HONORING HUMBOLDT

One would need to be on a desert island to have not heard about the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. Such an immense loss connects people like nothing else. It makes daily life draw to a halt as a body tries to absorb the shockwaves. The ripples reach far, in this case, around the globe.

I am not a hockey mom. To my son’s chagrin, we had neither the finances nor the will to be in cold hockey arenas at 5:00 am on Saturday mornings to give him the option of hockey. But he is a true Canadian and plays hockey to this day, even if it meant an extra trip home to Edmonton to bring his hockey gear to the States where he now lives. Instead, our son played baseball — we exchanged cold arenas for pouring rain and freezing wind in the so-called “spring” of Alberta. His sisters all watched and cheered from an early age. Our youngest had her diapers changed in the back of the station wagon, and many “spits” were consumed over the years. I shouldn’t brag, but our son was a great pitcher. He could have gone somewhere (says every son’s mom) except he sprouted like a weed to his present 6’6″ and continued pitching would have done damage to his elbow. And that phase of life ended.

However, I understand standing behind your child and letting them pursue their dreams, or even their desires, even if some of those desires were fleeting. I also understand the responsibility of being the adult taking other people’s children on highway trips. The kids are pumped and excited for the adventure. We’re the ones that triple-check the cars, make sure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted on insurance and permission forms just in case.

Humbolt is suffering the just in case that we all dreaded. Which is what unites us and makes us feel their pain in the core of our being. I remember one trip where we hit a snowstorm in the mountains on the way home. We had a convoy of three minivans filled (only to the legal amount according to seatbelts!) with young adults. The semis had their chains on their tires. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but there was a truck on one side, mountain on the other, a van in front of us with MY kids in it, and uncontrolled sliding happening. To this day, I can feel the fear rush to my belly. Thank God, everything ended up ok, but we sure needed to decompress at the next rest stop!

And now, a nation watches helplessly as a community grieves. These boys were in their prime, doing what they loved doing. They ARE Canada. These families ARE us. We stand with them in the only way we know how. With prayer. With solidarity. With broken hearts. So many, many lives have been deeply touched. And changed forever. The young men and their families, the hockey association, the first responders, the hospital staff. And the driver of the truck; whether he erred or not, his burden will forever be heavy. God bless you all. May He grant you peace and healing that only He can give. May the community feel love and compassion now, and in the time to come as they stumble their way into a new normal.

You are loved, and you will not be forgotten.

This Love Journey

This past week, I watched and stood by a mother as she made the hardest journey a mother can make. One that NO mother ever wants to make. She lost her only child within a week of a diagnosis. Her child was an adult. This is the third mom I’ve known walk this terrible road. It makes not one whit of difference that her child was grown. This was her baby. This bond, this love that a mother has for her child is unspeakably intense. A part of her died when he took his last breath. In her words, she feels she cannot survive this. Other mothers look on, helpless. We ache because it is a loss that mothers do not even have language for. It’s like a taboo that mothers try to not speak of for fear of bringing it on themselves. We are selfishly grateful that it wasn’t us this time. It is fear of death, and of the deepest pain and sorrow.

This week I asked a question on my FB page. I asked parents WHY they CHOSE to become parents. Why do we? There is such great potential for pain! And jeez, let’s be honest here. It’s hard work! You lose tons of sleep over it. It’s expensive. It’s a sacrifice. It is a never ending job. I mean, never. Ever. Who would willingly sign up for this??? And more than once???

The resounding answer was for love. To be a part of something bigger than ourselves. To have what we had growing up. Even if it was painful. Even though it was flawed. Love should be multiplied, one said. Children are fulfilling, they are a gift. They keep us from becoming selfish. One (dad) wrote that we are genetically programmed, hard-wired to procreate. It was amazing to me how many people responded to my question, both public and privately. And it was interesting how many took a little wander down memory lane. Being part of a family forms us into productive, giving people. It is heartbreaking to see someone stand alone. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are made for relationship.

