Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Do you know how to tell when someone you love is overly competitive?  When you notice they’re not sleeping well, and they tell you it’s because they were up praying for the draft.  I’m not making that up.  This really happened at my house.

In case you’re like me, and you don’t know when the draft is, or really WHAT the draft is, I will tell you that I’m talking about the NFL Draft. The draft is about football.   I think the draft is important because the people who run the show get to pick players, which, I guess, has the potential to impact your favorite team’s success. The players help their teams win. And if you’re overly competitive, winning is key.

Does God care about the NFL Draft?

Sometimes I get so deep and philosophical in my writings.  I’m afraid I lose more of the  common people.

This Albert guy says this:

albert einstein

Could someone please make a poster with a head shot of me?  I’d like this quote next  to my face, “Does God care about the draft?  Indeed. He might.”

I’ll tell you, I’m totally putting a leave-on-conditioner in my hair to make my hair silky for my poster. I bet Albert wished he would have known about leave-in-conditioner.  It’s a shame, really.  All that wisdom, sullied by split ends.

Scott and I have been philosophical about our future lately.  What do we want it to look like?  I think it’s important to cast a vision for yourself, don’t you?

In our storage/garage cleaning we found 23-year-old letters that I had written to Scott.  To me, these letters are priceless.  Mostly, because the letters prove to me that I was not as foolish as I remember being.  I mean, sure, I was ignorant in the way a 20-year-old is ignorant of the lessons she will learn from what she has yet to experience.  That, for sure, is true.

Other than that?  I think I had decent instincts for a youngin’.

I will admit the letters were full of the most ridiculous, gushy, cringe-worthy sentiments imaginable.  Here’s a clip, “I’m just sorry there are not enough words in the English language to describe the love I have for you.”…and more goodies like that.

If the kids read these letters, they’d never forgive me.

The good thing about these letters is their optimism.  I was just plain excited about life, and about Scott.   I valued his work ethic, and his kindness.  Good job, little Miki.  Those are the right things to value.

And, as our relationship progressed towards marriage, I actually did some forecasting in my letters.  I told young Scott that even when we had been married a super long time, and nothing was new any more,  we would always enjoy talking to each other, and we would always keep laughing.

I kinda nailed it.

And, here’s another freaky thing.  In one letter, I said that some day when we were older, we would be cleaning, and we would find the letters.  I said the letters would remind us of how much we loved each other, and we would enjoy those happy memories.  And, so we did.

That is my lesson that it pays to think ahead, AND to put into words what you would like to become real.  Scott and I have been playing around with that a little as it pertains to our future from this point.

Next stop:  kids’ college, weddings, retirement???  Really?  Wow, we’re half way through life.  All those people are exactly right.  It goes fast.

Scott was kind of talking through retirement some.  He’s likely to stop coaching before he quits teaching.  He talked that out with me.  He said, “Well, I could teach, and then I guess I’d come home after school and putz a round until you got home from work.”

We were driving in the car when Scott said that.  The car got awfully quiet then.  We were silent until we both started laughing.  I don’t know how to explain why the thought of Scott putzing around is so frightening to me.  First of all, what will Scott putz with? He doesn’t really do hobbies.  I mean, coaching is his hobby, and his job, and, truthfully between coaching, teaching and our family, just about every second of Scott’s day is covered, generally.

Scott is not very imaginative.  I don’t see him building model airplanes, or carving wood or baking homemade muffins.  At least not yet, anyway.  I know crazier things have happened.  But, I am certain that neither of us want to even consider these options at this point, and that’s how I know it isn’t time to retire.  I guess we like working.

The other scary part of imagining Scott’s retirement is the thought of him waiting by the door for me.  That’s not good imagery for either of us.  Reggie’s got that deal covered.

So, we’re trying to cast a vision, but we also know that life will change when it’s ready.  There’s no forcing it.  We can be content to give one hundred percent effort to the tasks at hand, God will let us know when our efforts are no longer needed.  I’m sure of it.

Scott isn’t ready to retire, but he did think he could at least practice a little.  This week he told me he was going to sit out on the patio and do the cross word puzzle.

Come again?

That marks the first time Scott has ever sat on the patio.  Muffin baking is just ahead.

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Attempting Technology

Oh, it feels like too long since we’ve caught up.  And, by caught up, I mean me rambling on about nothing in particular, and assuming anyone cares.  The idea that you’d have to be at least a little narcissist to enjoy blogging does not escape me.  I see it.

For now, it appears, I can’t be stopped.

There are not a lot of big things happening now, which is exactly the way I like it.  Just all the normal chaos.  Like, taking Olivia to school.  This week, on our drive, I was complaining to Olivia about my long  to do list.  I think I’m like most women.  As soon as I buckle up in the car, my brain starts churning through everything I need to remember.  Unfortunately, I’m buckled in; there isn’t anything I can actually do about getting the stuff on that list done. I go through the list anyway; I guess I like keeping myself  in a perpetual state of anxiety.  It’s just fun.

The problem with this silent recitation is that by the time I unbuckle my seat belt, get out of the car and get to work or home, I’ve forgotten the list.  I just don’t have the kind of memory that actually remembers.

I told Olivia that it would be nice if I could capture my thoughts on tape.  You know, like with a tape recorder.  She didn’t know. What’s a tape recorder? She did offer a helpful suggestion from her generation, “There’s gotta be an app for that.”

Indeed.  There is.

list note

This is what the app looks like.

I downloaded this app. I’m sort of test driving this thing.  So, bear with me.  So far, I want to say I love it.   I don’t want to be all greedy and irresponsible, and tell you this thing is changing my life.  I don’t know that yet.  I feel like it might.

This app allows you to dictate the things you have to remember.  Then, you can categorize the items on your list.  Right now I have three categories: Home, Work, Blog.  To me, this is revolutionary.  I have carried around a notebook in the past, but for some reason this isn’t immediate enough.  I have to have the notebook with me, and I have to remember to write stuff down. Then, I have to remember to refer to what I wrote down.  It was an okay system, but I wasn’t the best at implementing it.I always have my phone with me.  So, this app thing is better. 

