Monday, August 4, 2014

Love will find a way.

Tomorrow marks 8 years since this photo was taken-

Some days, it seems like it's been a fraction of that time since Jake and I were married. Sometimes, it feels exponentially longer.

I contemplated writing an emotionally driven, sappy recollection of my wedding day, but I think I probably did that a year or two ago.  Maybe that will be my ten-year flashback celebration. 

"Walk blindly to the light and reach out for his hand. Don't ask any questions and don't try to understand. Open up your mind and then open up your heart; you will see that you and me aren't very far apart. I believe that love is the answer. I believe love will find a way." - Blessid Union of Souls

Let's be honest. We've all been told that weddings and marriage are AMAZING and at the same time, we've been told that they are HARD WORK. We hear it, but we don't always see it, especially from a spectator type view. Couples work hard to put on a perfect portrait showing they are the couple who has it together. No one wants to look like they're falling apart or in the middle of a mess.  

We hear about the "seven year itch." We see it on tv, in movies, in magazines, and in real life. Divorce has become pretty commonplace. 

Jake and I just are just saying farewell to the seventh year of marriage. Ironically, it was an "itch" year on some levels. We travelled more rocky roads than usual. There were more stressors than we have had in the past. His work schedule had him working longer. I took on a job and wasn't raising our kids all the time like we had planned. We saw each other much less. We became used to communicating less frequently, less clearly, less level-headedly, less openly, less compassionately. We had more heated discussions. We were more irritable. We were less tolerant. Things threw us for a loop. 

It was awful...

Not always, but occasionally- more than in years past. Any time something feels awful, it feels like it's always awful and never going to get better. When the awful moments pass, though, they seemed fleetingly quick.

I wouldn't characterize the last year as awful. I wouldn't say our marriage was wretched or anything. Because it wasn't. It was rocky and hard and more moments were awful feeling than usual. 

But realistically, this past year was beautiful. It was joyous. It was break-your-soul-down-and-build-it-up fantastic. I'm incredibly blessed to have struggled more.

He wasn't a horrible husband. Please don't think that. He would tell you I wasn't a horrible wife, either.

Sometimes, things are just harder. Life throws boulders at you and you get hit or you dodge. You make it work and you gain wisdom and strength. 

I would venture so far as to say it is pretty commonplace. I would also venture to say that under the right circumstances, you can make it through.

The quote above is the opening stanza and choirs to one of the most beautiful, melodic songs I know. It's "I Believe" by Blessid Union of Souls. Eight years ago, my father escorted me down the aisle to the piano playing that melody, and I became Jacob's wife, for better or worse, until death separates us on earth.

Those are serious vows. That were serious eight years ago. They're just as serious today, maybe more so.

I am blessed beyond measure to have been given a life-long companion and love. 

Happy Anniversary, Jacob. Here's to the rest of our lives.

A Year Post-Test

One year ago this very morning, I sat in silent disbelief on the edge of my bathtub, staring, dumbfoundedly, at a test. 

There was no way the test was right. I was certain of that. 

I trembled later as I tested once more. This time, I used a digital, and in less than 30 seconds, the test glared
in my still shocked and disbelieving face.

I trembled. I cried. I worried. I feared. 

After battling infertility to conceive our sons, I just could not believe that I was pregnant again. We had been utilizing charting to avoid pregnancy because we wanted to wait a few years before expanding our family again. I've never been a very scheduled woman inside, but I was certain I had missed the window to have a baby that month.

I was wrong.

It wasn't a "good time" for us. I had JUST accepted a job two days prior. We were just getting on our feet again after financial crises. We were finding our footing. 

This pregnancy scared me. And I worried for nine months whether we could make it work. I wondered if I would be a good mom to THREE babies under four. I wondered if we could afford it. I also worried if, due to all the stress and worries of poor timing, that I would love this baby or resent myself for getting pregnant.

I felt judged. People close to us knew the timing wasn't great. I didn't want them to think we were being stupid. Or that we shouldn't have another baby. So many more worries of similar fashion circled mind.

They didn't stop circling for nine months. They slowed down circling a month or so after that.

One year ago, I was terrified. 

I always said that one of my dearest dreams was to get pregnant "on accident" because I just did not think I could. But I did. And I was guilty because I was upset about it.

Tonight, after a few hours of protesting, Norah Rachelle sleeps peacefully in her bed. Her soft, sweetly scented skin pokes out beneath her (big brother's) silky, pink blanket. Her soft breath whispers as I sit here in silence focusing on my memories and emotions. Her gorgeous, dark eyelashes flutter as she dreams.

