Rare sighting of Single Mom recently out for a drink with some other single parents

A single mom of noble character who can find? She is worth more than she will ever understand or be acknowledged for.

Her child has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

She works with eager hands every single day. She started her own business so she could spend more time with her son, while making enough money to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. She cooks every meal for her son, because she can’t afford take-out, and even though she’s not so fond of cooking, she does love the feeling of taking care of his basic needs. She shops regularly at way more stores than she ever thought would be necessary to find the best deals on toilet paper, milk and Indian spices. Sometimes she stands in front of organic produce wrestling over whether to buy more expensive tomatoes because they don’t have pesticides on them. Almost always she says a prayer that the pesticides will not harm her child and the earth will be saved by richer people then her. And she buys the cheap, toxic tomatoes.

She gets up while it is still dark. Every day. She walks the dog, feeds the cat, gets herself ready for the day, wakes up her son, feeds him and starts working before most people’s alarm clocks have even gone off. She lives by the motto “Sleep is overrated”, much to the chagrin of her friends, who scratch their heads and wonder how much longer she’s really going to be able to live on five hours sleep per night.

She sets about her busy workday, eager to see her clients, who trust her and care about her. She prays every morning to love her customers and asks that God will imbue her with skill and heart so they will be made happy through her. She sets about her work vigorously, parallel parking her car in tiny spaces that no one else would dare atempt, carrying her bags of supplies up to fifth floor walk-up apartments, greeting babies, dogs, cats, gerbils, housekeepers, nannies, husbands and wives with an open heart and a desire to serve. She laughs with her clients, she cries with them, sometimes stopping them mid-story to give them a hug or a kleenex. She longs to connect with each of them in a meaningful way, desiring to be more than a hairdresser, but a friend. A trusted confidant. A refuge. Her arms are super strong from blowdrying hair all day. No, really. They look awesome.

When she walks in her own door at the end of each workday, she is greeted by a mischeivous, needy cat; an elderly dog with a beautiful spirit; and a (usually) cheerful child. Her lamp will not be going out for, like, 8 more hours because she has to cook dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, feed the pets, walk the dog, pay the bills, follow up with her clients, set up appointments for the rest of the week and drive her son to various activities. She has amazing friends, and although she has very little time and energy to take care of them after all her other responsibilities, she really tries to talk them often and do special things for them that let them know she loves them. And after all, sleep is overrated.

When it snows, she gets boots for her kid, little booties for her dog (so he doesn’t hurt his paws walking on the snow and salt) and an awesome variety of coats, boots, scarves and gloves for herself so she can feel stylish even when bundled up to shovel her car out of the snow.

She makes coverings for her parents’ bed! She really does! She quilts them blankets, hand-sewing every stitch with love.

She is clothed with strength and dignity. And also really cute skinny jeans from H&M and  awesome shoes from DSW. Yes, these are discounts stores and these adorable clothes don’t last much more than one season, but she feels awesome trotting around town in clothes that express on the outside what she feels on the inside. And of course her hair is killer. I mean, hello. She’s a hairdresser. That would be a travesty.

She can laugh at the days to come. OK, yes, she is facing an empty nest situation, but come on. She has noble character! She’s got so many plans it would make your head spin. Just. You. Watch. Act 1 may be coming to an end, but you’re not going to believe Act 2. Seriously.

She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Almost every night her son sits with her and unloads his feelings from the day. Sometimes she’s folding laundry when this happens, sometimes she’s giving him a facial, sometimes he’s brushing her hair. He often sighs deeply in between topics to signal to her that he is done talking about this and is now moving on to that. She listens attentively and tries to only speak when she has something helpful to say, which let’s face it, is most of the time. Sometimes she wishes there were cameras in her house broadcasting her amazing insights and repsonses so other people could truly appreciate her cleverness, patience and love for her son.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. She does really love bread, but not that kind.

