Tuesday, March 30, 2010

April Fool's

I was five years old and I walked down the street to the twins' house. It was a bit further walk than I would normally go, but they had invited me over for an official play-date. The twins were red-headed, freckled girls in my kindergarten class in Amherst, Massachusetts, where we lived for a few years. I was excited and nervous. This was a fairly big adventure for me.

Feeling oddly confident, I entered the twins' house and was greeted by their mom and dad. Their dad was seated at a small round kitchen table eating cereal from a bowl — in the middle of the day. This was my first inclination that something wasn't right. My dad was never home in the middle of the day, and if he was, he definitely was NOT going to be eating cereal.

Their dad seemed nice enough, though. He smiled really big and put out his hand to shake mine. He shook it vigorously while the twins giggled at his silliness. Then, he called me over closer and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Do you wanna see an elephant in the cat's water bowl?" he asked me in a conspiring voice. "Huh?" I articulated. He repeated his question, but with a sense of urgency, "Do you wanna see an elephant in the cat's water bowl?!"

I quickly turned to where he was casting his eyes to see if there was really an elephant in the cat's water bowl. The water bowl and the food bowl, were side by side, pushed up close to the refrigerator. No elephant in sight.

"April Fools!" he shouted. The twins erupted in staccato giggling, one hand over their mouth, one hand pointing at me. "He got you!" they cheered.

I stood there, unsmiling, staring back at them blankly. I had no idea what was happening. I started to cry.

Their dad quickly stood up and said, "I was just joking. It's April Fool's Day. Do you know what that is?" I shook my head and sniffed, stopping the flow of tears.

I don't remember anything after that. No playing in the twins room. No running in their backyard. No snacks. Only the empty kitty bowl.

decided then and there that I hated April Fool's Day. I had never heard of it before and, since I came from a Christian home, I also decided that it must have been a pagan holiday. The Druids probably made it up. That's what my parents had told me to explain why Christmas trees were a part of Jesus' birthday. Maybe those tree worshippers thought it was also funny to tease kids.

That was the last time I visited the twins and their foolish pagan father. Never trust a man who eats cereal in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What She Was Thinking I Was Thinking...

Click here to read Kristin's inner dialogue.

Girls, girls, girls...By the way, the irony of this: my blog made me think about how much I needed a hair cut. So, I booked one for tomorrow with Kristin. Not only is she a good writer (you should subscribe to her blog), but she is truly a great stylist. Check out her salon Green Pea Salon in the 12 South Neighborhood. Maybe we'll run into each other there and I'll wonder what you're thinking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What I Was Thinking She Was Thinking

I just finished reading my gal pal Kristen's latest post about how hard it is making girl friends. Even in our thirties, the same insecurities from the junior high locker room still haunt us, they just age. She has bigger boobs than me turns into Her boobs dont sag as much as mine.

Kristin and I just met for lunch last week, in the middle of my Atticus crisis. We just started hanging out recently to talk about writing. She is a writer, mother and uber-cool hair stylist and I wanted to get her input on where she thought I should get my MFA. I was down to two schools (Seattle Pacific U and Vermont College), and was hoping someone would help me figure out where to go since most of my brain power was otherwise depleted. I had to decide by last Friday.

As we were discussing the benefits of each school, I realized there was actually another conversation happening that Kristin had no idea about that exhibits nicely the reason why females struggle so hard to be friends. The two conversations kinda went like this:

ME: What do you know about Seattle Pacific's program? *Oh God. I didn't shower this morning and my hair looks so greasy. Kristin is gonna think I am a total loser. Do you think I am a total loser, Kristin?

KRISTIN: Yes! It's a great school. I don't know much about the program, but their journal IMAGE is really top-notch. You could definitely benefit from the connections you'd make there.

ME: But, don't you think I have opportunities in Nashville for those same connections? Do you think I should break out of the box and be in a place where my framework is challenged?
*You think I need my bangs cut, don't you? You are totally mocking my hair right now, arent you? You and your edgy 80's punk rock hair-do are judging my greasy, no hair-do hair-do, arent you?

