Love Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,ENDURES ALL Things...

Murphy's Law...

I never had a slice of bread,Particularly large and wide,That did not fall upon the floor,And always on the buttered side.[1]

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Remaking of Life

I've tried updating this blog several times now.  I always have these great epiphanies when running and then I sit to type... and I don't want to type.

Sometimes it's because I know the thoughts aren't allowed.  It's not always okay to say what's on our mind.  I've struggled with that my entire life.  Biting my tongue.  In this instance, it's not so hard... except sometimes it is.

We are still trying to figure out how to navigate this...  and by we, I mean me.

It seems so long ago and yet it doesn't all at once.  Sometimes I'm still really angry.  Like the time I was driving home from work.  It was late.  The roads were empty and my van was climbing this massive hill lined with southern trees and all I could think was:  How the Hell did I end up here?!  Oh, I know...  you brought me here...

and then you left us here...

and then...  you left us here.

And I get mad.  I get mad because I'm surrounded by a culture that isn't mine and people I barely know, in a place that constantly seems foreign and the distance has created a distance in the friendships formed before we ended up here.  And I think about that...  And I get mad.

And then I park my car, walk into my home, and I see Dale talking quietly to Mitch about cars, or engineering, or furniture...  and I think...  How could I not be here.  How was this not always our life.  And the kids all laugh, or they don't listen, and they eat, or they forget to feed the dogs, and they do homework, or they don't.  And we go on living.  Like it never happened.  Like everything is as it was.
As it should be.

And then I tuck them in.  And sometimes they cry.  And sometimes they don't.  And I worry both times.  Sometimes they talk about him.  Sometimes they don't.  And again, I worry both of those times.

I recently updated my facebook status saying:  I'm not a single mother.

I am an only parent.

Even I can't wrap my head around the magnitude of that.

I'm torn between forgetting to remember...  and forcing the remembering.  I'm explaining that the Uniform that the Army brought to our house may smell like Daddy, but I promise you, he's still wearing the one we buried him in.

Now look at your 7 year old and say that.

How in the world do those words even manage to form.  And how can his beautiful tiny little head make sense of that.

Now when I go to work, the night before, my Mickey begs me not to.  BEGS.

I'm torn between a profession I love and Children I love more.  At a time when they need me more than they ever will...  coupled with a tragedy that I don't know how to normalize.

I've not buried a parent.  How can I help them cope with burying theirs.

So we go to specialists and we make jokes and we laugh or we cry...  or we get mad...  or sometimes...  sometimes we just exist...  as if it never happened.  full well knowing that it did... and questioning reality.

One thing is certain:  Anne Roiphe was right...

"Grief is in two parts.  The first is loss.  The second is the remaking of life."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

God is Very Near

I posted on Facebook that I absolutely could put into words my feelings, in regards to the funeral of the father of my four beautiful, brilliant, capable children, but that I wouldn't.  I meant that.  Some things don't need to be said or written.  Some things just need to be felt.

We returned home from Ohio, after what seemed like the quickest, yet somehow slowest, trip of a lifetime.On the way home my sweet George looked up at me and said: "Mommy, I'm still sad."

I responded with the obvious:  "Of course you are."

I went on to explain to him how he will always be sad.  How some pain just never goes away and during that explanation all I could think was...  Some pain wasn't meant to be carried for so long.  We lose our parents when we are older, because the pain is so great and the loss is so significant, that it is not intended to be carried by such a tiny heart for such a length of time.

I received many thanks during the funeral, for bringing my children.  It was a sweet gesture on the part of the guests, to thank me, but all I could think was...  15 years.

And that's where the words stop.

There are moments where I try to ease the blow.  Where I know that God's intentions of placing so many miles between us might reduce the pain for my littles.  Where they won't miss waking up to him each and every morning, but then reality hits.

The pain of losing him is about losing him.  It's about his absence, not in this house, not in this city, not even in this state.  The loss is about the loss of him in it's entirety.  The loss of what could've been far more than what was.

Nothing points that out in clearer detail than that of a folder given to you from the United States Army that reads: Essential papers for families
of Fallen Service Members, and school paperwork that requests the name and address of the parents of the child.... and having to write the word:  Deceased. (4 times)

It's not about what we took for granted or missed out on.  We could have (and often times did during our 15 years) take advantage of every moment together.  We could have traveled the world.  Never spent one moment apart.  It wouldn't matter.  The pain felt is not about what was.  It is about what will never be.