I couldn't imagine my life without her. 

She is a perfect fit in our family. I feel that she looks like a bit like one brother and acts a bit like the other. She laughs and squeals and smiles so frequently. She's absolutely the snuggliest of the three. She loves her brothers and they adore her. They're a perfect trio. She calms down to daddy's scent and voice. She lights up when she hears me talk.

While I know my fears and worries were founded in practicality, I feel ashamed for being scared or sad about adding her to our family. 

I was wrong. God was right. She belongs with us, here and now, even if a year ago I was on the verge of being completely convinced otherwise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

the birthday card I can't send

Dear Leora Mae,

For the past few days, I've been counting down the time until your birthday. Every year, I do the same. Just yesterday, I was informing my sister "Grandma's birthday is tomorrow!" We decided we would celebrate with slushies and that I was super you would approve.

Remember how we went to Dairy Queen so many times just for slushies or Blizzards? So many great treats we enjoyed together...

I miss you like crazy. I have songs on my phone I swear you would LOVE and I wish I could share them with you. Instead, I share them with my children and husband and say "my grandma wpd LOVE this."

I wish you could hold my babies. They're so beautiful. You would laugh as you watch them play and your heart would be full. You were right, Gma, I was meant to be a mom. And you were right, God wouldn't keep me from being one. I have three children now, Gma. I just welcomed home a baby girl 8 weeks ago. 

As I said, I miss you. I miss you every single day, but I see this photo of us and I remember that, while you left "too soon" by world standards, I am incredibly blessed by over twenty years a of movies and love that grew from our relationship. I see countless ways you've influenced my life, and I know so much about you. Unfortunately, so many of my cousins and siblings cannot say the same. I'm a very lucky lady, and I hope I can help you live on down here.

Happy birthday, Gma. Dance with Jesus.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Things I need to tell myself...

No creative title today. Today, I bring you a personal list of sorts, of things I need to tell myself. I need a few reminders, or perspective alterations, to help me improve my mothering on a day I'm not really ready to get up out of bed.


1.) Spencer loves the mess out of you

Sure, he's started this new thing recently where every 17.58941 seconds he asks for a hug, and then asks for a kiss, and then turns around to move and asks for a hug, and often asks for another kiss...

Yeah, approximately half the time it is being used as either a stalling technique (you really do need a diaper, Spenk...) or a way to butter me up instead of being frustrated, but, if he didn't love me, he wouldn't be doing it, because he doesn't just hug everybody he meets.  It may be exhausting at times and keep you from accomplishing much of anything in the three spare minutes you have between feeding three mouths and changing three diapers (unless someone goes again in their new, fresh diaper... again), but he's showing he loves you all day long, and he's excited and loves doing it. You best not forget it!

Someday, he won't want hugs and kisses as much, and maybe not at all, so, cherish them now, mommy.


2.) Collin is hilarious.

Yes, the way he is short tempered (probably because he refuses to sleep as much as he should) lately and is perfecting the art of half-hour tantrums is enough to drive a mom to buying noise-canceling headphones and hiding in the garage some days, but at the same time, it also is amusing. 

The way he flops his short little body into the floor (or couch, or yard, or playground sand....) so suddenly looks like it could hurt, but he's so graceful about it, and let's face it- it looks ridiculously funny. He makes you laugh 80% of the day at least, so why not up it to 90% of the day and just be used by his upset over a leaf falling on his head, and move on instead of feeling agitated?

Someday, he will be even worse when he's upset, possibly swearing or throwing things and slamming doors like many teenagers do, and you're going to wish it was as simple as belly flopping into sand.


3.) The boys are best friends. 

Sure, they spend 3 hours of nap/quiet-time laughing and yelling the words to "Green Eggs & Ham" instead of laying in their beds sleeping, but they love to be together. Heck, half the time you find them sharing a bed. They may get into mischief together, be loud and wild when you're on the phone, or create a scene as they laugh hysterically at one another doing... nothing but shaking their heads in a restaurant, but they love each other.

Someday, they may not get along at all. That really does happen to brothers in some cases. Smile, breathe, and know they're perfect together.


4.) Norah needs you. 

She loves you. She wants to be on your chest all the time, feeling your heartbeat. Sure, it seems like she's hungry every nine minutes and nurses for three hours at a time, but she needs you, and you chose to help her grow and thrive by giving yourself to her. She may have been "unplanned" and an incredible surprise, but you you love her no less and from the moment you saw her, you knew she was a perfect addition to your life.  

