Food Fight

Don’t let the title fool you, I promise you won’t get a pie in the face. Thanks to Miriam, I have just recently learned that I still have a major war raging inside my head and it is all about food. It is a war waged on multiple fronts simultaneously and any strategist will tell you, that is the surest way to lose.  I have food guilt and even, food trauma – as in, food is expensive so clean your plate, don’t throw good food away because there are starving children out there, if you’re good you will get supper, if you’re bad you’ll go to bed hungry, don’t make a mess or you’ll spend the night scrubbing the floor. It goes on and on. I thought that surely I was over that now as I’m 44 and food is easier to come by, but I was wrong. Helping Miriam to eat on a daily basis and making sure she eats enough, has reawakened most of my food issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset at her or blaming her. No, in fact, I’m terribly grateful to my sweet teacher for showing me that I wasn’t over my food issues, in fact, I wasn’t really facing them at all.

I still eat for comfort. I still eat to “reward” myself and celebrate. A festive occasion immediately brings to mind all the things I want to consume. Then there’s the guilt. I “shouldn’t” have eaten that. I “shouldn’t” have had a full serving. I can’t throw that away, it’s still good! I even began panicing over spilled food again, always thinking about the monetary cost and how wasteful it was to spill good food on the floor. I was getting angry – at a toddler – over spilled food.

That’s when I slammed on the mental brakes and took a hard look at myself. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just some crackers, or some applesauce, maybe even a little meat, on the floor.  Big deal, get a towel, wipe it up, and move on. It’s no big deal. It really needs to be no big deal. And yet, I paniced. I was upset. I was agitated, angry even. And Miriam was laughing and giggling. At first I just became more upset, why was she laughing? This wasn’t funny! It was wasteful! It was bad! It was … oh shit, I sound like my mother!  The unvarnished truth is – it’s just a little food.  Miriam is learning, experimenting, and HAVING FUN.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I do not want to give Miriam any sort of phobias or anxieties, about food or money. In the grand scheme, they may be necessary, but they are nothing to rant and rave over, not even when some is deliberately spilled on the floor.  I have a long way to go to repair the damage done inside my head, but I will not pass it on to Miriam, that is one thing I am positive she will be better off NOT sharing with me.  Food will never be a source of fear for her, it will never be her only solace, not while I have any say in the matter.  Never will she be beaten for spilling milk or dropping an egg on the floor. Never sent to bed without any supper. Never told that she MUST stuff every bite down just because it was on her plate. She will not be guilted for having an extra cookie, or wanting a big piece of cake, either.  And as long as she is willing, I will let her play with her food – experiment, taste, color, decorate, whatever her heart desires, because playing is learning! There are real monsters out there in the world, no one should have their very sustenance turned into one. With fear and guilt served 3 times a day, there isn’t any wonder why so many of us are now plagued with things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Food literally becomes pain for us.

I’m so grateful to my baby girl for helping me realize I wasn’t healing this part of me, I was simply applying a thicker layer of frosting to cover up the cracks in the cake!

 

The Little Things

Ah my dear mind, it has been far too long and I have left you far too quiet. Or perhaps I should confess and say I have let myself be consumed with far too many other things, like doctor appointments, personal stress, operations, travel plans, minor ailments, brief stents of depression and flares of fatigue. Which all means this is the perfect time for a reminder of one of Miriam’s first lessons. Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity.

I learned this lesson long ago when I was first taught about Henry David Thoreau and then promptly forgot about it until it was convenient to trot out the knowledge and look intelligent. Later on I tried to employ the technique repeatedly but kept forgetting the real message. Miriam has taken me back to the heart of the story, as it were. In her beautiful, innocent way, she has illuminated the real meaning. Great things come in little packages. It truly is the simplest, littlest things, that matter the most. When all the world is in motion, everything is chaos and strife, or worse, nothing moves you and life seems to be losing its meaning, look to the little things … a stirring soft cool breeze on a hot afternoon that sends the perfect string of goosebumps down your spine, invigorating you. Just when you needed it most, it was there for you. Or was it always there, and you simply failed to notice until you “opened your eyes”, looked up, paid attention and re-awakened to it?