And then my thoughts turned to the season we are in right now. Today was Palm Sunday. Next week is Easter. I had never fully felt the weight of the sacrifice of Easter until I felt the significant weight of loss of someone I loved. That Easter was totally different for me, as is this Easter with the death of my friend’s son. God did this WILLINGLY. He went into the fear and sorrow that we do everything to stay away from. He gave His only son, Jesus. For us. For me. He gave Jesus to a painful, humiliating death. For me. For you. The trinity is perfect love. There is no flaw. There is no separation. Until God CHOSE separation so that we could have eternal life in heaven with Him. And all I have to do is believe it and accept this incredible gift.

In creation, God created Eve because “it is not good for the man to be alone, so I will create a companion for him, a perfectly suited partner” (Gen 2:18). He made man to reflect God’s nature. And God’s nature is pure love. That sounds like a family to me.

Today I am ever so grateful for family. I am grateful that we have the gift of loving so deeply, that we grieve so deeply. I am grateful for the cross, and for the resurrection. I am grateful that in eternity, love is truly forever, and tears will be no more.

Where was I?

No.  Seriously.  Where was I the last time I just felt like me?  Not someone’s wife or someone’s mom?  Don’t get me wrong.  Being known as someone’s wife or mom is a good thing. I’m proud of my connections to these amazing people.  I just feel a little concerned that I’ve forgotten who I am apart from them.

We were married for just two years when we moved from Edmonton, Alberta to Grand Rapids, Michigan for my husband to attend school.  Our oldest was just a babe, four months old when we left, pulling all our worldly possessions in a trailer behind our little trusty Honda.  (I now truly understand how distressed my mom felt about me taking her grandson away!) This was the first time I was really away from home.  After the first few hours of the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I started to feel the thrill.  I was actually an adult, leaving home!  It does not escape me that I had left home two years earlier, when I got married.  But we lived all of five minutes away from my parents.  There was such a sense of freedom settling in a new city, where no one knew me.  No one knew my past.  No one knew my family, siblings, or history.  It was a totally clean slate.  And I blossomed.  There were no expectations of me.  I reveled in being a new mom.  I enjoyed every second of watching him grow and change by the day.  When my parents came for a visit, I was in my own realm.  And it felt so good.  I was confident in my role.  I was confident in myself.  I tried new things, made new friends.

Life continued on in this vein and our second was born in this season.  After three years we moved to Calgary, Alberta (where my parents had by then retired to) to do an internship in a church there.  During that time, my brother lost his wife suddenly.  A tragic loss in a family changes everyone.  We were blessed to be with family, to be a support for my brother and to mourn as a family.  A year later we went back for the last year of school and the birth of our third child.  She spent a week in the hospital at a month old and that situation really brought home the depth of responsibility of being a parent.  As I let my mind travel back, things began to get hard at this point.  The Canadian economy was very poor, so our Canadian funds didn’t go as far as they used to and financial hardship became a constant for a few years.  Graduation came and went, and another hard season began.  Our denomination at that time extended “calls” for pastors to their churches.  We were almost voted in at several churches, but not quite enough for a position. This became a very public and humiliating time in our lives.  Everyone seemed to know what we needed to do to ‘fix’ the situation. In the end, God moved us on to something else. In the middle of all the unrest, our youngest was born. She brought sunshine to a very difficult time.

And then, we moved to Edmonton, back where we started, and settled in to a more ‘normal’ routine. My husband worked a ‘day job,’ the kids grew into teens and preteens, and I went back to work on a casual basis when our youngest was in grade four. And honestly, through all this, I lost myself. The demands of a house full of growing kids, recovering from the lost dream that had many years of financial sacrifice and personal disappointment had it’s toll. It was very important to me to raise my kids well, and I think a part of me felt like I needed to somehow redeem us from our ‘fall from grace’ in the church. We became very involved in a different denomination and that kept us busy. The kids had activities that they were involved in, be it years of baseball or dance. It was busy. And raising three young ladies, who also had their brush with depression and anxiety was taxing. I just wanted my family to be happy. So that’s where my focus was.

