Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Convenience



It's Veteran's Day in 34 minutes.
I think about many soldiers...who gave up so much,
for our country.
For us.
For me.

And their families.
The moms, the wives, the sisters, the daughters.
Dads, husbands, brothers, sons.
Who wait. And worry.
And pray.

I never had to be one of those women.
Someone else did that for me.
It's a bit overwhelming when I stop to think about it.

About what others gave up.
About my own complaints.
It's amazing to me the things I find inconvenient.
When I think about what others have sacrificed.
I am profoundly sad.

Freedom.
And what do we do with it?

Look around.
See what's on TV, magazines, movies...
Or the street, the hallway, the park, the store....
Fast, easy.
Quick, convenient, satisfying.

When is the last time we had to really work for anything?
There are "Fast Cash" buttons on ATMs.
Really?
I can't be bothered to push a few buttons?
I already can't take time to get out of my car and actually talk to another person.

I worry about the influence of Facebook on my life.
Sure, it amuses me and fills my time with mindless games.
It gives an odd sense of the personal, keeping up with people I don't actually talk to.
But what worries me most is not the public way people on Facebook live their lives, but the abbreviated way they do. I do.

Facebook....and even worse, Twitter....encourages brief snapshots into our lives.
A quick status update.
"Ate a blueberry muffin."
"Bought 10 bottles of ketchup - on sale!"
"My dog did the funniest thing."

It's voyeurism, therapy and comedy all in one.

But it doesn't really encourage deeper thought. Things happen and are posted and responded to. But examination of what it all means is hard to find.

You can find a quote for any occasion, that's for sure. Just load status shuffle.
You can share your taste in jokes or music.
You can get attention with a cryptic status.
You can band together with thousands who "like" the same things you do.

But you don't have to think.
Sometimes we do.
Think, care, share, connect.

But...in 142 characters...
How often does that really happen?
1 in 10? Less?

But, boy, it's convenient.

I think today,
in honor of a Vet,
I'll do something the hard way.
Something that takes self-discipline.
Something that requires sacrifice.
That isn't easy or convenient.

It makes me sad that I will have to think hard to discover what that might be.






Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

The words I would say



For my Zach...the chorus makes me think of you. God has His hand on you.

Sidewalk Prophets - The Words I Would Say


Three in the morning,
And I'm still awake,
So I picked up a pen and a page,
And I started writing,
Just what I'd say,
If we were face to face,
I'd tell you just what you mean to me,
I'd tell you these simple truths,

Be strong in the LORD and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say,

Last time we spoke,
You said you were hurting,
And I felt your pain in my heart,
I want to tell you,
That I keep on praying,
Love will find you where you are,
I know cause I've already been there,
So please hear these simple truths,

Be strong in the LORD and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say,

From one simple life to another,
I will say,
Come find peace in the Father,

Be strong in the LORD and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
Thank God for each day,
His love will find a way,
These are the words I would say

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five Years Ago

This is what my children looked like five years ago.

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This was June.
How were we to know that Dave would be gone two months later?
How could we have imagined such a thing?
Sure, he'd been sick.
But he'd been sick before.
I could not imagine that he would die.
Somehow I still can't.

In that five years.....
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So much has happened.

We got a dog.
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And then another.
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Kenny played football.
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Zach played football.
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Kate danced.
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Kenny skied.
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Zach played basketball.
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So did Kate.
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Kenny ran track.
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Zach caught baseball.
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Kate played volleyball.
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Kenny graduated and won the Lou Jacky award.
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Zach graduated and was speaker at baccalaureate.
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President Kate left middle school.
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We hosted Japanese students and had barbeques. We went camping and to a million tournaments. Homework and dinner. School and the field. We drove in the car (a lot) and bought groceries (also a lot). Birthdays and anniversaries. Christmas and Easter. Hotels and church. Some everyday events. Some life-changing events.

New friendships were forged, while some old were lost.
We were tested in ways we could not have imagined.
We found strengths we didn't know we possessed.
We found weaknesses that were hidden, too.

We wavered. Often.
Like a newborn foal on wobbly legs.
But some things cannot be shaken.
And to these things we hold fast.

In February of 2005, when Dave did not say,
"We'll beat it."
And my heart knew.
The first thing I thought was that Kenny would be playing football at WaHi in six short months.
Dave HAD to be there. He just had to.
I could NOT imagine his boy on the field, playing the game he loved, without Dave there.
It seemed impossible.
Unimaginable.

And yet, six months later, I was placing pads and boiling mouth guards and lacing things through my tears. And Kenny was out on the field. And Dave wasn't there.

