need to know.   When I say no, it’s so one day I can say yes.

 

I want nothing more than for you to be independent one day.  You are desperate for it now, and I am desperate for it to actually happen some day. I could fail you in this; I could keep you too close, hold you too tight, never let you experience the pain that is independence. But I promise, my darling, I will let you fly.  I will kick you out of this nest one day, and you’ll fall for a time, but then you’ll find your wings and you will fly.

 

But not yet.  It’s not quite time, baby girl.  Soon, very soon.  But not yet.

 

Stay in the nest a little longer, my dear.  Let me hold you under my wing for a few more years.  Let me get you ready for this world.

 

And then, when it’s time, you will fly.

 

 

Motherhood is not for Quitters

20 Mar

I heard a brilliant lyric the other night that has stuck with me:  In the end, at least they’ll say “she tried.”  

That’s the thing with parenting a child like Sweet Pea.  So much of it is sheer sticktoitiveness.  Waking up, every day, and just TRYING.  Not necessarily succeeding.  Often times failing.  But always, always trying.

Quitting is so easy these days.  You don’t like something?  Quit.  Hate your job?  Get a new one.  Tired of your marriage?  Get a divorce.  Sick of your facebook friends?  Hide them.  But parenting is one of those things that you just can’t quit.  No matter how hard it is, no matter how badly it hurts, no matter how much you think you stink at the task.  No matter how loud she yells or how painful her words.  A mother can’t be a quitter.

I’m not gonna lie.  I’ve thought about it.  Who hasn’t?? When Pea is in a rage and our world is upside down I can think of a million places I’d rather be.  And there are times when I even say those words:  I quit.  Yep.  I’ve said it.  And I’ve run out the door and down the street.  I’ve jumped in my car and driven out of the driveway.  Because sometimes you just need to know you CAN.

And I raise my fist to heaven and ask God WHY and I squeeze my eyes tight hoping I’ll face a new reality when I open them.  I shriek from the depths of my gut, a horrible, wailing sound;  the cry of a woman in pain, in mourning for all that is and all that was supposed to be.

And then, eventually, I lift my head.  I open my eyes.  I inhale, and exhale, and inhale again.  And that little voice in my head, the one that speaks wisdom, says you can do this.  You HAVE to do this.  She is yours.  You cannot quit her.  

And I go back inside.

 

At least they’ll say “she tried.”