I feel as if I am a truly gifted human being, because I have the pleasure of witnessing discovery on a daily basis. I also get to witness simple pleasures overriding complexity and high-tech expenses, reminding me that it is not quantity or price that ensures happiness, but awareness. A computer may make a billion and one things happen in a myriad of colors, sizes, and shapes, with thousands of complex sounds, for hours on end, but it cannot replace the simple joy found in an afternoon spent sitting in the floor blowing bubbles and popping them while giggling with your 16 month old daughter.  Watching her giggle and light up like a Christmas tree when you hand her a simple string of ribbon and she tugs and twirls it for what seems like hours while babbling with delight.

I am not against bells and whistles when it comes to toys or technology, I’m a computer geek and I love it all. But I am extremely glad that I possess the ability to appreciate the simple things in life as well. I know where we came from, I can see where we are going, and I appreciate the struggle and effort it took to get us from there to here, and what it will take to keep us going in the future. I want that for my daughter as well. I also want moments of peace, serenity, and sheer happiness for her, even when the power is out, or when we’re out camping, so that she can unplug and still enjoy just being alive and still giggle playing with a bubble wand, a bunch of ribbons or anything else she chooses … no batteries required. Since she has taught me that this truly is possible, I do not think I need fear for her. She’s even made me want to color again.  I got coloring books and pencils again even!

Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity.  All the big busy things we do, all the adult “toys” we strive to buy and possess in the end are meaningless compared to the things I crave now.  The touch of her hands. The smell of her hair. The sound of her giggling. Her beaming smiles. Life really, truly, is about the little things.

 

To Truly See …

I suppose I could say that from the moment Miriam arrived, she triggered the recitation of a poem long held in high regard within the dusty archival tomes of my mind, see if you recognize this gem:

“To See a World…”

(Fragments from “Auguries of Innocence”)

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

The rest of the poem seems to make the point that the more we abuse, the more we take that is not ours to take, the more we take for granted, the more damage we do, the more the world cries out, the more we lose, and the greater shame that is ours to bear, as it should be.  The opening stanza illustrates how we all need to treasure the world, and everyone in it, every life, how we need to see all things, people, animals, every tiny grain of sand even.  As amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, to be loved, honored, respected, treasured, held in wonder, without an attempt to own, control, covet, or corrupt.  To see infinite potential in the smallest, simplest thing … a grain of sand. To see endless purity and beauty in something untouched, untamed, unchanged … a wild, flower. To see limitless, bountiful, opportunity within your own two hands … open to the world. To see that you can accomplish so much, fill all of time and space, all of eternity, with love and hope, with the acts set forth in an hour … with the courage, strength, and will of your heart alone.

I hope that I am on my way to living these lessons. I know that I want to more and more every day, because I want to preserve the world for Miriam to live with and for future generations to love. I want to help more people love each other and the world we live in, some how, some way, even if it is just one person at a time.  I will keep trying! ♥

Never Take Yourself Too Seriously …

As an “adult” it is very easy to adopt an attitude about life in general, your life in specific, your place, your role, everything, and take it all far too seriously. I am certainly guilty of this I know. I’ve always had a decent sense of humor but that didn’t keep me from being “so serious” when it came to all aspects of life. This is quite likely why I was also stressed out most of the time. When I found out about Miriam and my body became her teaching tool, I slowly became wise to the fact that I needed to laugh a lot more – especially AT myself, I needed to let go more, I needed to celebrate more, revel in the moment, go with the flow as they say!

I remember our first private moment together in the hospital, I was still being stubborn and so seriously reverent with my newborn baby. I laid her out delicately in front of me on the bed and ever so slowly unwrapped her as if she were made of fine porcelain, a china doll. My brilliant teacher took this prime moment and demonstrated classic timing. She waited until I had her completely undressed and was changing my very first newborn diaper … to release her very first, high pitched, baby fart, right in Mommy’s face!  My husband burst out laughing and proclaimed, ” She’s a Howard! ” and all we could both do at that point was laugh! I knew my daughter was telling me to relax and lighten up right at that very moment. That no matter how big or how small, we all poop, pee, burp, and fart. We are all human, we all make mistakes, we all have great equalizers built right in that keep us on the same level. Life is precious and far too short to waste time being afraid of it, we must embrace it, revel in it, and by all means, LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF AT IT!  Do not take yourself too seriously. Don’t be afraid to get messy, go out without makeup on, say screw it now and then and throw caution to the wind – don’t wear a bra!  Hah!