I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet.  I had a note on my list that said, “Check on our well.”

Gosh, that was driving me crazy.  I kept wondering why I would want to check on our well.  Especially since we don’t have a well.  I was thinking and thinking, begging my brain to deliver some thought I recognized.  Then, while I was thinking, I heard a story on the radio about someone dying, and that was just the thing I needed to remember.  Our WILL!  Check our WILL! As in, last will and testament.  I wrote that note to remind myself to call a lawyer about setting up our will. I don’t need to check the well. The well is probably doing fine.

I guess the voice recognition system on my new app is a little glitchy.

Like, right now I have a nice list going, except for one item.  It says, “Ad carriage ceremony.”

Woah. These things drive me nuts.  I put this thing in there.   What does it mean?  What was I trying to say?   I know there’s a perfectly necessary thing not being done right now that sounds like, “Ad carriage ceremony”. I don’t know what to do about it.

Sad marriage balogna?

Mad porridge territory?

Flat garage homey?

WHAT. IS. IT???

If I was supposed to do something for you that sounds like “Ad carriage ceremony”, I want to tell you I’m really sorry.  Like, if you’re my homey, and I was supposed to flatten your garage, I hope you will forgive me.

I’m also sorry that I need technology to step in and be my brain, but I do.  I’m gonna have to be okay with that, because I don’t see an alternative.

I guess I’m all about technology today.  I also wanted to tell you that I decided Scott and I should have more conversations via texting.  A friend posted this cute story about a husband and wife, and their sweet and funny texts to each other.  I thought that seemed romantic.  This couple had dozens of silly and kind texts to each other about nothing in particular.

I told Scott we were going to start doing that too.  Come to think of it, I don’t remember if he answered.

I couldn’t really imagine how this texting thing was going to happen.  Scott saves texting and phone calls for special occasions.  Like, when he’s on fire, or having a stroke.

If I’m at work, and I see that I have a call from Scott, I always pick up.  That is an emergency.  Scott doesn’t call to chat.  He calls to tell you to get to the hospital, or come bail him out of jail. Really, I should thank him or that.  Talking to Scott on the phone isn’t that pleasant.  I’d rather talk to Reggie.

I know I’m painting Scott in a pretty poor light, and, basically, I get to do that, because It’s my blog, and he doesn’t read it.  But, truth be told, I could be a lot better at texting and talking on the phone myself.  It isn’t my favorite.

This new romantic texting plan is not without it’s challenges.

So far, I’m getting a lot of one word responses from him, and nothing overly clever, or romantic.  Like, I wrote, “Hey sweetie.  I’m on my way home from work.  What are you doing?”

Scott’s reply, “At home.”

Well, you little rascal, you.  What do you think he meant by that?  He’s a clever one.

We’ll keep trying.

Scott is romantic in other ways.  Like the way he bought me a pull up bar for the kitchen.

He really did.

We got a delivery from Amazon, and it was NOT something I ordered.  I thought it must be a mistake.  That’s never happened.  Scott ordered something on impulse.  No discussion, price checking or comparison shopping.  I didn’t know it could happen.

Scott said this pull up bar was going to be awesome.  We could do pull ups any time of the day we wanted, which was super good news for me, because I HATE it when I’m making cookies, and I’m like, “Where’s a freakin’ pull up bar when you need one?!!”

Problem solved.

Scott did show me that the pull up bar is versatile.  He told us we could do some ab work with this thing too.  Let me explain.  Scott hung from the bar, and raised both straightened legs up until they were close to his face.  So, um, try that.

I’m a good sport.  I tried it.  When no one was looking.  Yeah.  That was really funny.  There’s nothing about that exercise that is possible for me.

I will give the kid credit.  I like this ugly contraption.  I have been using it every day.  Two weeks ago I could not do one unassisted pull up.  Now, I can do one.  Just one.  Next week, I am aiming for two.

I have been using the pull up bar every day.  We all have.  I think it might be one of the many things we all tease Scott about, and then secretly call him a genius.

The best part about the pull up bar, is that I get to do pull ups in my work clothes.  I look so awesome doing this, I wanted to show you.  I can tell my kids are so proud when their friends come over, and their mom is doing pull ups (attempting) in heels and a skirt.  I guess I’ve always been on the cool side. Not to brag.

pull up

Braggers Beware

Earlier this year, I was chatting with my Mom.  I remember saying some dumb thing about how I felt so energized.  I told her I was basically an ambitious person, and I just had a lot of things I was excited about doing.

You fool.

Never. And, I mean…NEVER.  Brag about yourself.  Just don’t.  Don’t do it.  Never put even the tiniest inkling of a good thought you have about yourself out there for people to hear.  Not even to your Mom.  It will always come back to hurt you.

About a week after I tried enlightening my Mom to my charms, I started getting sick.  Then, I was pregnant.  Then, I wasn’t.  You know that story.  All that took about 2 and half months to unfold.  For the first three months of this year I was feeling much less than ambitions.  During that time, the bar was set at survival.

I survived.

I am waking up again.  I do this a lot. It’s a pattern. I can’t be the only one.

I really do get excited about things.  Then, I get sidetracked with life’s stuff.  I keep telling God that I am at His service.  I mean it, God.  When things settle down, I’m there.  Count on it.  With bells on.  I’m in your corner…oops, gotta go.  I’ve got a bad cold.

It can’t be easy dealing with me.

I wonder if God can use me in my state of imperfection, in a state of grief, in a state of not knowing all the answers?  I am starting to think He can.  I’m starting to get excited to think that He can.

Gut truth, from my heart. I think I’m here on this planet, occupying this little spec of time,  to be used by God. I think we all are. I don’t really see an end to all the stuff that happens that gets in my way; just when I think I am done with the old stuff, I discover new stuff.

Am I alone here?  Can I get an Amen? C’mon, sister, tell me you got stuff.  If you don’t got stuff, you keep that crap to yourself.  I told you what happens to braggers.

No.  I’m sorry for cussin’ at you. If you have an easy life, I am happy for you.  But, seriously, keep it to yourself.

