Do I Look Perfect To You?

A neighbor just stopped by to pick up some homemade broth I made for a detox. Now, this neighbor only half-way jokingly complains about how perfect this mom or that mom is. And I laugh, because I also like to jab at women who appear to have their act together. I especially like to point out when they’re nice as well as beautiful, as if I just added “serial murder” to their list of offences.

Because no one is actually perfect, despite appearances. So when this neighbor left after a brief visit, I wondered if I had anything to add to the fodder of her joke-plaining about other women. I chuckled as I came up with these things that allude to perfection.

I’m now placing my tongue firmly in my cheek, for those who don’t know me well.

First is the reason for her visit: homemade broth. Listen up. I not only boiled carrots, celery, onions, cilantro, garlic and the usual suspected vegetables. I also added kale, daikon AND its greens (for extra perfect points), rutabaga, parsnip, ginger, red cabbage, seaweed and squash. All organic. Simmered in purified water. Score!

Then consider my kitchen, which was momentarily clean. The warm breeze was blowing past my citrus cilantro reed diffuser perched on the windowsill. Our fresh fruit bowl just happened to be overflowing. My little chalkboard announced “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day!” as sung by U2.  My daughter was napping peacefully in her Tinkerbell outfit complete with fairy wings. Our tabletop waterfall added to the ambiance with the comforting sound of water trickling onto a pile of stones. The only mess on the floor was a delightful little village of beanie babies playfully placed on miniature wood furniture. Next to that charming scene, my three-pound weights I use to rehabilitate my shoulder. Wait. That sounded imperfect. Scratch that. Oh, and it happened to be the one day of the week that I showered and blow-dried my hair.

Yes, I think I gave her plenty of material to complain about. Funny thing is, I’m so far from perfect that I don’t even know what perfect is anymore. I’d be surprised if it’s as easy to attain as buying this and that, then placing it around the house to make a comfortable home. Cute kids probably help but mine didn’t inherit any adorable genes from me. (One of the many beautiful qualities of adoption: when people compliment my kids’ looks, I can agree because I had nothing to do with it.)

Well, my daughter just screamed from the bathroom that her underwear is wet, my son’s begging to play on my iPad and the pizza I’m about to stuff in the oven has an ingredient list as long as my arm. That ought to make my neighbor feel pretty good right about now.

Lovely Little Wildflower

Anna with DandelionsLovely Little Wildflower

Roses are red, violets are blue;
Can’t really say which is best.
But I know a little wildflower
Who’s different than all the rest.

This flower’s surrounded by Sleepy Sheep
And fidgets colored like a rainbow.
She’s probably chewing on gum as well.
(Sound like a little one you know?)

My wildflower will often stand out
In a field of well-mannered blooms.
While the garden emits its sweet fragrance,
This wonderful wild one often fumes.

Rough around the edges, sure,
But with a tender center.
This is my little wildflower
We daily encourage to be gentler.

Shorter than those with leggy stems,
Darker than those native to our state,
Slower to develop than others,
Bigger obstacles to navigate.

I sometimes want my little flower
To be more like the others
Who engage, fit in, mature, take part,
Grow up to be just like their mothers.

But not every flower has a beautiful aroma,
Perfect petals and a long green stem.
Some have thorns and unruly leaves.
Is there any less beauty in them?

Thank God that our Prairie and its blooms
Have many gardeners to tend to their growth.
Firm guidance with a loving hand:
Our budding blossoms clearly need both.

To raise my wildflower in particular
Requires the temper of a saint.
She needs patient teachers and guides,
(Which is something this poet often ain’t!)

Daily she needs nurturing and protection
While the winds of life are blowing.
She also needs tough love and discipline
Until she’s finished growing.

Will my little wildflower be chosen
To be part of an award-winning bouquet?
Will she grace the cover of garden magazines
Our coffee tables proudly display?

Will a lovely bride proudly carry her
As she walks slowly up the aisle?
Will she be a surprise on Valentine’s Day
With her only purpose to create a smile?

I might have wished, many years ago,
To have just such a popular bloom,
The one everybody wants to exult,
Who feels loved when she enters a room.

I no longer care … but sometimes wonder
Why God planted this wildflower in my bed.
“I created you to be her gardener, dear child,
But you won’t walk alone,” He said.

He provided other caring men and women
With the tools and experience to be
A wonderful village of gardeners (that’s you!)
To join hands, heads and hearts with me.

So as this lovely little wildflower
Continues to bloom and grow
There are a couple things I really want
Her other loving gardeners to know.

Together we planted seeds,
Together we prepared the soil.
Together we rejoiced in her growth
Together we saw fruits of our toil.

You tilled the soil, day after day.
You gave the sun and the water.
You treated this wonderful wild thing like
A special (and at times rebellious) daughter.

This amazing, God-planted wildflower
Has stronger roots because of your care.
You are a wonderful gardener, friend,
And an answer to many a prayer.

I’m glad this wild flower found me
And so happy that she found you too.
We’ll never forget all that you’ve done
And we’ll never, ever forget YOU.

When Anna Ran Away

At a wooded campground. To the next neighborhood. Through the grocery store parking lot.

 

Maybe it’s easier for a mom of a special needs child to sound the alert, whether it’s begging other campers to help look for your child or enduring disapproving glares as you cut in line to talk to the grocery store manager.

 

Why easier? Because she knows that uttering THAT phrase – “my child has been diagnosed with autism” – invokes fear that the child is not capable of typical behavior. The runaway child may not turn to an adult to ask for help. She may not look at all worried that cars are scooting by her in the parking lot. She may not even wonder where her mommy is. In fact, she may be smiling because the wind is blowing in her face. Or repeating some movie lines that no one will understand except her mommy, who hears them a hundred times a day.

 

First to the campers: Thank you for hopping on your bikes and circling the campground until we found Anna. This was my first experience losing my child and your willingness to put down your wine coolers and leave the campfire warmed my heart. When I heard my husband yell from several campsites away that he had found Anna, my fear overflowed in the form of tears – angry, frustrated, grateful tears of joy.

 

To the kind, older couple I’ve never met who live in the next neighborhood: It must have been surprising to find a little girl sitting on your deck, watching your cat through the window. As I biked around … and around … and around our neighborhood, I barely saw your two heads, and then a little dark one, rise over the horizon as you walked her home. Again, tears.

 

To the well-meaning guy at Rainbow who called 9-1-1: I appreciate that you recognized that a little girl, unattended, should not be running between cars in the parking lot. I don’t appreciate that you mentioned the word “neglect” three times as we waited for the police to arrive. Yes, I really did turn my eyes away for just a second. And yes, there really was no reason for Anna to run away. And yes, I really am a good mom.