Ask yourself who’s rules are you following. Did you write them? Did someone else? Are they really necessary? Does that tube of toothpaste HAVE to be squeezed just so and crimped just this way every time? Really? Why take something like toothpaste so seriously when there are far more important things to worry about, like homelessness?  Will you die if you don’t vacuum every single day? Will the world end if you don’t wash, wax, and polish every surface in your home weekly? Nope. Will your life be richer if you instead, loosen up, lighten up, spend more time with friends, family, loved ones, laughing, playing, talking, traveling?  YES!  I guarantee it.  I am living proof.  Every day I laugh.  Every day I smile.  Every day I am happier than I have ever been.  My house is dirty, my dishes are dirty, there are dirty clothes .. there’s also a baby here, and clean dishes, and clean clothes, and toys and food… and LIFE.  I have conversations that consist of blowing various forms of raspberries with my daughter, back and forth, for what seems like hours at a time.  I LOVE IT! That is far more important than anything else I could possibly be stressing over or worrying about.  Sure, things get done, sure serious things get taken seriously, but when work is done, we leave it done, and get on with living!

You’ll have to excuse me now, I’ve been seriously writing for too long now and I see a soft, squishy, cute, belly with a cute button that is waiting for me and it desperately needs kissies and zerberts and tickles!

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Miriam and I had long conversations well before we met face to face, mostly about my fears and worries, but gradually the discussions became about dreams, hopes, desires, needs, and wants. One thing she reminded me of gently was that all of us, the tall and the small, from the womb to the tomb, need and want respect. We need to be given it from day 1 in order to know it intimately, understand it deeply, appreciate it, feel comfortable with it, and know that it is an essential part of life so that we can readily give it to all other life we encounter on our journey through this world. I knew I wanted this for her, but it wasn’t entirely clear at first just how far reaching this concept truly was. I had to learn a new concept – there is no limit to respect. It doesn’t have borders, it doesn’t stop <here>. If you respect the life, the person, you respect all of it, even their right to be different from you, to be contrary, to be anything you wouldn’t choose to be or like, you respect their choices, their needs, their wants, their self-expression, EVERYTHING that makes up who and what they are, as well as their right to exist.

I also realized that I would have to speak up for her until she could speak for herself. I would have to require others to acknowledge her needs, who she was, and give her respect. Sadly it is far too easy in this world to overlook those who cannot yet speak for themselves and simply assume that you don’t have to respect them because they can’t defend themselves anyway, so it doesn’t matter? Nothing is farther from the truth, and nothing makes me angrier! Not just because I’m her mother or her champion, but because I know in my heart how very wrong that practice truly is. I find it to be an incredibly cowardly act to abuse the rights of the voiceless and disrespect them. To me it equates to defeating a defenseless enemy – there is no victory because there was no fight, you won nothing, you proved nothing, except that you are beneath contempt and will take advantage of the helpless.

To make sure I’m respecting my daughter and not simply using her like a dress-up toy to act out my own lost youth or childhood fantasies, I try to consciously ask her what she would like, if I may do things with her, for her, if she will try things for me, etc.  Even though she can’t answer me verbally yet, I look to her eyes, her actions, for signs that she is aware that I am asking.  That she knows I’m not just TAKING from her, or COMMANDING her to do as I insist, even at the tender age now of 12 months(+).  I try my best to avoid assumptions with her at all costs.  Many might see this as “pointless” or “silly” with a baby, but is it really?  If we begin now, thinking, asking, instead of just doing and taking, it sets the stage for later life. It also sets the pattern for the rest of her life and ours with her, where we continue to respect each other and ASK instead of ASSUME. Where we CONSIDER instead of COMMAND. I for one love how this feels. It makes my heart feel warm and light, full of compassion and peace. That tells me I am on the right path with Miriam as my guide. And yes, I even ask her if I can change her diaper now, and wipe her cute hiney with a wet wipe. It is HER body and I respect that. I ask if I can pick her up, have hugs and cuddles, kisses and tickles too! I love her far too much to ever disrespect her and force my desires upon her. This is why I don’t believe in doing things to her body before she can tell me if she wants it or not, like piercing her ears when she’s a baby.  What if she never wanted earrings? But I’ve put holes in her ears and made her wear them because I wanted them? Would you as an adult let someone force you to say, get a tattoo just because they think they are pretty and want you to be prettier? I also will not force the opinions, desires, or expectations of anyone else upon her.

