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Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Wish I Had Been Warned

We took a trip to the west coast a few weeks ago.  We had previously seen the greenest of green in the mountains of Oregon and enjoyed the deep blue waters of the coast.  This time we spent time in Northern California.  The giant trees of Humboldt County left us awestruck and the sound of the ocean waves were often deafening, reactions that we expected.  Nobody warned us about the city.  Nobody warned us about San Francisco.  It is a city that took us both by surprise.  Admittedly I was not looking forward to the city part of our vacation as much as I was looking forward to communing with nature.  People had told us that San Francisco is not like any other city.  But they hadn’t warned us about it being a city that truly has something for every personality, every race and every religion.  We weren’t warned that in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, it is easy to find natural sanctuaries of trees and flowers, quiet places.  We also weren’t warned about how friendly the people of San Francisco are.  The cab driver who shared the Reader’s Digest version of his life in 10 minutes and his love for the city; the people who helped us get pointed in the right direction on the public transportation.  These were some of the many of the things that people didn’t warn us about. 

There was a sense of sadness when we left that city to come home.  In conversations about our vacation, I have expressed my desire to live there.  I have talked about it with more enthusiasm than some people are interested in and I can see the boredom in their eyes.  Those who have visited the city and loved it, enjoy hearing about it once more.  It brings back memories for them and they share in the excitement once more.  There are also people who listened intently to my vacation ramblings and feel it necessary to warn me about the sins of the city.  I want you to experience with me some of these questions:

Person A: “You do know there are a lot of gays there, right?” 
Me: Yes

Person B: “Do you think you would be alright living in a city with so many gays?”
Me: Unless this is contagious, yes.

Person C: “Aren’t there a lot of gays there?”
Me: Yes, but there are also tourists.

I have been warned of the perils or rather, the one peril of San Francisco.  The things I wish someone would have warned me about?

…the homeless woman swimming in the cold ocean waters in the evening to bathe
…the homeless man sitting against a wall behind a bush shooting up
…the homeless man walking ahead of us with all his belongings in a bag and 
the thin layer of sandals on his blackened ankles and feet.
…the homeless woman sitting against a wall crying and talking to herself

So, did I see any gay people?  Perhaps, and if I did… what I saw were two people who deserve to love and be loved.  I would much rather have that imaged stamped on my mind than an image of people who for whatever reason have no place to lay their heads and no one willing to embrace them.

I wish I had been warned….  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is a weird day for me.  I don’t have children and really never had a passionate desire to be a mom.  That sets me apart from most women in my circle of friends.  When I was in my 20’s people assumed that I had not “tried hard enough”.  I’ve never been too sure of what that meant, exactly.  I was not using any form of birth control and I was sexually active.  I just wasn’t getting pregnant.  When I entered my 30’s people would try to reassure me that it wasn’t too late to start a family and proceeded to tell me the many ways in which I could make it happen.  Now I’m at the far end of my 40’s and you would think that everyone would have given up hope in my becoming a mother.  No, now they tell me that adoption is a great option for “people my age” and that I would make a great mother.  It seems to me that people just can’t imagine a woman not wanting to have children. 

There was a short, but valuable, time in my life where children were very important to me.  I worked at a drug and alcohol treatment center for women.  This center was unique because the women who were being treated for their addiction, had opportunity to bring their children with them. Addiction is a disease that, after all, affects the entire family.  I had worked as a receptionist in the outpatient center for a couple years and was one day told that I would be transferred to the Women and Children’s Center.  I would be working as addiction technician, interacting with the moms and their children.  I was scared to death at the thought of caring for infants, toddlers and school aged children.  I wasn’t a mom, I didn’t think I knew the first thing about being a mom and I certainly couldn’t imagine myself mentoring and teaching women how to care for their children.  All of it seemed, at the time, as if my employer was trying to force me to quit.  I transferred to the inpatient facility to begin my work.  I remember walking in the doors and hearing the children in the daycare area.  I felt so afraid that I would somehow be more harm then good for those already hurting children.  But something inside me, that has been with me my entire life, spoke loud and clear.  I would make the most of this situation and that’s exactly what I did. 

There was a night, shortly after I began my work there, when a young woman came into the facility with two young boys, whose names and faces I can still see.  One of the boys was scared of his mother and without hesitation, jumped into my lap and clung to me as if I were his long lost safety net.  His mom was crying and frustrated, his older brother sat in the corner of the room with a book and a blanket.  My job was to stay in that room until they were all settled.  I read to the older boy while he held tight to his blanket and the younger boy would not leave my lap.  Their mom was scared and hurting as she was coming down off her last drug high and she was angry about her circumstances.  I stayed in their room until everyone had drifted off to sleep and was required to check on them often throughout the evening.  That was the first time that I had ever in my life been the one to provide safety and nurturing to children who were scared, confused and probably feeling lost.  Today I still think about this family and wonder where they are and if they ever found peace as a family.  I wonder if the mom went back to the streets.  I wonder if the boys grew up in a safe environment. I want for this family all the things a mother would want for their children; love, safety and security.

My experience working in that capacity allowed me to see that the nurturing of a child is hard work.  Sometimes, through no fault of their own, mothers can’t provide all that their children need.  Whether physical, mental or geographical limitations, children sometimes are made to look outside the biological family to get the supplemental support and love that they need.

It is a natural instinct for women to rise to the occasion when we see someone who is in need of nurturing.  It is a God given instinct, if you will. 

Today as many celebrate Mother’s day, there are some who feel as if they can’t honor their mothers for many reasons.  Maybe you were abused, or maybe you never knew your mother.  Mother’s day can be anything but reason to celebrate for many people.  To you, I would say first of all, I am so sorry for you pain and for your loss.  Secondly I would ask you to think of the women along the way who have given you glimpses of love and understanding and patience; ultimately they have nurtured you.  When you think of those women, give thanks for them and thank them for all they have done for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who have loved and nurtured children.

And….thanks for stopping by to read this post today,

Amy Lynn Michael 

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