Beauty is fleeting, but when she looks at herself in the mirror at the end of the day she notes that she is pretty sure she looks better at her age than she did when she was 25. She was never a beauty, but there’s something about her health and joy and gratitude and mischievousness that seems to catch people’s eye, because there have been lots of times lately when people have stopped her to tell her how lovely or stylish or luminous or even beautiful she looks, which is super weird, since people used to go out of their way to tell her how ugly and awkward and unattractive she was. Go figure.

She is grateful when she finally goes to bed in the middle of the night that she is super exhausted so she doesn’t have the energy to think too much about who she wishes was in bed with her. Just when she entertains that thought a bit too long, her dog rests his head on her feet and her cat sits on her face.

Her child arises and calls her blessed. So does everyone who knows her. Even though she has no money, no husband, no fame, no great success, people can see that she is blessed.

Honor her. She might be invisible to you, but notice her. She doesn’t need much attention, but she does feel like God is doing so many great things in her life that she doesn’t want you to miss out. She definitely doesn’t want praise, but a hug every once in a while might be nice. Or maybe you could take her out for a drink. She’s really appreciate that.

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The Bible contains this famous poem about “A Wife of Noble Character”…

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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July 3rd, 2018 I woke with a start. In that moment right before I woke up I had a vision. And it startled me so much that I sat straight up in bed with my eyes wide open. The vision was one image: God showed me a screen, like a smartphone with a message on it that looked like a text. It said, “Help is on the way.”

As I sat there in bed, relief and gratitude washed over me. God saw me. He saw my struggle and He was sending me help. Relief was on its way and His message gave me the strength to hold on.

I have been walking with God for a few decades now, and over the years He has spoken to me in lots of different ways. My relationship with Him is very noisy; we talk to each other a lot! But until that day a year ago I had never heard Him so clearly.

June 2018 was a really hard month. Bad news, heartbreak, but worst of all, confusion. All year I had been hearing God’s voice so clearly, directing me and encouraging me to open up. To be faithful. To trust Him. To hope. I would often be praying, asking Him questions and walking, and I would stop in my tracks when I heard His answer. It felt like lots of lightbulbs going off in my head, in my heart. Anxiety would settle immediately and I could breathe easy again, because God had comforted me and shown me what to do. I followed His direction and sought His guidance in everything.

But in June I suddenly couldn’t hear Him anymore. I would pray and ask Him why He was being so silent.  I would cry and ask Him to please let me hear Him again. He did send me comfort and communication, indirectly. Friends rushed to my side, music gave me a way to express my feelings, scriptures gave me life and direction. But even with all of that I was still confused and couldn’t understand what was happening or why.

So on July 3rd, when He told me, “Help is on the way” I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I told my friends about His message and we all wondered what it would be. And the very next day, help began to arrive. God brought the most incredible people into my life all summer long. They brought excitement and romance and encouragement with them. They made me feel more special than I have ever felt and showed me that living life with an open heart didn’t only mean that it would be sure to be broken. It also meant that other open, worthy hearts would be drawn to me. God knew exactly what I needed and He provided healing and comfort and joy in ways I never would have expected. And as the summer drew to a close I found my footing again. I heard God speaking to me again.

One friend, the one who had given me the most strength through his encouragement, sat down with me at the end of the summer. He thanked me for something God had shown him through my friendship. And through tears I told him about the vision I had received. And I thanked him for being the promised help that I had desperately needed.

And today as I look back over the past year, and over my whole life, and recall all the ways God has spoken to me I am filled with gratitude. And I am perking up my ears to hear What’s Next.

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Why Things Happen

July 1, 2019

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That’s the top math award in his hand. And that’s the look of being exasperated at me in his eyes:)

You could look at my son’s life and say he has terrible luck. You could spend lifetimes trying to wrap your mind around why his young life was filled with trauma. You could shake your fist at God for allowing this innocent child to suffer abuse, abandonment, neglect, ridicule, desolation, hunger, disease and shame with no adult in his life to protect him or love him. You could really get stuck. Questioning. Blaming. Doubting.