And, as any busy mom can tell you, we forget about taking emotional care of ourselves. I don’t think I was a highly emotional person (partly because my husband didn’t really know what to do with it, so it had no resolution). So, the years tick by, and here I am, wondering. WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED?!

You Can’t Fight City Hall. Or, Depression

Weird title, right? What I mean by it, I suppose, is there are some things you can’t fight. Depression, or living with someone with it, is one of those things. I have sat on this post, not wanting to share it because it seems disrespectful to my husband. However, it is such a significant part of my story, that I can’t leave it out and continue honestly. Please hear my heart in the following.

I know depression is real. I know it is a thief. And I know it is debilitating. I would never assume to attack anyone who has it. It steals life, while leaving the person living. I would also NEVER want to make someone with depression feel guilty.

But let me tell you something. Living with someone with depression isn’t a walk in the park either. I’m just being real here. We were created for relationship. To be IN relationship with others. Whether you are a social butterfly and sprinkle the world with your enthusiasm, or you’re an introvert that has a small circle of peeps, we need each other. We thrive on relationship. On connection with fellow human beings.

Well, my husband has always had depression. This is one of the reasons I freak out when one or more of my peeps leave. My circle that I let get really close to me is small. And my grandkids in particular are beams of joy and sunlight that, even when they’re grumpy, bring me immediate joy then I am in their presence.

We didn’t know that it was depression that my husband had until after out third child was born. He said at the time that he can look back at a family photo from when he was a child, and know that he felt it even then. But we were a family now. Some people think I could have cut my losses and broken our family, but I take our vows seriously. They really meant ‘for better or for worse’. And breaking my family was WAY to high of a cost.

There are reprieves from the worst of it once in a while. And thank God for medication!! But basically, it sucks. When we have times when “just the facts ma’am” become the gist of our conversation for weeks on end, a piece of me dies. When I reach out through text during the day and get one one word (sometimes one letter!) answers, or none at all, a piece of me dies a little. I begin to feel very invalidated as a person. It feels as if speaking to me is too much bother, so therefore, in my mind, I’m not worthy. When I feel I need to fill in the gaps for my kids (especially when they were young) when they feel slighted, a piece of me dies a little. When I make a meal with my husband in mind, but he isn’t hungry again, a piece of me dies a little. Trying to stay above it with extended family, or friends (because really, I don’t want them to think badly of my husband) is tiring.

But then again, this isn’t about me. Except it really is. My life is has been drastically changed because of it. Vulnerability in our relationship has been stolen. And perhaps I have filled that need by becoming TOO close to my children. Because they understand. And they hurt with me and hold me up when I feel down.

So now, on the horizon, my circle of peeps is getting smaller again. Each subtraction from my hands-on ‘I know what will make me feel better’ distraction pool is keenly felt. Of course, it is not anyone’s responsibility to be there to make me feel better when a piece of me is dying. I know who I need to go to for that. And God knows (seriously, no pun intended) that I need to lean into Him more, and let Him fill my life when I feel empty and broken.

But sometimes, I really wish City Hall was easier to fight. And I really wish could win sometimes.

My Crew, Pit and Otherwise

The pit crew is pretty important in a race. Or so I understand. They keep everything in top form and running well. And when things happen to not be running well, they’re even more important. They jump right in and deal with the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible. Keeping everything in tip-top shape is the smartest way to function. A well-oiled machine and all that.

Pretty similar in life, I think. Keeping one’s self healthy, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally makes for a much happier person. And when the malfunctions happen, as they do to all of us, you’re in a much better place to deal with it and get back on the ‘road of life.’ (Ok, even my eyes rolled on that one!)

Might I suggest that we all have our own pit crew. Our people, if you will, that keep us going. Our people that love us, support us, and see us through the tough stuff, as well as the amazing good stuff! And give us a good swift kick in the you-know-what when it’s needed. Some of us have a pretty big crew, and some of us have a select few that we would trust our lives with. I think I run somewhere in the middle.