KRISTIN: Yeah! Definitely. That would be a really great experience. You really can't go wrong either place. I'm really excited for you. That's gonna be awesome.

ME: Thanks, Kristin. I'm really excited. Thanks for getting together with me. I'd love to do this again. *You can't wait til I get my nasty-assed hair away from you cause I'm lowering your stock. I know you are embarrassed to be seen with me in Jackson's. You are hoping people don't notice your dorky, uncool friend with her stupid necklace. How do you know how to dress so freaking cute? Bohemian, yet still clean? Whenever I try that I just look dirty. Why do I always look so dirty? Dammit! I hate my hair.

KRISTIN: Me, too!

So, Kristin wonders why it's so hard to make girl friends. Exhibit A should help explain. We are shallow, caddy, critical, competitive comparers who can't just enjoy a simple conversation. I wish I were a boy who just wanted to show off how he could get a wad of paper into that hole other there. Life would just be so much easier...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Latest

Atticus is the same. Happy boy by day, angsty child by night.

After his EEG, the latest neurologist (the third in one week) relieved us slightly with his take on Atticus' situation. With the EEG being clear, his thoughts were that there was not enough evidence that pointed to Atti's hallucinations being seizures. He also said, contrary to what the other neurologist claimed, that the things he is seeing are unlikely to be related to the "spot" on his MRI and that the spot is most likely an enlarged blood vessel (a highly common occurrence). He recommended that we see an ophthalmologist next.

It's interesting how many people are coming out of the wood-work with their own hallucination stories. You'd be surprised at how many people have had them (non-drug induced at that).

In fact, tonight I just heard another story: when my friend was a child, he experienced hallucinations in the form of his Mork from Ork poster talking to him. Dave, my husband, had auditory hallucinations and is convinced he suffered from a disorder called Micropsia (otherwise known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome), where perception is distorted and things grow or shrink in size.

I've been given horror stories (several, in fact) of friends who have been diagnosed with Celiac's disease after years of being undiagnosed with symptoms including hallucinations, paranoia, anorexia, and more! Really, I could write a book with the stories people are sharing with me...though, I think I already saw it at a store the other day. The book was titled: A Comprehensive List of all the Illnesses that I could Have: For the Hypochondriac.

At times, I have been grateful for the stories that help me know in which direction to look for answers, but at other times I have felt overwhelmed beyond belief. Believe me, if a dozen doctors can't figure out what is wrong with Atticus, it's a shame if he has to depend on me to figure it out. I'm just not that kind of person. You know the kind, the kind that is so devoted to one system of belief that he or she can heal someone just by virtue of their total commitment to researching and strictly abiding by an alternative way of treatment. I've never strictly abided by anything. I don't even shower daily. Or every three days. Seriously, I have to believe in God, cause I certainly don't believe in my own powers of healing.

The stories from adults about when they were kids help, though. We survived childhood. It was traumatizing, but we survived it. I always hate it when people say in response to all their worries, "Oh, to have the worries of a child..." Do they not remember how overwhelming their worries felt? The insecurities of not having friends, the fear of their parents divorcing, death, eternity, the boogie monster?? Its awful stuff. And yet, we made it. We survived it.

I think maybe this is one of those things Atticus is surviving. Maybe one day, if he remembers, he'll tell the story about these crazy light flashes he saw and how they lasted one month and then never came back. He'll say, "The doctors never figured it out, but now (in the year 2025) they call it Growth Spurt Psychosis. There is very little treatment, just comforting the patient that this too shall pass. It was so weird and totally terrifying. But, then it just stopped. My parents were so freaked out. They prayed a lot and a bunch of their friends from Facebook told them how much they were praying for me...can you believe there was Facebook back then?? Anyway, I learned a lot about how to comfort myself. I still like singing the song from Psalm 121 to myself—I lift my eyes up, up to the mountains, where does my help come from..."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Keeping Green by Recycling My Posts

This one is an oldie, but thought I'd bring it back for my newer blog followers. Classic Ellie. And, since she hasn't gotten a lot of air time lately...