For now I identify Miriam as female because by basic biology she is a female human. When she is old enough to talk and understand us better, if she decides that isn’t accurate, I will respect what she tells me and we will change accordingly. If she hates the color pink like I do, she never has to wear it again. If she adores pink, well she can wear it whenever she wishes and I will just have to respect her choice! If Miriam tells me she is attracted to girls when she is 15, great! If she likes boys and girls, equally great! It does not matter so long as Miriam is happy, I respect who and what she is, entirely.  I may have helped create her but I do not own her. She’s not my doll to dress up and pose. She is not a billboard to use to market a brand, a team, a slogan, or anything else. She is Miriam, all her own and wholly deserving of RESPECT in her own right simply because she exists. I wish all the world had a teacher like my Miriam and that all could respect one another this deeply.

Touched

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Of the many things we as humans take for granted on a daily basis, aren’t our hands one of the most common? Isn’t touch the most assumed and often overlooked? I am a very tactile person and yet Miriam has helped to reawaken an intensity in me that I hadn’t even realized time had dulled.  Her tiny hands, so small that all five fingers wrapped around the very tip of just one of my fingers at birth, conveyed so much.  So much need, so much warmth. I lost myself to tracing every tiny wrinkle, hair, and spot upon her skin. My touch was a revelation to us both. She had never been touched, and I had never touched someone brand new to this outside world.

When immersed so deeply in what a touch can truly do, my mind simply cannot fathom how a touch could ever willingly be used for anything other than healing, comfort, reassurance, and love. It may be merely chemistry, stimulating electric impulses, but when you lose yourself to the amazing feelings generated by a positive touch, you lose the ability to cause harm by touch. For me, it simply doesn’t make sense.  My mind cannot understand causing physical pain deliberately. I have happily given away hours upon hours of my time to the pure radiant bliss that is holding, caressing, massaging, sometimes tickling, kissing, and just touching every inch of Miriam’s skin and hair.  In return she delights in letting her little hands pat and explore Mama, too! Her beaming smiles when awake and deep, relaxed, heavy breathing when asleep, tell me that I have learned my lesson well.

A touch can mend a broken heart, soothe a tortured spirit, banish pain, chase away clouds with laughter, and share the heaviest burdens life has placed upon us. Of all the wonderful things two hands can do, I think they serve no greater purpose than this – a direct physical connection, one human to another, to share our love.

Eternal Sunshine …

I always thought I was a happy person before. Basically well adjusted, dealt with my problems, was generally nice to people, smiled most of the time, the usual niceness.  Then I met Miriam. Every morning since has been a reawakening to what it means to truly greet the day with a smile. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. Each day holds new hope, new promise. What will I see today? What will I learn? What will I feel? I simply cannot wait.  At first I will admit to feeling absolute fear. This tiny person was depending on me for everything, her very existence depended on my every move, my every mistake.  Thankfully with medical help I mastered my runaway anxiety and post-partum depression quickly enough to refocus on the joy that she was reopening my eyes to.  Every morning I walk to her crib, the light in her eyes and that shines from her smile is brilliant and blinding.  It is a beacon, daring me to do anything but smile in return and bask in the warmth.  She teaches me to awake and be glad to simply be, for I am there and that is good, that is joy, that is happiness.  She is there, we are alive, there is much to see and hear and feel and know!   My sunny girl beams and lights my way. I am a lucky woman.

Life is. We are. So be! – Ainvar, “Druids” ~ Morgan Llywelyn

In the beginning …

I did not know that I would want to write about the lessons I am learning from Miriam, nor share them with the world. I didn’t realize how much I was learning even, it just came upon me like a light being suddenly flipped on in the middle of the night.

I suppose I should begin with explaining who Miriam is to me.  She is the baby I thought I would never get to have.  I had many monogamous relationships over the years, always hoping it would turn into a marriage with children and it just never happened.  Eventually I just hoped I would become pregnant and I would at least get to be the mommy I always wanted to be.  Then I turned 35 and realized I just needed to love me and be happy with who I was.  That was when I finally met the right man.  Robert and I were the right people at the right time in the right place for each other.  Never had I wanted a child more.  Then I hit 40 and worried that babies just weren’t possible.  No one knew why I wasn’t conceiving really, just a “non-specific infertility” kind of thing.  Then I had a heart attack.  Robert made me go to the Emergency Room after a week of chest pains that kept coming and going, and sure enough, the ER doctor said, ” Mrs. Howard, you are having a heart attack. ” I cried, I apologized to my husband, and within what felt like moments I was on a table having stents placed in my heart while I lay still with eyes wide open in fear.  I told the nurse I had made up my mind, I was having a gastric bypass after this – I didn’t want to die so young!  I weighed 398 lbs and was already disabled due to chronic pain and chronic fatigue.