Now that I’m awake again, I’m picking back up where I left off.  The garage.

The garage is something you need ambition to tackle.  I told you this before, but just to recap I will remind you that everything in our lower level was brought up in one mad dash.    Mostly, it was brought up by the kids.  We had one weekend to empty the basement for the contractors.

Okay, you’re gonna bust me on the details again.  Yes. we knew further ahead than the day before the weekend started that we were going to remodel.  But, but, not really.  We were pecking away at things when we could. We thought we had weeks.  Suddenly, the contractors said they could come early. We didn’t want to pass up that opportunity.

Even though Scott and I weren’t home, we told the kids to grab everything they could, and throw it in the garage.  Kids are very literal.  I think our children stood 40 yards back and practiced their spiral through the garage door with just about everything we own.

Do you want to see it?  You do, don’t you.  Because you’re sick.  You need this.  You want this to make yourself feel better about your sterile and tidy garage.  Fine.  You’re a good friend. So, I’ll show you. Who wants a spotless garage, anyway?  I like mine looking lived-in, by a family of rabid raccoon.

This is what it looked like:

basement

Everything categorized and in logical order. Just the way I like it.

I bet you think I Googled images of homes ripped up by tornadoes. I promise, I didn’t. This pictures is, unfortunately, real.

My neat freak friends and family are feeling a little light headed.  Close your eyes, my friend.  Breath in.  Breath out.  Now, feel the calm settle through your body, as you remember this isn’t your garage; you don’t have to deal with it.

I do.

Hey, you need a hammer?  No problem I think it’s right next to the baby doll, underneath the Christmas lights, between the bed sheets, by the dead squirrel.  I’ll just move this 400 pound tube TV, and I’ll get it for you.

This is why I really needed some energy.  When I was feeling terribly sick, I had one good idea for fixing this problem.  A match.  Just torch the thing.  We’ll deal with the consequences.

Scott is just really funny about arson.  He’s all like, maybe there’s something in there we want.  A fire seems kind of dangerous. I don’t know how you can work from jail. All the usual excuses.  Then, I’m like, fine.  If you’re going to freak out about the details, you think of something.

I am happy to tell you that the garage does NOT look like that any more.  I worked on it all weekend, until my fingers bled. Well, not really, but it felt like it.  I am actually sore from working so hard.  So, I am sure I have at least one internal organ bleeding from all my effort.  You just can’t see it.

I’d post a picture of how the garage looks now,  but that picture would be like a half-way-until-we-get-to-the after-picture. That’s no good. Plus, I want to keep you in suspense.  An after picture will be coming.

We are taking this opportunity to cleanse ourselves of all the junk that spoiled Americans acquire.  It is truly astonishing.  I used to say we were minimalists. Frugal. Non-materialistic.  I told bold face lies.

We ARE materialistic.  Look at all the material evidence in that picture.  I don’t know how it happened.  How did we ever have enough money to buy all of that?  Some of those things are gifts.  But, you get the idea.

Scott and I have had this 22-year battle going over hauling stuff away.  I’m totally okay with it.  He hates it.  His frugal heart just won’t let him.  But, even he realizes we’re drowning here.  He wasn’t keen on the bon fire idea, so we compromised.  We are going to have an epic garage sale, and after that, the rest is going to charity.

Meanwhile, I’m asking myself how I ever let all that stuff in our house.  From now on, I’m playing aggressive defense.  I’ll be in my family’s faces.  When they come through the door with something in their hands, I’ll stay low, shuffle my feet,  and bat that crap right back out the door.  They won’t see me coming.

I am properly motivated.

Do not fill this house back up again.  Do not.  Or, I will kill you.  Seriously.  Is that thing you’re holding something you can take with you to heaven?  Because that’s where you’ll be taking it if you try bringing it in here.

That is all I have to say about hoarding and our garage.

The other thing I wanted to make a comment on was amazing people.  Like all the people that remember to send thank yous, cards, and send kind gifts to other people who are dealing with difficulties.  I’m always in awe of these people.

Scott’s family and cousins are people like this.  Most of them live in Iowa.  There have been times when we pulled in the driveway after going to a wedding in Iowa, and there’s a thank you note from the bride waiting for us in the mailbox.   When that happens, I look at Scott and say, “Your people sure like to show off, don’t they?”

No, I’m kidding.  Those cool folks weren’t really trying to show off.  They’re just so on top of things, they freak me out.  I’m going to have to forgive them for that.

I have a neighbor who has four children.  She just had her fourth baby.  This neighbor is so kind-hearted; I love the way she mothers and takes care of her family.  It’s wholesome.

My neighbor heard about our loss.  She brought over a delicious meal.  Remember when I said she JUST had a baby?  Yeah. So, there’s people like that.  Oh, and I didn’t tell you the part about me never bringing HER a meal when she had her baby.

It’s okay. I’m sure I’ve done something neighborly for her before.  Like, I’ve never had a giant beer party, and kept her up all night with a live band.  Plus, Scott and I have never called the cops on each other during a domestic dispute.  So she hasn’t been woken up by cop sirens and lights…thanks to us.  You’re welcome for THAT, nice neighbor.

I had my neighbor’s Tupperware to return.  The day was sunny and bright; I was in my highest mode of productivity.  I felt so good.  I killed it with the garage. I cleaned the house.  I was on top of my game.

Now, it isn’t unheard of for people to bring dishes to my house, and never see them again.  I’m sorry, but you kinda put yourself out there when you brought that lasagna over here, right?  You gotta at least admit that.  You love to play the odds. In the end, you can only blame yourself.

This time, I washed the neighbor’s Tupperware by hand, AND put that thing in the dishwasher.  I put her other clean dish inside the Tupperware, and then you know what I did?  I wrote a thank you note and put it inside the Tupperware.  I thought to myself that this is what normal people do.  My neighbor doesn’t know I’m having the best day of my life.  She should go buy a lottery ticket, because luck is on her side.

But, then I thought maybe my neighbor is like me, and she has some bad days.  This clean Tupperware thing with a thank you note is kind of showy.  I don’t want to rub it her face about how I have all clean dishes at my house, with time to spare for penning meaningful thank you notes.