New Year, Carrots and Good Eye-sight

My New Year's Eve in Philadelphia? Oh. I was just laying in my bed, watching the Penn's Landing fireworks out my window and relaxing to the sound of gun shots a block away. Of course, I only assumed that what I was hearing was gun shots until I heard the news this morning that there were multiple arrests made for illegal use of hand guns, as well as news of several critically injured from stray bullets! I guess my first question is always: How then should I live? In light of guns being fired in celebration in my neighborhood, how am I as a follower of Jesus Christ with little children supposed to live?

It reminds me of an Ellie story...

This time last year, Ellie, Atticus (my 3 year old) and I were on our way down Girard Avenue on the coldest day of the winter. We were stopped at a red light. Up ahead, I noticed a woman walking toward us down the sidewalk. Now, because I was talking on my cell phone, my brain was slow to compute. This was no ordinary woman, but an obese woman without a stitch of clothing. My thoughts slowing disengaged from my conversation to this surreal sight. This naked woman looked like she was out for a Sunday stroll. "What in the world??" I said out loud.

Ellie, on-point as always, quickly sits up to get a look out the front window. "Ellie, cover your eyes!" She immediately obeyed. (Hmm.)

I then watch as a police cruiser slowly pulls up to the sidewalk and an officer gets out. He approaches the woman with one arm behind her back, gently shepherding her into his vehicle. She gets in and they drive away. The light turned green and it was my turn to go.

I look in the review window and note that Ellie is still covering her face with her hands. I tell her its okay to look. I asked her if she saw anything. She answers, "That police man?" I sighed in relief. She didn't see anything. But, I decided to double-check. "Did you see what that police man was doing, Ellie?"

You mean, putting that naked woman in his car?

Nothing gets by this girl. So, I then launch into a discussion about why on earth that woman, on the coldest day of the year, was walking down Girard in absolutely no clothes. However, Ellie, true to form, had to disagree with me on those details.Mom, she was not totally naked. She had panties on. I reassured her that she was entirely nude.

Again, I am called to ask the question: How then should I live? WWJD?? Even though I felt pretty much alone in my struggles, I prayed for wisdom and began to connect the sight we had just witnessed to our most recent family devotional. "Ellie, do you remember when we talked about how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and then, from that point on, sin and yuckiness entered the world? Well, that woman is not supposed to be cold and naked walking down the street. It makes God sad. We don't know why she is alone without any clothes, but we do know that God does not want that for that woman. She is made in his image and he wants only good things for her. And, one day, He will heal the world so that will never happen again. Do you understand?"

Yes, Mama. But if she was naked, what was that black stuff in her bottom?

Ellie, WHAT were you doing looking that closely at her bottom??

I eat carrots, babe.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wisdom from a Saudi Student

I opened my work email this morning and found this beautifully wise words of comfort from one of my 18 year-old Saudi students. I am sharing it with you in the hopes that you will find his wisdom applicable for your situation today. Truth is global.

hi Sarah, today you reminded me of my little brother.. when you told us about  your son sick..  because before I left Saudi Arabia for America my brother a few of his face burned by acid, our maid put it on his face. The police take her to prison ,, but my brother needed plastic surgery and he did it but he is still under treatment.  

The most important thing I learned of that case is (((don’t be sad!))) never ever. In fact when I was seeing my brother I was sad and sometimes I was crying but with time I thought why did I do that? I lose my happy and my life but nothing change.. today I believe that ((we can’t change the life , but we can change ourselves)) whatever happen we must learn how can we settle it without sad.. our sad don’t change anything .. do your best and leave the rest to the god  

Sarah, don’t lose your smile because you have beautiful smile (without courtesy) I’ll pray for him and I believe everything well getting better when we close to the god   I’m sorry about my grammar and my writing but I was writing my feeling  please let me know when his case getting better Sincerely Messo

I love that I get the privilege to know these students from the other side of the world. To see more about the program I coordinate at Vanderbilt, click on the link below.  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remember the Ouzel

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. - Albert Einstein.

