Friday, May 27, 2016

Saying Goodbye

It's true what they say about life: it just keeps going even when you feel like your own world has stopped.

You get a phone call and this person, this loved one who has always been a part of your life, is gone. Suddenly. And in the background, there is one child needing to be fed and one walking in the door from school and another one napping upstairs. There's no time to stop. To think. To process.

So tears fall silently as you put sliced apples on a tray for the baby and you try to keep your nine-year-old from noticing because you don't have the words yet to tell him.

This will be his first loss.

I remember mine. I remember at just about his age, staring out the front window of our house as my parents drove away to my other grandpa's funeral. I don't remember who stayed with us. I just remember the sadness. Wishing I could go with them but being terrified of what being at a funeral would feel like. Wanting to know what happened, what it would mean, knowing somehow that my world had changed forever.

So, yesterday, when I picked up the phone again a few hours later to talk to my mama and couldn't keep the tremor out of my voice as she talked to me of her father and what we were going to do to mourn and celebrate him, he looked at me and said, "Mom, what's going on?"

My Gramps and I, circa 1979
And I told him.

"Gramps died today, honey."
"He did?"
"Yes. Do you understand what that means?"
"Are you ok?"

Silence. Big eyes.

My son is not a verbal processor. (I wonder where he gets that ;) I gave him a big hug, could tell he was trying not to cry in front of the neighbors and told him that if he needed to cry, that it was ok. That he should, that this is sad. He turned, went inside and curled up in his bed. I had two little nuggets at my feet splashing in a pool and had to let him go. Knowing he was mourning alone. Knowing I still hadn't had a chance myself to even grasp the truth.

Life doesn't always stop long enough for you to catch your breath in these moments. You still have to keep that toddler from doing a cannonball directly onto his baby brother in a 1 foot deep pool.  You still have smoothie smeared on your shirt front and an infant attempting to eat all the landscaping.

You still have to cook dinner.

My wedding, June 2003
And once you've done that, you have to go upstairs and cuddle your oldest child. The one sobbing in his bed. The one who has just figured out how loss FEELS. It's different from reading about it or seeing it happen in a Disney film. The next time we go to Florida to visit, Gramps won't be there. I can barely type that sentence let alone help him understand it.

November 2006, Josh 3 weeks old
I am fortunate that my son got to know his great-grandparents. That they were a part of his life and that my granny still is. They met him at 3 weeks old and saw him every year. They goofed off with him in the pool, he crawled around their lovely white condo messing things up as an infant, he made them laugh. They made him laugh and cherished him. He is old enough that he will remember them.

This isn't some nebulous, distant relative he has just lost.

For that I am so grateful.

It does make the pain stronger, though.
With his family

December 1950

And right now? The pain of a mother's heart watching her child's break even as her own is breaking is acute. Trying to find a way to process a world without my Gramps isn't going to be easy. He was easy to love. He made us all laugh. He was delightfully sarcastic far before I was old enough to even understand it. He said what he wanted to say. He served his country in Korea. He could watch golf for hours (How, oh Lord??!!). He worked hard and played hard. He loved my granny fiercely for almost 66 years. 66 years, friends.(Don't even get me started on how unhinged I become when I start to think about her saying goodbye to him next week.) He had three amazing kids who will miss him more than words can say. He, like all humans, wasn't perfect. But he loved us. And we loved him. The world is now a different place for my family.
His Grandkids

June 2010

In a few days, my son will watch me leave to
go to Florida to say goodbye. I imagine he'll feel a
lot like I did so long ago. Full of questions, unsure what to do with the sadness.

60th Wedding Anniversary

Aware, in a new way, that the world can be a sad, sad place. I can only hope as his mama to be able to mourn alongside him, share pictures and stories and help him figure out how he can say his own goodbyes even as I figure out mine. To find that intangible balance between mourning and celebration that is the only thing that can truly help us understand and keep going on in our changed world.

Gramps, rest in peace. You are loved and missed terribly already. Thank you for who you were to so many of us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What Happens in Wisconsin

Years ago, when I was training to be on staff with InterVarsity, I loved visiting this crazy midwest city called Madison. I came out for seminary courses. I frequented the restaurants. I loved it's charm.

I NEVER thought I'd live here. I'm an east coast girl. What good can come from moving to the midwest? 

Before moving here, I had never been more than 2 hours from the ocean. And for a beach-lovin' woman, moving far from the shore is no small thing. Not to mention being far from everything I've ever known...friends, family, I-95 being at the heart of all long drives.

Ok, so I actually don't miss that last one.

But 3 years into Wisconsin life, I am actually at the point where it is going to be hard to leave. 

I am in love with the cheese. And seriously, friends, the cheese aisle at the store is HUGE. Never have you seen such a cheese aisle. I have dreams about this cheese aisle.

The people are amazing. They are just unashamedly who they are. Friendly, honest, hardworking, kind. No veneers. Lots of laughter. Some granola, some not. Good for a last minute meet-up for a meal or a beer. Generous with their time, no fewer than fifteen people stopped to help Jayce and I last summer when we were stranded on the side of the road. Some brought water, some offered to drive us places, all just wanted to make sure, from one human to another, that we were ok. We had people bringing us meals and sanity for months after both babies came home. MONTHS, people. I am seriously going to miss our friends and neighbors.

The summers. I can't say enough about the summers. 80 degrees, no humidity, light breeze, sunshine. PERFECTION. There are days you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside and close out the day around the firepit, during which you might find yourself deliciously needing a sweatshirt as you sip your beer that probably comes from a brewery up the road.