So, then, I’m like maybe I should put another note in the Tupperware.  Like, an apology note for the thank-you note.  I’ll  explain that I’m just having a super good day.  I normally wouldn’t be this good, but the boys are all gone at a wrestling meet, so I have extra time, and I don’t have an infant, so I just had extra hours in the day to do this amazing thing.  I’m not really amazing at all.  In fact, usually, I’d keep your Tupperware, and add it to my collection of all my other friends’ Tupperware  in my cupboard. Friends who also thought bringing me a meal was a good idea.

I’d tell her not to let this clean dish and thank you note thing make her feel like she’s not doing a good job running your household.  She is.  She shouldn’t compare herself to me on this one fluke of a day.  This isn’t actually me being me, after all.

I decided not to include the second note.  It seemed like it might just be too much. I don’t know.  Maybe I should have.

I just dropped the Tupperware back off, hoping that my neighbor/friend was having a good day herself, and that she’d forgive me for being prompt, clean and polite.

Some people wonder when I will run out of things to blog about.  Never.  Not with amazing thank you note stories to write. I’ve got an endless supply of this stuff.

thank-you-image

I refuse to send a thank you note that isn’t signed with my hand written calligraphy. That’s just manners 101.

Please?

Eddie turns 18 today.  I fought as hard as I could against this; I guess I didn’t fight hard enough.  Little bugger always has been stubborn.

I had this big, long blog written about Eddie’s coming of age birthday.  The thing just kept getting longer and longer, taking more turns and twists, until I ended in a place that had nothing to do with the start.  I read it over and over, and I thought, “What is this pile of crap?”

I nixed that blog post, and settled for a short and sweet Facebook post for Eddie. We also gave him a basket of food.  Food is what you give a boy who wears rags and who has no appreciation for basically anything you can purchase. For kids like that, the grocery store has everything they have ever dreamed of getting for their Birthday and Christmas.  Merry Christmas, my son.  Here’s a gallon of chocolate milk.

I thought I was done with the whole hulabaloo 18th Birthday extravaganza.   No such luck.  I can’t stop thinking and pondering.  I keep thinking there is just something I need to say.   Really, it a nuisance to be me.

I went back to the drawing board.  I looked at that knotted yarn ball of a blog post I wrote, and I asked myself why I couldn’t just sum it all up simply.  What exactly am I trying to say, anyway?  How about a short version?

I will try that.

The point I most wanted  to make to my son and to myself is this: I have made mistakes.  I’m sorry for them. I want to tell Eddie what those mistakes are.  Just in case there’s the tiniest chance he could learn from them.  I know I sure have.

That’s what I’m going to do.

Dear, little Eddie.  I would like 18 do overs.  If I could go back I would…

1. Understand that I did not invent childbirth.  Moms have been doing it since time began, with a lot less medication. I might add.  I should have been more humble.  I’m glad you were too young to remember all that.

2. Know that people can teach me things.  There is a limit to my knowledge, and you could benefit from me keeping an open mind.  When you were a baby, your doctor mentioned that you might have an allergy to dairy.  Someone else suggested I take you to a chiropractor.  Sounded like witchcraft to me.

I’m exaggerating.  But, I did dismiss those suggestions immediately; I thought I knew all there was to know about how to keep you healthy.  And, well, you saw how that turned out.

3. Know my value was not dependent upon your performance.  When Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Belmore, told me me you were adorable, but driving her crazy, I should NOT have lost full night’s sleep over her comment.  I was NOT failing as a mom, because you thought it would be fun to make your friends laugh by putting M&M’s up your nose.  That was on you, kid.  All you.

4. Embrace your mistakes.  Expect them.  When you made mistakes, I didn’t need to get so worked up.  Each mistake was an opportunity to teach and to learn.  Oh, so many, many blessed, stinkin’, freakin’ opportunities to learn we had. Right, sweetheart?

5. Eat more kale.  I’m nervous I won’t be able to think of 18 do overs.  I am going to have to make some stuff up.

6. Trust myself.  Wow.  That would have been awesome.  Because, sure, on the one hand I thought I knew everything, on the other hand, I was a nervous wreck.  I wish I could have relaxed and trusted my instincts.  I wasn’t at all sure that I was equipped to raise a human being.

7. Serve others.  Gosh, I’m selfish.  I’m sorry, Eddie.  I don’t like saying it, but if I can’t be unselfish, I might as well be honest.  I have been planning to have us work at a homeless shelter for about, um, let’s see…18 years.

There were lots of things I meant to do to help you get outside yourself.  But, that would have meant I would have had to get outside MYSELF.  BIG.HUGE.REGRET.  Total mistake.  I’m sorry.

8. Teach you how to play the harpsichord. You would have been a natural.  How am I doing?  We almost to 18?

9. Know that struggling makes you stronger.  This was a biggie.  I mistakenly thought my job as a mom was to protect you from struggling of any kind.  Unfortunately, God found a rough way to teach me I was wrong.

I read a story once about a mom with a disabled child.  This wise mom was standing with a neighbor in her back yard.  The Mom’s disabled son was trying to play with his siblings on the swing set.  Her son kept trying to climb the ladder up to the slide. Every time he tried, he would fall down.  Eventually, his skin was bloody from the effort.  The neighbor was thinking that this Mom was awful for not helping her disabled son.  After many, many attempts, this disabled boy eventually made it to the top of the ladder.  Success.  He mastered the climb, and was gleeful on his ride down the slide.   He finally knew freedom. That boy never needed help riding the slide again; he enjoyed confidence in being able to perform this act without help from anyone.  His Mom knew exactly what she was doing.

I will NEVER get that story out of my head, because I NEVER would have been as smart as that Mom.  I would have slung your disabled body on my back and gone down that slide with you until you were 75  years old..  I would not have had the insight to know that allowing you to struggle was a gift I could give you.

Well.  I guess I know it now.  You’re on your own, kid.

10. Choose your friends.  You probably don’t like this one, but I’m not gonna make stuff up.  This one is important.  I guess I don’t need a do over on this exactly, because I was pretty good at it.  I just don’t think I should have wasted time feeling badly about it.  I’d do it again.