Someday, she will not need you so intensely, and you will ache and long for those moments where the only thing that could make the world right were the sounds of your heartbeat and the warmth of your skin (just like you did with her brothers). You will miss the image of her tiny fingers searching for and clutching yours as you continue to give her the gift of sustained life. You will miss the way she looks up at you grins her huge, toothless grin, as she fills her tummy at 2am, 3am, and again at 5am. So hold onto those moments now. You'll be free to be busy enough with everything else way too soon.


5.) The house is chaos. 

It's messy and loud here during the day, and kids are crying and laughing and hugging and fighting and jumping and sleeping and everything in between. The dishes aren't completely done and you might not have swept yesterday, who knows. It wi get clean enough to keep you safe and hopefully sane, and the craziness will die down around 10 (or maybe 11:30) tonight, you will have a snack and some milk, and watch a little tv before going to bed and hopefully getting at least a nap before doing it all again. 

Someday, your children will all be gone, living elsewhere and maybe starting families of their own. You will be lonely, missing their laughter and their cries. So take it all in and remember these years fly by too quickly. 


Okay, momma. Time to face the day. You got this.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A month has flown by!

Today, (or technically yesterday since it is after midnight now) marks one month since I first peered into Norah's eyes.

Yes, my newborn baby girl is a month old. 

The month has flown by so quickly. I know that's an overused phrase, but it is quite fitting. Also, I'm exhausted, and I'm finding trouble thinking of a more poetic phrase. Yes, tonight, the post will lack my typical style of writing. See... Wow.

It's amazing to me that 30 days have passed since Collin began his role of a big brother and Spencer first said "hi, baby sister!" I look back at her birth day and find myself swelling with both pride and disbelief that I went through without an epidural. That it was only approximately a 6 hour time frame from the beginning of the pitocin to hearing her first breath seems like the blink of am eye compared to the month of having her breathing in our arms.

Things have been changing around here, obviously. I used to pride myself on being on time and early for things, but I forget that having a newborn makes it a bit more challenging with a slightly (some days more than slightly) unpredictable schedule. I've been trying to show myself more grace and lenience in that area so I'm not frustrated when instead of making it to early church, the five of us go to the second service, or when we arrive 30 minutes "late" for a play date.

Nursing is going well, but the boys are a challenge there. If I'm lucky, they play nicely in the living room while I feed her. Often times, though, they're off creating mischief (anyone want to unravel a new spool of thread around the house?) and taking advantage of the situation. Sometimes, they take my nursing as an invitation to try to crawl up my back or sit on my arms. It's kind of a circus here at times. 

Collin has become more aware of Norah and is generally cautious around her instead of accidentally sitting on her feet and such.

Spencer loves to hold her. He also songs to her, consoles her, and offers her his favorite books (so adorable, and so unhelpful as it occasionally angers her more) or a pacifier if she cries. He speaks to her in the same tone and phrasing a that I use. It melts my heart.

Otherwise, things are shockingly... Normal. It doesn't always feel like a lot has changed yet. The boys have transitioned quite well, now even sharing a bedroom, and Collin being in a toddler bed. Heck, twice in three days we have found them nestled up beside each other in bed (or the crib, the first day), asleep at nap time. I wonder if this month has brought them closer.

Unfortunately, knowing a month has already passed, I know soon I will be returning to work. But, I'll write on that topic another time.

For now, I bid you adieu, and leave you with this photo of Norah and I taken today. She's already over 11 pounds, she holds her head up frequently and for minutes at a time. She's alert, tracks us as we move, and is starting to make "babbling" noises.  She is quite active, loves to "stand" when she is nestled against your chest as you sit, and moves back and forth across your chest. She sits well (assisted obviously) and already is beginning to attempt some scooting while doing tummy time. She loves being on her tummy. For the most part, she's very laid back, and super sweet and snuggly.

We all love her.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bring them back!

I am ashamed to admit this, but I feel it important, at the same time to do so...

Up until a few minutes ago, I had absolutely no idea what this was about:  

Yeah.  The simple rundown as I understand it from my limited research as of now:
250 teenage girls were kidnapped from their school by men disguised in military uniforms and they are to be sold as sex slaves.

They're being sold as "wives" to be "married" which is a complete defilement of both words and I refuse to give credence to the notion that these girls are  either wives or married because it's completely against their will. 