This torrent you are facing
It's smaller than hers.
And she, she is smaller than you.
And still, she flies in.

The current is fierce
The gorges are dark
The spray beats angry against her back
And still, she flies in.

She is only given sticks and air.
Alone she walks submerged
Hearing only threatening waters.
And still, she flies in.

She knows there is life there.
She knew this before she hatched.
She sings her water-songs
She sings and flies in.

The Ouzel alone of all birds, dares to enter a white torrent. -John Muir

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Forced Lent

Lent is generally a season where you give up something comforting in order to get the real comfort given by the death and resurrection of Christ. Not coming from a very orthodox variety of Christianity, I never gave up anything for Lent. However, in the past few years, I have decided to give it a go and give up things like TV, potato chips (my most serious self-deprivation to date), and Facebook. Now looking back, I don't exactly remember that I found any huge jewels at the end of that scavenger hunt, at least nothing more than any other mild pursuit of God that I have ventured before.

Just a few moments ago, however, it just dawned on me (after listening to some podcasts about lent and wilderness for my creative writing group) that, this year, God has chosen my Lenten sacrifice for me. No, I don't think God has snatched away something of value from me in order to teach me a lesson, but, I do believe that since life is a journey of suffering, He is able to magnify the times of pointed wilderness-wandering and remind us of the beauty in suffering and what is on the other side. In times of intense pain, whether self-inflicted or simply the result of the brokenness of life, the promise that God will show up feels all the more poignant.

As we await the diagnosis of the cause of our son's hallucinations (so far we have a possible diagnosis of epilepsy caused by either a malformation or a tumor in his brain), I feel the intense dryness of the unknown, the hopeless futility of walking in circles and the panic of being left alone. But, I think I can handle all of this if, along this wild and painful path, I also get a glimpse of God's back — a brief moment when the light comes on and I see Beauty so much clearer because it has been cast so closely next to Darkness. The promise that God draws us into the wilderness in order whisper his unfailing love to us is a comfort, and I even dare to say, an appealing proposition.

Though I know this is not the Lent I would have chosen for myself or my family, I trust in the God who tasted the full suffering of this life, drank from the cup of death and overcame. Of course, I am looking forward to that last part the most.

Monday, March 8, 2010

God versus the Spiders

Atticus is still seeing things. Since our initial hypothesis (my overdosing of my baby) has for the most part been proven false, we are in the throws of trying to figure out what is causing the hallucinations. Our current hypothesis is that his asthma/allergy medication, Singulair, is the culprit, or possibly the combo of Singulair and Zyrtec. His last dosage was last Thursday night and we are hoping the medicine will be completely out of his body within a week. He slept through the night last night with no visits by spiders (Thank you, Jesus.). Though, this morning he abruptly stopped watching a cartoon to sit at the kitchen table to finish his cereal. I did not ask about it, but assume the spinning-light-thingys that he is seeing were bothering him again.

Friday night, he experienced three terror-stricken hours of hallucinating spiders slowly crawly toward him. His eyes, locked wide onto these invisible terrors, caused physical pain in my chest as Dave and I held him and whispered urgent truth to him. "Those aren't real. The medicine is playing tricks on your eyes. They cannot hurt you. You are safe." After several minutes of battling these lying apparitions, we were able to convince Atticus to close his eyes and tell us about all the things he is thankful for. His list was long. His ability to move so quickly from a place of darkness to his love for skateboarding and his thankfulness for all his friends was remarkable.

All of that was extremely painful to watch, but the worst was hearing him recount his "unanswered" prayer. "Mom, I asked God to make it stop. Why didn't he answer me?" This is the cry of every person who lives and yet hearing my child's plea for mercy sliced my heart. How many times just this year have I wondered the same thing. Where are you God and why aren't you making this better?

