Category Archives: Family

Between Sunset and Sunrise

I survived. So far. I may or may not have cried the whole time they loaded the cars. I may or may not have cried half way there. I may or may not have cried most of the way home.

I did not cry in the dorm. I helped him move with all the appearances of a sane mom. I didn’t sob while we were there. I only shed a tear as we said goodbye.

It was a good day. It was easier than before because it is a familiar school and because Oldest Son and his wife were there with us to help him navigate. We’ve been to this place before, we know how to move into a dorm, we know what to take and how to pack and unpack. That was all good and easy. His room is “just like I imagined it would be” according to Youngest Son. It is ready to go, down to the pictures on the wall. We have never left a dorm with a kid that settled. And his roommate is a known. A good friend from high school who is also in band. In so many ways this is easier. The other two boys went potluck and we are 50/50 on how that turned out. Youngest Son is a step ahead with a fellow band member and friend.

It was a really hard day. So much harder than before because this move carries so much more change than one kid moving. Just like the birth of our first son moved us into a new season in our life together, this youngest ushered us out of that season. In the course of a day, that transition we have seen on the horizon for a few years now happened. That thing that was looming, is.

As we drove out of town, past the Konza Prairie with the lush rolling hills and vast skies, we saw the most breathtaking sunset. The intense colors, the movement of the clouds, the warmth of the sky were stunning. So symbolic of that season coming to a close in a blaze of glory like a God-painted sunset. It was beautiful and somewhat fleeting. I wanted to pause right there and soak it in. To hold onto it as long as I could.

20160814_202659But sunsets are fleeting. No matter what you do, eventually the sky will turn black and the stars will be left. And then comes the darkness before the hope the next sunrise brings. It can seem like a long and daunting night. It is dark and cool and lonely. It feels empty and a bit crushing.

I know the sun will rise again and it will be beautiful, when I am ready to notice it. The colors will be vibrant and the anticipation will lift my spirit, waiting, watching carefully to see the new day and all it has to bring. But the night, it’s hard.

I am reminded of the time after my dad’s death. The sadness was overwhelming. And yet I was reminded many people have gone through the same thing. Some much younger than I, some much more traumatically, some much more painfully. My experience was not particularly unique. And yet it was the first time for me. It was the only time in my life I will lose my dad. Just as this is the only time in my life I will send my youngest off to his first college dorm. It is hard. It is raw and painful. And yet people do this all the time, and survive. I will too.

My curiosity today is how do we allow ourselves to honor the sadness, accept the change, take time to grieve what used to be? I am truly grateful that I have had the opportunity to take my kids to college. That I have had the joy and honor of getting to walk with them into adulthood. I know not every parent gets to this point. I know they are on a great path and going to experience amazing things. They will each make a good difference in our world. I am excited for that! I look forward to seeing what they accomplish, where they go, who becomes center to their life. That is all good and right!

It is also and right for Mom to take some time to experience the darkness of the night. To be in the place in between. It is OK to feel dark and sad and maybe a bit scared. My heart is tender right now. I feel like I should have some kind of warning beacon for those around me. Be gentle with me for a while, my heart is a bit beat up.

I will be OK. Just give me some time to adjust to the quiet.

 

 

 

 

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On the Precipice

There are times in your life when you realize, you are at a junction, a turning point. When life is about to change in big and irreversible ways. There is a certain sense that washes over you and makes you take pause and think deeply.

The first time I remember this happening was when I got engaged. I was so excited, and yet realized life would never be the same. It was a good change and I was most definitely happy. But the truth was, life would change. That in between time of anticipation is rather daunting.

The same thing happened as we neared the end of our first pregnancy. And our second. And our third. Life was about to change drastically. All joyous and happy changes, but yet a touch of mourning for the life that you are leaving behind. The freedom you had before children giving way to the joy of watching all their firsts. Wondering how you could possibly love another child as much as you do the first. (It is possible!) Never regret, but reflection, and a bit of sadness.

Like the time between getting a contract on a house and closing. The in between can be brutal. The anticipation of what’s to come, the hint of second guessing choices, the excitement of the change.