It shouldn't matter where these girls were. No one should ever be stolen. No one should ever be sold. But, for those that find those details of utmost importance, they were kidnapped from a boarding school in Nigeria. They, against what their society says is okay, against the odds, put their all into succeeding, and were in high school. They were pursuing big dreams- successfully.

And in the night, it was all ripped from underneath them. They were trusting these "military" men with their safety, only to have their school burned and their lives taken from their control. A few have escaped, but most are STILL missing.

This all happened on April 14, 2014.

That night, I was safe in my home in the early stages of labor, preparing for the arrival of my daughter.

Tonight, I learned, three weeks later, about this crime. THREE WEEKS. I was sitting in my rocking chair in my living room, nursing my three-week old daughter, as I read about #bringbackourgirls and goosebumps and chills invaded my body. I felt sick to my stomach.

Here I was, holding my baby girl, cuddling and loving on her, wondering what she will be like in the future, reveling in my hopes and dreams for her... And I read of 250 baby girls across the sea who were ripped away from their own mommas, their own hopes and dreams, their own lives, by, pardon me, some evil rotten scumbags wanting to make a buck. Some men with no respect for the sanctity of life stole these girls. 

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine stealing these girls? Can you imagine being one of those girls? Can you imagine that girl was your baby?


We belong to each other.


Here's a link to sign a petition that the US step up. We are a "power country." Let's use the power for good. 

My three-week old baby may have no real power over the situation, but it's my goal to raise her to be a compassionate, caring, empowered woman who knows the intrinsic value of all humans. So, with that in mind, she's taking a stand, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Boo, Baby Norah!

On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, our third little miracle, Baby Boo, joined the world.

Here's her birth story. If birth stories make you squeamish, read no further, though I'll keep it as graphic-free as possible.

Norah Rachelle joined our family on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 2:42pm. She weighed 9 pounds and was 21 inches talk upon arrival. 

At my midwife appointment on Monday, I was 40 weeks, 3 days gestation. I had not slept in over a week due to nightly contractions and other discomforts. So, when I was checked and nearly 4cm, a sweep was done to try to jump start labor. I was measuring well and she was moving well, but everything was favorable for induction. So, if I was not already admitted into the hospital overnight, at 7am on Tuesday, I was to check-in for induction.

Well, despite some contraction increase overnight, the sweep didn't really jump start anything, so after yet another night of about 3 hours sleep, Jake and I headed to the hospital. I felt pretty calm about the entire idea, with an odd combination of relief knowing she would soon be here, and anxiety over the fact that for the third time in four years, much sooner than we had planned, I was about to be going through the childbirth process again. When I was being induced with the boys, I didn't have the anxiety as much, and after much personal reflection, I decided it was likely because they were very much planned, whereas this pregnancy was a mind-blowing surprise. I just wasn't really prepared yet.

Paradoxes aside, here we were, getting ready for the arrival of child number three.

Our nurse was a friendly face we both recognized, though we couldn't initially pinpoint why. Later on, after Norah arrived, she said she checked and saw that she was one of the nurses during Collin's labor! So cool.

Initially, upon being hooked up to the monitors and checked, I was having somewhat sporadic contractions (still) and by this point was 4.5cm. So, the iv was placed and pitocin started. 

I walked 1/4 mile. Sat around. Walked another 1/4 mile. Attempted to nap. Walked 1/4 mile. Text some friends. 

Came back and was monitored a whole. Checked and was at 7cm. Woohoo! At this point the contractions were every 2-3 minutes and really starting to hurt. My hips were taking the brunt of it, it seemed, and when walking with then it felt like they were going to possibly crack in half. Fun times. So, I decided walking was done. Jake and I relaxed and had some lunch, and at noon-thirty-ish, my midwife came by to check on me and break my water. 

It didn't take long for the contractions to really pick up in intensity and frequency despite the pitocin being decreased by half. And good golly, that was wretched. I had come into the hospital with an "open" birth plan, meaning I was just going to see how things went with no real plan at all. It was pretty much the same plan I had with the boys, and it just works very well for me. This time, I decided that I was going to probably go without an epidural, because with Spencer, it wore off way top early and I felt pretty much everything by birth time anyway, and with Collin, I waited too long for it to actually kick in and I delivered before it was really useful.

So, as the contractions worsened and I thought my hips might shatter and my back might snap, I moved to the tub. My nurse said it would likely help with the hip and back pain as well as the increase of pressure with each contraction. 