My children had to return home from their father's funeral on Sunday...  and start their first day of school on Monday.  It's now Tuesday...  and I must return to work.

I will tell you that Ken was buried with honor and that he would be proud of his Army.  My children witnessed a beautiful funeral service for the man that gave them life.  And I will tell you that I can see the emptiness in them...  and it's beyond painful.

All I know to tell them is this:

(unknown author)
"Those who die, go no further from us than God...And God is very near."

Pictures by Julanne Kowalski)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

you bear it. That is all

I started this blog from my couch.  Most of it's posts were from my porch or patio or couch, with a cup of coffee in my hand.  Today I'm sitting in an oversized chair, with a glass of red wine. 

I don't know if I became a different person first or if my life's circumstances changed me. 

For the record...  I still drink coffee.

If you just stumbled upon this blog, you'd only see a few posts.  There used to be several.  Years worth actually.  But I divorced and became a full time student and working mom. 

Many people would say that was of my own choosing.  Technically, they'd be correct.

I loved my family.  I loved my role as mom.  I still do.

My girls used to have pigtails and rosy cheeks.  My boys wanted held and played with wooden blocks.

Those days are long gone.

My girls are teenagers now, my boys full on boys.  My teenagers smell like teenagers and fight like cats and dogs.  My boys wrestle and yell and throw balls in the house.

Divorce was hard.  I spent 15 years married to one man.  I spent 15 years married to the Army.  And no one knows how to remind you that you are no longer an army wife like that of the army wives.

I'll probably catch hell for that.  I'll probably catch hell for all of this.  Someone is always disappointed in a choice.  Disagrees with a decision.   Knows the better answer.  Thinks private matters should be kept private.  (For the record, so do I, but I've never shy-ed away from telling my story.  I can't help but feel like if it helps just one person feel they aren't alone, then my battle wasn't for nothing)  So I share my battles.  My thoughts.  My life.  My feelings.

I remember when my grandfather died.  I remember what it felt like to not get to attend the funeral.  To have no one able to take you to the airport.  To not be able to drive because if you missed class you'd be kicked out of the program.  To have no one willing to watch your children.

I remember getting not one call of condolence.  Not one meal brought.  My sweet Chloe picked me a flower and made me a card.  I came home from a long shift on the ambulance, poured a glass of wine, and toasted my grandfather for all that he was and all that he raised me to be.  I finally got to visit his grave this spring.

I remember when I was a stay at home mom, we did meal trains for people, helped clean their homes, did their laundry, took their kids out to play.

But I belonged to no one any longer.  No family here, no longer a member of the military family, it was just me...  and my babies.  That was a hard lesson learned.

I had no idea, at the time, what it was preparing me for.

Saturday morning my phone rang and by Wednesday the nightmare had become a reality.

After nearly 17 years together, 15 of those married, we had the terrible conversation with our children of the dissolution of our marriage.  It's one thing to have to have this life altering conversation with babies.  It's another to have to look at the children the two of you shared and have to tell them that the man they call daddy has passed away.  And to have to do it alone.

Those years we shared.  Those memories.  Those don't dissolve when the marriage does.

I don't know what I am or am not allowed to feel.  I have no idea how to navigate this.  Here I sit, me a glass of red wine, the computer Ken bought me, and a house full of children that have never been more lost.

I may not feel like cooking dinner, doing laundry, or playing a board game, but I now know I can.  And I know I have to.  I now know my children won't break during this time if they are made to "chip in".  The realization that I now have that sole responsibility (and honor) of tucking them in at night, makes it just a little more difficult to breathe.

After receiving the news I rushed to Walgreens to print off some pictures of the kids with their daddy.  Individual shots of each in a frame to give to them when I broke the news of the death of their father to them.  As I drove down the driveway I had to slap my cheeks and say "Get your shit together woman"!!

This one hurt.

Abby said:  "Mommy, my brain keeps forgetting he's gone. And I hate that I'm the one that has to remind it that he is."

My God... she's just a kid.

This Saturday I will say my final goodbyes to many things and I will watch as my children are made to lay their father to rest...  and there isn't enough wine on the planet for that.