Like I’ve already mentioned, I am the youngest of five kids. My parents both passed away almost 11 years ago, so it’s us kids now. I think it’s safe to say that we would be there for each other no matter what, if the need arose. We are not intricately involved in the day-to-day of each other’s lives by any means, and each of us walk a totally different path, but the family bond is intact. My oldest sister an I have forged a friendship over a crazy trip (that’s a whole other blog!) that was long overdue! I am also blessed with a band of women in my husband’s family that support each other, mainly through messaging. But, it seems to be working! How’s that for modern technology meeting personal relationship?

Then there is my husband and I. We see life through different lenses sometimes, but our main goal to have a strong healthy family are shared. We’ve been through some pretty tough stuff together, and we’re still standing after almost 34 years. We have 4 fantastic kids together, one boy and three girls. Our son is married to a wonderful woman and they successfully (and happily!) run a business together. They live the farthest away, but FaceTime is a fantastic way to connect! Our second is married to a true gentleman and they have a daughter and son (whom I just cannot get enough of!). This is the family that instigated this whole blogging journey, by announcing an adventure of their own. Our second daughter is married to a ‘foreigner’ (can’t really pin him down – Aussie, Swedish, Canadian?). They are on the crazy bold journey of fostering a beautiful little girl who has stolen our hearts. And our youngest is furthering her education and making confident strides into her future.

I’ve often said my kids are the best thing I’ve ever done. They ALL make me so proud. Their spirits, individuality, giftings, and honesty are refreshing and humbling to me. I have a healthy relationship with each one as adults, and feel totally confident to ask them for their opinions, advice, and help. And I think they feel the same. If all I ever accomplish in this life is to have raised these amazing adults, I am more than satisfied.

The other addition to my personal pit crew are my friends. I am generally a private person and only let a select few come close to the issues of my heart. Even then, I play my really painful cards pretty close to my chest. I have a good friend from childhood that, though we don’t see each other often, we can get to the meat of things pretty quick when we do. Then there are a few church girls who know me pretty well (book club girls!) and I know I can count on to keep me in their prayer and hearts. And I have a couple of work gals who keep me feisty and alive, when days get long! And there are a couple who encourage me past the walls of employment.

That’s my crew, in a nutshell. We all have them. People who bring out different parts of ourselves. I like to think that I am the same person, whoever I am with (except for the grand babies! They get wacko grandma!), but each one brings out different facets of me. Just like a real pit crew, each member has a part of the car that they focus with, and they deal with it well. So it is with my pit crew. Each one speaks to and revives a piece of me. And I pray that I reciprocate! I’d like to say that I’m an open book to all of them, but that wouldn’t be the truth. We share where we feel safe. These are my safe people, but for different reasons at different times. Does that make sense?

I am so grateful that God has brought these people to walk along on this thing called life. I pray they don’t turn tail and book it outta here while I sort my jumbled self out! But I really don’t think they will. Cause that’s the kinda crew I have.

 

Filtering, Deferring, and Disclaimers

I took an online personality test the other day. I’ve taken quite a few in the past and my results are generally the same. Loosely translated, I am a spineless marshmallow. Ok. That’s not entirely true. I am “dependable, considerate and loyal to those closest to [me].” I “naturally gravitate towards others and their emotional needs.” Guilty as charged. Ok. I agree. Those qualities in and of themselves are good things! However, without balance, they can turn you into the aforementioned spineless marshmallow.

I am the youngest of five. But really, my sister and I were born with quite a gap between us and the older three. My mother suffered from depression, in the years when no one really knew what to do with depression. So those who had it really suffered. My sister is twenty months older than I. And we, to put it delicately, clashed. It was not pretty. And though my childhood was not a blissful one, I remember wishing it could be easier on my mom. As an adult, I see how maybe some things could have been done differently, but my parents certainly made the best of a frequently tough situation. When my sister started school, I clearly remember being so happy to be able to stay home alone with my mom. Yep. I was a true momma’s girl. I took great joy in making her happy. Now, if anyone has spent any time with someone who has depression, you know how difficult that can be. But as a child, how was I to know that it is not up to anyone to make another person happy? Sheesh. I don’t even have a firm grasp on that now!