When Rahul began to develop a faith in God as a young teenager, he reached an impasse when he started to think about why all these terrible things happened to him. He and I would talk about it, and I advised him to search out the answer to that question on his own. I could tell him my conviction about it, but I knew he had to have his own rock solid belief in God’s Providence and Love if he was going to have a genuine faith. I could guide him, but I couldn’t give him the answer. There is an answer, I told him, and you will  find it. But you are going to have to find it for yourself. I can’t give you mine. His Bible teacher, Marc, provided him with lots of food for thought from the scriptures and also introduced him to several adults he knew who had also suffered trauma as children and had made peace with God and found genuine faith. They generously shared their stories with him and Rahul guards their identities and testimonies to this day. He also talked to other kids his age who were wrestling with similar questions and together they would puzzle out what they were thinking and support each other.

Finally, Rahul reached conclusions and convictions about this question and others that didn’t just satisfy him, they gave him life. He is passionate about asking these questions and discussing them and they are the cornerstone of his faith in God. He understands things about life and pain that most seasoned Christians don’t fully grasp. Feel free to ask him about it, he loves discussing these topics.

But while he understands the long range Providence of God more deeply than most, sometimes he loses sight of the short range reason for Why Things Happen.

He was recently accepted to City College (yay!), but for a whole bunch of reasons, he won’t be admitted to their Grove School of Engineering until he completes a math class at the college this summer. It’s a long story and really not that interesting. But it’s one of those things that can feel tedious at best, maddening at worst. Wondering, Why Me? Why did other students get admitted without having to take this course? Why do I have to take it when I have already taken it–and also higher level math courses–in high school and received accolades and awards for my performances in these classes? What did I do to deserve this?

Why Do I Have Such Bad Luck?

This is what Rahul was asking me the other day. I stopped what I was doing and looked him in the eye and told him the following:

I can understand why you are feeling disappointed and discouraged, but you need to stop thinking about your life as though everything that happens to you is either based on your merit or your luck. That. Is. Not. Why. Things. Happen. People may think they do, people may say they do, but they don’t. You have an amazing brain. You know that, your teachers know that, your college will soon know that. You don’t have to feel like a failure because you got put in this class. It was not meant to be a message to you that you are undeserving or that you have to prove anything. You are God’s Man. If you can believe that you will be saved from so much unnecessary pain. The reason things happen is because He needs you to be exactly where He puts you. Take this class, for instance. I don’t know why you’re there, but there is a reason that you can’t see yet. Maybe you will meet your wife there! Or the professor teaching it may become your mentor! Or another student in the class may need a friend who has experienced the things that you have! Or the homeless person riding the subway with you may need the lunch you buy them! Do you see? You have to expand your thinking. There is a reason, you just can’t get stuck feeling punished or discouraged or frustrated because then you’ll miss it. 

He seemed to understand, as much as he can for now. It’s one of those lessons that doesn’t really make sense until you see it played out. But I feel it’s important that he not get stuck.

This morning, as he was leaving for what is essentially his first day of college he asked me to pray for him. He was feeling too nervous and emotional to do it himself. Of course I’ll pray for you, Honey, I said.

And as he walked out the door,

I will pray that you meet your wife in this class!

 

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Bound to Succeed

May 9, 2019

The first words, in any language, that I heard Rahul say were “Batman, Superman, Spiderman”. When he was 7 1/2 years old we met for the first time, although I had been preparing to adopt him for 9 months. We met at his orphanage, and he was brought into a reception area where I was waiting for him. We sat together for a few minutes looking at each other, then I pulled out my laptop and we looked at photos together. The first one I showed him was of my niece and nephew dressed up for Halloween as Batman and Supergirl. Rahul looked at them in wonder and quietly whispered, “Batman, Superman, Spiderman”.