Let’s face it, you like shenanigans.  You like other kids who like shenanigans.  You weren’t good for these shenanigan lovin’ kids in large doses, they weren’t good for you.  That’s fact.  You needed to be protected from yourselves.

11. Give you more home perms.  Truly sorry I didn’t do this.  You really coulda been something.

12. Banish fear.  This would have been huge.  I shudder to think of how I have been ruled by fear in my life.  I thank God for the things he’s showing me now.   The confidence I have in Christ’s real power to move and change things in real-time, is growing every day.  God healed you, Eddie.  Do I need more proof? I don’t. There is no place for fear.

13. Embrace natural consequences.  Ever heard of ’em?  No. You haven’t.  I never let them touch you.  Mistake.

14. Pray more.  I prayed a lot.  Wish I would have prayed more.

15. Hug you more.  Hugging you now is like hugging that steel pole in the basement.  I can tell it’s not your favorite. That’s okay. I get it.  But, even if you don’t remember this, I promise you USED to like hugging me.  You liked sitting in my lap, and I was your favorite.  Hard to believe. I know.  I’d like to go back and hug you some more.

16. Raise a herd of emus.  I always knew it.  But, I ignored that little voice.  Please, #18.  Where are you?

17. Root for others.  I mostly did this.  I wish I would have done it more.  I think the healthiest, most awesome kids in the world, are the ones who have parents who root for their kids’ friends.  Parents who don’t privately compete.  Mostly I do that, but sometimes I mess up. Yeah. That’s ugly.

18. Not forget that I was on a temporary assignment.  My job was only to train you.  I was in charge of the dress rehearsal. The part that gets you ready for the real thing…adulthood.  I mistakenly thought I got to do the whole thing.  Oops.

That’s it, kid.  Those are the things I would do over.   A lot of Moms would have different do overs.  Theirs would say things like they wished they would not have cleaned the house so much.   That’s a good one, right?  I wish I would have cleaned less.  I know.  We’re both laughing.. Or, I could have said, I wish I wasn’t such a perfectionist.  This is funny stuff.

“Good enough” has always been my motto.

I hope you don’t think I’m beating myself up over this stuff. I’m not.  Remember?  “Good enough”.  Plus,  mistakes are an opportunity to learn.  But, I can’t exactly learn if I don’t acknowledge my mistakes, right?  That’s what this is about.  Learning.

Watching you and your siblings grow is the single greatest joy of my life.  I look forward to many more years of trying to manage your life, and the life of your wife and kids. Set up an extra room for Mammy, kiddo.

Some lessons take longer to learn than others.

Happy Birthday, son.  I love you.

eddie struggling

Just because this is a cool picture…

Spring Break 2015

What is the one thing that goes faster than Spring Break?  Nothing.  Not one thing.

I remember cleaning off my desk, shutting down my computer and locking my office door.  I closed my eyes.  When I opened them I was driving along the highway during morning commute, heading back to work.  What the?  How did that happen?  I had nine luxurious days without a single work-related thing to do.  I know I planned to use those days well.  Did I?  I can’t remember.

I guess that’s another good reason for blogging.  I need some written record to prove I’m doing things.  I need proof that I’m not Rip Van Winkle, sleeping through life.

This year, we decided not to go to Branson with my parents.  That was kind of a hard thing to decide.  My parents are slowing down a little, and they didn’t make a trip to Branson this year either.  We decided that finishing our basement was our vacation. That was very responsible of us, right? We made that decision last fall. That decision didn’t seem like such a good idea as spring break got closer.  We made some last minute arrangements for some fun.

The weekend started with the family splitting up. Scott went to a wedding of one of his former wrestlers from Iowa.  He loved that.  Olivia and I went to her basketball tournament in Northern Wisconsin.  Because that’s where all the cool people spend Spring Break.  In Northern Wisconsin.

Olivia’s teammates happen to have some of the funniest and most pleasant families a gal could know. Especially the moms.  This tournament was really just like a girls’ weekend disguised as a basketball tournament.  Please don’t tell the coaches.

I was still a hair out of sorts from the craziness that has been our life this year.  I didn’t know if I was up for intense socializing at the tournament.  One mom (who also happens to be a super bff) told me she completely understood my position.   She said that right before she forced entry into my hotel room under the guise of not being able to tell me her story properly in the hallway.  Then, she and our other bff proceeded to make me laugh ’til I cried for the next hour.  And, I thought I needed to be alone.

Sometimes a girl just really doesn’t know what she needs.

After the basketball tournament, the next item on the agenda was cousins. Our kids see their cousins way less than they’d like.  A shame, because spending time with their cousins is our kids’ favorite thing to do.  The boys went off and did boy things.  There was a lot of sweat, violence and laughing involved. That’s all I know. That’s all I want to know.

The girls went shopping.  We took my niece shopping for a prom dress.  That was really fun.  Olivia and I also took the opportunity to give Scott a heart attack.  Olivia tried on some dresses..  We found the worst possible choice (a dress that is only slightly more modest than showing up to the dance in a string bikini) and took a picture of Olivia wearing the dress.  We sent a picture of Olivia in the dress to Scott, and told him he could quit worrying about what Olivia would wear to homecoming.  We found the perfect dress.

When we got home, Scott told us that we need to reevaluate our sense of humor.  He doesn’t find us amusing.

After the shopping trip, Scott and I planned a 24-hour, no-kid-outing. We try to do this every spring break.  Our kids find this outing disgusting, and that’s exactly why it is required.  Our children have always been just generally offended by the nature of my relationship with Scott.  I hate disappointing my kids, but in this particular situation, I do believe the best and wisest parental advice I can give our offspring is to say, suck it. We’re going.

Sorry kids.  The cold truth is, your dad and I enjoy each other’s company.  We like to talk.  We like to have time to think out loud with each other, plan for the future, and, yeah, hold each other’s hands.  We know you don’t like this, and that is exactly why we are going away.  Don’t worry. We will always come back.  Like, 90% chance.  Almost always.

