Tag Archives: feel

Mystery, Suspense, and a New (to me) Car

My kids are out trick-or-treating. I am writing. Many irons in the writing fire, a new blog post moves to the head of the line. I hear dishes rattling in the kitchen as my husband attempts clean-up. I am thankful for his care even as I struggle with my feelings about how things are going right now.

I feel I have earned this time by last-minute costume shopping with one child who ended up choosing a completely different ~ yet adorable ~ costume from her closet. I carved three pumpkins and found food for everyone to eat on this last day of October, when all envelopes in the budget system are bare. There are pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven, being stirred every fifteen minutes.

With much on my mind, I wonder if we will one day have technology that translates thoughts into words on a page. Maybe it already exists. I am always thinking about writing and composing posts with words in my head. Sometimes I am so eloquent that it is a pity that you have to miss out on the brilliance. Others, I am grateful that there is no way for you to know what is going on inside of me.

I lost my Jetta this month through no fault of anyone’s but a driver who rear-ended my son as he was driving it. The There was an accident call incited much anxiety as my husband drove to meet him on the scene. For a terrifying twenty-minute dog walk at 10:00pm on a Thursday, I wondered what happened and what would be the outcome.

Don’t worry. It wasn’t his fault. Everything will be ok.

The text from my husband came through much to my relief, and I continued on my way, talking to my friend, Beth, who called me as she saw me on the walk. I live in a small town. She was making a left turn at an intersection I was crossing and called to say she saw me. I am grateful that I chose to answer.

The Jetta was totaled with both front and back smashed. My son was sandwiched between the car that hit him and one in front of him, stopped at the red light. I was grateful that no one was hurt but sad to lose my little car. I said as much in a Facebook post, because isn’t that what we do, post the events of our lives on the book or the gram?

Fast forward a week or two and the car replacement process was playing out. Grateful for a husband who pursued Craig’s List leads and asked for VINs, I still felt sadness over the loss of the first car that I genuinely loved and enjoyed.

My friend, Linda, generously lent her minivan after the rental car time expired, so that we did not feel pressured or rushed to make a purchase. That was such a gift.

Two Thursdays after the one in which my car was lost, a missed package card came in the mail. The next day I planned to walk downtown to retrieve it.

I did that very thing, only to be told that I was in the wrong location, and that my package was waiting at the post office further away. I hopped into the borrowed van to pick it up, curiosity getting the better of me, not willing to wait out the weekend for a re-delivery.

At the correct post office, I was handed a box from France. Resisting the urge to say, This can’t be right. Are you SURE this is for me? I signed for it.

Returning to the van, I held the lightweight package in my hand, looking it over, curious and wondering and fearful.

This has happened to me before, the receiving of an unexpected package. I am embarrassed to say that my first thought is that it was something dangerous. I did that with this package, too, which turned out to be a most delightful gift!

Biting the bullet, I tore the box open and gingerly removed the wadded up French advertisements, cushioning the contents, to reveal a small gray box with a die-cast model car in it.

mini Jetta

This clearly was sent to the wrong location! Someone in the Etats Unis is going to be very disappointed not to receive their collectible.

It wasn’t until further notice of the VW insignia on the box that the meaning of the package struck me and I was speechless.

Someone ordered a mini die cast version of my Jetta and had it sent to me from France! Someone realized that losing my car was a big deal for me and wanted me to remember. Someone sees.

Overwhelmed was an understatement. As one who is continuing to learn to find my feelings, I was deeply moved and in a place of intense grasping for the best way to feel. Finally I decided to just take the pressure off and let my feelings come to me later.

I had many suspects on my radar, none of which were the one when I asked. It was fun to think and wonder and be curious. It was disconcerting to be the recipient of such an amazing gesture and not know who to thank. It was humbling.

My final hunch was right. I posted a Facebook status about the surprise, that I was fairly certain this friend would understand, even if she wasn’t the one.

But she was.

And I am so thankful and feel so loved.

Here is a picture of my new car. We bought it on Saturday, two weeks after the accident. It is a 2002 Honda Civic that was purchased for the exact amount of the insurance check that we got for the Jetta. That, in itself, is a gift.

Civic

They Matter

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Facebook reminds me of this, and friends post their words on this, and stories flood back to me, and my heart grows heavy. I wrestle the with words I long to share, swirling inside of me, as my own darlings yell and fight over Saturday chores outside of my bedroom door.