By the time we got on the airplane to come home we had determined that Rahul could count to 100 in English, could say “Hi Mom, how are you?” (while giggling and holding a hand over his mouth) and knew the English words for most things in picture books. When he arrived in the US he hit the ground running learning English like crazy. He never got frustrated while trying to explain things, and luckily I knew enough Hindi to bridge a few gaps. A few days after he arrived, he began pointing to his feet and repeating a word in Hindi that I didn’t know: “chappel, chappel”. When he saw that I didn’t understand he said “Grandpop, chappel” and pointed again to his feet. When he saw that I still didn’t understand, he dragged me into our apartment and went digging through my closet until he found my flip-flops. Triumphantly he held them up and said, “chappel”! OH! You want flip-flops! Yes! Great idea! Let’s go! And we went to the store to buy flip-flops. He always had a way of explaining to me what he was trying to communicate. And when he didn’t know the English word for something he would ask. Then I would hear him repeat the word to himself over and over again in a whisper, just like he had said “Batman, Superman, Spiderman”. And he never had to ask for that word again.

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Superman

When he started school in NYC he was really starting school for the first time. His orphanage had sent the children who were about to be adopted to school, but Rahul told me that most of the time the kids would be loaded up in a van, taken to the school, and when they would get there the teacher wasn’t there, so they would load back into the van and go back to the orphanage. My adoption agency hired a tutor to work with Rahul for a few months before I brought him home.  I met her in India and she cried when she met me. She really loved Rahul and was going to miss him. She was the one who had taught him all the English he knew.

After a year of schooling, although his vocabulary was very good,  Rahul still couldn’t read or write English at all. His teachers were beginning to get worried. They had him tested, and pulled in every resource they could think of, but when I requested in the Spring that he repeat 3rd grade with the same teacher, they were thrilled with that idea. He was definitely not ready to move on the 4th grade. So he got to go through 3rd grade one more time with Ms. Neuhaus.

But after another year, he was still really struggling. He was barely at a kindergarten reading level. He would get frustrated every day and put his head down or sit under his desk and the teachers had tried everything they could think if to help him. So one morning they sat me down and talked to me about taking him out of their school. They felt like they had tried everything and he wasn’t learning. So maybe he would do better in a private school. Or home schooled. I got the message: take him anywhere but here. But I knew that this school was the place he should be, I just had to get some more people to believe in him there.

So the next day I talked to the vice-principal about putting him in a Special Education class. It’s called a 12:1:1 class because there are only 12 students in the class, plus one teacher and one full-time para-professional. She loved the idea and took me to the class so I could see the students. She said they were a lovely group of children and I signed him up that day.

We had been seeing therapists and psychologists for Rahul’s depression, PTSD and attachment disorders with very little improvement to his mental health. At the same time as I signed him up for the Special Ed class I finally found an amazing psychiatrist who began working with us. She strongly suggested having Rahul receive a neuropsych evaluation and told me it would cost about $5000. I had no idea how I would pay for that until I had lunch with a friend who is a psychologist. She set me up with a non-profit organization that owed her a favor. They did the most amazing, thorough testing for free. From their study of Rahul we learned that he did not have a learning disability, but he performed as though he did because he had missed out on some fundamental building blocks of reading. They had a lot of practical directives and wrote a report that followed Rahul though the next five years of school, guiding his teachers to know how to help him learn.

Once Rahul settled into his 12:1:1 class, he started to ground himself in learning. He made strides, especially in math. And socially, it was really helpful for him to be around other students who struggled in similar ways to him. His teachers were excellent and his school continued to pull every resource available to support him, but he still could not read. In fifth grade, another 12:1:1 class, his teacher began to talk to me about his potential. He had become very strong in math, and he worked really hard, but he was still only at a 2nd grade reading level. He had been going to school for 3 1/2 years, but had barely progressed with reading. I knew from all the therapy work we had done that his mental and emotional issues were blocking him from learning in this area. And whenever his teachers would appeal to me to work with him at home on letters and sight words I flatly refused. I explained that although the Rahul they saw at school was very pulled together and focused, when he got home he would fall apart. Home was his safe space and I devoted most of my waking hours to helping him through the big emotions he needed to process. I explained to his teachers that I was already his Mom, his Dad and his Therapist. I could not also be his Teacher. He did not have space for me to be one more thing.