I think she was probably right. At least at first, she was. I sat in the tub for I don't know how long. After a while though, I thought I was going to be super sick, and so i got out and went back to the bed. 

I could hardly concentrate on breathing at this point, but was at 8.5cm, so I knew  it was getting close to the end. The pressure and pain was so intense I thought I was going to lose my mind and I could hardly think straight, so the nurse offered me a dose of Fetinol at 2:15pm.  I think that's what it is called anyway... as she said it might help with my hips and back. 

Well... It made me feel like I was drunk and dizzy and not much else. Things hurt just as bad, so I changed positions on the bed, and it just continued to intensify.  I was to the point of tears and fear that I wouldn't be able to finish going through with it all, not that I realistically had a choice. It was at this time that my midwife told me I could push.

But... I couldn't. I honestly could not figure out how. I was on my knees upright and just could not process in my mind how to do it, even though she was coaching me through, so I panicked. I started crying and stating I couldn't figure out how and was shaking and nearly hyperventilating.

Jake was across the room in shock, I think, that it was so close to happening, and I cried terrified for him to come to my side.

So, I resorted to the way I had the boys, "normal" fashion, on the bed. But it was still so intense that it took me a contraction or maybe two to figure out how to get my body to do what it needed to.

Then, I pushed through two contractions. Everyone in the room told me it was a short process, realistically, probably about 5 minutes. But it felt like the most painfully agonizing period of my life and I was unsure it would ever end. I cried out that I didn't know if I could do it. I begged for help. But at the end of the two contractions, she was already born.

My first words to Jake were "is she really a girl?!" I guess, deep down, I really did have worries they were wrong and we would have a baby boy and no infant boy things. I think my heart skipped a beat when Jake paused a second before saying "yes," with a giant grin. Turns out he was in shock it happened as quickly as it did and he was not mentally prepared for her to be here already, and she came out facing downward so he hadn't even seen yet. Haha.

I also asked nearly immediately after, if I could take a good nap on Subday, and a Reese's blizzard. Jake promised I could, and I'm pretty sure the whole room laughed at me. 

They placed her on my chest, and I proclaimed to the room how "wretched" and "horrific" and "absolutely horrible" that was to go through with basically no pain medication. Jake told me over and over how great and amazing and wonderful I did, and how awesome it was that it was so fast. I just couldn't believe how much it hurt, and how I actually did it. 

I held her to my chest for a while. I don't know exactly how long, as she cried a minute, and then just looked at me. Jake and I both just gazed at her, still somewhat in disbelief that we had a daughter. We greeted her, kissed her, told her she was beautiful. I told her that some day, she would understand how much I went through to bring her into our family and just how hard that process is. We laughed. 

Eventually, they took her to clean her to and weigh and measure her. She nursed a while. Daddy held her the first time and grinned with tear-brimmed eyes as she cried at him. And we fell in love.

So far, she's been a fairly happy little girl. She's a good eater and sleeps through most of the noises the boys have made while visiting. Her brothers seem to like her well enough. Spencer is excited to talk about her and point her out to people. He calls her "baby Norah" and "baby sister." Collin, with daddy's help, held her. Spencer, as expected, refused.

I'm excited for she and I to join all of our boys at home tomorrow.

Norah Rachelle is a name that carried a lot of significance. Nora is a name on my mom's side of the family, through her mother, who was one of my best friends, that has been used somewhat frequently in multiple generations as a middle name. We added an H to the end as a way to honor one of my very best friends and beloved cousin, Tarah, who has an H. Rachelle, pronounced a bit like Ray-She'll, is a name we chose to combine the names of the two women friends that have been like sisters to me for the longest periods of time in my life, Michelle and Desirae. I do not know if either will ever have a daughter, but I love being able to honor our friendships this way.

Thank you to everyone for all of the well-wishes, thoughts, visits, and prayers!  We are open to visitors at home as well!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dear Diary.

My very first diary was given to me in 1991. I was 8 years old. 

Somehow, through the years, I managed to hold onto it. Not only that, but it's in dang near perfect condition over 20 years later.

I generally forget that I have it. Tonight, however, I found it beside a stack of games I have stored high up on a shelf.

I decided to open it up and read it. It's amazing to look back and see the hand writing of a little girl in elementary school, and the things I thought important enough to pen for future memories.

Here's my first ever diary entry:

It's so simplistic. No stresses or worries. No fears. Just simple daily joys. Such innocence and silly grammar. 

I kept journals off and on through high school and college, as well as online ifs for the last 13 or so years as well. 