I filter a lot of things through those I love and care about. Let me try to explain. When I listen to a great speaker, I wonder: “Is my husband enjoying this? After all, he’s the one that is REALLY educated, smart.” I listen to a song that moves me and I wonder:“Does my daughter driving with me feel the same way? Or am I being an old fuddy dud? Or too emotional?” I think I have a good idea at work: “But is it really a good idea? Will my co-workers think so? Or will they think I’m trying to be a know-it-all?”. I so want everyone around me to be happy. With me, with their lives.

And the deferring— perhaps my personal favorite — is when a choice is to be made, I will defer to what the other person wants. White bread or whole wheat? Whichever the other prefers. Cheddar or Gouda? You prefer cheddar? Cheddar it is! Our first fight when we got married (still on our honeymoon!) was in the laundromat arguing over the best way to fold towels! And we fold them, to this very day, his way. Good grief.

Actually, this IS about me…

I’ve heard people say that if you want to know what you should do when you grow up, think about what you loved to play as a child. What brought you joy? Made you happy? Made you feel peaceful and safe? Well, for me it was being a mom. Sure, I played doctor or nurse too, ‘cause they had cool gadgets. But really, I was a mom.  Through and through. I had the high chair, the pram — not just a stroller, a pram, blue, with big wheels — the cradle (which has now been lovingly repainted and handed down to my grand daughter), the clothes, the blankets and of course, the baby.  I can still see my baby, with her blonde curly hair loved off.  She was the cutest little baby, with dimples in her elbows and hands, and beautiful blue eyes that opened when you held her up. I wish I still had her.  But I think she ended up where many of my childhood toys ended up. In a smoldering pile of rubble in the back yard when we had a house fire. I have always wanted to be a mom.  And I was blessed.  I married young, and had my four children by the time I was 30.  My perfect plan. Have them all before I turned 30, so I would be young enough to enjoy the second round. Grandchildren!

Sounds incredibly grand so far. Life exactly as I planned it. Well, almost. Playing mom, and being mom are two entirely different things. And I think, somewhere along the way, I lost myself. A few days ago, my daughter and son-in-law announced that they were going on a family adventure for a year. With two of my grand babies.  Many miles away. Did I mention they’re taking their kids? The adventure is perfect for them. It’s timely and it’s wonderful. But … When we got in the car to go home and begin processing this news, I blubbered to my husband “but what will I do without my little doodles?”  To which he (lovingly, I’m sure) replied “it’s not about you Jude.” Period. And my heart rebelled in a most rebellious way.  It sure FELT like it was about me!

And from that, a whole lot of thinking and remembering and soul searching has started. It wasn’t about me when my husband was diagnosed with clinical depression, and when he had intense ups and downs with it. It wasn’t about me when all three of my girls had bouts of depression, to the point of fearing decisions made in deep despair. It wasn’t about me when my son got married — to a wonderful woman — and moved across the country.  It wasn’t about me when my grandson had to have surgery at three months old.  It isn’t about me because it’s not my life.  But, dammit, I feel as if it is, because they ARE my life. And therein lies the rub. Should they be? Where, when, and how, does a mom let go? I know there are phases of letting go as your kids grow. We all go through them. All those firsts, with each child. And yet, here I am. I’m 55 this year, and questioning what I’ll do when my grand kids aren’t here to kiss and snuggle and visit on a whim.

And so this blog is born. I cried and shared with my older, wiser sister on FaceTime (see, I can do distance!) and I told her I felt like I should write about it.  But a book is so daunting! So she suggested I blog.  So please bear with me (if you want!) as I journey through the past into the present of who I am.  Cause, this really IS about me.