And a year later, it happened again. Zach, tearing up the field, his intense determination driving him, making big plays, arms in the air, triumphant. And Dave...not there.

Unimaginable.

Kate, dancing across the stage, gliding, graceful...remembering the last time she danced while Dave was alive...he was in the hospital and couldn't come to the recital. Remembering how he always laughed at how "that girl has music in her head that no-one else can hear."

Unimaginable.

And now, five years later...it's still unbelievable to me. Part of my heart still does not believe it. I still look for him when those moments happen. I still think of how excited he will be to hear about this or that.

And all the things I never imagined....

How Kenny would be embraced by the students and staff at WaHi.
How Zach would grow into an honest man of such faith and integrity.
How Kate would understand what someone who is dying needs to hear.
How Kenny would be one to tell the complete unvarnished truth.
How Zach would be so loyal, dependable and strong.
How Kate would be the one to reach out to a friend in need.
How Kenny would be such a devoted fan.
How Zach would be such a hard worker.
How Kate would be such a deep thinker.

And so much more.
I am proud beyond words of each of them.
They have faced much, and endured much.
But they have grown to be compassionate, faithful, strong, intelligent and kind.

I also could not imagine how I would survive.
But I did.
Impossible. Unimaginable.

But I did. I am.

Tonight we went to church.
It still hurts to be there.
But Robin, our pastor, is sick.
And Robin has been there for us in a million ways.
He knew Dave as a boy.
He officiated at our wedding.
He helped us bury Kyle.
He baptized our children...and me.
He gave the sermon at Dave's service.
And he's leaving tomorrow for treatment.
For cancer.
For three months.

It never ends.
Sometimes that's hopeful.
Sometimes it's heavy.

I sat on the back porch tonight.
Thinking of the night five years ago.
After Kate finally fell asleep.
The late August days in Walla Walla are hot.
Oppressive heat, heavy heat.
Air that's hard to breathe midday.

But as the sun goes down,
there is a hint of autumn in the air.
It's still hot.
But the breeze has a cool edge.
Just enough so you know.

Something will leave.
And something else will come.
To everything there is a season.

For those who believe,
no proof is needed.
For those who do not believe,
no proof is possible. ~ Stuart Chance

And so I choose to believe.
In the impossible.
Even the unimaginable.



Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Japan

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Teenagers are crazy. All over the world.
I love this picture. My silly kids. I adore each of them.

We just finished a two-week adventure.
I know that two weeks can change your life.
It's happened to me before.
But I never expected that having two Japanese students stay with us for two weeks would be so amazing.

Here's a picture of Koki and Masamichi.
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They came to Walla Walla.
For a cultural exchange.
Some of you might find that funny.
I wonder what it was like for them. They live in a big city in Japan - Yokohama. They attend a private school that used to be a boarding school, with beautiful gardens and gorgeous views. One lives in an apartment building with pets like hamsters and turtles. They arrived in suits and ties, pulling their hard-shelled suitcases.
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I wonder what they thought.
The loud and crazy Americans, waving signs, dressed casually, giving them Walla Walla t-shirts and cookies.
They smiled a lot.
And we brought them home.
Through rolling hills and running streams and acres of wheat and lots of grapes.
To two giant, enthusiastic dogs and four fuzzy cats who actually own a section of our kitchen counter.
Their English was pretty good. My Japanese non-existent. I quickly learned a few phrases and used google translator. I can now confidently count to three. Their English teacher has a British (or maybe Australian) accent, so I'm certain we sounded odd to them.

We ordered pizza. "Do you like pizza?"
Smiles and nodding heads. They knew pizza.
They changed into jeans and sneakers.
Whew.
We were going to be okay.

They brought lovely gifts...so many of them.
Intricately crafted wooden frames and key fobs, Japanese toys, a book about Japan.
Towels and Japanese mugs and embroidered pouches for purse-sized tissues.
We marveled at the beautiful things.

Masamichi showed us a card trick. We discovered that we laugh in the same language.

We played games. Ping pong, badmitton, baseball, hibachi ball (wait, hibachi...that's a grill...well, you know what I mean.) Jumped on the trampoline and played basketball and threw those weird little balls that you catch in a funky basket.

We took them to the grocery store to choose food.
Ramen and oreos.
Sprite, not Coke.
I wrote to my friend, Stephanie, living in Japan, to ask, "What do I feed them?" She said, "Pizza and burgers until they're sick of them! And if all else fails, rice."

I fought the strange urge to repeat what I'd said in Spanish during the times they didn't understand me.

Oh, and the competitive table games.
Othello, Uno, and Jenga. And puzzle games: Dice Stacker, Log Stacker, Jacob's Revenge. (Wonderful company, go to http://www.elversonpuzzle.com/ and check them out. Great people with hearts of gold who run it. And really fun puzzles.)

