Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Life in few Words

Along with countless others I know, and probably even more people that I don't know, this week engulfed my heart in sorrow and challenged my emotions like no week has in recent past.

The world lost an incredible man.  I've known for years just how incredible this man was.  He had been around my entire memorable life.  I was in his wedding as a toddler, when he joined as one with my dear aunt.

I've known.

Or at least, I thought I knew.

But it turns out, it takes someone being gone forever to realize that what you know isn't all there is to know.  What you know is only the surface, and the depths of what you don't know reach further than you'll ever begin to uncover.

It's overwhelming, really.

As family and friends gathered today to bid our earthly farewell to this incredible man, I realized just how small our words are when it comes to the life of an individual.

Obituaries and eulogies are beautiful, significant, and often poetic, but they too just scratch the surface.

On my return home, I began to dwell on this fact.  It seemed to me, in a way, that obituaries trivialize and marginalize a person's entire existence into a few key facts that are out there for others, so they can get the highlights, if you will, of someone who many held dearly.

They're important.

They're inadequate.

Listening to people talk about my uncle, Gregg Edward DeSmith, born June 12, 1964, to his parents, Dorothy and Edward, who passed away on Saturday, September 9, 2017, it became all to clear to me that the man I knew and loved for my entire life was even more incredible than my small mind could comprehend.   Gregg, the devoted husband of Linda, and beloved father to Sasha (and Kyle), Carissa, who left this earth at age 2, and Hannah (and Dylan), wonderful grandfather to Kalesia, Elijah, and Miles, dear brother to many, uncle to even more, and friend to countless others, was a man of Jesus.  It was evident today, as I heard about his life and saw numerous people whose lives he touched.

It overwhelmed me, as I longed to be able to tell him that I admired that in him.

He and I spoke occasionally on aspects of God.  I never really pressed in, knowing he believed in God and was raised in a Catholic church, the one in which he was baptized, married, and said goodbye to today in the Mass of Christian Burial.  He knew more about my faith journey than I did his, and today, I felt selfish for not knowing more about what he believed to be true.

But, at the same time, I could see in the way he lived.

Gregg had a servant's heart.  He spent countless hours with those in need, in both small and large ways.  He devoted time, energy, love, and so much more to those around him.  He did so with a willing heart. He did so, expecting nothing in return, and often wouldn't accept anything in return.  It wasn't all that long ago that he saved me in a small way, where my van window wouldn't go all the way up, and it was about to rain for my two hour drive home.  He was on it in a flash and had a temporary solution that still enabled me to see, and I made it home safe and dry, so relieved and thankful for the small gift he was delighted to give me.

He went out of his way to take you aside and tell you that he was proud of you.  No matter what you had done, no matter where you had come from, no matter where you were going, or what you had been through, he saw you as you were, a human, full of giving and receiving love, and he let it be known that you were worthy.  He built you up in spirit and mind.  I cannot personally recall an instance I heard him tear someone down.

He loved and served the least of these, just like Jesus did.

His love for his family was unconditional and overwhelming.  He stood faithfully at my aunt's side for 32 glorious years that were no stranger to stress and sorrow, trials and tribulations, but also great joy and blessing.  They were one.  You could see it and you could feel it when you were with them.

Gregg loved spending time with people.  He had a jolly laugh and a great wit.  He wore a smile often.  He loved to tell a joke and hear the laughter of others as well.   Some of my best memories of him were at his farm, where my large family would gather for days on end.  He would go all out to ensure each gathering was phenomenal.  He had such great humble pride in welcoming us all and allowing us to create everlasting, joyful memories.

He was a delightful mix of manly man and teddy bear, who loved fixing things, classic cars (both real and miniature), go carts and his Harley.  He collected countless unique and older things and loved to share them with people around him.  He loved the outdoors and having a great time with family and friends.

He was adored by so many.  Children and adults alike could call him a friend.  My oldest son, who is not quite seven, sobbed this weekend, as he realized just how great a buddy Gregg was to him, and how devastating it was to know that they would not be making memories together anymore.   He told me about how Gregg helped him to be brave, and how cool it was when he finally rode go cart for the first time, and how Gregg told him he was a little man now. Gregg knew when to encourage my kids and when to be silly, and each of the three of them loved him deeply for that reason.

