Thursday, August 19, 2010


I don't like being sad.  I don't like feeling down.  I don't like feeling like I want to cry all the time.  I don't like being depressed.  I don't like grieving.

Grief is unpredictable.  And that my friends, does not work well with me.  Anyone who knows me, knows I like order and predictability.  Not that my house is clean, or my life in complete order, but I enjoy living with the illusion that my life is pretty ordered.  I detest the unknown.  So I prepare.  I play the "What-If" game lots.   I like to think through every scenario possible and then I feel like I am prepared.  I know, you are laughing.  And well, no, it doesn't work most of the time, okay, hardly ever.  Then I have wasted lots of time and energy on nothing.  But it is what it is.  Grief, comes in and tears that veneer all down.  I can be going along feeling pretty good about myself and my life, and thinking how good I am doing about my sadness over _____(fill in the blank).  And then BAM!!!!  Out of nowhere Grief tears through my order and brings the chaos of sadness and depression.  And sometimes the grief is over something I thought I had gotten over.

I had a conversation last night after dinner with Jack.  We were talking about grief and how each of us was handling it and I asked him if it was possible that my grief was over for Stephen.  The last two days I had felt pretty good and had a really good attitude, so I was thinking that maybe I actually have gotten through this better than I expected.  Then Jack, ever the voice of Truth in my life said, "Grief is like the waves of the ocean.  You stand with your back against the tide and sometimes the waves crash over your head and send you flying off your feet.  And gradually for some, the waves get tamer and you don't get knocked flat by them as often.  And for some, the waves just keep crashing."

Today I had an innocuous facebook exchange with an old high school friend.  We were bantering about something inane and I used the word "ass".  She came back with, "Wow, and you being a preacher's wife."  I quickly wrote back, "Not anymore!"  And just like that a wave came and crashed over my head.  Just like that.

Me, grieving the loss of being a preacher's wife?  Really?  Seriously?  Yes.  That was the only life I knew.  I am out here with no map.  No built-in safe guards.  I don't even know how to define myself anymore.  This ties into Stephen leaving and realizing that in the very near future, I won't have the definition, "Stephen's Mom" or "Allie's Mom".  In the sense that I won't be meeting people in that arena.  I will be meeting people simply as KaKi.  Who is she?  She is no longer a teacher.  She is no longer a preacher's wife.  Who is she?

I am in the midst of lots of change right now.  Change which brings chaos, grief, and adventure.  I know there are positives, but right now, in my grief,  I mourn my losses.  The grief of not being a teacher anymore, still crashes over my head at times.  The grief of not being a preacher's wife and the financial security (ha) that brought, still crashes over my head.  The grief of not having Stephen in our home anymore, is and will crash over my head.  How long?  Well, it has been almost five years since I stopped teaching, although that wave is getting more and more tolerable.

So I am grieving, gasping for breath as the wave recedes.  And I am left looking at the coastline.  I see options there that I have never been able to look at before.  There are adventures waiting for me.  It looks scary, but then I notice something to my right.  I glance over and Jack is standing beside me, reaching his hand out to walk out together.   That is my constant, my North Star.  I know that whatever the future holds, he will be there waiting for me to come up from the water.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What is marriage?

Marriage is many things.  What you normally hear about is the love, the romance, the companionship, and the intimacy.  All of which are true.  Most of the time.  Well some of the time.  Well hopefully more times than not.  What you don't hear much about are the times when it is not.  What about when the romance and intimacy are missing?  What about the times you feel lonely and unloved?  Is that marriage?

My definition of marriage has grown and changed over time.  When I was young the above definition was mine.  Then I got married.  We got jobs, he went to school, we tried unsuccessfully for many years to get pregnant, then had two kids, I became chronically ill, and well, life happened.  There were many times where there was no intimacy, try getting romantic after putting a screaming toddler to bed.  Most nights we just wanted to be alone and sleep or watch TV.  The last thing we wanted was someone else "needing" something from us.  There were times when we both felt we were in this alone.  