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Zach played a round with 4 Japanese kids and said, "That was the most fun game of Jenga I've ever played and I didn't understand a word."

Although Walla Walla is really full of culture for a small town - some of the things that went on that week: plays, speakers, art shows, world-class restaurants, roller derby (yeah, roller derby), operas, concerts and symphonies. We took them to Ice Burg and Bowlaway Lanes with disco lights. And baseball games!

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And we did decide to go to Seattle.

I marveled at the Japanese boys. They're like babies. Put them in the car and they immediately fall asleep. They missed the mountains. Both directions.

We saw the Space Needle, Pike Street Market, Seattle Center, the pier/waterfront and a Mariner's game. Kailee got to come with us. We had such fun.

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And then we went to see the Haroldson's. Pure bliss.

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We came home. The boys went to school with Zach.
There were quiet moments.
Times where the kids just draped themselves over the couches and played x-box.
Times when they ran the neighborhood.
Times when we laughed ourselves silly.
And soon, home meant...our house, with us...and Koki and Masamichi.

I found the boys who were nervous about the pets, sitting on the couch with a cat on their lap and a dog underfoot.
I listened to Zach and Sarah call them "my kids."
I watched Zach panic like a new dad when he couldn't find Masamichi one night. (Masamichi was behind the couch, asleep.)
I had to take the puzzle dice away from Masamichi so he'd go to bed.
I watched Kaitlyn at the cultural night see a Japanese boy bust a move. She smiled and did it back. He and his friends said, "Oooohhh!!" And it was on. He popped. And she did it back. Her jazz turn, his robot. Music and movement, transcend all language.
And laughter belongs to every culture.

On cultural night, Koki, dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono, danced a traditional Japanese dance. Masamichi gave a karate demonstration that was unbelievable, culminating in breaking a board with his foot. They taught us to write Japanese characters and to wrap a kimono and to eat with chopsticks. They played music for us...everything from intricate-sounding Japanese instruments to the Bay City Rollers - S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!

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And all too soon, it was time to send them home.
They put on their suits at 5:30 am.
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I took them to WaHi. I hugged them and hugged them.
And they hugged back. And we all cried a little.
And then the bus pulled out of that parking lot.
With a piece of my heart on board.

Ai, misheru
愛、ミシェル

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Kyle



Tomorrow is January 2.
One of the five happiest days of my life.
It's the day Kyle was born.
Dave was so excited. All through the pregnancy, Dave was sure this was a girl. He bought this little pink sleeper. He was just sure that Kyle was a girl. Actually, he was sure it was a girl all four times! But if he were to be a boy, his name was to be Kenny or Erik. Kenny or Erik. Erik or Kenny. We went back and forth. Dave said, "Oh, it didn't matter anyway, since Amanda Loree was going to be born." A few days before Kyle was born, we had an ultrasound, because there had been so much confusion on his due date (turned out he was 3.5 weeks overdue!), and we discovered he was a boy! A boy! We were amazed. And suddenly decided to name him Kyle. Don't ask me why or how. It just happened.

Dave's brother, Bob, was in town for the weekend. I'd had a lot of contractions on Dave's birthday, he was hoping that Kyle would be born on his birthday, but it didn't happen. Then early, early on January 2, I started having contractions. Dave was completely beside himself. He got the stopwatch, and not only timed, but wrote down every contraction, with full description. It finally made me crazy and I threw away his paper and pen. So no cute memento for the baby book.

Dave loaded the car.

You can see how excited he was. He took a picture of my giant belly on our way out the door. I don't have that one scanned....sorry! Or maybe not. That's something else you might not know. Dave LOVED baby tummies. He continually rubbed my tummy, talking to the baby, reading books and singing songs. All our babies immediately recognized and sought out Dave's voice. He loved other baby tummies, too. Just ask Denise.

A textbook, almost silent, exactly 12 hour long labor later, Kyle was born at exactly 6:00 pm. He was beautiful. Perfect. Dave was amazed. Simply amazed.


I've always loved this picture. You can see the excitement, the nervousness, the awe.

Dave was the best Daddy ever. He was thrilled. He cut the cord. He gave the first bath. He changed the first diaper. He flew Kyle through the air on his hand...Air Kyle, he called it. He soothed Kyle by snuggling him next to his skin and nestling his little head against his neck, humming deeply, so Kyle could feel the vibrations and hear his voice. He loved to sleep with the baby, could hardly bear to put him down.




We were a family, we were delirously happy. I had planned to go back to work. The minute I held Kyle, I told Dave, "I can't do it. I can't leave him." So we changed plans, so I could stay home.