He was a great buddy to most everyone he met, I feel.  I heard so many claim that over the past two days.

He is going to be missed daily, wholly, intensely, by countless people who knew and loved him, who he loved in return.  Knowing that his all-encompassing bear hugs will never be given again leaves my shoulders feeling vulnerable and cold.  I know I'll receive hugs for the rest of my life, but not one will be quite like his.

Gregg loved the phrase "No Regrets." I smiled as I heard that, because long ago, I had coined that phrase for myself.  I didn't live it like he did though, as I sit here tonight, regretting that I hadn't told him one more time that I loved him, thanked him for all he did for us, and for the endless encouragement and support he never ceased to provide for me and my children.  I regret not taking more photos of him with the people he loved and not having photographic proof of the hardest working hands I remember seeing.  Even with life gone from his body, when you saw him this week, you saw the proof that he worked endlessly to provide for his family and his friends, the stain left behind on his fingerprints as a reminder of how much he gave of himself.

I know with all of my heart that he is with our Jesus now, and my children have reminded me multiple times, through tear-riddled eyes, that his soul is in heaven.  I stand firm in my faith and thankful for everlasting life and salvation through Christ, but at the same time, my human heart and limited mind is having a most difficult time envisioning our lives without him.  I see the farm, and it feels emptier knowing he will never be pulling down the driveway in one of his vehicles, never racing around on a go-kart or hauling with a tractor.  He won't be building or bringing new and exciting fun to us all, or helping the children feed the birds.  His spirit will never leave, but his body and his voice will never be with us as we sit in the summer sun.  That realization takes the wind out of my lungs for a moment and burns my eyes with tears.  I know I'm not alone in this space, missing him so much already, being devastated for us left behind, and overjoyed for he who will never again know sadness.

His body is gone, but his light can shine on.  I hope that his loss will encourage others to live a life like his, showing Jesus inside us to others.

I sit here, exhausted and weary, writing away, knowing that although my words are more in number than an obituary or even some eulogies, they do not suffice.  They will also never begin to scratch the surface of the life that Gregg lived. 

No words really will.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

And off they went

Today was another milestone day in our little family's journey. Today was another first day of school.  Today, my oldest son started first grade.  Today, my younger son started kindergarten.

It was a day we had been anticipating for months, after making the decision to register for kindergarten.  That decision in itself was harder than accompanying the boys to school today, because my new kindergartener's birthday was cut-off day.  He attended a couple different pre-kindergarten schooling adventures prior, and both sets of teachers said they thought he was ready, so I registered him and  we began talking and planning for the big day to arrive.

Today was that big day.

This morning began like many others, only it was prefaced with a night of very little sleep for the younger boy, I suspect as he was filled with anxious excitement following a long, busy weekend with extended family.  I woke the children with my special "good morning" song, and dressed them in the outfits they decided on the night before (which isn't always how we do things, but for big days, we plan ahead).  We had a light breakfast and then excitedly hurried out the door for first day photos.

The most emotional one this morning was their little sister, who has been heartbroken for days at the realization that she would not be able to attend kindergarten this year OR next year.  She really, really really, really, really, really wants to go.  She says so herself.  I've tried to explain how awesome it will be to have momma all to herself if I don't have to work some mornings while the boys are at school, but so far... she's not sold.

To keep her in good spirits, or at least the best possible spirits, we decided that we would all accompany her into daycare this morning, so she wouldn't have to watch the boys leave her, rather, they hugged her goodbye, told her they loved her, and hoped she had a good day.

The boys and I then made the short trek to the elementary school.  We arrived early, which was my plan, so that they could play on the playground a bit and get out any nervous energy left over.  We took some photos together, and some of them individually.  When the bell was about to ring, we went searching for their class lines, and I left my oldest with his class and walked the younger to his.  I stood beside him, talking him through the process of the bell ringing, and how when they started to walk into the school, I would not be able to go with him.  He was very calm about it all, and then I ran back to his brother... twice.... to surprise hug him and tell him I was proud of and excited for him.  When the bell rang, the kindergarten class went in first, and Collin turned around, smiled, and waved at me as his class went inside.  As soon as I could no longer see him, I ran once more to Spencer, for one last hug, and watched him smiling and waving as he too went into the school.