Sitting in the space of pregnancy loss is uncomfortable. Something about the way it appears we had and have control over getting or not getting pregnant causes rationalization and hasty statements to make sense of the senseless. We want to push ahead to the but then this happened and look at how everything turned out just fine. In fact, if I hadn’t lost x then I wouldn’t have y.

And yet, x mattered, too. Every moment of x. The days written for x were x’s days to be, and I think we lose something if we leave x behind in the dust and ashes of rationalization and spiritualization. We cheapen all things working together for good when we fail to acknowledge all that is not as is should be. Working together for good and good are not the same.

First, there is grief and loss. Those things are not good.

I remember each pregnancy test I took. I can still feel the edginess of ambivalence, wondering if I really wanted to know, wondering if my life was about to change ~ again, wondering how I would break the news ~ again.

To write this from a place of eight pregnancies carried to term with relatively little complication is not meant to be insensitive to those who have struggled or never have or never will. There are pieces still in process in my story. I have struggled deeply. More than I am ready to share with the world today.

It is to say, I know the strong, life-changing feelings that occur simply by anticipating peeing on a stick (or in a cup as it was once-upon-a-time when pregnancy tests were more like chemistry sets!). I know the panic that blood during pregnancy brings. I have been there.

Knowing that blood equaled loss in my mother’s story, I thought it would be the same in mine, and prepared to lose my first dream, weeks into my marriage.

As it turned out, that first child has always been strong and made us well aware of her presence with the sound of a heartbeat, earlier than was supposed to be possible, according to the midwife. Nothing was sweeter and more reassuring than that sound of life galloping away inside of me.

But for a time, I was preparing for loss. I was on the edge of physically and emotionally losing the little one I had dreamed about and hoped for. Even in my ambivalence of newlywedded overwhelm and uncertainty, I wanted that little person so badly.

I wanted every one of them so badly. In the hard places, when I was not sure I was ready, once they were there, I could not imagine them not being. It is why I believe we usually get nine months to prepare. In best-case scenarios.

I have lost siblings to miscarriage. I have watched my mother grieve.

I have sat with women in hard places of loss, hearing heavy words and big feelings. I have held the fragile, lifeless body of my nephew born too soon while the same size of life grew inside of me. I have been unable to be there at times when I wish I could, leaving loved ones to suffer loss in loneliness.

I grieve.

Those little lives mattered. Each one of them. Even the ones that are hard to understand and process and place.

Every day that they lived was the life written for them. They had something to teach us and something to say. I find great comfort in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Even 49 days matter. Even if another child is conceived two months after that. A child born after loss does not negate loss.

The secret things belong to the Lord, and there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. Those who have experienced the profound loss of a child, or the hope of a child, or the death of the dream of a child, or a dream that they had for a child know that there are no easy answers. There is no making sense.

To those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, some of you sit in a space of longing for and missing your child, knowing with certainty your story of what was and then was not. Others sit in a place of confusion and conflict, not knowing for sure. I believe it is possible to know deep in your heart what was, even when no empirical evidence exists. Your body knows.

I invite you to consider what was written for you in the life of your child. What did that little one have to say to you? What were you taught through your little one’s days?

Because it matters. They matter.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13.

Nine Years

We’ll start with that next time, my counselor says, indicating that this time is up.

Pushing off with his feet, rolling in his chair to a desk in the corner, setting up next week’s appointment, I am left sitting on the couch with that statement. Beside me, my husband tries offering a reassuring presence in the form of his comforting smile and nod, but I am having none of it.

At thirty-six years of age, it took every ounce of courage to speak the place where trauma, pain, and betrayal hijacked me as a teenager. This time. My counselor is calling me deeper. Next time.

My breathing grows shallow, and blood runs cold as ice through my veins. The trick of dissociating by numbing out and viewing myself from a distance begins to take over. Noticing this, Counselor checks in and rolls from his desk to the expansive bookshelves lining the wall. Scanning them in earnest, he searches.

I am afraid to ask, though had he told me, I could have located the volume first, having become an expert at focusing on those titles and authors behind him while trying to stay grounded during sessions.

Here it is. You need to get a copy of this book to read.

He does not offer to give it to me or let me borrow it. I cannot take it home today. I have to get it for myself. Later.