And that’s when Jessica came into our lives. She was a client of mine and when I would cut her hair she would tell me about these difficult things she had been through in her life. And she also talked to me about her work. She was Bank Street educated Learning Specialist at one of the top private schools in NYC. Because of all the things she had shared with me, I trusted her and told her a lot about Rahul’s traumas and mental health. She immediately had an idea about how to help him learn to read and we worked out a barter agreement: haircuts for tutoring. Within 2 months of working with her, Rahul jumped from a “first semester 2nd grade” reading level to a “second semester 5th grade” level! He jumped 3 1/2 years in 2 months! Jessica is obviously brilliant and she also is very compassionate, and has remained a great friend and a trusted guide for all things having to do with Rahul’s brain.

Once he could read, Rahul was off to the races. When he graduated from 5th grade his teachers were nervous about how he would do in middle school. They supported my idea to bring him out of the “self-contained” classroom and into a new model his middle school was trying that integrated “special ed” students with “general ed” ones. A group of 15 special ed students would have a dedicated support teacher that would travel to all their classes together and co-teach the class with the general ed teacher. I thought this would be a perfect setting for Rahul, but his teachers were a little worried that he would be overwhelmed at the pace. When I went to the orientation at his new middle school I remember thinking that if Rahul could hold a 79 GPA that would be an amazing achievement. I don’t know where that number came from, but it became my goal for him.

Right off the bat in 6th grade he blew me away. His grades were much higher that the 79 average I had imagined, all in the high 90s! His teachers believed in him and were invested in him. This school was no joke. It’s run by a brilliant, dynamic principal, who has assembled a team of administrators and teachers there that you would never expect from a public school in the Bronx. In NYC public schools when a student has any type of special needs they are assigned an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that dictates all the supports the student needs and it has to be reevaluated every year, with the parents and the teachers meeting together. In elementary school, these meetings started out being quite extensive, but after a few years it would just be me and one teacher signing papers in a hallway. There wasn’t much to discuss. When it came time for my first IEP meeting in middle school I walked into the room and couldn’t believe what I saw.

Crammed into a small office were every single one of Rahul’s teachers, several administrators and support staff. The woman in charge of the meeting exclaimed that she had never had so many people show up for an IEP meeting before! Then one by one, the teachers explained that they didn’t have any idea that Rahul had not been able to read until just recently or that he had only moved to the US a few years prior. They also were surprised to learn of the academic difficultly he had. One by one they told me how he was outperforming their honor students and they recommended that he switch to an all-honors curriculum. Every. Single. Subject. They explained how he was more mature than their other students and quick to grasp concepts. How he put extra effort into building relationships with them and understood their jokes when all the other students were oblivious. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! My mouth hung open and my eyes widened as they each shared their vision with me of the amazing student was was and would become. They all spent part of their day in this meeting while they should have been teaching, but they felt it was that important that Rahul move into not just general education, but an honors level curriculum.

So he did. The next year and every year afterward he has excelled in all the honors classes he could take. By eighth grade he was declassified, meaning he no longer needed an IEP. It’s so rare that a student is declassified that several of his teachers attended this paper-signing event and we made it a little celebration. He remained at the same school throughout high school and he has been at the top of his class throughout. He slogged his way through 4 years of French, which was the one subject that always eluded him. And it pulled his GPA down a little, but he felt it was important to get all the way through the course. By the end, there were only 4 students in his class and he won the most improved student award. In Eleventh grade he won the top math prize in his grade and the second prize in Science. He has ended up with something like a 94 GPA. And this year, his senior year, he and another student were voted by their classmates as the students most “Bound to Succeed”. Rahul is not the valedictorian, not by a long shot. And he’s not the class president. And most of his classmates don’t know his story at all. But they obviously see something special in him. I think it’s a combination of his grit and perseverance and intellect and focus. One of his teachers told me earlier this year that Rahul thinks on a higher plane than everyone else. Almost every teacher I’ve met over the years tells me they wish they had a whole classroom of Rahuls. They love teaching him. I see how God has put amazing people in his life to teach him and help him overcome the huge hurdles life had dealt him. Without Jessica, without my friend who set up his free neuropsych evaluation, without his very special schools that made every special allowance for him and gave him, literally, everything I asked for, without the vision that so many people have had in his life, he would probably be an average student. A 79 GPA would be the best he could do. But he would never have realized the very great potential that lived inside of him.