I had a lovely friend give me a spa gift certificate for Christmas.  Scott and I used the gift certificate at Oasis Day Spa in Madison.  We got the couple’s massage.  I thought it would be awkward.  It wasn’t.  I recommend this outing for all tired, overworked and overwhelmed married people. Just do it.  You’re born.  You die.  It goes fast.  Make the stuff in between count.

Scott and I were a little out of our element in the Spa atmosphere.  Spa employees are trained to dote on you.  We’re not used to doting. But, let me assure you, it takes a fraction of a moment to get used to doting.  I could put up with it full time.  I really could.

After our one day honeymoon, we went back home and did a bunch of boring grown up stuff.  We cleaned the garage.  This garage thing is going to be a whole other blog.  You’ve been warned.  Everything that was in our basement before we remodeled is now in our garage.  The inside of our garage is one of the most frightening sights imaginable.  My mother opened the garage door a few weeks ago; what she saw took her breath away.

The whole remodeling thing started during the wrestling season.  There was no rhyme or reason to removing stuff from the basement.  It was a giant, freaking, nightmare of a free-for-all.  Scott and I felt renewed enough from our time away that we felt able to face this garage situation.   We made some progress.

Our final brew-ha-ha was two nights at the Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, WI.  I had visited this place during a work convention.  I knew it was nice.  I saw a Groupon for the resort, and we decided this would be our spring break mini vacay.  We asked my parents to come too, because spring break without them seems sad.  They agreed right away.

Lake Geneva is close to Elkhorn, the little town where my Mom was raised.  My Mom’s Dad, my Grandpa, was my babysitter when I was in preschool.  He watched me while my mom finished college at Whitewater.

My Grandpa was, without exaggeration, the nicest man I have ever known.  Grandpa was amazed by pets, children, and, really, just about anyone he met.  Grandpa never raised his voice.  He thought having a 4-year-old girl companion was just about the best luck he could have.

At that time, my family had no money for extra indulgences.  Grandpa and Grandma worked hard and saved hard their entire lives. To me, it seemed like they were rich.  Grandpa would always find an excuse to go to the store and buy me a little something. Or, he would take me out to eat.  Eating out was something we almost never did at home. Gosh, I loved that man.

Grandpa died when I was in 7th grade.  I was devastated.

My Mom had a brilliant idea to visit Elkhorn on the way to Lake Geneva.  I told her that it would be so fun to show the kids one of the happiest places from my childhood.  I was remembering with my Mom how Grandpa would take me to the restaurant downtown. We would sit at the counter and order our food.  Grandpa and I preferred the malts.  My Mom did some research.  Turns out that restaurant is still there.

Guess where we took the family for lunch?

Displaying 20150402_140400.jpg

The “Elk Restaurant” still has awesome food, and the counter is STILL THERE!!!  My kids thought this was great fun.

malts at the elk

The malts are still delicious.

What I didn’t know is that my Grandma used to waitress at the “Elk Restaurant”.  The story is that my Grandparents met at this restaurant.

Grandma’s story is sad, but it has a happy ending.  Grandma’s Mom died from that wicked influenza breakout in the first part of the 1900’s.  Grandma was just a baby then.  Grandma’s father (my Great Grandfather) married again.  My Grandma lived with her Dad, her step mom and too many step siblings.

Eventually, at the ripe age of 13, Grandma was forced out on her own.  She became a cook for farmhands.  My Mom says she is pretty sure Grandma survived some ugliness during those years without the protection of adults in her daily life. We’ll never really know to what extent Grandma suffered.  Grandma wasn’t one to carry on about things, or indulge in self pity. Hard to believe we share the same blood.  I know.

Eventually, Grandma decided she had enough of farmhands; she packed all her belongings in one small suitcase and walked to town.  She came to the “Elk Restaurant” and asked if she could have a job. They said, yes.  Grandma started working that day.  One of the waitresses saw Grandma’s suitcase, and asked Grandma where she planned to stay. Grandma said she didn’t know, exactly.  The waitress said Grandma could stay with her until she found something.  So, Grandma did.

I feel sad when I think about Grandma’s hard life.  Then, I think about her resourcefulness, intelligence and work ethic; I thank God for providing that sweet young girl with those attributes.  I believe that It’s those attributes, and the kind people God put in my Grandma’s life that altered her course.  Grandma found my Grandpa eventually; they had a happy, secure and sweet life without any of the trauma and neglect that Grandma knew well.

vi and john

Grandma Vi and Grandpa John with their first born baby girl, Pamela.

My Mom told us this story while we were eating at the “Elk Restaurant”.  She had my kids’ full attention.  It was beautiful.  My kids can’t help that they’re spoiled.  They really can’t.  I can’t help that I’m spoiled.  It’s so difficult, almost impossible, to understand and appreciate what you have, when you have always had it.

Grandma’s story was a good chance to appreciate what we have, and to honor Grandma’s part in providing it for us.

Eating at the “Elk” might have been the highlight of my vacation.

After our history lesson from Grandma, we traveled on to “The Grand Geneva”. That’s a nice place.  What a happy coincidence. Our kids like doing the same things Scott and I like to do. Our whole family played a lot of games of basketball with random kids we found in the gym.  We played tennis (indoors, of course), and used the work out facility.  Olivia and I walked outside too. We asked the boys to join us, but the boys don’t walk for enjoyment.  They say it hurts their hips.  Yep. These are the guys that beat the crap out of each other in the wrestling room every day.  Sometimes you just have to pretend people make sense.

We read a lot (well, maybe that was just me), ate a lot, and just had loads of fun.

grand geneva lobby

Real fire place at Grand Geneva. Perfect place to read.

grand geneva lobby 2

Me. Trying to go incognito. Hundreds of my blog fans were milling about, wanting an autograph. They’re just a bit off camera, so you can’t see them.

Whew.  I’m so relieved.  I guess I did do some things in those nine days. I only slept part of the time. If I had to guess, I would say there’s a chance you’re sleeping now.  I would be, if I just tried reading all that.

I hope you did something special on spring break, whether it was last week, this week or next.  You should.  You really should.