Taking it into my hands, glancing at the image on the cover while simultaneously reading the title and subtitle, draws copious tears that I struggle to sniff back, but they morph into full-blown sobs, betraying my stoic facade. I cannot hide the fear and terror evoked by the simple act of holding this book.

What’s wrong? Why the tears?

Counselor’s gruff bedside manner does not mask his concern, as he gently prods my pain, following the trail I am leaving.

I don’t want to look at my story! I hate everything about my story!

This visceral response is gut-wrenchingly real. His response to my outburst is kind. He affirms something about my story having value, etc. . . I am not in a place to hear or believe him, but I know that since he has recommended To Be Told ~ God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future by Dan Allender with my husband in the room, the book will show up at our house.

Anything to help me, to fix this, my husband of fifteen years will do.

The book arrives, and I reluctantly begin reading. It feels too big and too much to think of actually writing out and sharing parts of my story to process with others, as recommended, yet I am intrigued by lines such as this, Neither your life nor mine is a series of random scenes that pile up like shoes in a closet. (To Be Told, p. 3)

I am shattered. Undone. Curious.

Nine years later. . .

It would be easier and tidier to write ten years later, but an honest time frame says nine.

Nine years have passed since that original scene of facing what was terrible, traumatic, and unspoken in my heart. I am forty-five years old, mid-forties, still processing and in process. I am in a healthier place of healing and growth. Redemption has come knocking on my door, and I have chosen to bravely open up to it, in all of its scary, strange, disruptive glory.

Growth has not been easy. It has taken much time and courage. There are still painful places in my story to visit and name. I have been living life in the meantime; a life large, messy, and full of its own trauma, trial, and error. Life stops for no one.

Nine years ago, I was married for 15 years and had seven children ranging in age from 15 to 1. Little Mae, the surprising finale to our family, was not even on my radar. Now I have half of an empty nest, with four children living at home and four living life on their own.

Nine years ago I was 36. So young. I felt so old.

Dear thirty-something struggling with your role in your story, it is not over. It is not all written. There is hope. Investigating the shoe pile-up in your closet is worth it. You do not need to struggle alone. Find someone to help you find your brave.

Nine years later, I have had time to process and to practice new skills. I have learned more words for finding my feelings and speaking my reality. I have had people sit with and support and guide and encourage me. I have had time to sit with others.

Not everyone is called to this journey a friend once told me, as I wrestled and struggled and questioned and cried, every fiber in me wanting to go back to what was.

Nine years ago, I could not have known the role that the book To Be Told and the work of its author would play in my life. I could only take it in hand, take courage to read, and keep moving forward.

Now, I am not looking back, unless it’s to help me move forward.

Friendship Friday ~ Cousin Day

Yesterday was a special day. It had been written on a calendar block, cleared of all else. We spent all day with the Boston little boy cousins and their amazing parents.

My anxiety about having little people around for the day was alleviated quickly when this little one walked in, grabbed a recorder, and began playing while his brother accompanied him on the piano.

recorder

Uncle B patiently listened to Little Mae tell all about King’s Dominion adventures using her map of the park.

Mae and Uncle B

My baby and my sister’s baby smiled at each other a lot, which was a huge milestone for anyone who knows my baby and her thoughts about babies.

Baby B

Baby B won her over.

Mae and baby

Meanwhile, lots of creating happened. The cry of Guys, Guys! Look over here! caught my attention. I looked to see this little one with his airplane.

airplane

My much younger sister was caught wearing my perpetual mothering face in this picture. I so know the feeling.

mothering face

With everything happening at once, there were problems to solve, like the one of figuring out how to find all of the pieces and get this track to stick to the green board. Daddy to the rescue on that one! Problem solved.

track

It was sweet for my littles to get an opportunity to experience the life of their big siblings. Here Coco gets to feel like her big sisters when the littles were being born, holding a babe in arms.

Coco and baby

And these eyes and little chewing mouth. I could not get enough of them.

chewdalee chew

And this snuggly sleeper. I might have cried a little.

sleepy baby

Of course, a day with littles (or bigs for that matter) is not complete without some down time with a screen and a cuddly blanket.

screen time

This day was so full, pictures don’t do it justice. I finally had to put down the phone and just be in it, because everything was so much to take in.

