Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Conversation in the Car

"Mom is balloon day coming up? It feels like it is," says L from the back seat on the way to soccer practice.

"Yup buddy, pretty soon," I reply.

"I love that day.  We get to play and have donuts and send balloons all the way to heaven."

"Yeah, it's a nice morning."

"Do you think the balloons are really getting there?"

"I don't really know L, but I hope they do and it makes me feel better doing it."

"Yeah, me too.  Do you think Great Grandpa sees them too?  I think we should send him some too."

"He probably does, but that day is really all about remembering Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Mike and how much we love them."

"Was that the day of the car crash and when they died?"

"Yeah, buddy it was," I reply with the lump starting to form in my throat.

"Well I think all three of them are up there drinking beer and singing and waiting for the balloons to come."

I chuckle to myself and reply, "Maybe buddy, maybe."

"Did you know there is a berry in Australia that makes everything takes sweet?  I'd add it to toothpaste. Wouldn't that be a good idea?"

Life with a seven year old is such a blessing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Plan

Last week I was walking L to his soccer practice when I was rundown by a mom on D's soccer team.  At the time I was carrying my chair, my diet coke (a must) and rushing L along because we were running a few minutes late (as usual) and I know he hates being the last person there.  It had already been a crazy day with ortho appointments, crap at work, toilet fixing jobs, and arguments with D to get his homework done before I rushed out the door.  I was feeling a bit flustered to say the least.

"Peggy!  I was thinking about D the other day and how "jerk coach" yells at him all the time and you may not want to hear this but I had a great thought."

I paused, after urging my 7 year old to move faster than a snail's pace over to his field, and said, "Huh? D's fine, he played well over the weekend and at this point we just encourage him to do his best when he's on the field and not let "jerk coach" define his ability as a player. We're good."

"Well..." said annoying mom, "I was just thinking that maybe God put "jerk coach" in D and these boys' lives to teach them a lesson."  She then proceeded to talk about her husband who is a negative person and how hard of a summer she's had and a few condescending comments about "how well D has been playing."

I snapped.  Well, let's be  honest, I snapped as much as I could snap on a soccer field surrounded by tons of kids and parents.

I told her, "First of all, D is perfectly fine.  He is a great player, always has been a great player and is a valuable member of his team, regardless of what "jerk coach" says and how much playing time he gets or at this point how the other boys treat him (which isn't always great since he is "jerk coach's" butt boy).  He is also 12.  Soccer is just a game that D plays and by no means defines him.  Second, I don't believe God has a plan and put "jerk coach" in D's life to teach him a lesson.  GOD HAS NO PLAN!"

"But, even if he doesn't have a plan," she sputtered, "he allows things to happen. We just don't understand why"

Here's the thing...I don't think God has a plan for all of us.  "Allowing" bad things to happen is the same as making things happen.  If God has a plan and makes or allows bad things to happen to innocent people then I don't want anything to do with that God.  Nothing good has come from Jeanne and Mike dying in a car accident.  God doesn't cause cancer.  God doesn't let innocent kids die of starvation or random accidents.  What makes me any more special than a mom in the slums of Rio? Yet God let's me live in relative luxury and she lives in poverty and struggles to care for her children?  I don't think God causes human suffering to teach us lessons or give us a test.

I don't believe that God is the master puppeteer manipulating us humans as He pleases.  In that scenario, I don't have free will or choice in the matter.  What I decide or anyone decides doesn't matter.  How can I truly choose to follow His will if He's already decided what's going to happen?

This is what I do think.  Bad things happen.  We all have different life experience for whatever reason.  And God is with us in the good and the bad.  He is there for us in the way we each need and it's our job to choose to recognize it and act upon it in the way we should as decent human beings.  Be kind.  Don't hurt others.  Love others.  Treat people with respect.  Be happy and be true to ourselves.

For some people, He is there in the beauty of the sunshine or a child's smile.  For some people, it means they don't believe in Him at all. For others it's the call to prayer multiple times a day.  Some need to feel like he's there to depend on and provide us the things we think we need whether it is a job, the latest gadget, healing from an illness, or just clarity of heart.

And for some of us, He needs to sit back on the sidelines until we are ready to realize He's still there. 

A gentle nudge every once in awhile to remind me that there is something bigger than me out there, and not to be so mired in my grief and pain.  A soft whisper reminding me of the good in my life.  The very, very good in my life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Perspective

Well, you only need the light when it's burning low,
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow,
Only know you love her when you let her go.
Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go...
And you let her go.
 
Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you'll make a dream last
But dreams come slow, and they go so fast
You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day you'll understand why
Everything you touch surely dies
-Let Her Go, Passenger
 
I've been thinking a lot lately about how Jeanne and Mike's death has affected me.  There are the practical things like two more children and more responsibility within our family.  This all comes with added stress and fatigue. I find myself surrounded by cliches of loss/tragedy.  "God has a plan for everything." "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." "In the long run, this will be so good for the boys." "Love conquers all." It goes on and on and on.  I recognize them for what they really are...things other people say to try to make someone in crisis feel better. Sayings that people click "like" on facebook. I find them hollow and meaningless. 
 
I think those of us that have experienced loss and trauma do have a different perspective on life.  Knowing what I know about the frailty of life and the sometimes tenuous nature of family bonds, I think I do appreciate moments of joy in our family more.  I don't think I sweat the small things as much (sorry there's one of those cliches). I think I have more empathy for others and recognize that we all have crap going on in our lives and there is no such things as the grief Olympics.  I have a new definition of what "normal" is and try not to be as judgemental of other people's choices.  My priorities have shifted. These are things that I hope I was already on the road to discovering in my growth as a person, but I think the accident sped that process up considerably. 
 
As with most things, though, there is the flip side.
 
I notice the way the sunlight during the fall is crisper and the cooler air smells different.  My mind goes straight to crushed cars, the pediatric emergency room, sitting in their front yard crying, clinging to K, the coffins, the empty feelings.  Fall used to represent new starts, the gateway to the holidays, family, and soccer games. Not anymore.
 
Holidays are highlights of who is missing.  Navigating the tricky path of figuring out our new family normal without losing our traditions.  It's hard.
 
I always think something bad is going to happen.  I worry more.  I don't live under the false perception that bad things happen to other people.  I don't expect good things to happen and when they do, I find myself waiting for the other shoe to fall.
 
My faith.  I now question everything.  God?  Are you there?  Why can't I depend on you  to help me through this?  Why?  Why?  Why? How is this good for anyone?
 
I am a different person due to the accident.  Some good.   Some hard to handle.  I long for those days of simply appreciating good things like a seven year old's smile, or two cousins cracking each other up over dinner, without the tinge of sadness.  I'm starting to accept that that day may never come.
 
I miss our old life.
 
I miss the old Peg.
 
I miss my sister.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Pause

I've had to take a pause in this space for a number of reasons.  Some kinda heavy.  Some simply logistics.  There is some stuff going on that I can't write about here, but not writing about it when it is coloring my daily life seems disingenuous. Frankly, I'm not sure when or if I'll find my way back. 

****************

We brought E to college last week.  My little sisters came with me because K had to stay home and man the back to school open house for the little guys and an afternoon soccer game for D.  It went really well.  She is happy and busy and has texted me non-stop which warms my heart knowing she misses us and still needs me.

L cried the night before she left and the morning she left.  M seems a bit lost.  D declared yesterday on the way home from school that everything seems different.

It does.

****************

Last week M made the varsity girls soccer team and A got cut from JV.  Tough few days.  He was pretty upset not really about not making it, but because he knew he was good enough and the worst boy (by far) on his club team made it who went to the school camp the last few years.  We thought he actually would make it after watching the tryouts, but who knows what the coach sees. 

M had her first game last night.  Went in during the first half.  Didn't play very well, gave up a goal, burst into tears and subbed herself out.  Yikes.  She got herself together to go back in the second half and did a little better.  Anxiety disorder sucks.  Having too much change in your life as a 14 year old girl sucks.

It's going to be a long season.

****************

Freshman orientation was yesterday.  They got their laptops, learned about classes and got their lockers.  They are in the same homeroom and their lockers are next to each other.  Other than that, they have no classes together as A is in all honors classes, but it will be good for both I think to have moments to check in with each other.

I'm excited for them and nervous all at once.

*****************

At 5pm today all four of the kids have somewhere to be.  Tomorrow the exact same thing is happening, but add in therapy for M and the stress of the first full day of classes for the A and M.

I still have  no idea how all of this is going to happen.

*****************

I crave my bed all day.  I lay in bed all night restless and unable to settle my mind.

I'm hopeful that we'll all settle into our new normal easily.  I'm hoping that this will happen sooner rather than later as the fall weather creeps in and our collective anxiety rises as we inch closer to the accident anniversary.