So now as he heads off to college and the next phase of his life, I don’t see any other future for him than that his is bound to succeed.

 

Here are some other posts I’ve written about Rahul’s amazing journey through learning:

The Last First Day of School

Clone Me

 

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To my Son, Who Loves Me

April 17, 2019

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Today it’s been 11 years (note the date)

I know you love me, even when you say you don’t. I know you love me, even when you don’t say it. How could you not love me?? I love you more than anyone in the world and have given you my whole heart. I know you love me because I see evidence of your love for me every day. I don’t need constant expression of how and why and how much you love me because I can see it clearly.

We had only been a family for a few months, but had already been through a lot together. One night you were playing a game and asked me if you could play for another half hour before you went to bed. I told you, “Sure, no problem!” and you stopped playing and stared at me. I guess you had expected me to say no. Because you leaned over and patted me on the head and said, very sincerely, “You’re a good mom.”  Those words (and that head pat) meant more to me than 1,000 I love you‘s.

Every time you have vacuumed the couch or cleaned the bathroom or washed the dog or did the laundry I have felt your love. Every time a neighbor comes up to me and tells me how kind you were to carry their groceries or open the door for them I feel your love. When you serve you are speaking my love language; there is nothing that expresses love to me as powerfully as that.

Or when you started brushing my hair. I have tried to create rituals around bedtime because you always had such a hard time sleeping. We would read or talk or I would rub your hands and feet or scratch your head. Then one day I handed you a brush and asked you to brush my hair while we had our nighttime talk. And you didn’t miss a beat. You got to work and took it very seriously. “Does it feel better when I brush all the way to the ends? Or when I use a lighter touch?” You wanted to get it right because you knew how relaxing it is to have a bedtime ritual. And because you love me.

Lately, God has taken me on the craziest ride through love and heartbreak. I’ve mostly kept you out of it–I know it makes you scared to imagine someone else loving me that way. So when I’ve been elated I’ve tried to keep it cool around you. And when I’ve been hurt I’ve done my best to stay happy and faithful and not bring my pain into our home. But I know you saw it. And felt it. And when, after having been absolutely decimated by heartbreak, I decided to put myself back out there and open my heart to love again, I first asked your permission. I really didn’t want to do it if you couldn’t handle it because I knew it had been hard on you. But you looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, I just want you to be happy.” That was one of the most loving things I have ever been told. Someday, maybe I will find that type of happiness and we can share its benefits together.

And last night when my car broke down and I had to wait in the cold for an hour to get it towed to my mechanic which then meant I had to walk a mile home in heels, up a hill, with allergy snot running down my face and menstrual cramps searing through my body…you literally tucked me into bed, placing my favorite blanket over me to calm my shivering. And when you kissed me on the forehead I could feel your man-whiskers scratching my skin as I heard you say, “I love you, Mom.”

I have always heard you.

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Clone Me

April 9, 2019

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Not Purple

A beloved minister and friend used to describe this thing that happens in parenting. He called it The Sweet Spot. There are these moments, usually unexpected, when your child just really needs you. When they are totally open to you helping them and loving them and teaching them. They often happen when you’re busy or in a rush or have somewhere else to be, but he warned parents to recognize these times and whenever they happened, to drop everything to be there and experience these rare moments with your child.

My Sweet Spots with Rahul have often been when we are driving somewhere or walking together. He’ll just drop an amazing question on me or share something so vulnerable or big-hearted. Rahul is a very self-reliant kid, but sometimes we’ll have a Sweet Spot when he has experienced something upsetting and he needs comfort. When he got into a fight in school in 5th Grade he came home and talked about it with me, then just snuggled right into my arms and cried. Some kids do that all the time, but I can count on one hand the number of times he has done that in our 11 years together. All any parent wants to do when their child is hurting or when they’re celebrating is be there for them. To be present and be whatever their child needs in that moment.