We had 25 gloriously happy days. Days of joy. Days untouched by fear or doubt or pain or sadness. Nothing but pure hope, a trust in the future, a closeness, a growing together that was simply miraculous.

Then, one day, at the mall with my friend, Dave with Erik and Mark on the way to a gig, Kyle stopped breathing.

I remember it like a movie. So surreal. I remember my heart beating so loudly in my own ears, pounding, pounding, adrenaline rushing through my body. I couldn't tell if Kyle was breathing, if his heart was beating or if that was my own heart. I started CPR. Someone asked me questions. I couldn't answer, so a little black girl, about 14, tiny, willowy, took Kyle and continued rescue breaths. I watched her in amazement. The ambulance arrived. I remember seeing the paramedic uniforms. It was like my dad had arrived. I felt safe suddenly. I knew that if anyone could save him, they could. They ripped open his sleeper, blue and white striped. They started an IV. They put a tube in his mouth. They motioned for me to follow them. I saw Kyle's pacifier on the floor and grabbed it. I would hold that pacifier for weeks, afraid to let go of it. I climbed into a police car which followed the ambulance to the hospital. It took forever to get there. We were at Cinnabon when it happened. I remember smelling the cinnamon on my clothes and feeling sick, retching in the police car.

We couldn't find Dave. He was somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle in the days before cell phones. We kept calling, calling anyone we knew. Finally, Dave came in the door. I couldn't look at him. Couldn't bear to see those eyes. I just held onto the pacifier. And we waited. Finally, the doctor came in. I don't remember what he said. I saw his face and I knew. I remember feeling like a block of ice. I couldn't think, couldn't feel. We went into this room, and Dave held Kyle, combed his hair, sang to him. I watched. I held Kyle, but felt nothing. Nothing at all.

They took us to a room. A room with a phone. We called some people. The lady from the funeral home came to take Kyle's body. I remember asking her to be careful, be gentle with my baby.

Then it was time to go. We didn't want to walk out that door, knowing it meant that once we passed that threshold, that real life would start again.

We went home. Decided we shouldn't be alone. Dave wanted to sit in Kyle's room, I couldn't go there. Immediately we knew that this was going to be hard, that we were going to have to work to understand that while we were on the same journey, we were taking different steps. We had to work to make sure those steps were toward each other and not away.

We called Peter and Cheryl and they came to be with us. The band arrived late at night, breaking our hide-a-bed. My dad and sister arrived, Denise with one shoe and one pair of pants. My mom was stuck on the highway with a broken down car. Dave's parents came. Peter fixed the screen door, it was squeaking, it sounded like a baby's cry to me, so Peter fixed it.

There were a lot of people there, I remember Mark and Doug and Peter and Cheryl and Denise stayed for days. They never left. Our parents, too. They all stayed until we told them to go home.

I remember Mark and Doug and Denise and Peter cocooning with us for the few days after Kyle died, waiting with us for answers from the doctors (hypoplastic left heart syndrome), sitting with us, crying with us, just being there. We planned a funeral. We found a cemetery. We selected a gravesite, a headstone. We had the service in a beautiful chapel overlooking the sound, trees all around, Mark and Erik's voices surrounding us in songs, songs that had just been played at our weddings.

On the way home, it began to snow. People rushed back over the pass, hoping to beat the weather. We went home. The tension lifted, enormous relief in the air. And we had this huge snowball fight, (I have pics somewhere...will try to find them.) screaming and laughing, almost hysterical, verging on mania from days spent inside, grieving. The diaper service kid came to pick up the pail, a somber look on his face. He looked at us like we were lunatics, having expected to find us grief-stricken. We laughed at that, a laugh tinged with just a little hysteria, not sure yet how to "be" in this new world. How to find our place? How to find each other?



We did. We made it through, with a lot of help, a lot of support, and a lot of effort, too. Another of Dave's famous sayings:
"Love is not a feeling, it's a decision."
How right he is. It's the commitment that carries us through. The choice. The decision. The being there, even when it's easier not to.

Some say that time heals. I'm not sure that's true. I miss Kyle every day, just as much as I ever did. It hurts, just as much as it ever did. The death of a child leaves a scar like no other. On the psych diagnostic "v-codes" in the DSM-IV, losing a child is on par with being in a concentration camp. It's wrong, on that level, on that scale. It's out of order. There is no healing that. You learn to live with it, around it, in spite of it. Dave and I talked about how it always felt like someone was missing. Always. Counting heads, "One, two, three.....(silently, in my heart, 'four.')"

At least Kyle's not alone now.
I, on the other hand...

Tears. Chelle