And just like that, off they went.

Their days were filled with excitement and some frustration.  First grade was reportedly the most awesome and the teacher was top notch, so says my son.  Kindergarten was a bit of a struggle, but knowing that my kindergartener was literally the youngest in the class and the youngest one could be to be in school that year prepared me for that report.  When I asked him how school was, he reported it was good, and he liked his teacher, and yes, he did get in trouble a some times.  It's a learning curve, and I'm just going to pray he adjusts quickly (because I know he resists change and new authority), and that soon, his days will be as wonderful as his brother claims they are.  I would covet your prayers on the matter, too.

When we got home tonight, the little sister was overjoyed to see her brothers, and that they still all matched.  She asked if she could go to school tomorrow, but she didn't cry when we told her she still had two years to wait.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Now 5, Little Big Ollie Bear

Dearest Ollie Bear,

Today, I think I called you by my little nickname more than the rest of the week combined.  I realized, as we spent so much of the day together, that you're so little big now, and someday soon, there's a chance you'll ask me to stop calling you that for good.  You already tell me too frequently that 'I'm COLLIN' when I address you as my little cub.

But for now, today, and hopefully a few more tomorrows, you're my little Ollie Bear, my teddy bear, my cuddly bear, my grizzly bear.

Collin, I can hardly believe that it's your last day being four.  I don't want it to be true.  I have tried to deny it.    I put you to bed tonight and I said "what is going on tomorrow, again? I forgot." You laughed SO hard and said "I'm FIVE BECAUSE ITS MY BIRTHDAY!"  I hugged you as tight as I possibly could and kissed you before covering you up, declaring our love, and asking you to please stay in your room and go to sleep so I could wrap your presents.  

Today, we were blessed with the surprise pre-birthday gift of time together.  We spent a portion of it with your brother and sister, who are your closest friends and also occasional foes, investing our time making memories at a park, and then adventuring with sea creatures and butterflies.  Your laughter echoed all around us, as you delighted in wonder and also in knowledge about the creatures around us.
Then, we said 'see you later' to them, and we were given time for just us.  It was of immeasurable value, as I listened to you talk about the things you love.  I took you for a special lunch, where you asked to take a fun picture with me.  You talked non-stop with one of the employees there, who you also asked to have cut your hot dog, to which she gladly obliged.  You love people, and it shows.  You are a true extrovert in that way.

Mister Man, I know we definitely have our differences  There are countless ways that it seems we are exact opposites, which makes for some interesting power and stubborn struggles on a regular basis.  You're loud, I'm quiet.  You're a firecracker, I'm more of a Scentsy warmer.  You're demanding, I'm requesting.  You love dirt, I prefer dirtless.  You hate pants, I love pants.

But we are also very similar.  You love with your entire heart, for better or worse, and you have a huge heart in your tiny body.  You care when others are sad and hurting, and you take great care in protecting your treasures.  You love to snuggle, to read, to wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, to sit and watch the clouds go by, to oogle over babies, and to just sit and be still (sometimes).  You have great passion.  We share that, for sure.

You're starting to really come into your own now, little big boy.  It's exciting to me to watch your interests unfold.  You play sometimes that you don't really "know" stuff, but the moment my head is turned, you blow me away and share your knowledge when you think I'm not paying attention.  You're incredibly intelligent, and it makes me proud.  I'm amazed with the way your mind works.  You've even begun to help me with problem solving of my own from time to time!  Just the other week, I was struggling to figure out how to do a project to make some paint stick on a shiny surface, and you simply said "why don't you paint the back."  It made perfect sense.  Thanks for your genius, Ollie.

This year has been filled with joy and reunification, but also repeated loss, and I know that makes it a little bit of a tarnished birthday for you.  You've been looking for one who isn't around again, and I know that puts some cracks in your little big heart.  But buddy, I promise you, even though one isn't there, you're completely surrounded and enveloped by the love of countless others who are, and I know for a fact that God is going to heal those cracks right up for you in time.