Then there is taking the last kid to college. All the same emotions, the fears, the anticipation, the reminiscing, the hope, the guilt, the confidence. As one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker would say, “we have all the feels here” and then some. I find it interesting that an event can be so contradictory, so emotion filled. But it seems to be a theme in life and growth.

There is much to look forward to – I have started my Empty Nest Year 1 Bucket List. I can’t wait to do all the things on that list. (I might even add -Get back to blogging – to that list!) Things we have put off doing for years or just weren’t an option when the kids were home. We have plans to attend lots of College marching band performances (aka football games). We have a trip planned and are working on a girls weekend, and couples weekend away with friends. It is exciting and freeing and going to be so much fun! We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here. We did our parenting job and so far it appears we did a decent job. (The proof of good parenting is not immediate- it’s really a bit of a crap shoot. You do what you think is right and years later get glimpses of what worked and what missed the mark or was completely forgotten.) This is our time. Our chance to remember who we were as a couple. Way back in the day. And figure out who we are together today, sans kids. It is good!

And yet there is the hint of melancholy, the tear just about to fall. It has been 22 years since we have lived alone together. By far, most of our adult lives we have had these men in our home. We loved the noise, the chaos, the tension and laughter. We were good as a family, together, every day. I’m going to miss those interactions. I will miss hearing about their day, knowing their schedules and daily activities. Hearing about who they are spending their days with. It is right and good. They are supposed to leave home. I get that. They will be fine. We will be fine. I will be fine. But this is another one of those moments when I stand on the precipice of change. Change I asked for (‘cause who wants their kids to live at home forever?!), but change none the less.

Tomorrow will be a sad day. And a happy day. I will cry. Maybe a lot. And I will laugh, definitely  a lot. I think it is the right thing to do to honor all those feelings. To embrace the sadness and let the tears roll. To laugh together and make our own plans to fill the free time we are about to have. And hey, we have kittens so that’s almost the same, right?

Post Script: After I wrote this, I got to thinking about when Oldest Son left for college. I remember sobbing as I wrote. It was so hard. I went back and read the post. Made me tear up again and laugh too. Second Son’s departure was indeed as painful or more so than Oldest. I just couldn’t write during that time. I can tell you in a couple of days if Youngest Son’s truly was easier or not.
What I hadn’t even contemplated when writing that post, was having Oldest Son get married! A whole other range of emotions! (And, yes, I like her a lot:)!)
Yes, I deserve some kind of grace for having this much change in less than a month! And wine. I deserve wine!

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Filed under Family, Goals, Intention, Legacy, mom, Parenting, Senior Year

Emotions

It was a year ago tonight I sat on the deck talking on the phone  with my mom. Dad was in the hospital, scheduled for another cardioversion in the morning. He was not feeling well at all. He was so nauseous and he hated that. He seemed, from what I was told, more tired, worn out and sick of being weak and tired. I had a bad feeling. I contemplated whether to go home to see him before he went in for the procedure at 9:30 in the morning. You know how you just get that feeling, feel that tug you just can’t ignore?

I’m grateful I listened to my gut. I left at 4:30 in the morning and got there in time to talk with him a tiny bit. And hold his barf bag a bit. He was so miserable. He looked so very old and fragile.

There are those moments in your life that you can remember like they were yesterday. And yet they are all a blur; a mix of emotion and memory and all the senses. When time stands still and you can’t catch your breath. And you think this can’t possibly be my real life.

And yet it is.

When the world just keeps going like the merry-go-round. Faster and Faster. You go through the motions and try to focus on the next step.

I am approaching the anniversary of the hardest weeks of my life. I’m beyond excited to bring Middle Son home this week after his first year of college. I feel like I deserve a do-over on the end of his senior year of high school. The same mix of emotions from a year ago.

If tonight is any indication, it’s going to be a very emotional few weeks. Prayers would be appreciated. For me and the rest of my family who love and miss Dad so very much.

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Dad’s First Easter in Heaven

For some reason, Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t know if it is Easter, the time of year or the approaching anniversary of his death. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about him a lot.

