Sunday, March 16, 2014


We sit in a circle, listening to stories, singing songs, and reciting the words of the liturgy.  It's the last gathering of our weekend at the spring retreat for our church community.

At my feet and to my right sits a young man with eyes that sparkle and a half-smile on his face.  At his feet lays a black lab named Charlie, who brings a calming and soothing presence to his companion who happens to be profoundly autistic.

His hands are busy, brushing over and over his i-pad; zooming in and out and changing color.  Deliberate motions and changes that are done with intention and purpose.  He is leaning back on his mom's legs.  Every so often she leans down to reassuringly rub his shoulders or kiss the top of his head.  He is over 6 feet, but he needs his mom to be close.   Every so often, his low voice, sounding more and more like that of a man, repeats the same word, over  and over, while using his fingers to tap his chest in tandem....

"Breathe.  Breathe.   Breathe."

He looks up at his mom and she says, "yes, breathe", and so he does.

In a few minutes, he repeats the word and the tapping again, and then again.  On it goes as the morning goes, and his voice saying the word, together with the sound of his fingers tapping his chest take up residence in my memory.  I can hear him now, as I sit at my keyboard, in the quiet of a house that sleeps.

When the bread comes around, I break off a piece and place it in his hands, and he takes it.
"The body of Christ, broken for you."

The wine comes next, and I help tip it back for him as he takes a generous gulp.
"The blood of Christ, shed for you."

His eyes hardly leave his i-pad as his images zoom in and out, and the tap tap tap of his fingers on his chest begin again as he repeats the word.   "Breathe.  Breathe.   Breathe."

It's like a soundtrack that doesn't stop, and as it's repeated over and over again, most people don't even hear it.

And in the midst of all of the words of the weekend, spoken, shared, and sung, it's that one word from his mouth that stays with me.  I can't shake it, because it has gone to my core.


When his anxiety rises, he tells himself to breathe.  He taps his chest to remind him, to make a physical action to connect the dots and get his body to fall into step with the word his voice knows so well.

When my anxiety rises,  I don't usually breathe.  My fists clench, my shoulders rise, my chest tightens.  How much better would it be to just breathe?  To connect with the rising tension, inhale, and exhale the tightness and discomfort that wants to take up space where it doesn't belong...

So this week I will remember the word, and the voice that spoke it.
The tap, tap tap of fingers on a chest that has learned to breathe.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Who Ellie Is, Now That She's Eleven

She is getting longer and taller with legs that seem to go on forever.
She still has scrumptious squishy cheeks that she lets me sink my whole face into when I kiss her goodnight.
She still wants to sit on my lap and lets me wrap my arms all around her and squeeze her tight.
She actually craves moments like that.
The space around her is never quiet.
She is always singing.  Her mantra seems to be, "If you're going to sing, sing so the whole world can hear you".
She still doesn't really like reading very much... except books that involve people dying.  I don't get it, but as long as a book is open on her lap, I don't ask too many questions.
She dances three times a week and loves every minute of it.
Her heart is still so very soft.  A word with even a hint of harshness will disolve her.
She does amazing accents.  She spent 2 straight hours on Sunday working with Mike on her Science Fair project, talking like a southern belle.  She's convincing too.
There are moments I catch a glimpse of teenager in her and I want to hold it back.
She loves guacamole, samosas with tamarind sauce, and pad thai.
Most days, she'd rather stay home than go to school.  She's been this way since Kindergarten.
There is nothing she likes more than a Saturday morning snuggled up with Sasha watching bad TV.
I wish she could see how captivating she is.
She is the comic relief in a household full of high-strung and somewhat tightly tightly wound females.
She really wanted a onesie for her birthday.
When she put on the fleece one she got, and I hugged her, she felt like a great big stuffie.
She is learning how she fits in between two sisters who are so different from her.
She fills a space in our family that was made just for her.