As much as I wish you weren't already turning five, and away from your baby and toddler years toward the big, bright world of elementary school, I am thrilled to see what the fifth year has in store for you.  You're going to blossom so much more, I can feel it in my heart.  It's going to be an overwhelming and wonderful world for us all, and I'm so thankful that I am such an integral part of yours.

Ollie Bear, thank you so much for being you.  Thank you for the struggles you provide that make me a better mommy, and thank you for the calm and love you give me all the same.  Thank you for loving me no matter what we go through, and for being excited to see me at the end of every day.  Thank you for never withholding a hug, even if you're mad.  Thank you for showing me love I didn't know I had.  Thank you, for being mine.

I pray that we both have patience, grace, and mercy as this next year continues. I know that there's going to be big bumps in our road, heated moments, loud voices, and struggles all over.  But, there's going to be thousands of hugs, millions of giggles, tons of kisses, and infinite love.  And that's just from me... it doesn't include your brother, your sister, your family, your friends... your village.

I love you, Ollie Bear.

Happy Birthday, when you wake.
Momma Bear.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Super Powers

It's been an exhausting couple of days, for various reasons, both good and not as good.

Last night, we arrived home right at bedtime, and the kids willingly went into their room to prepare for rest.  They laid there quietly and happily for a few minutes while I got stuff ready before going in to do bedtime prayer and gratitude, give hugs and kisses, and wish them goodnight.

Then, as is common lately, one by one, they all had reasons to get up, or call for me in the other room.  I try diligently to always have a positive attitude or at very least a kind voice when I re-enter, but it's a struggle sometimes.  Especially on nights like last night where it was already nine o'clock and I had a list of various duties to tend to before excusing myself to bed.

Eventually, they coaxed me into laying among all three of them on their bedroom floor, one laying across my arm while both arms were splayed to my sides playing with the two youngest's hair.  The fish tank light was off, the van on for white noise, and I laid there struggling to stay awake myself, my to-do list playing repeatedly in my mind.  That's when the thoughts started rolling in as well.

"This is so hard."

"This is so exhausting."

"There aren't enough hours in the day."

"There's not enough of this Momma to go around."

"I don't know how I'm going to do keep doing this."

"Its going to take some sort of super human strength or some kind of super powers to keep this up forever."

Eventually, they all drifted off to sleep.  I did a half-baked job on my nightly duties and then flopped myself into my own bed.   Then, I realized I had a few more things to do, rolled on out, finished up, and returned.  Then I realized the door wasn't locked.  So, I got up again, locked the door, and then fed the cats, got some water, and went back to bed again.  I think I fell asleep around 11:20.

This morning, I woke, tired as usual, and forgot to make my coffee before we all marched out the door at 7:40.  The children were all in fairly good moods for their shortage of sleep last night, and we were on our way.

As I sat in the waiting area at one of their appointments, the thoughts of last night replayed in my mind.

But today, they were reframed with a feeling of empowerment.

Parenting is hard.  It's crazy hard.  It's hard when there's two parents.  It's harder when those parents are separated.  It's even harder when you're doing it alone.  At least, in my experience that's true, having done all three versions of parenting in the last 7 years.

Right now, I'm back to being a single parent.  I mean single parent, as in not sharing the children with their other parent. I know that to some, co-parenting or shared-parenting is considered or felt to be single parenting.  Again, in my experience, they're wildly different.  So, as I said, I'm flying solo.  I wish I wasn't, but I am, so I pull myself up by my bootstraps (oh wait, my boots are all strapless...) and I carry on day in and day out.

Even when it feels like it's too much.  Even when I'm too tired.  Even when my nerves are shot and my brain is fried, and I go to work with my pants on backwards (yes, that's happened, more than once actually, in the last couple weeks... maybe I should retire those pants).