So why are we still married and even happily married?  Well, because through all that misery, I still chose him and he still chose me.  We didn't want to be going through all that with anyone else.  See, marriage is choice.  You feel attracted to someone, they feel attracted to you.  You fall in love.  And you choose to spend the rest of your life together.  Your life.  That means the mountaintops and the valleys.  That means when one is hanging over the toilet spilling their guts.  That means when one of you is being a complete asshole.  That means when one of you is totally depressed and can't get out of bed.  That means all of it.  You choose to be with that person.  Now it doesn't always work.  The other person has to choose you back and you can't make them choose you.  They may choose the easy way out and leave.  Because believe you me, staying and choosing during those times is hard work.  You have to listen, you have to compromise, you have to fight for what you believe, you have to tell what you need.  You have to communicate.  You choose to do the work, because you choose to be with that person for life.  And oh the joy when it works.  Man!  The comfort of knowing you have someone in your corner for life will let you jump off cliffs you never imagined.  The thrill of being wanted will help you conquer the world.  

"You reap what you sow."  How true.  Sowing is hard work.  You do it in cold, brutal weather.  You sow in hot, scorching weather and sometimes in beautiful weather.  But oh the joy when the crop comes in!  Of course, then you have to sow again, reap, sow, reap.  Marriage is like that.  You work hard and reap the benefits, then a new stage of life hits, you work hard and reap those benefits.  And pretty soon you have reaped a whole heap of benefits! 

If you aren't married, then you might not have enjoyed this article.  But, you might be counting your lucky stars you don't have to work that hard!  If you are married, go choose them.  Let them hear you say it.  Go do the work, for the benefits will come!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Watching Him Fly

Standing in the parking lot outside the
apartment building, knowing what is coming, my heart lurches.  We are awkwardly standing around because none of us really wants to begin.  A friend said to visualize the goodbye, wished I had done that.  Wished I could have written my script, maybe even taped it  since I don't think words can get by the HUGE lump in my throat.  But the letter I left on his bed will have to do.  Finally, Jack starts the process.  He hugs Stephen and then I go deaf.  I know I am next and the rushing in my ears is drowning out what others are saying.  Finally he comes toward me.  I look in his eyes and I see the fear, I grab him and feel the grief radiating off him.  No matter the good intentions, the tears come.  Silently they fall as I hold my first-born son.  I tell him I love him and that he will do great.  He gruffly tells me he loves me then grabs his sister and they tease.  We get in the car, and I watch him walk away.  The dam breaks and the grief is uncontrollable.  I had no idea the strength of the sorrow.  I couldn't breathe as the sobs wracked through my body.  Every cell in my body wanted to jump out of the car and go back.  It wasn't time was the refrain going through my head.  I only had him 17 years!!  I was supposed to keep him for 18!  Maryland stole one year from me!  I want it back.  I shouted these and other phrases inside my head, didn't want to totally scare the other child, as we drove away.  We drove in silence with the occasional hiccup coming from me, for miles before my breathing began to slow down.

If I had known the depth of the grief I feel today back when trying to get pregnant, would I have tried so hard? If I had known the anguish of raising a teen, would I have tried so long?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  I would not have missed one day of this beautiful boy's life.  He showed me compassion for others when he was two and waited patiently every morning for his friend Sydney, who had separation anxiety, to arrive so he could read to her so she wouldn't cry.  He showed me how to have fun by making games out of everything we did.  He taught me joy by running to hug me everyday when I came home.  He taught me perseverance by working hard for his dream of playing college baseball.  Yes, I wouldn't have missed a moment of those precious seventeen years.

Now it is time to look ahead.  What new adventures await him?  What new ideas will he discover?  What new lessons will he learn?  I don't know, but I know he will bring his big heart, huge smile and loads of determination to everything and everyone in his way.

Fly my baby bird, Fly!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I stand in his room folding shirts and pants to put in his suitcase.  We separate things to take to college and  things to keep at home and things to go to Goodwill.  I take a break and sit down to sip some tea, and my eyes gravitate to the frames on the wall.  His first professional photo at 6 months.  What a gorgeous, happy baby.  My friend, Leslie, went with me to help me with the ordeal.  For some reason, I didn't think I could do it all by myself.  Right before they called his name, he banged his rattle on his head and a red mark immediately popped up.  Below the photo is his birth announcement.  We wanted to be creative, original with the announcement while spending very little money.  So our friend helped us print them on the computer.  We loved movies, so we used a "Movie" theme.  I remember calling our friend and weeping while telling him the birth length and weight.  I was suffering post-partem depression.