I have heard so many descriptions of heaven. They are all somewhat similar. Heaven, it seems most everyone agrees, is a place of peace and everything wonderful. I’ve heard it described (I think it was in a book I read, but can’t remember the book) as a place of everything you love. A place where you feel whole, complete; a place of love and peace. I’ve heard heaven is different for everyone – which makes sense to me. The challenge is we won’t know while we are here on earth. We just have to find a theory or idea about what comes after death that we can live with. An idea that resonates with us. A way we can come to terms with after death.

I grew up in the church and believe in heaven, and to a lesser extent hell. I haven’t spent a great deal of time contemplating it other than to determine, for me, it means the place of contentment. A place where one is close to God, in the arms of Jesus. I’ve always believed heaven would be wonderful.

Since Dad died, I’ve struggled with heaven.

Not because I don’t believe that is where he is, but because I don’t know how it can be all I thought it to be.

First, why I believe that’s where he is. My dad was not a man who spoke of his faith. I don’t remember him ever leading a prayer. He would never have professed his faith to others. That wasn’t who he was. I believe he had tremendous faith. I believe he knew the many ways God was present in his life. I don’t believe he came from a background that would prepare him, or maybe even allow him, to speak of his faith. But I believe he lived it in the way he served his church, his friends, his family and his community. He wasn’t the spiritual leader of our family – that is very much my mom’s role. But I don’t believe that is a reflection on his personal faith. I have to believe the God I worship, knew Dad’s heart. That my God understood my dad. That my God welcomed my dad home when his body wore out. I believe my God greeted my dad with a father’s love that my dad never knew on earth. That he accepted Dad, just as he is and as he lived his life. I believe that Dad finally found the Father who loved him unconditionally and valued him.

Maybe that is the answer to the part I have struggled with.

I have been trying to reconcile how heaven can be that place for Dad when he is without Mom; the person he loved most in the world. I have thought of him each holiday, each birthday and significant day. How heaven can be all I imagined for him when he is separated from Mom. I couldn’t reconcile him not feeling lonely. Not feeling apart from his family. I imagine him feeling he had so much more he wanted to do. Things he hadn’t yet tried. Ideas still in his head. I have struggled with him being content.

We are often told those who have passed are watching over us. They are with us and know what we are going through. If that is true, Dad has to know the pain Mom is experiencing at losing him. How hard it is for her to “go on” with life without him. Knowing someone you love so much is going through such pain and not being able to “fix” it is troublesome not peaceful. It would be anguishing for Dad.

I suppose this is like so many God things I can’t wrap my head around. Somehow I have to put human limits on God and what He can do. I make assumptions that God is limited by the laws of our universe and the ability of humans. My God is so much more than I can really comprehend. Our pastor gave a sermon back in January about how literally we should read the Bible. There was a part that has stuck with me and maybe applies here. He was talking about the creation story and offered that maybe the creation story is about describing the indescribable. Maybe the concept of order from chaos is so indescribable, something our human minds could never comprehend? Maybe there are not words to describe this; that we could never get our minds around the concepts?

Maybe heaven is beyond my comprehension as well? Maybe there is just no way I am going to come to terms with it. Maybe I can’t comprehend what dad is experiencing and I just have to trust God. I have to trust that Dad is content.

My heart is faithful, but my mind struggles.