I won't pretend to be a super woman.  I won't claim to be a super hero.  I won't boast to be a super mom.  Because, quite honestly, I'm not.  It may look spectators that I am when I calmly herd my three littles into a restaurant for supper, and they sit down quietly and excitedly tell the waitress their order.  But then as soon as she turns her back, two of them are sword fighting in the booth, shortly before one of them bites the other one in the bathroom fighting over who uses what toilet stall.  I hug the injured and break out my "mad voice" and my "mean Momma Bear glare" at the other while the wait staff smiles at me with a knowing look.

I don't have it all together.  I'm not a super-hero, super woman, or super mom.

I'm your run-of-the-mill, ordinary single mom just doing the best she can, usually.  Sometimes I'm not doing the best I can. Sometimes I'm doing what I can just to get through the moment... which I guess, in those moments, is actually probably the best I can.

I will be first to admit though, it does take some sort of super power to be a single mom, a co-parenting mom, or a happily married mom (or dad).  Like I said, parenting is crazy tough.

So, as I sat there, this morning, reminsicing about last night as I choked down the straight black coffee I was accidentally given instead of my regular order in the drive-through this morning, after having forgotten to make my own at home like I usually do, I thought about these super powers that are needed.

And, I realized...

I DO have super power.

It's the power of the Holy Spirit.  It's the power of Jesus. Its' the power of God.

As soon as I realized that, I had verses flooding in my mind, and I needed to share them here.

Because, if we want them, we can ALL have super powers.

Every single parent out there.  Every single person without children out there.  Every single child out there.

We're all equipped.  We just have to seek them.

Ask God, He'll give them to you, freely, lovingly, and happily.

That's how I do life right now, when I'm too tired, too overwhelmed, too frustrated, too sad, too everything.  I lay down on the floor with the lights out (or maybe as I drive in broad daylight in the van, or a hundred other places and ways) and I let God in.  It's not always a conscious effort, to be honest.    But, he reaches me, and he blesses me, and through every tear, every sleepless night, every pants-backward-at-work-Wednesday, every joyful-they-ordered-their-own-supper Friday, every big and little moment, I keep on keeping on.  He's the One pulling me up, so I don't even need straps on my boots.

Sometimes, of course, I don't feel this way. I don't see it this way.  Even as I write this today, knowing exactly how I make it through, I'm still exhausted and a bit overwhelmed (even knowing God's going to carry me through).

And you know what, those are my worst days.

I'm praying for less and less of those days, and more days where I'm fully aware of my super power, MY Super Hero.  (Even on those days when I don't think I'll get through it, I know somehow I will, even if I'm too stubborn to admit the real reason.  I'm imperfect.)

I'm praying the same for each of you.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The silence resumes.

I wish I wasn't writing this.  I contemplated not writing this.  But, I felt like not writing it was harder than writing it now.

I gave it a month, even though, I was pretty sure, one month ago today, almost exactly to the minute, I felt I knew what was coming.  I prayed against what felt like the inevitable at this point, but I prayed knowing that prayer does work, not always, but sometimes.  I know it worked once in this situation.  I guess, in my heart of hearts, I know God is a God of miracles, and prayer could bring radical change again.  Yet, at the same time, I'm being practical, and releasing my breath and realizing that for now, this is reality.

You see, for some reason that I fail to understand, one month ago tonight, my children's father disappeared from them, again.  He came back to them on December 26, 2017.  He walked out on them again, almost six months later, to the date.

I wasn't in town, but he had plans to see them with someone I trust dearly.  Up until a few hours beforehand, he was still planning on seeing them.  And then.. he just didn't show.  I reached out to him to find out if he was okay (the bitterness inside me, truthfully, swelled up and I asked him if he was dead), or what had happened.  A few days later, feeling it was the case, I asked if this meant he was done and walking on out again.  No reply to either.  I tried two more times, the most recently, last night.  I pointed out that today marks a month.  There is still dead silence.

I know he is out there.  I know he's active online, and while I can't be certain his phone works or he hasn't changed his number, I know he knows my name, and my phone number hasn't changed in years.

There's silence.

He's abandoned them again.

I find myself quite emotional this week.  I have known all along this was a distinct possibility, but I threw it all in and allowed him back in the children's lives, with the mentality that no matter what happened, whether he was here for good or gone again, we would get through it.  We already walked through hell in regard to this, and we made it through, because of God and his blessings of support.  I knew it would be "easier" this time, as "easy" as something like this could be for four hearts that aren't jaded and cold.   