I'm now answering questions about things I thought I had time to prepare for and we are remembering joyous times we had been too busy to recall.  We are doing our best to keep him alive through memory, and picture, and love... and luckily we have a little book, produced from a blog, that documents the many years we shared.  I'd like to think he'd be proud.

As Cassandra Clare said:

“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.”  

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's Your Job to Stand in the Way.

"She looks so beautiful" I thought to myself.  I could tell she was unsure.  I could feel how uncomfortable she was.  I tried to get there on time.  I TRY to get everywhere on time.  I even asked to leave work early after last weeks debacle.

A lot of people would say I brought this on myself.  There are times where I tell myself that.

They are wrong.

So am I.

I didn't picture myself a single mom of four on my wedding day.  I didn't imagine divorce was in the cards for me.  I didn't envision being in some strange town, just me and my babies.  No one asks for that.  It's just where we ended up.

I'm not complaining.  But I do sometimes feel like I'm failing.

I can't be everywhere at once.  I try my hardest.  I'm late everywhere I go.  The doctor's office, work, the dentist, school, class parties, honors day, xfit, dinner...  you name it.

I sat there, in that gym on Chloe's honors day, feeling terrible.  Feeling like I had failed her.  I rushed from work to change (I couldn't wear the clothes I'd spent the night transporting sick people in) and grab her a dress and heels for her awards day.  I don't know why she didn't just wear a dress to school, but she didn't and I was so short on time to begin with.

I made it...  2 minutes late, but luckily, so were the awards.  She grabbed the dresses and shoes out of my hand and rushed to change.  When I saw her walk out of that bathroom in my derby dress and heels, she took my breath away.  She's so tall.  She's so beautiful.  But she felt exposed, unsure, and insecure.  I could tell and as I looked around I could see why.  All her classmates were in pants or long dresses and skirts.  She's so tall, her dress was mid thigh.  People are so judgemental.

Here she was, once again, standing out among the crowd.  I immediately texted her to let her know that she looked beautiful...  and then I sat there, looking around, wondering what all these parents must think of me.

Here I was, late, in the front of the gym, in jeans and a baseball t, with a daughter whose dress was shorter than the rest.

Once it was over, I checked her out for the day and we rushed over to George's class awards.  The school had honors day earlier in the week at the gym, but I was lucky enough today to get to attend George's class awards today.

We were late.  They had just started as we interrupted the class, squeezing through the door so as not to create too much of a stir.  No seat was available, so we stood.

George didn't care.  His eyes lit up bigger than Christmas.  He was so proud his mommy was there.

I watched the video his teacher put together and I listened to his dreams as he spoke them aloud.  I smiled so big listening to his teacher call out all of his awards and I hugged him so tight when it was over.

The other night at dinner my kids opened up about how it felt to be them.  How they were different and how they'd make friends, then lose them, because... well, we just aren't their people here and they aren't ours.

My only advice to them was:  That's ok.  You aren't here for them.  You have a duty to serve them.  To love them.  To not harm them, but you, my beautiful beings, are not here for them.  You are here for all this world has to offer you.  You are here for the sea, for the forest, for Paris, for Rome.  You are here for the rivers and the lakes, the mountains, and the deserts.  You are here to experience all that God has put here on this incredible earth for you.  You are here to love.  You are here to live.  You are not here to please them.  You are here to do God's work by loving and caring for those around us to show gratitude for the opportunity to experience all He has placed here for us to enjoy,

but we are not here for them.

I was late today.  I sat there... tired, drained, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, late to my daughter's Awards ceremony, feeling like a failure.  It wasn't long until it dawned on me, that I was at my daughter's Awards Ceremony.

All four of my children have maintained Honor Roll.  Mitch received the Healthy Award in his class for being the healthiest, his teacher was so proud of his healthy lunches.  George and Chloe received awards in reading.  Abby received and accepted an invitation to Rome to honor her hard work and excellence in academics.

Mitch said he wanted to grow up to be a race car driver.  George said he wanted to be a Priest, so that he could tell people about God.  Abby wants to be a philosopher and a musician...  and she is trying to figure out how.  Her instructor says constantly:  "she's the real deal"...  Chloe wants to go to Juilliard.  She spent her first year in the band as first chair.  She's joined the track team at school.  Abby ran a 5k and received her invitation to study abroad next summer.