I glance over to my son, who now towers over me, but who still has those beautiful soulful eyes.  My throat constricts with love.  My mind races with questions like,  "Have I taught him everything?"  "Have I really done the best I can do?"  "Will he be safe?"  "Will he make good choices?"  "Will he miss me?"  "Will he be happy?"  "Is this forever?"  He looks at me and knows instinctively what is going on inside my brain, so he makes a joke and we continue working.

The pile of stuff grows to pack into the van and the time keeps ticking.  Tonight we take him to eat, a special dinner.  Allie and I are thinking, "Olive Garden" or "Cheesecake Factory", but no, my boy chooses "Torrero's".  It is a simple Mexican food restaurant he loves.  It is like him, simple, no drama.  We will celebrate all he has meant to us and all he has accomplished.  We will laugh and I will secretly grieve.  Well, hopefully, secretly!

Then tomorrow, we will take our first-born and deposit him out of the nest into the rest of his life.   He will begin living a life that I will not really know much about.

So every time he passes me, I hug him.  Every time we talk, I tell him how much I love him.  Every time I think of him, I cry.

I have done good.  I have raised a sweet, smart, caring, sensitive young man.  Someone I enjoy talking to, and being around.  And now it is time for others to encounter him and for him to explore this great big world on his own.  So, I let go.  I look forward to seeing where his adventure takes him.  I will laugh and applaud when the highs come, and love him when the lows come.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mother Daughter Camping

Three years ago one of the mothers of my daughter's friends, proposed a camping trip.  It would be her daughter's birthday party.   The other 2 mothers were enthusiastic about  camping and had camped quite a bit.  So all three assured me they would take care of me, and I would have a blast.  I insisted on having an aerobed, which one mom provided.   My daughter and I had had a pretty rough year in our relationship, so I was unsure how much she would want me along.  She insisted that she wanted to come, so I went.

It was a bit rough.  But overall not bad.  I didn't sleep at all the first night, Nature is LOUD!!!  But after that I took drugs and slept like a baby!  The weather was great, the scenery beautiful!  The best part for me was watching my daughter interact with these 4 other girls whom she had grown up with but had just become close to two years before.  I got a glimpse of my daughter's life that I often did not get to see.  She was more loving that weekend than ever before.  I cherish those memories.

The next year we went again!  We go to the same place, the Toe River in the mountains of North Carolina.  This time we went earlier in the week and spent a few days in Asheville.  This was nice for those of us who preferred hotel camping and shopping.  Then we trekked out to the wilderness for the nature camping part.  Again it was a fantastic trip!  It is a lot of work to camp, but worth it to be a part of the girls' discussions.  I loved listening to them talk about their dreams and plans for their lives.  I enjoyed watching the interactions between daughters and mothers.  My daughter and I bond each year on this trip over how much we hate "roughing it"!!!   Last year we rented tubes and the girls went tubing  and then the moms.  It was a blast.

So this year, we made the trek again.  But this year held a new experience.  RAIN!!!  Luckily it only lasted a few hours on the first day and the tents stayed dry!  I was scared for a bit during the storm, it is quite loud when you are in a tent!  But the rest of the trip went without a hitch.  This year it was fun to see how the girls had grown and changed.  It was interesting to see how the relationships between mothers and daughters was different.  And it was nice to see how strong my relationship with my daughter is now.

Anniversaries, birthdays, New Year's, these are all events that make us pause and take a look at where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  This mother/daughter camping trip has become one of these events for me.  I spend time thinking about my relationship with my daughter.  Marveling at how wonderful she is, how much she has grown, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.   I get to eavesdrop on the conversations she has with her friends.  I am amazed at their wit, their humor, their maturity.  I always come away in awe of these five beautiful young women.  I also like to dream a little about where they will be in five years, ten years, fifteen years.   The girls like to make predictions.   One year everyone agreed who would be the first to be kissed, have a boyfriend, get married and have kids.   Well, we were all wrong!  The first to have a boyfriend was not who we thought, in fact, we all thought (including her) that she would be the last!!!

What markers do you have in your life that make you stop and reflect and dream?  Maybe you need to find a new one.  Just check the weather forecast if your new marker includes being in a tent outdoors!!!