Ok, ok, so you have to EARN those summers. You have to deal with months on end where your nose hairs are perpetually iced over and your toddler wails "cold hands, cold hands" over and over until you question the need for hands to exist in the first place. You have to heed 2 minute frostbite warnings and fall on your butt multiple times a week just trying to walk to the car.  And then you have to join in the corporate whining that takes place from March through May when you FEEL like it should be spring but it's rainy and cold and still, occasionally, snowing.

That summer always comes, though. It always ends up being worth the wait.

There is even, dare I say it and risk a lot of scoffing from my NY friends, a pizza place right here in Sun Prairie that TASTES LIKE HOME.  I thank God weekly for this miracle even though 2/3 of my children cannot eat it and the other 1/3 doesn't get why I am crying with joy over it. I think you have to grow up in NY to understand.

But beyond all this, all the incidentals of life that have made us happy here, we are a different family for having come. We came with 2 adults, 1 kid and 1 dog. We are leaving with 2 adults, 3 kids, 1 dog and 2 guinea pigs. (Although if anyone WANTS Leia and Loretta, let me know. They are only complicating our cross-country move at this point. And don't tell Josh I asked.)

And beyond that, we have a whole other extended family that came through adoption and we love them. No matter where we go and how far away we are, this will always be partly home. We will always come back. My boys will grow up knowing their whole family. We are inextricably tied to this place, emotionally and physically. Some people might find that an inconvenience but when we said yes to our boys, we said yes to it all. That's our life.

So, saying goodbye is just for a time. We will be back. We will eat more cheese. We will visit and cry and ache and rejoice together at how the boys are growing. We will likely plan those visits for summer and not winter, because let's be honest.

As it turns out, what happens in Wisconsin is good. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Take Charge Challenge

There is no fancy way to introduce this perfectly illustrative story.

There is just the truth: I, like many people I know, do not take care of myself. I know this. I see it. I feel the effects of it. And I keep thinking, next week I'll do better. Eat more food. Somehow exercise. Drink more water and less coffee. Carve time out to sleep more, read more, write more.

But the bottom line is: there is not going to be any time in the near future when my day suddenly has more hours. 

And friends? I am SO tired of being tired. 

As I sit here during the beautiful quiet of the nap overlap, that time of day when I usually inhale whatever food is closest, drink whatever coffee is sitting in the pot from this morning and try to get dinner in the crockpot, I can see it all. I can see the mess of a life lived without regard for the long term effects on my health: physical, mental and spiritual. I can see my irritability from lack of sleep and exercise. From too many frozen pizzas scarfed down in less than 10 minutes. From the wear and tear of tantrums and noise on a sensory defensive mama. From too many hours spent on facebook and not enough in face to face contact with other human beings. From not enough yeses to the things that make me whole.

So, I am issuing a challenge to myself. Today, in this season where we are working out details for a cross-country move, when life is not going to be any less chaotic or more stable for a long time to come. 

I am issuing a challenge to take charge. To stop lamenting and dragging about exhausted and to, for the love of all that is good and holy, do something about how I feel. 

Anyone else want to join? 

Here's what it's going to look like: 

Every day for 15 days, this is what I'll do:

(1) COFFEE? WHAT COFFEE?: Drink a glass of water when I wake up. BEFORE coffee. And every other time I am tempted to reach for coffee, drink a glass of water first. I am so over-coffeed, I treat it like Jesus some days.

(2) POOP ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Check facebook once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once at night, for five minutes each time. Done. No more social media ruling my day. (See my post from a few years back about Choosing Real Life )

(3) SMART PHONE, YOU PUNK- I truly think getting a smart phone may have been the dumbest thing I've ever done. I feel it's tyranny, it's accessibility. And when my kids are awake, I'm putting it down for these 15 days. They deserve better than my distraction.

And besides those things, those disciplining of areas I know are unhealthy to my soul and body, I am doing one mental, one physical and one spiritual exercise that has nothing to do with taking care of all the little people. EVERY DAY. And yes, I realize that all these areas bleed into one another. That you can't really separate them. But, for the sake of order, I am going to. And maybe some days I will only do 2 out of 3 because there won't be a nap overlap or there might be a sick kid. But I will at least think about it. I will at least try.

Here is a list from which I might choose: 

  • Read a book for fun DURING THE DAY for at least 10 minutes.
  • Write a blog post
  • Write a book
  • Write down my hopes/dreams for this new stage of life
  • Organize something (don't judge me)
  • Call a friend on the actual phone
  • Write notes to far away friends
  • Garden

  • Practice 10 minutes of silence
  • Journal
  • Read my bible
  • Read a fantastically encouraging book about faith
  • Write a song
  • Sing by myself for no reason other than to worship God
  • Pray for my husband
  • Breath prayers

  • Run a few miles
  • Bike 
  • Take a dance class (or just, you know, dance it out to my tunes while everyone is asleep)
  • Take an actual nap
  • Pull ups and push ups
  • Mow my neighbor's yard
  • Take a walk with a friend
  • Lay in the sun and breathe deeply
  • Play volleyball at the gym
  • Eat a vegetarian lunch
Obviously, these lists aren't exhaustive. I'd love to know what YOU might do if you take up the challenge. 

And here's the deal - you probably have different areas you need to discipline, different ideas of what is life-giving, of what changes will actually help you find yourself in the midst of a chaotic life. Go for it. There is no rigidity to this, just commitment.

What is it they say? Misery loves company? Well, so does hope. 

So today, I am standing up and saying, in hope, that even in the midst of one of the busiest seasons of my life, I know God doesn't want me to become unhinged. I know he wants me to function as an actual human being, loved and created in His image. Today I say, "enough is enough" and stop making excuses for my unhealthy choices. 

Anyone want to join me?