I want to remember the moments of sweetness like a two-and-a-half-year-old cousin wandering into the TV room with his bowl of shredded cheese and climbing up next to Kirk and asking questions about Minecraft. My thirteen-year-old’s patient response and offer of letting him play reminded me of how Caleb treated his little brother, and my heart swelled.

I want to remember the conversations with my brother and sister that felt natural and relaxed and made us forget that we live hundreds of miles apart and that this doesn’t happen every day. Moments of falling asleep on the couch or walking out into the yard or playing UNO Attack (thanks, B!!!!) felt like they happen every day.

And dinner time. Oh, the dinner table.

I want to remember shopping with my sister and planning our meal like it’s the most normal thing in the world, all while talking about everything. I want to remember cooking and being together and living life.

I want to remember what it was like to have a full dinner table and the littles getting to be the bigs and experiencing the noise and cries and trauma of food touching other food or too much ketchup coming out of the bottle or corn on the cob rolling onto the wrong place on the plate. Our table was full and loud and fun.

Our day was full and loud and fun.

My body, mind, and soul felt full and tired and happy and sad and grateful, so very grateful.

sister selfie

At the end of the day when, Sister Selfie! was called, here is what we got. Sister selfie, plus one. I am old enough to be this girl’s mom, so I could technically be a grandma. Technically. Not yet.

For now I relish being auntie to this precious little one and his brothers and will hold so many special memories close to my heart.

It was a very good day.

Summer Rising

It’s not even technically summer, yet, but we will call it summer.

School is out, finally and completely finished for everyone. The first morning of us all home together wrung me in the worst of ways. In the span of hours there were tears and heartache and disappointments and relief, and that was just from me.

Each child had his or her own voice to add to the chorus. Fifteen minutes of weeding the side yard and watering the rogue vines growing in the dirt pile out back offered a bit of relief for my soul.

I woke from a nightmare that was morbid and gruesome and disturbing. It’s meaning makes complete sense to me. My brain is full and dumping data on overtime’s schedule. Vivid dreams are one way I deal with overload.

After traveling at breakneck speed for the last weeks, it feels as if my internal emergency brake handle was pulled, leaving emotions to fly forward as I simultaneously jerk them back. The collateral damage felt through my eyes and heart reminds me of the messiness of even the good parts of life.

Day One. Send off adult kids to their own homes on the heels of a big graduation weekend. Process hard places and disappointments and Plan B with newest adult and send him off, as well. Hear the rest of the voices left under the roof, clamoring for attention. Drop one at a friend’s, take the others to the library, make semi-annual contribution to the library’s operating fund in the form of overdue book fees, talk to a sister or two on the phone, read for a little while. Try to write. Feel feelings that are stirring and allow self to cry. Go to quiet corner only to find it claimed by the queen of the house. Sit on bed instead.

Zephyr

I am trying to accept the arrival of summer with open hands. I see the kindness in the chaos and the goodness in the grief. It is only day one. There is time for space to open and for dust to settle and for change to offer perspective, as I feel summer rising.

Drummer Boy

This is it. Graduation day. I am so proud of you.

You broke the mold, Son. So many molds of mine, actually.

You broke my birthing mold.
You broke my parenting mold.
You broke my teaching mold.

You were born with a free spirit, to the beat of a different drum.

I didn’t know it.

I had a lot to learn that only you could teach me.

  • Start each day with breakfast. As you came downstairs each morning, your first words were “Need bekkis”
  • Ask for what you need. “Need kiss” as you took your paci out of your mouth to kiss me with your toddler mouth
  • Laugh in the funny moments. like when a new mattress was delivered, and it looked like my bed had grown two feet taller, and I stood with four year old you as we spontaneously laughed
  • Sing your own song. As I’m changing your diaper and singing your nigh-nigh bed song and you chime in with a “Play toys” descant. At 18 months.
  • Weigh your options. When reading blends and words wasn’t really worth it and made you cough until mini marshmallows were on the line. Then you were a reading pro!
  • Be helpful. As four year old you carried newborn Kirk down the stairs to me because “He was going to cry.”
  • Use your voice. Yours was loud and insistent and challenging, but it got my attention. And that of anyone within hearing range in a parking lot or grocery store as you threw one of those tantrums that “my child would never throw.” And that of the neighbor when you were yelling out of the window with your friends.
  • Love people and make friends. Like you do so well.