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Not a Dreamer After All

I used to fancy myself a dreamer. A possibility thinker. I remember the ambitions I had as a teen. I was going to move away, to bigger and better things. Blaze my own trail and leave a lasting mark on the world. Maybe international business? Live abroad? The skies were wide open and the possibilities were endless.
Somewhere along the way, my world shrunk. The ideal became a little less lofty and I started to think more about what is attainable. I began thinking in terms of what was reasonable and realistic. Sort of the “Let’s face it you’re never going to…” mentality.
Somewhere along the way between the world-is-your-oyster high school years and the middle-aged, near-empty-nester year, I became a realist.
Maybe it was becoming a parent, or buying a house or some other step of adulthood that changed me. But it’s ok. For me. It’s ok to think practically, to be realistic about the future.
However, I think it does my kids a disservice when I can’t embrace their dreams. When I burst their bubbles with my “realistic” views on life. It limits them. It squelches their creativity and instills doubt.
In my effort to paint an honest picture of life, to give them a realistic perspective on what the grown up world is like, I take away the option to dream. The freedom to dream the big, hairy, audacious dreams. The ones that scare the bejeebers out of you and excite you at the same time.
I have only recently come to realize this about myself. I have a dear friend who lets her kids dream. In fact she supports their dreams. And prays for their dreams. Even the big, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky dreams! I admire that. And yet I don’t do it.
It’s hard to shut off the logical, ordered, down-to-earth, focus-on-what-is-realistic part of my brain and engage the dreamer again.
We all need to dream! Especially young people. There is a great, big, world out there and the ability to envision yourself changing it is priceless. Without the belief that you can make your dreams come true, what do you have? What pushes you, drives you and makes you revise that idea/paper/design one more time? What makes you reach a tiny bit farther, try that move one more time, reach out to one more person?
We must be able to dream.
We must be able to create and nurture our own dreams without doubt standing behind us whispering in our ear.
I don’t want to be the doubt for my kids. I want to be the voice in their head that says, “If this is what I really want, I’m going to make it happen!”
So go, my sons, dream really big dreams! Imagine, what if…! Put your heart into your dreams, work your 10,000 hours! Become the expert you want to be!
I believe in you!

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Vacation Musings

I just returned from a relaxing vacation with family. I had plenty of time to let my mind wander. I miss being able to do that regularly. Life has been so busy, so full of tasks that thinking has been squashed out. It was refreshing to pause. I debated about going media-free for the week, but decided better of it. I just dabbled instead.
Here are a few thoughts and realizations from the week.
• When I don’t trust my gut, that inner voice that tells me what to do, I don’t feel in sync with my own life.
• I won’ t look back in 20 years, or even 20 days for that matter, and wish I had spent more time cleaning, working, planning.
• I am a happier person when I can take a moment and make some order of my life.
• I don’t have to be in control of my life, but I do have to be in control of my responses to my circumstances. I need to make deliberate, intentional choices about how to move forward at any given moment.
• When I look backward, I realize I am much stronger than I believe myself to be.
• Faith is a journey, sometimes a hard one, sometimes a boring one, sometimes an exciting one. It’s hard to stay focused when you are in the boring parts.
• If you can stay focused in the boring parts of faith, you may find great reward in the exciting parts and comfort in the hard parts. It can be like eating your veggies to get to dessert. You don’t see the immediate impact of eating the veggies, but in the long-term, you can’t survive on just dessert.
• Life is a balance between seeing things in the micro and the macro. It is challenging to both look at what is best for an individual and what is best for the group – community, family, world – that individual lives within. Especially when what is “best” for the individual and the group is not the same.
• Loss is inevitable. It will happen. It will be painful. And I will survive. And each loss, be it a parent dying or a son moving off to college, hurts tremendously. And each will make me a more compassionate, understanding person if I let it.
• Creating experiences is one of the best things I can do as a parent. It is the thing that will bind us together when life takes us in different directions. It is the thing that will keep each of us grounded when the world seems to be beating us up. It is the soft spot we can land in our mind when we don’t feel like we have a friend in the world.
• Helping my kids develop their faith and nurturing that faith is hard. I see other parents who do an amazing job of this and feel I fall short. I miss opportunities to nudge my sons in the right direction. I miss the mark myself so often it’s hard to imagine they can see how it should be. Faith is hard.
• Personal wellness is a journey, just like faith, it can be hard to see the impact of your actions for a long time. You have to trust that the tiny steps you are taking are making a difference. You have to keep piling good habits on top of each other until they make big steps and big impact. And still it is work. Always will be.
• Letting people go is hard. Watching your life change is hard. Even when you know the changes are good. When you believe things are heading in a good direction, it is still hard to let go.
• I feel a constant tug between feeling appropriately blessed, fortunate or grateful for all that I have, for all the conveniences, wealth, health and acknowledging that sometimes life is tough. The reality that even if my life seems “good” there are still bad days. There are still times I struggle, still things that get me down. This doesn’t make me ungrateful or complacent, it makes me honest. Event the luckiest people have bad days.
• Sometimes I feel like there are no words left I can say. I live in a world that is so obsessed with analyzing every word we speak, every phrase we utter that no one listens to anyone’s heart. I can’t say I feel blessed – that implies God has bestowed something special on me and skipped someone else. I can’t say I have struggled with anything- after all I am one of those who experience “white privilege” so I’ve had no struggles. So much energy is expended making sure our words are not misinterpreted by someone else. And yet, they will be. Regardless of intent.
• My world is obsessed with categorizing and labeling people. You must fit into a box for me to know how to respond to you. We are not people, individuals; we are the categories we fit into. I want to relate to others as individuals, finding the things we have in common, and learning about the things we see differently. Trying to understand each other. There is good and right in all of us if we just get past the labels and categories we could see that. This feels like too big of a problem to tackle fresh off a relaxing vacation.
• I haven’t written much since I took a new job. This job has monopolized my creative energies, taken over my problem solving space, and challenged me in new ways. I miss writing and have to find a way to get my fix. A way to make writing a priority. Maybe all that extra time I’ll have when two kids are gone off to college….