Life has become much more complicated since then, of course. My pen and paper journals are stored away in a box somewhere, as I used to dream someday I would have children, and hopefully a daughter that loved to journal, and I could leave my thoughts, fears, joys, wishes, and dreams on paper to them. They would get a chance to know a younger version of the "old lady" that raised them.

It was fun and refreshing to read through my diary, even if it was only a few entries, not a full book worth.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Music has always been one of my passions. It's been a true love for as long as I can recall. 

I began singing when I was a toddler, and to this day, my life is (almost an unofficial) musical. Heck, my sister, the other day, said as she walked in the door and I was singing something random "your life really is a musical."

I asked for a guitar for a few years before my parents gave me one for Christmas in 2000. I taught myself to play. I was incredibly self-conscious about it (I still somewhat am) and would stop playing if I knew people were eavesdropping. I never became "that good," but can play a few songs decently well.

The majority of the time, if given a choice, I would prefer an acoustic version or cover of a song over the original. Acoustic music is my real soft-spot.

I am incredibly fortunate that my love of music entwined with the love of my life- Jake. Around the time that I got my first guitar, 40 minutes from my house was a teenage boy who also got his first guitar. I didn't know him at the time, but the coincidence, to this day, in timing, still amazes me. 

When we met, we both were still learning. We played guitar together and learned songs together. More often than not, he taught me, but I do recall teaching him a few, like "Wonderwall" by Oasis, and "Be Like That" by 3 Doors Down. We would sit in my room (usually) and play. We would sing. We would fall in love with music while falling in love with each other.

So many memories of our courtship revolve around our acoustic guitars. He learned to play my favorite songs to surprise me. He wrote me a song once and played it at open mic night as a surprise. I wrote him a song, and recorded a video of it and played it for him. 

I hear many songs on the radio, but instead of the famous radio versions, I hear Jake, singing alone, simply with the acoustic guitar. I fall in love with him every time, even if he's not near me.

Tonight, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I heard an acoustic version of a song I had not heard before, by a cover artist both Jake and I have been find of for a while.  When the music stopped, and I was lying in the silent darkness, I was taken back to college...

I was actually visiting him for a weekend, and we were spending time at his (and his roommates') apartment, when he asked me to pack up the guitars.  He didn't explain, but I obliged his request, and he lead me to a part of the college campus I had never been to before. We headed to the racquetball courts.

And there, I experienced such a wonderful acoustic concert, as he lead me to the center of the court, then went and shut off the lights so it was completely blacked out. Rising through the dark silence was his guitar, as he slowly made his way around the court, playing and singing some of the songs he knew at the time (including Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You,") and the sounds just catapulted to the ceiling and enveloped the entire space. It was electrifying. When he had finished his set, he had me join, and together, we played and sang together, etching the memory into my heart and embedding it on my mind.

It's almost as if I can hear the residual echo tonight, as my eyes finally grow heavy. 

What a lullaby.

I may not play as often as I once did, but Jake still does. He plays frequently, and he plays very well. Both of our boys have fallen in love with the acoustic guitar concerts that have become a part of our life soundtrack. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

20 years

There are events in nearly each person's life that burn themselves into memory. These events can be major happenings like a first born child, or small things like winning a school-wide handwriting contest in the third grade (yes, I remember both). They can be happy or sad. They can be uplifting or traumatic. It's just how life works.

Dates are sometimes triggers for memories. Songs can be too. I know there are many others, but these are two strong ones for my mind.

Twenty years ago today, I returned home from school just like I did most every other day. But something was off. I had no idea what really, but something was off. A few hours went by until I was given an answer.

"Carissa is missing."

The words still echo.

The news came on at six and verified the nightmare. My two-year-old cousin, who was very much like a baby sister to me, as my cousins and I grew up together as close friends and siblings, disappeared at her family farm. 

I still have my journal entry from that night written in my very first journal. It was mostly a prayer to God that she would be found safe. For years, I would look at the entry, upset about the prayer that had gone neglected. Now, with matured faith, I know He answered, just not in the way I wanted, but she was found, and by then, she was safe in His arms.

The next two days were torture as my 10 year-old mind comprehended the gravity of the situation. Family, friends of family, and strangers gathered on the farm to help find our little girl. After days of searching, her body was retrieved from the river where it was determined she had snuck out the door from the house, silently, followed the dog down the hill, and slipped in, losing her breath and earthly life. It was such a horrible, unexpected accident. I still see the event so clearly, but I will spare exact details from my memory.

