Lies about seashells

The seashells that make it into the collection, the ones that are worthy of gluing onto jewelry boxes and displaying in glass lamps are the whole ones. They are the bleachy white sand dollars, the shiny conch shells, the hardy raveneli. We search for the ones who have come through the storms at sea and remain in tact. But the lie we believe about seashells is the same lie we believe about ourselves. Because both people and shells who’ve not suffered a few dings, dents, cracks in their exterior are usually not very interesting. The ones who appear stage-ready with very little effort have secrets to tell. Rarely are they innately more impressive or distinctly beautiful. It’s just they’ve been protected or had a distinct advantage on their journey here. The cracked ones, the ones who are missing a piece, the ones who are nicked with a few holes–these are the ones with epic tales.  These are the ones we stand back and wonder, how? How are they still able to drift over waves and dunes and land here, still shining as sunbeams glint off their jagged edges?

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We spent the week on Tybee Island with my old man and stepmom and their two pugs. We introduced the old man to American Ninja Warrior. I think he’s hooked. Or, in his words, “At least I know not to turn it off immediately when it’s on.” It’s really something to watch the old man with the dings in his back and all the white hair we gave him relish these moments with a five and seven year-old, lifting them up over cresting waves and accepting their sandcake offerings as if all of this beach tomfoolery were brand new. As if he’d never known the wonder of the seaside with children before.

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We took a trolley ride through Savannah one afternoon. Savannah with her mossy splendor ravishes me in ways that are more like a lusty romance than a fondness for a city. I think her combination of history and mystery make her unlike any other place I’ve been. The tour guide covered all the major players from Eli Whitney to Forrest Gump (ha!). She didn’t spare us any unflattering anecdote about John Wesley or about slavery itself. History has a way of exposing the jagged edges of our shells that are undeniable. But as the tour wrapped up, we passed a housing development. The tour guide tried to direct our attention to the magnificent railyards across the street, but there was a nagging sense for anyone onboard that we were being diverted. The mansions and the fountains and the art districts well-preserved are all ruddy shells. Heaven forbid we talk about housing projects, though. We can’t be looking at the difficult to explain, the less-than-ideal. Just like a clam shell that we cast back into the ocean, we look away from shells now occupied. We prefer to study the vacated, the accomplished shells, the cockles and raveneli who’ve weathered the storms and who came out unscathed.

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The lie we believe about seashells–that the most beautiful ones are the ones who are unoccupied and unmarred–is the same lie we believe about ourselves. Ask any woman who has given birth if she felt at her most beautiful right after having a baby. She has just, with every fiber of her being, brought new life into the world. The magazine headlines will convince us that she can get her pre-baby body back in six weeks time, right on cue for bikini season. I say she will look awesome, sitting seaside under an umbrella with her baby, a mindless book, and a few cracked shells catching the sunlight.

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This might be the last time (see also: offending object in ear)

At the risk of being suspected of Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, I would like to share the following as I trust I am not alone. This past week I had the double sads. One, Little Man had a 104 degree temperature. Poor little lambchop. My sadness doubled down when I realized this might be the last time I take care of a child who can legitimately curl up into my lap when sick.

Petite, short-waisted mother. Children with large melon heads and lanky limbs. There’s a reason why there’s a role reversal in Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (which sounds a little like Munchausen, though that is neither here nor there, hey?). The son gets bigger. The tiny mother does not.

Little Man was just the right size for snuggling as we monitored his fever. Just a lovely fit for carrying into the urgent care when he said his legs were in too much pain. Perfect ergonomics for holding while he slept in the waiting room.

The shame in my game was discovered upon the doctor examining Little Man, “What’s this green stuff in his ear?”

I wished I had a remote clue. I mean, the possibilities were endless. Sweater fuzz? Shards of a tennis ball? Mutagent ooze?

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After several rounds of ear irrigation (earrigation?) which convinced me of the wonders of both plumbing and medical school, the errant pea-sized serving of neon green play-dough was properly extracted from the ear canal and the origins of his ear infection and possibly the accompanying wicked case of strep throat were discovered.

Totes love when we get our co-pay’s worth!! With a freezer pop to boot!

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The inevitable cocktail of pink medicine and probiotic gummies was acquired from the latenight Walgreen’s and our boy was returned to golden Tylenol-induced slumbers.

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He was back on his bike by noon the next day and even as I mourned the role of wee person caregiver that is starting to pedal away from me like a ninja turtle on a two-wheeler, I gave thanks that this is an anomaly. There are millions of parents around the world who are in constant caregiver mode to sick children or sick parents, whose most precious resources of energy and clarity of mind are constantly depleted (“Thanks, Obama” not necessary).

**Awkward bust-a-move to charitable donation talk**

A couple funds that are close to my heart that I know do a great job of supporting parents as they fight disease or care for children with compromised immune systems, etc. etc. are the following:

JDRF
Ronald McDonald House
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Kinder Key for Nationwide Childrens Hospitals
And you? What are your favorite organizations to support?

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A note I received during Teacher Appreciation Week

Sharing a note I received from a student this week. It is not the conventional syrupy sweet letter one might expect during Teacher Appreciation Week. The author is a very special student to me, a comeback kid with superb writing abilities, but this could be written by any who know the taste of failure or deep disappointment. It’s a reminder to me how I need to acknowledge the people whom I’ve disappointed–it’s not a reflection on them.  The spiritual implications here are infinite.

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Mrs. Lee,

As I woke up at 9 this morning with the realization that I had actually missed the final, the same way I missed nearly/skipped every class this semester, I decided you needed to hear something.

You are an excellent teacher.

I don’t want you to look back at me or any of the other students that may take your teaching and classes for granted (as well as our own education and money) and feel that that is a reflection of you. While that may not ever have crossed your mind, I still feel you needed to hear that. This is not me asking for mercy, or sympathy, or anything as arbitrary and useless as I feel those sentiments are. This is just me being a sub-par student that doesn’t feel like I should leave my favorite teacher with any sort of doubts of her ability. Thank you for being the person you are.

– Student

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