But that doesn't seem to make it better.  

I'm currently at a point of both thankfulness and despair, pride and humiliation, hope and hopeless.  The part of me that has Christ dwelling inside has a positive spin on it, but my more practical, emotional, momma bear side is angry and negative.  It's a battle.  Yes, I'm going through a battle.  

But, I'm a warrior. I have to remind myself of that even though I feel like laying in my bed and throwing a toddler inspired tantrum.

As I said, I knew it could all fall apart.  But, truthfully, I thought it would be either right away, or years down the road.  

I didn't think he would get bored with his children this soon.

Is he bored with them?  I don't know.

I wish I could understand how someone I "knew" so well for so many years could be this way.  I wish I understood what, in a matter of hours, changed his entire plan.  I wish I could decide if he was incapable of making good decisions, or just chooses not to. I wish there wasn't silence.  The silence, again, makes it even worse.

People have started noticing and asking me about his involvement in their lives and our lack of discussion on the matter.  I am hoping that these questions continue to be directed solely to me, not in the presence of my children.

My children, heaven bless them, are starting to notice his absence.  I don't know if they noticed or felt it right away, because they've been very normal, happy, and truthfully haven't asked about him or mentioned him until this week.  Actually, so far, our three-year-old daughter is the only one who has.  But, I feel it's coming with the birthdays and milestones up ahead.  I am at a crux, wondering if I should confront the issue head on and prepare them, or wait and see when they're ready to talk about it.  I don't really want to assault them with the realization if they haven't come to it on their own yet.  

Also, this probably goes without saying, but... please do not speak ill or negatively of their father in their presence at any time.  Whatever their opinions are to be of him, those need to be formed by their own minds, through their own experiences.

I am so torn, right now, emotionally and faithfully. I want to find comfort, knowing that God will get us through, provide, restore and heal our hearts, minds, and souls.  But I'm a bit angry.  I'm not angry at God, because I know their father has free will, and is choosing his own path away from his children and away from God.  I know this.  I know in my heart that I did do the right thing letting him back into their lives, even though it hurts to be where we are now. I know God wanted me to forgive him.  I know God wanted my children to know their father again, for our daughter to create happy memories with him, because up until now, she had no recollection of her own and relied solely on her brothers or word of mouth from other people who knew her dad.  I know God wanted to show my oldest son that He does in fact listen and answer prayers.  I truly believe that his reappearance in our lives last year was God ordained, and for good and not harm.

I try not to blame myself for the fallout.  In the past, I've been so good at taking the blame, from their father, for things like this.  I KNOW I didn't cause the heartbreak that's to come by allowing them the opportunity to have their dad for a while.  I KNOW that is on their father.  But that's something I have to remind myself every time he crosses my mind, because I also know the enemy wants me to take it all back on myself.  I did open the door, but I did not cause him to walk back out.

I know that my children will know I tried.

But it doesn't mean this doesn't hurt.  It hurts my heart for my kids. 

It hurts so much. It feels like I'm being crushed again, admitting this all "aloud."

I pray that my children's minds and hearts will be protected from severe trauma if their dad really is gone for good this time.  I pray that they'll still believe in God, in his miracles, in the power of prayer and that this does not negatively affect their faith and relationship with Jesus.  I pray they'll still feel overwhelming love and know that they're surrounded by it even if their dad walked out on them again.  I pray that someday, God will truly, wholly restore their father.  I pray that I will be able to forgive him again.   

If you pray, please do.

I found myself, tonight, as I sifted through my thoughts, trying to find scripture to calm my heart.  This is the one that spoke to me the most.  I'm trying to just do what I am often (but not always) able to do, and find peace and solace in my Father's words and promises.

But, I'm not perfect, and it's hard.

I know we will be okay.  And I know I need to give it all to God.  But, I think I also know that my imperfect, human side may still need to cry about it, talk about it, and maybe need a hug or a shoulder at some point. Maybe.  Or maybe not.  Guess we will see.  But, I think that's okay, too.