It was extremely traumatic. I had visions and nightmares for years. Her older sister who is a few years younger than I, and I, attended a grief/loss support group for children once to help heal. It probably helped some.

As time went on, the nightmares subsided. It wasn't until I took a college writing course at school in the 10th grade, and I wrote a descriptive essay about the event (which garnered tears from multiple teachers and professors as well as an A+ grade) that I think I really healed.

It still makes me sad, but it's much easier to cope with. Sometimes, I still feel like that little girl who was so upset she couldn't even stomach Pepto Bismol to quell the nausea (I still cannot to this day drink that stuff) or the 10 year-old with a 2 year-old, blonde-haired giggly baby attached to her hip spinning in the front yard. I can see Carissa dancing to "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkle and remember laughing at her thinking it was the cutest thing. I listen to that song still and that's where my mind goes.

More often than not, now, I feel the loss like a mother. I felt so horrible as a child for the loss and trauma my aunt and uncle had to endure, but now, with two toddlers of my own and a baby on the way, I embrace it more strongly. I put myself in their shoes. It breaks my heart in a new way, and truthfully, causes terror at the thought that my own children could be gone in the blink of an eye. 

It's affected my parenting, too, I'm sure. There was a long time where bath time terrified me or my kids getting water in their faces at bath or pools freaked me out. I still find myself nervous while someone else bathes them and they become quiet, even though I know it's sheer terrorized paranoia. I worry about them opening doors, or being so quiet playing outside that they've disappeared. I worry about losing them so young and never seeing them grow up. I hate the idea of losing another beautiful young toddler in our family and spending the rest of our lives wondering who they would have become.

I admire my aunt, my uncle, and my cousin, for overcoming the loss. They are each a beacon of strength and hope.  Today, as I do each year, I pray for their continued healing and send them all my love.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

There's no place like home.

A few weeks ago, my dad called with some news. At the time he called, the news seemed like no big deal, almost expected, really, and I hardly gave it much thought initially.  It wasn't until a few hours later, talking with my sister (she lives with us), that I really began to focus on what I was told.

The news? The home I grew up in, for the most part, is set to be torn down soon. 

This house, my childhood home, is the very first house I lived in. My grandma owned the house, when I was born, and it's where I came home from the hospital to live. She lived there many more years. Granted, I did not live there my entire childhood, but after a little less than a decade, my family moved back into the house, and it's where the remainder of my childhood years were spent. I have countless memories created there, both when she lived there, as well as when my immediate family did as well.

I haven't lived there officially since 2005, but up until this month, my dad and youngest sister still did. Needless to say, I've never stopped "going home" and spending time in the house I grew up in.

This house, a double story home on Main Street, in a tiny rural town in Minnesota, was built in the very early 1900s, by the man, a railroad executive, that my hometown is named after. I used to recall a lot of interesting history about my home, but alas, time has dulled those memories. I know at one time, it was a duplex, with a full apartment both upstairs and down. I could show you the spot in the wall where the second story entrance once was, even though I never knew the house in that state. 

I remember when we moved back in during my elementary years, I absolutely had to have the bedroom that was my  grandma's   when she lived there. It had a variated blue carpet. I painted the bottom half of the walls a lilac color, and had a blue and purple morning glory wallpaper border separating it from the white top half. Over the years, our family size grew, and I moved across the hall, into what had been my parents room (they moved downstairs) and their big "closet." That closet at one point had been the upstairs kitchen, and still had a sink and pipes. It was gutted, and I had a bed with shelving underneath it built into the wall, in the small 6'x12' room. I spray painted the walls in a cloudy swirl fashion, in mauve, and signed my name at the foot of my bed. I also was allowed to use the bigger room (where my parents had been), and acquired an old couch. I painted it in bright colors and decked it out with my favorite song lyrics written on paper and spaced strategically around the room. I loved it.

The front porch has (had, soon) a roof that you could climb atop if you went through the windows in my former purple room. I spent countless hours sitting on that roof. It was my thinking spot. I would listen to music, journal, write letters, or just veg out. I would have friends join me there from time to time and carry on great conversations.

Across the alley, from my "new" room window, I could see the back yard of one of my best childhood friends' family home.  It was pretty wonderful to have a friend that close, when we had moved from living right next door to my lifelong best friend (we moved next door to her family in the spring of 1991 and became friends immediately) when we came to this home. It helped ease the loss of moving five blocks away from her. (Yes, that is dramatic but it seemed like a huge change back then.)