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Memories of Dad

Thinking of Dad so much. Here are the words I shared at his funeral. Thankful I did it and thankful I captured my thoughts at the time. Writing is so cathartic for me.

The last time I stood here with my dad was 23 years ago tomorrow when he walked me down this aisle to give me away as I married my husband Dan. I find comfort in saying goodbye to Dad in this place that holds so many good memories for all of us.
I’ve always cringed at eulogies or speakers who get up at a funeral and wax poetic about their perfect loved one. It always leaves me wondering about their weird habits or strange quirks. I promised myself that given the opportunity, I would tell the truth. Just like dad. He didn’t really sugar coat things. You always knew where you stood with Dad.
So here it is.
I have an amazing Dad. But he was a unique guy.
He has longer finger nails than any woman I know. I didn’t realize how odd it was until friends started asking. It always made me chuckle a bit when someone would say, “um…your dad has really long finger nails…”. Yup, he does. And wouldn’t you know it, I did not inherit them!
Dad liked a lot of strange foods. Who remembers being offered pickled herring? Nasty stuff and he loved it. And my sweet, generous mom stifled her gag reflex many times to make him beef or chicken liver.
I was a teenager before I found out not everyone had orange juice with their pizza. But we did. And when we have mom’s amazing cinnamon rolls, dad dunks them in his orange juice. And so does Scott.
But I think the strangest might be the pickled beef heart. According to my unofficial research, we may be the only family in the world that ate it!
Dad also came up with some crazy inventions. Like the side by side bicycle so a blind person could ride a bike. I know some of you looked at his inventions and thought, what the heck?
But what I saw in those was creativity and optimism and possibilities and potential. That’s what my dad was really about. Seeing a problem and immediately dreaming up a solution. Working through all the scenarios in his head and developing a way to make something work.
He had hope. He believed in potential and had the ability to imagine impossible things, especially when it comes to designing. Like a ramp for the scooter, a 3 stall garage or a theater in the church. He always had an idea in the hopper. And he believed in his ability to make it happen.
Anyone who knew Dad knew he had a generous spirit. Dad was a helper. From tools to trailers – dad would loan whatever he had to someone in need. And he was generous with his skills, talents and expertise as well. Just looking around the church you can see the physical impact he left on this congregation.
I will miss picking up the phone to describe the sound the car is making and get his thoughts on what might be wrong. I will miss being able to call him when I’m lost and have him point me home. But I am at peace knowing his body is now whole. And I believe he is telling a story to my uncles as they all sit around a workshop or piece of machinery.
Dad loved my mom fiercely. From the days when he pursued her as a teenager through the really lean times and the good times. He loved her until the end, always taking care of her.
I see my dad in each of my brothers. In Doug’s quiet contemplation with the wheels always turning, in Phil’s take care of business take-charge attitude that comes when something just has to get done and in Scott’s honoring of our past, respect for where we have come from and how we got to where we are.
Today, I can’t help but think what an amazing witness my dad gave to everyone he met. Micah 6:8 says …And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Well done Dad.
A life well lived.

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