Don’t forget, we’ll be dead soon.

That needs to go on a greeting card.  I’m a word crafter, you know; delicately combining words that help to inspire and encourage. I’m good.  I’m really good.

I need to warn you about something.  I’m not really in my right mind yet.  I don’t know if it’s the unbalanced hormones, or the loss, but I’m not yet thinking like the me that I know.  And, to be perfectly honest, I’m sort of enjoying it.  I am thinking like someone who’s heart longs for deeper meaning in life, and a genuine, active, real connection with God.

So, if you are like the old me, and you kind of get bored when people start talking about things you can not measure, hold or see standing in front of you, then you may want to bag off this post for now.  I’m sure the silly, more shallow version of me will be making a come back in the future.  I won’t have hurt feelings if you want to wait until she returns.

The first thing I have been pondering is faith and the human spirit. What a beautiful combination. I am suddenly noticing how choices and the condition of a person’s heart make it possible for sadness and blessings to occupy the same space.

I have evidence.

Example A.  My sister, Gail.  You may remember that I’ve blogged about my sister, Gail, and her family.  Ryan was my sister Gail’s son.  Ryan was a beautiful person, physically and spiritually.  Ryan died in a climbing accident around Easter, three years ago.  From the onset of my sister’s journey to live without her eldest son, she has boldly committed to  grieve and worship simultaneously.  What happened next is a miracle.

ryan jumping

This past weekend, while I was grieving the loss of our unborn child, my sister, Gail, was conducting a “Birthday Weekend” for my parents, sisters and nieces.  Gail flew to Wisconsin from Colorado with the singular purpose of making all her family’s unmet Birthday wishes come true.  For 48 hours, Gail strategically preformed a dozen or so complicated acts of kindness, with the singular purpose of making people happy.  There was a water balloon fight (in some seriously cold Wisconsin temps), a “Frozen” party (after the water balloons, of course), a tea party, a dance party, and the list continues.

Everyone was supposed to tell Gail about their Birthday wishes in advance.  I thought I forgot to tell Gail what mine was.  I guess I was wrong.  Somewhere along the way I must have said I always wished I could have a surprise party.  You know, the kind someone else plans for you, and not the kind you plan for yourself.

I came over to my mom’s on Saturday morning.  I bet you can guess what happened next.  “SURPRISE”!!!!  The girls did it.  They surprised me.  Everyone bought me gifts too, which was the real reason I wanted a surprise party.

One of the gifts Gail gave me was a butterfly decoration.  She gave one to everybody.   The butterfly represents transformation.  Life can be ugly, and it can leave us feeling low and unworthy.  Gail knows that better than most.  Gail explained, our Faith in Christ can transform our hearts, and turn sadness into beauty and worship, allowing our hearts both to grieve and to soar.

butterfly

Gail said that regardless of our circumstances, our lives can become like butterflies; sharing  beauty with others who witness the butterfly in flight.

Kind of deep, right?  Kind of perfect, is what I was thinking.

At one point in the day, we were on a hill singing worship songs.  Gail was telling us a bit more about her butterfly theory.  And, just in case we missed her point entirely, she started to run and flap her “butterfly wings”.  Gail asked us to join her.  Only, we didn’t. Watching her do this on her own was just too much fun.  I’m not sure what happened.  That butterfly performance was for sure more like a me thing to do.  It wasn’t a typical Gail thing.  Really.  Not at all.

I keep thinking about Gail on top of that hill, flapping her arms, trying to make us laugh.  And, I think THAT is the miracle I know about.  The miracle I have seen. This grieving mother,  this grieving,  joyful mother, without her living, first-born son,  intent on spreading joy and encouragement into the lives of people she knows.  This is the evidence I have that with a heart in the right condition, intent on worship, faith and good choices, God will, and has, poured out blessings and joy, despite sad circumstances.

I’ve seen it.

I didn’t have a lot of words to share this weekend.  But, I want to use some words now to thank Gail, and to thank God for using Gail to show me things I desperately needed to know.

Example B

I am not sure anything will impact my thoughts as much as the miracle that is my sister’s life.  But, there are other smaller things happening that keep my heart in praise mode.  Like these two guys:

20150320_190739

I didn’t know how my own physical difficulty combined with a common family heart ache would affect teen age boys.  My boys have been trained by their Dad, and, just to be super honest, I couldn’t hope for more than these guys to turn out like their Dad. I’ve been PRAYING that this is exactly what happens.  Their Dad is seriously still my favorite person.  Ever.

That being said, nobody’s perfect.  If you hire Scott to be your nursemaid, you’d better have a back up in mind.  He isn’t good at it.  He’s good at a ton of things, but sympathy and pillow fluffing isn’t one of them.  I’m not down very often, but when I am, I’m pretty sure Scott would like to write me a prescription for, “Call me when it’s over.”

I’m just kidding.  He’s not that bad, but these jokes are just coming to me, and I’ve been really serious lately, so can we just have some fun for once?  I don’t think Scott will care.  Not that he won’t find out.  Some gabby mcblabber mouth is bound to tell Scott what I said.  Someone always does.  I keep telling Scott that he shouldn’t be offended.  The stuff I blog about is just between my blog friends and me.  It’s not like I’d share that with just anyone.

But, what I was talking about was my boys.  I have felt this sweetness coming out of them that makes my heart all soft.  If you have teenage boys, you know what I mean.  I know that if I want what’s best for my boys, then I should be glad they my boys are becoming more independent.  I shouldn’t long for my boys to hold my hand or curl up in my lap like they did when they were little.  That would be nice, but I don’t think it would be so good for them. I want my boys to know how to take care of themselves.  They want that for themselves too.  I can tell,  and that’s why it feels like they are instinctively pulling away in small but steady increments.

I can tell you that when I’ve been sad and low, seeing my sweet sons keep one eyeball on me, sharing spontaneous hugs, and being very considerate of my needs, warmed my heart.  Seeing the tears in their eyes when they saw the tears in mine, helped me remember that these guys are independent and strong, but they have big, kind hearts.