Two weeks ago we learned that Rahul’s dream college would be releasing their admissions decisions on Thursday evening at 7pm. Applying to this school was an act of faith on Rahul’s part and in the process of wishing he would be accepted there he learned to hope for it. He hadn’t hoped for something in a long time, and although he knew it was a reach, he proudly shared with anyone who asked him that this school was his first choice.

I absolutely wanted to be there with Rahul when he received this news, because I knew no matter which way it went it would be a huge moment in his life. We had been through the whole college admissions process together and I was hoping too. I had been regularly going to the campus of this school to walk around it and pray about God making it clear where Rahul would thrive at college. And as that Thursday night loomed closer I knew I needed to be with Rahul when he logged into that portal to see the news. I knew it would be a Sweet Spot and I scheduled my whole work day around being home before 7pm.

I have a mobile hairdressing business and that day my work took me all over the city. I was already running behind schedule by the middle of the day, when my appointment was with a client who wanted purple hair. The process of making one’s hair purple is a long, but fairly simple process. First you need to make the hair blonde by bleaching it. Then you apply the purple (or other rainbow unicorn color) to the blonde hair. This client had dark brown hair, so I had scheduled a couple of hours with her to allow time for her dark hair to lighten enough. But when I applied the bleach to her hair something really strange started happening. Part of her hair turned Jolly Green Giant Green. It turns out she had some old hair color in her hair and there are a whole bunch of reasons why it happened and there are one or two solutions I know of to remove this type of color from the hair, but the point is, this was totally unexpected and I had none of those MacGuyver quick fixes with me. So there I was staring at her Four Leaf Clover Green hair while time was ticking away and Rahul’s Sweet Spot was getting closer. I longed for a Renée clone. I didn’t want to leave my client sitting here with Spinach Green hair, but I couldn’t see a way to get home by 7pm. So I texted Rahul and asked him to wait for me to get home before logging on. I had actually set up the login passcode myself, and I laughed as I told him I wasn’t sharing it with him so I could guarantee that I’d be with him for this big moment! Eventually my client and I found a solution (we put blue on top of the Peacock Green, creating a dark teal color that is quite lovely) but by the time I left I was hours behind schedule. I still had one more client to see that night and although I tried to get her to reschedule, she really needed me. And even though everything in me wanted to ditch her and race home to my kid and his big news, I couldn’t abandon her. I couldn’t not do my job. And as time was ticking by I felt like I was in a nightmare where you’re running but not going anywhere. There was no parking in her neighborhood because there was a film shoot going on. (I parked in front of a fire hydrant and prayed my car wouldn’t get towed.) Then, the moment I stepped into her apartment she ran out of it because the heat wasn’t working and she had to go tell the super. So I stood there waiting for her while 7pm came and went. She finally sat down for me to apply her hair color when a neighbor called her asking her to let a city inspector into his apartment next door. (He didn’t have heat either…) When the city inspector arrived I was literally painting haircolor on her hair while she was talking to him. She left to attend to him while her hair color processed and I sat in her apartment as her smoke alarm went off because of the potatoes she was cooking. At this point I would have given anything to have a clone. To be two places at once. To not be a single parent, having to earn all the money to provide for my family, but also be the sole nurturer and caregiver. While the alarm rang over my head I sat down and put my hands over my ears and just stared up at God incredulously. I. Need. A. Clone. Right. Now.

It was 8pm when I walked in the door. “Are you ready????!!!!” I asked Rahul excitedly. “Oh. I already logged on,” he said, as non-chalantly as possible. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. “I changed the login password and I already looked at it.” All the blood drained from my face as I realized he was serious. I had missed the moment. I hadn’t been here. He didn’t want to wait for me. I never hated the color green as much as I did in that moment. Cloning humans is not possible yet and therefore people like me–single parents, overworked business owners, busy New Yorkers–can’t be two places at once. So we miss things. We miss dance recitals or we have to turn down big clients or we are staring at Oscar The Grouch Green hair while our son learns he was not accepted to the college of his dreams. When he was so overcome with disappointment and had to experience it alone while you are parking your car in front of a fire hydrant and praying that the drug dealers on the corner will scare away the traffic cops for an hour so you don’t get a $125 ticket. When his heart broke while you were a few miles away stopping your ears and praying for a clone.

