What Makes You Stronger.

Last week I had the privilege of attending our local YWCA’s Circle of Women Fundraiser.  Prior to last year, I hadn’t thought too much about the YWCA and what it does for the community I live in.  I wrote a lot last spring about attending the YWCA’s racial justice courses.  I get a lot of questions about where one can go to try to understand how, as a white person, to be an ally against racism.  That link provides a lot of answers.  Locally, our YWCA does so much amazing work geared toward eliminating racism and empowering women.

The event I attended last week was geared toward raising more money for the latter.  Over lunch we got to hear from several women whose lives were changed by what the YWCA has done for them through housing, child care, and job training.  These women, oh my gosh, they are doing amazing things simply because someone said “You absolutely are strong enough, and together, we’re even stronger.”  I love that.  So much beauty in the idea of community.

I attended the fundraiser with women I have come to know and depend on as part of our village.  Tess’s amazing “yuga” teacher, moms of wonderful friends of my older boys, all women who have never turned their backs when we’re in the toughest of places in this house.  It’s not exactly easy to be a friend, or family member, to us.  Text messages go unanswered sometimes.  I forget emails.  I get overwhelmed by the day to day therapies, and medical needs.  I sometimes forget to say “Happy Birthday!” or to recognize other people’s heartache, because we have our fair share of all of it around here.  Friends and family members have slowly walked away.

I’m constantly trying to do better.  I’m trying to be less selfish.  I’m trying to look up from my life and realize, there are other people out there who have struggles equal to, or greater than, mine.  So many people.

Prior to eating lunch at our event, the coordinator asked us to go around the table and say what makes us stronger.  My little personal village of women had great answers.  Amazing answers.  So much beauty from the ashes at table 49.

I said nothing though.

Tess.

That would have been my answer in that moment.

What makes you stronger?  Tess does.

All of Tess.  Her story in China.  Her story since coming to us.  Her indomitable spirit.  Her ever present optimism, even in the face of insurmountable odds.  Even the way she describes herself makes me stronger.  “I’m Tess.  I’m 5 years old and I’m really strong, even though I’m small.  I have so many unicorn babies.  Do you need to know about them?”  Do you ‘need’ to know about them? Maybe you need an injection of hope and humanity in your day? You do? Okay, let me tell you about them.  Seriously.  She introduced herself to someone just this way last week.  She constantly thinks of the “babies” (who are sometimes 13 years old) who are “waiting for their mamas” in her homeland.  No child is ever off putting, or ugly, to her.  She loves everyone.  She’ll be your friend no matter what.  She has endless faith in humanity and our ability to make it right, and fair, for everyone.  She gave us the faith to do this “one more time” for kids she was SURE were her brothers and sisters.  She was right, every single time.

But, I can’t ever get through any of that without crying.  Sadly, crying doesn’t make me feel stronger.  It’s probably empowering for some people.  It makes me feel terrible about myself.  Right or wrong, it is what it is.  I have given up on public speak entirely right now, because it’s so bad.  I hate being any kind of vulnerable in front of anyone, and lately, I can’t get a sentence out without crying.  This always happens when we’re in the thick of it.

Nest week, on Wednesday, March 2nd, Gigi and I will leave for the hospital before the dawn to see what is really going on with her heart, and ears.  It has been decided she’ll have general anesthesia, and it has been estimated she’ll spend 6-8 hours in the Operating Room as we measure, poke, prod, and test to figure out exactly what is going on with her.  This is some serious deja vus for me.  Pretty soon, hospitals will bring serious deja vus for her.  That breaks my heart.

It didn’t crush Tess’s spirit though.  I have to pray that Gigi will stay just as strong.

I have to work on staying strong for her.

Going out.  Living.  Hearing all your stories of strength.  It all helps.  To the women who sat with me at lunch earlier this week, thank you.  My answer would be different now.

You all make me stronger.

–FullPlateMom, who is counting the days until this is done and she can breathe again.

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