And yet, seeing this play out in the 5 year-old-version has helped me see the answer a bit clearer. Why didn't the hallucinations stop when Atticus prayed for help? If it is true that the medicine is effecting his body this way, he will continue to have them until his body has been detoxified. That is just the reality of our broken bodies and a broken medical system. There is suffering in the world. Does this alone mean that God is being apathetic to our pain, because he does not relieve it? Where was God while Atticus was suffering? I believe he was with me and Dave, broken-hearted watching him and moving toward him to ease it. God was present in the love we had to offer Atticus, the wisdom Dave had in giving clear direction to Atticus (Close your eyes. Listen to us), the relief he brings every morning when the sun comes up. The sun made the spiders go away and I know who commands the sun.

How painful and exhausting it is to see your children suffer. Even more painful is watching them work out their faith. I know this will be a life long journey for him. I can speak in, but I am not in control. I want him to believe, to trust in God's love for him, but I also want God to make it easier for him. I see my own wrestling while I watch my five year old wrestle. I want to believe that when I call, he will answer.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

From the safety of my bed and a well-timed Xanax

Lately, I have been struggling with panic attacks. It's a new thing for me, considering I have always seen myself as a rather care-free person, not prone to anxiety. I am generally less cautious than most. I love a good adventure. I don't wash my hands often. I sit on public toilet seats. I am a risk taker at-large.

Last night, however, the risk I took was accidental and at the expense of my five year old son: I overdosed him on allergy medication. We are fairly certain that is what happened as the evidence piles up against me. Atticus spent the entire night awake hallucinating spinning spiders. We initially thought he was having a nightmare. He seemed relatively lucid, but after an hour of paranoid shifty eyes, we began to worry. Dave ended up sleeping on the couch with him, though he never really slept. He sat in a chair shooting looks around the room with dialated eyes, talking of invisible spiders that don't hurt you but are everywhere, especially in beds.

Oh God, I am a horrible mother.

Not only did I inadvertantly (I must add that adverb to continue to ease my guilt) O.D. my son, I had a panic attack while trying to care for him. I think it was when he asked me, "What is time?" that triggered me. My feet started to sweat, cold waves attached themselves to my limbs and my ears started buzzing. I slowly set Atticus on the floor and hastily grabbed a half of a Xanax. Though I have only taken one once before and I am trying to implement self-talk in times of panic, I was certain I needed one immediately.

Atticus begged to go to school, presumably to escape the potential spiders of his drug-induced wig out. After a quick call to our family nurse, we feel comforted that he does not need immediate medical attention (though, feel free to give your take on what to do if you are a trained professional). He seemed like his paranoia was lessening as he ate his pancakes and talked of giving his teacher a picture of a catfish he drew between 1 and 4am.

My husband's role in life continues to be affirmed as the pyschological care-giver of our little roving band of schizos. As he left for work, he leaned over the bed, kissed me and left me with one last bit of comfort: "I hope you feel better. Atticus is going to be fine and I only judge you a little." What more could a girl ask for, really?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I have a weird appetite. I can't eat breakfast, but when I do, it's usually cold spaghetti. I crave salted meats. I love chips and dip. Fried foods? Yes, Ma'am! But, I also love veggies. I get in these cycles of cravings. For one month, I'll eat the same thing everyday for lunch, like a spinach salad with Goddess dressing. My current craving is FAGE, the greek style yogurt. OMG. It's snackeriffic. I drizzle honey on top. Law, its delish. I get it at Trader Joe's, but I have also bought it at the Not-So-Dirty-Now Kroger in Franklin on Hillsboro Road. They even had the kind that was pre-mixed with honey. Oh my, that was nice. Actually, I must thank Anna Hyatt Nicolades for the introduction. Maybe she felt an ethnic duty to promote the product since she married a Greek man. Whatever her motives, I thank her. It's been my lunch for the past two months. I don't know how long this will last though, cause my work bag is all sticky from carrying around my honey bear.