I looked at the letter he received and was filled with sadness. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. The night before I had told Rahul that no matter what news we heard he needed to know that he is a very special student. His mind is incredible and his resilience is unbelievable. And if a school doesn’t value those things over all else, it’s not the right school for him. So after 20 minutes of feeling sad, I was totally fine. I knew that God had a better situation for him, where he would truly thrive, and I haven’t felt badly about it since. And a few hours later, we had our Sweet Spot. Rahul knocked on my door and wanted to talk. We sat together while he told me how disappointed he was, but how proud he was of himself for hoping for something. I jumped on his bed when I realized that this decision meant he would be living at home with me for a few more years (the dream college is the only one he applied to where he would need to live on campus). We talked for hours and prayed and I accepted that maybe all the events of the day had played out exactly as they needed to. I couldn’t be in two places at once, but in the end I was right where he needed me to be.

 

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Oceans

March 28, 2019

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Sur la plage

Lately I feel swept away. Like I can’t find my footing and the current is pulling me all over the ocean. Like my throat keeps filling with water and I can’t quite breathe. I know God has hold of me and He won’t let me drown, that He’s spreading Himself out beneath me like a net, like a floor, like a foundation. I feel Him urging me deeper into Him. Urging me to dig down with my hands until my knuckles bleed, to stretch my toes all the way down into Him until I find true footing. Until I grip the bottom and the waves can threaten and shake me, but they won’t sweep me away.

I didn’t grow up with an open heart. I was a fearful child who became a hardened young women with a tight wall around my heart. It wasn’t until I was about to adopt my son that my heart truly opened. God had been working on me for years, chipping away at the death grip I had around my emotions, my vulnerabilities. As I prepared to become a mother all the walls just broke away and I was reborn with a soft heart. Raising Rahul was harrowing, and God kept me strong and tough skinned. But the new, soft heart He created within me was a wonder to me. I couldn’t believe all that I was feeling. I couldn’t believe how much I loved this child. I felt like I was truly living life for the first time.

And I loved mothering so much that I began to open my arms and my heart to other people around me. I cultivated a beautiful group of friends and have learned over and over again how to open my heart to the people God has put in my life. As a hairdresser I have the opportunity to connect with people on a deeply personal level, and I truly love my clients. I love learning about them and listening to their stories, their experiences. I love that they trust me and listen to my stories, too.

But one of the consequences of living life with an open heart is that it gets broken over and over again. I never want to go back to living with closed-off emotions, but sometimes the heartbreak is overwhelming. And lately it feels like wave after wave of pain. Oceans of pain. As I hold on to people I love while they are drowning in depression I feel myself being pulled under, too. As I hear them pour out their hearts in grief and remorse, I feel those waves knocking me around. As I give my heart to people who don’t want it, I feel myself sinking deep below the surface. Oceans of unrequited love, behind and afore, overwhelm and horrify me. Waves of humiliation break over me as I give my heart where it’s not wanted. I’m stretching myself as wide as I can, reaching out my arms, but they can’t steady me.

So I am trying to dig down. I’m searching for footing. Stretching vertically, not just horizontally. I’m pressing my toes down to the mud and reaching my eyes up to the heavens. A favorite song rings through my soul. I will call upon Your Name, and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise…Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. Going deeper is finding surrender. Digging deeper is something I can DO. It is not passive. Deeper is safer. Deeper is grounded. Deeper is less me, more God. Going deeper allows me to stretch my arms out as far as I want to without toppling over. And God is there in the deep, calling out to me. “Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Psalm 42:7

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery.

In oceans deep my faith will stand.

 

(Here’s the song. Oceans by Hillsong UNITED)

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