Reflections on 2010

November 25 marks the day that my sweet nephew, Payton, began his journey on earth.  What none of us could have imagined on the day of his birth was that the unsurpassable joy we felt with his arrival would be met with unsurpassable pain and grief just four and a half years later.

Today, as I made my way around Point Defiance with Leif and Sochi, I reflected on Payton’s life.  It is difficult for me to reflect on his life with out also remembering the raw sadness that his early death brought to my family and all who loved him.  It is with great effort that I force my mind to focus not on the last memory I have of Payton’s broken body, hooked to machines in a hospital bed, but rather on the joyful squeals and laughter of our last day together before Josh and I moved to Cape Town.  My remembrance, in order to over power the heart breaking images of June 2010, must move beyond my mind and encompass my entire body.  I must remember the smell of early summer grass, the racing of my heart chasing Payton around my parents yard, the coolness of the evening air as we dove and rolled, wrestled and tickled.  It is only then, when I allow my whole self to remember that joyful night, that I am able to allow my jaw to relax, my shoulders drop and my heart soften.

Earlier this week I listened to a man (on the internet) who lost his wife in childbirth earlier this month.  Three days later, the baby also died.  He said something that resonated with me– God did not orchestrate this (or something along those lines).  He went on to say that he knows  this horrible loss must be used for good.  That God is somehow, in his grief, piecing together a beautiful melody–one note at a time.  This is different from the bullshit (pardon) that I heard from some after Payton died.  The “God has a plan” as if somehow a good God would be cool with a 4 year old boy falling from a window and smashing his head.  Screw that. That’s not the God that I believe in.  But what then? How could this happen?  Why did this happen?

July of 2010, a month after Payton’s accident,  also brought a life altering event for me.  Lost in the mountains of South Africa, in the winter with nothing but a few dates, jeans and long sleeve t-shirts, I was certain Josh and I were going to die under the rock we took shelter in when we could no longer see our feet in the darkness of the mountains.  The near freezing temperature settled in my bones.  I ached for my mom who had just lost her grandson, was watching her own son bare the unbearable and was now going to lose her daughter–and probably never find out where or how.  The pack of animals that surrounded us, growling in the dark, the poachers that for some reason left the crazy, shaking, pleading white girl and her male counter part (not shaking or pleading but acting very calm given the situation, by the way)…and yet for some reason, when the sun began to rise at 6 AM, 12 hours after is had disappeared completely, we were alive.  By 11 AM we had found our way out of the mountains and to our car.  Alive.  Unharmed save a few scratches on my ankles from running through the grass and sliding down into gullies.  Alive.

There is so much more to the African mountains story that leaves me questioning why I am alive.  I am alive and Payton is not.  It seems very unfair.  In the months following, I tried over and over to process these events.  I would sometimes hear growling in the night  and I often felt the need to knock myself out with sleeping medication so as not to lay be bed with heart ache for Payton.  One night, while reflecting on why, I had a vision.  It was a hand like form holding me over one of the cliffs that Josh and I had encountered in our mountain fiasco.  I was on my back, limp, head back and the hand was shaking me and shouting, in a firm but loving voice, “I’VE GOT THIS!”

My faith has changed a lot since 2010.   I no longer feel the urge to worship God in a church.  I feel much more alive when I worship him in the forest or my garden or nursing Leif.  I sometimes still feel anger with God and even question the goodness or realness of God in wake of Payton’s death.  But knowing that I don’t have to believe he planned Payton’s early death, but yet somehow has still “got this” crazy shit helps me to continue on with my days without living every moment in complete fear that it can all fall apart at any moment.  And it can.  In a blink, it can shatter.

God did not orchestrate Payton’s death.  He did not say, “I’m going to let this one die so his family can experience body crushing pain and some other families can have his organs.” No. That’s not the God I believe in.  The God I believe in felt every unbearable, breathless moment of our grief and matched every single tear. And then he began weaving good out of it– offering other families hope with Payton’s bravely donated organs…and in turn, giving our family hope that some good would come of our suffering.  I still send those families love and pray their bodies accepted with grace the gift from Payton.

Payton– I see the good that God is weaving, yet I still ask “WHY?” We miss you and would give anything to have you here with us.  You are loved and cherished and carried in our hearts always. Happy Birthday, my sweet nephew.

Wherever you Are, My Love Will Find You

Nancy Tillman

And Someday if you’re lonely
or someday you’re sad

or you strike out at baseball

or think you’ve been bad

just lift up your face,

feel the wind in your hair.

That’s me, my sweet baby. My love is right there.

In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…

in the clouds floating by…in the top of a tree…

in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…

“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”  They all say.

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A Grieving Hen

This morning I came home after nannying to grab the stroller for a run.  As I ran into the back yard from the car, I saw our neighbors cat bolt (this happens almost daily).  I did a quick head count of hens.  1…2…3… 4…wait, 4?  1…2..3…4!  What the????  We only have three!  But over and over I counted 4.   Then I noticed one of them was unfamiliar.  Similar in coloring to our hens but much bigger and she was hunkered down in the A-frame.  She looked terrified.