Flash forward a year due to being placed on anti-platelet medication, and I was true to my word, diving into the Bariatric Weight Loss program via Riverside Hospital in my hometown. I followed the rules, dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, and in July of 2014 I was placed on a restricted high protein pre-surgery diet, just 10 days prior to the actual bypass procedure.  I told my husband that we’d better “have some fun” that last week because once I had stomach surgery I wasn’t going to feel like fooling around for quite some time, so we did.  I’m a nice wife, aren’t I?  July 31, 2014 I got an IVC filter placed to protect against blood clots and was tested for possible pregnancy, the test result was negative as usual.  No shocker there. My pregnancy tests are “always negative”. August 1, 2014 my husband took me to the hospital, sat with me as they got me ready, kissed me when they wheeled me away, and was there when I came out of recovery.  He’s my teddy bear in shining armor. He stayed by my side the whole time. I was sore but everything went great, I went home in 3 days time and began my weight loss journey in earnest!

August 14, 2014 began the day of misery. Nothing felt right, everything made me sick. I even tried just sipping chicken broth (fat free) and water. Nothing stayed down. Then there was the pain, horrible gut pain, deep down, on top of vomiting. All afternoon, all night, passed out, woke up vomiting at 6am.  I begged my husband to take me back to the hospital and he did, missing work and taking me in at like 7am.  They did x-rays, they ran blood and urine tests, then a while later came in and said, ” Mrs. Howard, did you know that you’re pregnant? ”  I almost fell off the table! I felt torn between shock, disbelief, laughter, and anger of a sort.  Here I am, sick, in pain, 41 years old now, and some asshole just messed up my tests and gave me a false positive result which is a cruel joke at best.  I said it had to be a false result.  They checked again.  The doctor came back and said, no ma’am, it’s not, you’re pregnant!  That’s when the roller coaster took off for the peak and I felt damn giddy!  PREGNANT!?  YES!!  Then one of the Gastric surgeons came in and said the X-ray did show some mass in my abdomen but since I was now pregnant they wanted to get a better look and wanted an MRI instead, so I went off for that.  Results?  Small Bowel Obstruction.  If not fixed ASAP, I would die.  Emergency surgery that very night was required, no way around it.  Oh, and the surgery will probably cause you to miscarry, you’ll have to sign this waiver.  That is when the roller coaster hit bottom and I cried some of the deepest tears I have ever felt.  But I signed, I wanted to live as much as I desperately wanted that baby.

Obviously, I made it through the surgery. Amazingly, so did my baby! That sticky little bean that Robert and I created, held fast, even through the anesthesia. She dug deep and held on for life! Even when the OB/GYN insisted that it was most likely a non-viable pregnancy due to what I’d been through, I refused to listen, I waited longer than she said, and when I went back and let them do another ultrasound, there was that tiny flickering heartbeat.  I wanted to say ” HAH! Told you so! ” My baby is a fighter! A warrior!  From that moment on, the moment I saw that flickering movement, she began to teach me.

There is no teacher
Who can teach anything new
He can just help us to remember
The things we always knew

– Enigma, “Odyssey of the Mind”

Every moment became more precious because it was an opportunity to do something I had never done before, be pregnant, get closer to being a mother, nourish a new life, feel new things, re-experience things in new ways, new depths, new heights!  My gratitude began to grow at a phenomenal rate, I daresay almost exponentially. Sure, I was vomiting daily, I was struggling to eat, struggling to keep down medicines and vitamins, adapting to weight loss and pregnancy at the same time, but I was never so grateful, so happy, so excited!  Once I began to feel her move I giggled every day.  Every movement was a revelation. I learned new love for myself, new respect, appreciation for the human body, all that it can do, that it can withstand, life is simply, purely, amazing!

April 13, 2015, I finally got to meet my new teacher, Miriam Louisa Howard, face to face, after a c-section delivery due to a breech presentation.  She is so wise, so full of love, peace, tolerance, acceptance, honesty, and wonder.  I know I am in the best of all possible hands and I am overjoyed to place my heart in her tender, knowledgeable, hands.