I asked for ice cream one night.  They ran out and got it (Yes. There was definitely something in that for them too), and they bought milk and toilet paper too.  I didn’t know my boys were old enough to be caretakers, but I guess they are. That’s another blessing.

The other things that have been happening are just so little.  It’s really nothing at all, but it’s stuff that makes me see how God can use sadness to bring families together, and make a family feel closer.  It’s stuff like three teenagers sticking close to home, and opting not to go anywhere so they can hang out with their parents.  It’s three teenagers and two parents, spontaneously doing a crazy dance in the kitchen.  It’s two parents clinging to each other, and worrying about how to solve each other’s grief.

This is my testimony. This is me in a state of worship. This is part of  my sad and beautiful story.  We all have one.  This is me, trying to be a butterfly.  Next year I am totally going to flap my arms on top of that hill.  Gail should NOT have all the fun.

worship

Grief

I’m not sure what to say.  I found a way to be alone, and, of course, I want to write.  I just don’t know what to say.

The baby is gone.

We went to the hospital yesterday.  Olivia and Scott went with me.  I was more than ready.  Women who carry non living babies inside of them are strong women.  That’s a special kind of torture.  I never knew, and I’m sorry I didn’t, because my heart would have been so much more tender towards these sisters, had I known.

I didn’t cry.

I’m learning something about myself.  I have a chip on my shoulder about crying.  I hate crying.  Especially in front of people.  I would rather chew the inside of my cheek raw then shed a tear in front of an audience.  I have heard my mom say that where tears are present, so is the Holy Spirit.  Hmmm.  I don’t think I want to chew on that one right now.  I suspect I might discover I have some spiritual growing up to do.  Can we agree to table that thought?  I’ve got a lot of other stuff that needs my attention.

I was all business at the hospital.  The nurse asked me to come back to a room by myself at first.  She left me alone to change, and laying on the pillow was a poem.  I don’t know exactly what it said.  I got that the poem was about mourning the loss of your child, and it was exactly what I didn’t want to see.  Just looking at it caused spontaneous tears to form.  The nurse could be back any minute, so those tears were making me really mad.

My instinct was to grab that poem and throw it in the garbage.  I thought I might regret that, and maybe that poem was something Scott would want to read.  So, I picked it up carefully, keeping it as far away from me as possible. I put it in a folder that looked like it contained other grieving brochures and turned it upside down. There, now I didn’t have to see it.  I had a few more minutes to get a hold of myself, and I did.

The nurse eventually let Scott and Olivia back in the room.  That was good; having them there certainly helped me relax.  All of the healthcare professionals were really kind to Olivia.  That was nice.  The nurse asked Olivia what her favorite thing was.  Olivia asked the nurse to clarify, “Do you mean at school, or what sports?”

The nurse answered, “No.  I mean, if I asked you what your favorite thing was in this whole world; it could be anything.  What would it be?”

Olivia thought for a few seconds. Then she said, “Being with my family.”

Olivia for the win.  How did she know the most comforting thing for my ears to hear before I had to do something so hard?

I have realized that moving through this hard thing is going to make my heart soft towards other women going through this hard thing.  I know that because of all the women who have reached out to me to tell me they share my pain.  One woman I love told me this.  She said that when I went to have the procedure, they would give me an anesthetic, and I would love it.  She said that all that pain in your heart, shoulders and neck is briefly lifted, and it is heaven.

She was totally right.  Those were some sweet seconds.

One of our friends was the anesthetist.  He was rolling me back to surgery, and I felt so light.  I wasn’t carrying a block of concrete on my heart and back like I had been since we heard the sad news.  In my drugged state, all the nurses looked funny, misformed, like an old TV that was going out of focus.  I am almost positive I told our friend, “I’m totally gonna blog about this.”

And, so I did.

So, now it’s time to move on.  I was a good patient.  When I got home I read the folder on grief.  What I learned is that anything goes.  Whatever I feel is okay to feel.  Some moms take it as hard as you possibly can.  Some moms don’t.  Both moms are right.

The best advice I have received is from someone close, who’s walked this road more than once.  She told me that if you feel grief, you have to express it.  She didn’t do that.  She is super tough and hard working.  She lost two children, two separate times.  Each time, she got up and went to work the next day.  You know, carry on, and all that.  She didn’t even give herself much credit for doing that at the time.  Then, years later, that unexpressed grief,  simmering below the surface, bubbled up and poured through all the open crevices of her life.  She was quite paralyzed by it.

If you think I’m not going to listen to sage advice like that, you don’t know me very well.  I’ve been telling the other four people in my family this advice too.  I say, “Whatever we are feeling, we have to express it.  We have to take time to acknowledge that our hearts are broken.  That doesn’t mean we’re going to stay stuck in this sadness, this is our way to move through it.  Because, we are definitely moving through.  We’re not here to stay.”

I’m trying to express it now.

I’m really, really sad.  I have an image I can’t get out of my head.  On the ultra sound, it looked like the baby had it’s back to me. Was he doing that on purpose?  Didn’t the baby know how much I wanted him/her?  I should have told him.  Yes.  I was overwhelmed.  Yes.  I was fearful.  But, I just would like a chance to tell our baby that I was doing everything I could to create a safe environment for him.  I was eating all the right things.  I was taking my vitamins and reading up on tips for how to have a healthy pregnancy.  I would have given my life for him, just like I would his/her brothers and sister.  That’s what I want our baby to know. So, I’m saying it.

Life will keep going, and we will eventually be less sad.  I know that because of all the women who have told me about their lost children.  I didn’t know.  A lot of people are good at surviving sadness.  We are too.

Coincidentally, the day after my surgery was my family’s girls’ weekend.  I put on a smile and participated for part of a day.  It was really good.  My sisters are great.  They made me laugh until my sides hurt.  I can’t think of any better therapy than that.  I told my sisters I did not want any emotional tributes.  I didn’t want any special attention on our family’s recent wound.   This is the kind of family who wouldn’t dream of giving you anything other than what you asked for; I am blessed to be a part of this clan.

We did go to a beautiful spot and spent some time in worship.  My soul was lifted.

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