I once duck taped my youngest brother to one of the beautiful maple trees in the front yard. I had his permission. I left him there a half an hour at least.

I learned to pass and kick a football in the back yard, as well as play kickball and various other games too. There were often a swarm of bees out back in the spring that terrified me, but I never once was stung. I can recall sitting on the big cement steps leading out the back door in the summer and can still nearly feel the warmth of the cement on my bare feet. I can recall the holes from where large rocks must have been stuck but eventually loosened in the steps.

There was a summer I made my brother eat peanut butter and leaf sandwiches in the back yard because he whined at me all the time to make him something to eat and he was fully capable. My bad.

I had morning glories on the south side of the house, as well as the west (back yard). You could enter the basement fe the cellar store outside, and as much as it was (rightly so) advised against standing atop the wooden doors, my brother and I did so frequently.

The living room seemed so huge growing up. The ceilings in the house were high and seemed to soar above us. The living room and dining room had stained glass in the top section of the picture windows. They were (in my opinion) a bit ugly and obscure, but still very cool. 

You could see the high school I attended from the dining room window. We lived half a block away, so it was hard to be late (though my younger brother totally mastered the skill of being tardy on a regular basis).  

In the summer, we would walk to the local swimming pool. It was about 8 blocks away. We were about 4 blocks from the grocery store and post office, and walking to get the mail was somehow always (unless the weather sucked) exciting. I even had my own key!

You could sit on the porch all day and but a few cars drive by, it seemed. Main Street is extremely wide, but it is a one-way street and not a through road at that, so traffic was very low, and we took advantage by playing in the street frequently. During my exploration phase where I wasn't easily grossed out, I dissected a snake in the street with a stick. 

The sidewalk would flood every year when the snow melted and we would have a last pushing water as fast as we could with snow shovels to splash as high as possible. I did snow sculptures in the front yard for my younger siblings.  I painted Pooh characters on a wooden castle fort in the backyard for my baby sister.

My brother and I made home videos in the living room when our parents were at work and we were home, even though we were told not to. We tried music videos, documentaries, action segments, and even a horror flick. 

I hosted my first "boy-girl" party there, and we sang karaoke to country songs. 

I had my first kiss from my first boyfriend there in 10th grade. I remember thinking it was kind of gross and he was kind of slobbery.  We didn't date long. Haha.

I remember the first time my husband visited the house. It was August 31, 2001. He came with another friend I had recently met. They stayed for hours, late into the night. He played my guitar in the dining room, which still had brown wooden panels at the time. I gave him a tour, and when we were in the basement, he saw a centipede and ran up the stairs like a terrified little girl.

I spent countless hours on Tuesday nights sitting on the kitchen counter talking to him on the phone. I wasn't supposed to sit on the counter.

He kissed me for the first time in that house. He told me loved me in that house. He tried to be super romantic and played guitar in the back yard outside my bedroom window one night on a surprise visit- standing out there for who knows how long, because I had gone for a jog after mailing him a letter. I did find him when I got home and was completely smitten.

He played my favorite song for me the first time in the living room, shortly after I cut my head with a piece of paneling I was tearing off the wall helping to rid the dining room of the atrocious decor. 

Spencer spent hours there two summers ago playing in a pool my dad got for him and put in the front yard. Collin met "his puppy," Wendell, for the first time there, as when I was pregnant with Collin we needed a bigger place to live and we couldn't find one affordable to us that allowed us to keep Wendell here.

Granted, I have memories that are less than wonderful, but it's rare I focus on them, especially now, when I'm figuring out how to process letting go of my home.

Letting go... It seems so surreal. To know that it's likely the next time I "go home" to visit, I will drive by and the lot will be vacant. The image of desolation I have flash through my mind is really hard to grasp and process. I'm not looking forward to that day. 

After my dad told me the news, I heard the song "the House that Built Me," by Miranda Lambert. It's been a favorite for years. This time, it made me cry.

I tell myself it's just a building. It's old and very, very run down (that's why it's being demolished). It's not really worth saving. But impractically, I wish I could save it. 

Since I can't, I had a friend take a picture for me. She still lives in my hometown. I treasure this photo more than I can describe, now.

Hold into it. I know, realistically, I will hold onto the memories and that is what will matter.  But it pulls at my heart strings to know that I won't be able to drive by when my children are older, point it out to them, and tell them the memories I so vividly can see myself. It won't be as tangible to them. It just won't be there anymore.