Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I know the drill. In fact, I damned near owned the concept. Negative attracts negative and gratitude and love attract more in kind. I suppose I was using the Tom Hopkins method of “Fake it till you make it” and really had myself fooled into thinking I was there. I realize now that being ‘there’ might not be possible and the only thing matters day to day is staying on the path that leads in the direction of ‘there.’

It seems I walked into this new year blindly fooled by the notion that this year was to be in some way better than others; that somehow I had reached a place where positive thought and love would smooth the bumps in the road. The year began with a path that was riddled with pot holes.

My family, usually healthy and resilient, seemed plagued by illness; nothing insurmountable or incurable, but an unstoppable wave of viruses and infections that moved from member to member like a game of hot potato. Strep, pneumonia, fevers and colds stirred my family kettle into a spiral of germs. My dad’s illness and need for me to travel added to the unraveling of normal at home and added to the financial burden of my not taking on enough work.

I’m not sure if my lack of words were a result of stress or the fact that everyone and every thing demanded all of me, but writing ceased to happen.

I seemed void of thought.

My youngest spent the last seven days on the couch with a high fever that reached 104.4. Even with medication, she hovered at 103 and I searched desperately for a reason. My middle child was on his rebound round of strep, but that was not the cause of her illness. I felt annoyed with the pediatrician whose tests turned up nothing and helpless when the “V” word was thrown my way; a virus with no symptoms, just a fever. It was a long week.

The week ended with a clog in the plumbing. After heroic efforts on my husband’s part all day Saturday, a plumber finally arrived, only to give up at 9pm. He would send in the heavy hitter, the best of the best, sometime on Sunday but in the meanwhile, no water down the drains. No laundry. No showers. No toilets. While in the basement, my husband noticed that the oil tank in nearly empty and I worried that 'No oil' would happen in the middle of the night. “It’ll be like camping!” I tell my boys in a lame attempt to make light of an ugly weekend.

On Sunday, I trudged off to church alone, un-showered, leaving the sick ones and the well ones behind, awaiting the plumber. I felt like I had just had enough and was finding it difficult to focus on the discussions of Lent and self-reflection. The Pastor announced that our church had deemed the first Sunday of Lent as “One Sunday.” The collective church body dedicated “One Sunday” to lofty goals that seem unattainable, and yet one by one, gathered as one, we must, as Christians confront desperation in far away places. The goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, to educate women, to eliminate child mortality as a result of simple lack of life necessities, to end HIV/Aids and to wipe out death in prenatal women.

Statistics about families who have no income, no food, no facilities and no medication painted a vivid picture of no hope. I got stuck on the statistic that hit close to home.

30,000 children died yesterday.

30,000 children will die today.

30,000 children will die tomorrow.

My mind took me to a village where mothers held their dying children, powerless to save them. I thought about the battery of test that had been run on my daughter this week and the medication that was wiping out my son’s strep infection; blessings.

They sleep on the floor, hard and cold with the insects crawling and feeding on their skin. I thought of my daughter on the couch where I repeatedly adjusted her pillows and blankets, attempting to maximize her comfort; blessings.

They die of malnutrition and lack of clean water to drink and I thought about the bottles of spring water she had emptied as I diligently forced her to drink fluids; blessings.

They live without adequate shelter, electricity and pluming and I thought about my warm home where the plumbing would be restored by days end; blessings.

I thought about these mothers who pray and work and love as I have wallowed in self pity over inconvenient bumps in the road.

With the crossing of every one of those bumps, there is blessing on the other side. Not only did my dad pull through his surgery, but I was able to fly across the country on little notice to be at his side. My taking off of work may have caused financial stress, but how fortunate to have the sort of job that allows me to not work when my family needs me.

Our minds are powerful tools and life’s perspective is everything.

Monday brought snow and renewed health to my daughter. Shuffling to the slider door with her hair in her face and her pink flannel jimmies still warm with sleep, her eyes widen and take in the back yard, transformed to a wonderland.

“Dad says it’s snowball snow,” I tell her.

“This is amazing and I am better. Oh it’s a snow ball day and a baking cookie day and a hot chocolate day! It’s like Christmas!” Dimple gleaming, a glow warms her cheeks as her eyes ride slowly toward the sky, “God, I’m so proud of you.”

She is filled with joy.

Joy for her health and joy for the snow and joy just to be.

I feel the path under my feet and realize I am once again heading in the direction of ‘there.’ I suppose it is OK to get lost from time to time and if we ask, God will put someone in our path to guide us back.

Last night I watched the amazing story of Oprah’s Academy for girls in Africa. “Educate the women and you can transform a continent” Nelson Mandela told Oprah. One at a time, she is working toward that goal. The girls in the academy, most of whom have endured more hardship than we will ever know, do not have to fake it; they know joy and gratitude and are icons of hope.

Perhaps ‘there’ is closer than I thought.

If you were unable to see the special last night on ABC, it will air again Saturday night.



Carrie Wilson Link said...

Good job finding the joy - so hard to do under those conditions!

Susan McDuffie, LMFT said...

Nice job turning that around. I was ready to go and pull the covers over my own head after reading that. But instead I feel enlightened. Thanks for sharing - the good and the bad.

Jerri said...

Finding joy is more of task of remembering than anything else, isn't it?

Thanks for the reminder today.

Jenny Rough said...

Saw the last half of the Oprah special and it was amazing.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Beautiful post Nancy.

Thanks for the Oprah reminder. I missed it the first time.

jennifer said...

Nice work, so thoughtful and well written!

Kim said...

I just came to this post through a comment you made on Fully Caffeinated. These vital lessons can be so difficult to remember sometimes--thank you for writing a wonderful reminder!

Go Mama said...

Awesome post, Nancy. It's all about perspective.

“Educate the women and you can transform a continent.”

That is resonating in me so deeply....