Sweet Girl

Sweet Girl

As I headed out to run, I sent our friend Michael a text asking if he had added a new hen to the flock.  He told me the saddest story–earlier this week, 11 out of 12 of his friend’s chickens were killed by a raccoon. This girl survived and needed a home.  I was nearly in tears.  This poor chicken had just lost ALL of her sisters in a violent attack and now was in a strange new home.  I felt the urge to rush home and care for her.

After my run, I went home and spoke to her and tried to get a look at her.  There appeared to be some poop and possibly gut stuck in her feathers.  I worried that she was worse off than Michael had originally thought.  She was far back in the A-frame and not about to come out for me to check her.  I grabbed a pile of hay and made a comfy bed as far back as I could reach, locked up the doors and made sure she was safe before heading out on errands.

After lunch, I decided I really needed to find out what was going on with her and try to offer her some love. I put on some gloves and old jeans and opened up the A-frame.  Leaning in, I offered her some food from my hand, which I was happy she took.  Still, I couldn’t get her to ease out.  So, as awkward as I possibly could (thankfully I do not think any neighbors saw this strange manovour), I climbed into the A-frame with her.  I knelt on the bed of hay I had made earlier and slowly put my hands on her while reassuring her that I was safe and here to help and telling her I know she’s sad.

Just having some snuggle time with her in the warm (ish) house.

Just having some snuggle time with her in the warm (ish) house.

I could feel her body shaking from the inside out.  I examined the under area I was so worried about and decided it must just be poop.  I think this girl literally had the shit scared out of her.  It was matted into her feathers.  Slowly, I backed out of the A-frame, holding her.  I knelt in the hard holding her and speaking softly to her for a while.  She seemed to almost whimper and I could see in her sweet little beady chicken eyes that the last couple of days have been traumatizing for her.  I imagined the attack, the sounds and commotion.  I imagined her caregiver finding her scared out of her mind amongst her dead and mutilated sisters.  It brought me to tears.  I brought her into the kitchen and with a luck warm cloth, removed the poop from her feathers as best I could.  I placed some more hay in a cardboard box and brought her into the kitchen to rest on the table while I got ready to go tutor.  She sat quietly- not making a peep.

Mama!  There's a hen on our table!

Mama! There’s a hen on our table!

Leif caring for her-- I love how compassionate he is.

Leif caring for her– I love how compassionate he is.

I’m sure there are people out there that are thinking “OH MY GOSH!  It’s just a chicken!” And until recently, I did not think chickens were very intelligent or sociable creatures. However, since the girls came to stay with us, I have learned differently.  Our hens snuggle close at night and find comfort with each other.  They allow Leif to chase them, carry them around the yard in awkward positions, and enjoy to be pet.  Like other animals, they bond to their families–both human and non-human. They have the capacity to feel both physical and mental pain.  They will grieve when their friends die.  As I held this surviving hen, I could literally feel the fear, grief, and trauma pulsing through her.  In the moment I recognized what I was experiencing, I felt great shame for having participated in the consumption of so many of these creatures–many from factory farms that treated them unspeakably horribly before an unspeakable slaughter.

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Tonight, I went out to check on her, to see if the other girls were treating her well.  I had hoped to see a snuggled pile of 4 hens, but instead I saw the usual three with a lone hen resting a foot away.  Well, at least they are not pecking her and I imagine it will take a bit of time for everyone to feel completely comfortable together and for her to mend.

Next week is Thanksgiving.  Much meat will be eaten.  Turkey’s, another very intelligent and sociable bird, will be eaten in great numbers around our country.  This is a bit of a plea to consider an alternative–a vegetarian Thanksgiving?  I know, it sounds unpatriotic… but I’ve been doing it for 6 years now–this will be my 4th vegan Thanksgiving…and guess what?  I don’t miss it one bit.  Not one!


2 mile at 2 months!

Today marks exactly two months since my hip surgery. I’ve been slowly adding in intervals of 30-60 seconds of running into my walks. Today, I am happy to report I hit the 2 miles of running mark!  I walk the mile to the park and then run /walk loops (just under a mile each)–pushing Leif and dragging Sochi–before walking home.  I’m feeling great!  My hip doesn’t feel ‘normal” but it doesn’t hurt and that’s exciting.  My surgeon told me it could be a full year before it feels 100%. I’ll take it!

starting to feel like a runner again! Finally!

starting to feel like a runner again! Finally!

I believe I owe my strong recovery to several factors:  First, an awesome surgeon.  I continue to hear from various sources–PT’s, patience, nurses– that Dr. Brukner is the best in the business.   Secondly, I have been doing my stretches and eating really healthy.  Fruits, veggies, curries, cinnamon. nuts, seeds, and beans abound.  I also believe that the acupuncture, prolotherapy, and cupping are doing great things for my body.  From promoting white blood cell production, improving circulation, and drawing fresh blood to the areas of me that need healing…I’m feeling a huge difference.  We tried a type form of prolotherapy last week that we had not yet tried.  My low back pain all put disappeared after 1 go at the therapy.  WHAT! Honestly, it is like nothing I’ve experienced before.  The cool part– its not just covering the symptoms–it is actually helping my body to heal itself.  That is rad.

Rain or shine--we've been getting out there!  Such a trooper, this one!

Rain or shine–we’ve been getting out there! Such a trooper, this one!

I’m so thankful this body is on the mend.