It will be five years.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Changes

Lots of change is afoot in these parts.

In 2.5 weeks we bring E to college.  Something I think we are all excited about.  A new start for everyone.  Just a few days off of swimming (with her early morning practice) has brought out a well rested, nicer E. Not having to be quiet at 8:30 at night so she can get to sleep gives us all a glimpse of a more relaxed household when she's off to school.

A and M also start high school in 3 weeks. Soccer tryouts start the week before.  A doesn't really want to play because he's nervous about his academic workload and not having enough time for his herpetology and skateboarding.  We want him to at least try.  We have finally figured out how they are getting to school, but still not sure how I'm going to be able to manage the addition of the high school soccer schedule and the other kids sports.  Like most things I keep repeating my mantra of "it always works out."

D and M are away at team soccer camp this week.  It's been weird only having 3 kids in the house.  It's been nice for the 3 at home to get a little more time with me.  Dinners especially have been more relaxed.  I think they are having a good time at camp, but D has called a lot and last night called at 10:55pm wanting us to come see him today.  Since it's over an hour away AND we're picking them up tomorrow at noon, we're not going, but it's hard to hear him homesick.  He's never EVER slept away from home without us (even friend sleepovers).  I think he's tired, which isn't helping things, and is having fun but misses his family.  M being with him helps I think (including all the attention from her 14 year old girls team).  As nice as this week has been, I miss them and want all my guys home.

We got M's results from her ADHD retesting.  It was really good.  They were able to pinpoint her challenges a little more and actually confirm something she's always complained about.  We also have two distinct diagnosis of ADHD and General Anxiety Disorder.  We last tested her right after 5th grade and it was hard to distinguish between the two given the closeness to her trauma.  We have a much clearer understanding of her challenges. I'm hoping we can help her more and I'm confident that the services she'll be getting at school will help her all around.

I wrote K a letter.

I know that sounds so silly, but sometimes it's easier to write things down than talk about them in person.

I think he heard me.  It's broken the ice enough to allow us to have a few tough conversations in the last two days.

One thing I've learned in the last 5 years is that love is both simple and complicated.  Taking in the girls out of love was simple.  Getting E to love us as her family is a still evolving paradigm.  I love K with all of my heart.  Marriage is often tough, though, and romantic love is sometimes the farthest thing from the reality of raising a family (a complicated one at that).

Lots of changes.  Some good.  Some challenging (not going to label them as bad yet).  There still is a lot of love though.  That's not changing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Outside Looking In

We've been at the beach.

Kids had a blast. 

A had a once in a lifetime herping week filming multiple species he has never seen in the wild.

L finally learned how to ride a bike and loved time with his cousins.

D loved learning to paddleboard and ate crabs for the first time.

M got her hair braided and had the house record for number of peaches eaten.

E surfed and stayed up late playing poker with the uncles which was rare for our 8:30pm bedtime swimmer.

I did not have a particularly good week.

I have perfected the art of smiling, acting present for the kids, engaging in small talk with my in-laws,  yet having my heart and mind a million miles away.

The distance between my actions and heart caused by a widening rift between me and K. 

The rift causing so much pain because he is my best friend and love of my life.

I have proof now that you can love someone beyond measure, yet be so frustrated and hurt by that same person that one look at them brings nothing but anger.  Then one minute later dismiss the hurt and be so worried about them because you know they are not acting like the person you know them to be.

Looking at our life from the outside you see 5 healthy, flourishing kids.

Lately, living on the inside makes me feel like I'm on the outside looking in...having a hard time being totally there and dealing with the complexity of our life and the painful reality of a marriage in crisis.  And sometimes that's okay in order to keep those 5 children happy and thriving (which they are).

I just don't know where that leaves me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ABC's

Not sure why I haven't been able to write lately.  It's not really a lack of time as it's more of a lack of motivation.  I've been keeping up with reading all the blogs I love.  I simply haven't had the "umph" to sit down at the keyboard and knock out a post.  Lots of "drafts" in my head. Not sure why and not sure it really matters.

In an effort to get back on the horse, here's an update for each member of our assorted cast in alphabetical order.