I wish I could go back to that 27-year-old mama of four and give her one of the hugs that infant and toddler you so lavishly bestowed on me.

I would tell her that it really is worth it and really is a blessing amidst the tantrums and struggles over raincoats and putting away sandals and clipping into car seats.

I would ask her what she was afraid of and stop to listen to her answer. I would show her the very things she feared she was creating if she didn’t slow down and live in the moment. I miss the moments. I’m sorry that it took me so long to recognize them. I’m sorry that I thought I could control what I feared.

I’ve always said that I wanted things to be what they really are, even when it is painful.

I remember how painful it was to make the decision to enroll you at THMS. That was really hard in many ways due to my background and story, but I knew that it was the right thing for you. Even though the middle school years were messy, it was worth it that day as we were riding to or from high school when you spontaneously thanked me.

Thanks, Mom, for sending me to THMS so that I could meet my friends.

You have always loved to be with people and to have lots of people around, except maybe at the dinner table if they were under three feet tall and in high chairs. The conversation we had that day in the car confirmed in my heart that the right decision was made for you.

And now here you are.

What’s next?

That’s the question of the season. Friends ask me. They ask you. Everyone has an idea. A suggestion.

It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to be real and unsure and to march to the beat of your own drum. It’s okay to live life and be present in the moment and be open to the future and to not have all of the answers, yet.

Whatever is next, know that you are loved. I am proud of you for who you are. Congratulations on reaching this milestone!

I love you, Drummer Boy.

IMG_4901

Remember this feeling. Keep following your dreams and your gifting! You are a rock solid drummer.

IMG_4902

I love the way it ended where it began.

 

 

Choosing Texas

Would you rather go to Hell or Texas?

Little Mae asks me this very question during our ride to school one morning in May. She sneaks it in after we finish dropping her older brother off at middle school but before arriving at ours. We are rounding the traffic circle, if memory serves.

I am shocked, stunned, slightly panicked.

Where in the world did THIS question come from and WHERE is it going?

Masking my ability to jump to the worst possible conclusion to anything in a single bound, I respond with a question of my own.

Why do you want to know?

I am learning, slowly, but surely, to put into practice all of those good parent techniques that other parents seem to have a handle on. Like asking clarifying questions.

Well, in Sunday School we are learning about the Apostle’s Creed, and there was the question, “Would you rather go to Hell or Texas?”

Aha! Now I have a context and framework. Of Course! He was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into Hell. The third day, he arose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. . .The words that I learned as a child flood back to my mind.

While some would say there is no difference, I definitely have my answer. . .

I would never want me or anyone to go to Hell, and I have been to Texas, so I definitely choose Texas.

In fact, I would love to be in Texas, where I was almost five years ago when I met the woman who would prove to be instrumental in guiding me to the place that I am today!

As is the case any time Mae and I engage in conversation, there is more. Big things and deep thoughts happen in the space of ten minutes, and this time is no exception.

At least I have someone I already know there waiting for me. You know. Porter?

My heart catches in my throat as we enter this new conversation about her cousin born too soon. I never know when to expect them or what to expect from them. Some times are predictable, like kindergarten graduation when they would have graduated together. Others are not, like when we are driving to school.

Yes. Porter is already in Heaven waiting for you. It will be exciting to meet him one day. It’s nice to have someone you know already there before you. . .

We talk about him for awhile and remember together. Well, I remember, and share with her. Each year, she understands a little more. She always understands that he is the cousin her age that is not here.

Just like Kirk has Deacon, and Chloe and Kanah have Jude. She loves Hadassah, but Porter is the one who would have been her age. In her class.

Porter is the one who is missing. Waiting for us on the other side.

So this year on the day that we should be celebrating him turning eight, I honor him by remembering him and reminding us that his life mattered. It still matters. He matters.

We miss you, Porter Silas. We wonder what you would look like and what you would act like. I wonder what it would have been like to teach three second graders this year, with you as a role model to those first grade boys, balancing out that first and second grade table of five at lunch. I wonder what it would have been like to teach you. Thank you for all that you taught us during your short, meaningful life. Thank you for living out each day written for you with purpose and dignity, even when we didn’t, and still don’t, understand why you had to leave us so soon. We are honored to call you nephew and cousin. We remember and will choose Texas every time. We can’t wait to meet you one day in Heaven.