I am not failing.

I may not have the opportunity to be the mother I once was.  I work now.  My work is hard.  It's trying work.  It's sometimes dangerous work.  It's often unrewarding work but it's God's work.  Caring for His people.  Sometimes being the last face they see, before they see His.

I am no longer able to kiss their foreheads before they step onto the bus, or bake them cookies when they get off of the bus, but it seems as though, just maybe, even with all the stones thrown...  all the obstacles...  all the heartache...  just maybe...  that's ok.

Because I may be late, and under-dressed, and tired...  but I'm there.

Because as Joe Hill said:

"I mean, when the world comes for your children, with the knives out, it's your job to stand in the way."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

There is only one Winner.

I can't help but sometimes think about how it used to be.  How they used to be.

I can clearly remember moments in time where I typed up specific blog posts or thoughts...  moments where I had conversations with friends, or family, or those I considered friends or family.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

And then I have moments where I come across a picture or a video of times that I should, absolutely should, clearly remember...  and I don't.  It doesn't feel like a lifetime ago...  it feels foreign.  It feels like I'm experiencing it for the first time.  Like I'm watching it happen to someone else.

I look at my children now...  and they feel like my children now.  And I see them as they were, but there are moments where I get the opportunity to actually see them as they were...  and I have sometimes forgotten them...  as they were.

I have these moments where I'm all alone.  It's rare and when I have them I'm not always all alone.  Sometimes I'm driving home from work, just me in my vehicle, or sometimes I'm driving home from crossfit and my daughter is in the seat next to me.  Sometimes I'm in the passenger's seat of the Very Handsome Dale's truck...  and in these moments I see the trees so unique to this small unknown town in Alabama, or the way the road curves around the hills.  I'll see the tiny downtown that requires you to refrain from blinking or you'll miss it.

Sometimes I'll see the run down homes in the city, or the stores that are alive and well, thriving, that long left my home town.  And sometimes I'll even be in my own home.  Completely quiet.  I will have just walked in from a long shift.  The kids at school.  The dogs outside and I'll think...  "How is it possible to feel so very much at home, while simultaneously feeling so very much like you're not."

My surroundings are so familiar, so routine, yet I am a stranger to all of them.  My neighborhood, my co-workers, the city, this town, the people...

I did a lot of growing after my divorce.  My growth demanded growth from my children.

I used to be surrounded by friends.  I guess I should say...  by people.  Now...  not so much.

We did a lot of trimming.  We tightened our circle drastically.  We learned to tune out the opinions and thoughts of those that didn't matter and we learned to lean on each other.  Even when it seemed as though we were all strangers...  or as if we were too close to share.

I don't bake my babies cookies every night anymore.

Truth is, I don't even get to tuck them in every night anymore.

I'm sometimes as foreign to me as my surroundings are.

Not long ago, I was sitting in the passenger's seat of my truck when the tone went out.  I tucked my feet back into my boots and I looked over as my partner grabbed the radio and non-chalantly said: copy, and I thought to myself:  "Jesus Christ.  I'm who you call when you're dying."

When my babies are snug in their beds, I'm driving, lights and sirens in a town I barely recognize, saving people...  or, at least, I'm trying to.

I sometimes look at these people.  Complete strangers, and I wonder...  how is it, that they ended up here.  In their situations.  In this town.  In my view.  And how is it that I am the one that was literally called to try and save them.

It's not always romantic.  More than not the people aren't dying...  except they are.  We all are.

Which brings me back to where I started.  Where I wrote about the blog posts that were so vivid in my mind from what seems like a lifetime ago.  The blog posts regarding time.  How it's so very fleeting.

My God is it fleeting.

To say my life is often surreal is an understatement.  To say that I don't enjoy my co-workers or this town or it's people would be a lie.  It's just that in three short years everything has changed so much... and my babies are becoming adults (however tiny) and every once in a while it dawns on me...  So am I.

Sometimes it doesn't even dawn on me that I ever even knew the people I once knew and sometimes it hits me like a brick that not a one of them could describe to you my living room.  But I have to be honest and tell you that these moments, the ones where I am all alone, almost always end in a smile as I think to myself...

I'm not the person I once was.  How incredible is that.

As Stephen Richards said:

"When you fight yourself to discover the real you, there is only one winner.”