A.
A is really have a great few weeks.  He did amazing at his recent skate competition and far exceeded his own expectations.  Most importantly, he dedicated his skates to our young neighbor with cancer who is currently sitting in a bed at the hospital the event was raising money for.  We texted her pictures during the weekend including a cute one with her initials written on his arm.  He actually came in second in the fundraising aspect of the event and won tons of cool prizes including a new longboard.  On the herpetology front, he has caught and filmed two species that he has been looking for at least 4 years.  One was at a secret location shown to us by his local mentor that included us pulling about 100 ticks off of each other (yuck). Totally worth it though to see his face after he found the snake he has been searching for for such a long time. He's actually been in such a good mood, it's been a bit annoying.

D.
D has also been having a good start to the summer.  This week he's running a sports camp out of our house from 9:30 to 12 teaching soccer and baseball.  Campers include his brother and 3 cousins, but also 2 kids from down the street.  He's only charging $50 for the week and having such a great time.  He wants to earn money to buy a new itouch and came up with a great plan.  He wrote curriculum, collected all the gear, and taking it very seriously.  I've been impressed with how professionally he's handling himself.  We've been getting requests from other parents who've heard how much fun the kids are having so he might even do a second week at some point. With D, it's very important to keep him busy and with a focus, and the camp has been just what the doctor ordered.

E.
Ah, E...We've had moments of normalcy, but for the most part she has been so difficult. We almost feel like she's regressed to our first year together.  I'm assuming it's her way of dealing with leaving us in the fall and a result of her anxiousness about everything. It's still really annoying. I'm trying so hard to balance being patient and at the same time not allowing her to make life miserable for everyone else. She has always needed to be the center of all attention and recently taken it to a whole new level. Inappropriate comments during family events, complaining about food again, and rude comments to her sister and cousins.  I knew this summer with her was going to be trying.  Going through it with that knowledge isnt' helping too much.  On the good news, she's really busy finally with lessons and coaching so she's not around as much to cause too much havoc.

K.
I'm trying.  Really, really trying to focus a little more on him and our marriage.  Last week I tried to make extra efforts to be kind to him and he did seem to be more engaged with our family life. He's at least making more efforts with the kids and for that I'm happy.  I still yearn for a day that I feel more like we are a team and one time he put me first.  I still worry about his overall mental and physical health.  He has not been himself since he got sick.  I don't know what to do to help him other than love him the best I can and hope we weather this storm.

L.
This kid is hilarious. He makes all of us smile and laugh throughout the day.  I love every age, but 7 has really been a blast with this one. I've made a concerted effort to get more one-on-one time with him.  We've had some great nights at the pool, game time after dinner just the two of us, and cosy time on the couch.  His big prize to start the summer was a box of 120 crayons.  His favorite thing to do is reading all the different colors...his current favorite is piggy pink.  We are easing into doing his summer reading and I decided that playing 1 v 1 on words with friends must count for some academic work. Right?

M.
We've had our ups and downs with M lately.  She's had a much better attitude about swimming and as a result she's been doing great.  In a little bit of harmless rebellion, she dyed her gorgeous red hair hot pink/purple at the ends last week.  I think it looks dorky (A hates it), but giving her this little bit of control seems to help her behavior overall. We did have a few days of weirdness and a fake illness that included me bringing her to the doctor to call her bluff.  Very tiring our M can be. We also just finished up her re-testing for learning disabilities and ADHD last week and get her results next Friday. I'm curious to see how things have changed if at all in the 3 years since we last tested.  She and her sister have been fighting non-stop.  I'm thinking E going off to college in the fall is going to calm things down for her a bit.

P.
Then there's me.  I've been a bit off and maybe that's why my writing has slowed.  Chicken and egg kinda thing I think.  Even with school out, I simply have so much to do in the day that it's impossible to get everything done.  The result is often a feeling of being so overwhelmed that I am paralyzed not knowing what to prioritize.  I get further behind and the cycle keeps going. My patience at the end of the day is non-existent. I'm working to stay in the positive as much as possible...key word being "work."  I hope one day I'll turn the corner and truly accept this is my life and tackle it with the same enthusiasm the old Peg used to without having to make such a cognizant effort.

Other randoms...World Cup has continued to be so fun.  Lots of gatherings at our house to watch all the games not just the US (poop we lost against Belgium). We got a ping pong table. It's awesome and the boys especially have had a great time playing.  K and I both had a table growing up and have enjoyed playing with them.  Our house has also become the hang-out place this summer.  Today we have two of M's friends, one of A's friends and my nephew R.  Actually A's friend has been here pretty much non-stop since Saturday (he moved home from England on Friday).  I like this. 

I'll try to write more regularly.  Getting this out today makes me feel good.  I've got lots of things to be grateful for and this blog is one of them.