Everything I Wished For

Everything I Wished For

I wasn’t sure I would ever want to have children.  From a young age I was taught that this “system of things” is wicked and there would be a much better time to have children than during this decay of humanity.

Once I tried to break free from those beliefs, I ran straight into another reality – I’m pretty selfish and “spoiled.”  My experience with alcohol and recovery taught me that most often, I am only concerned with myself and my feelings.  It was one thing for my mental quirks to wreak havoc in my life, but I couldn’t imagine forcing them onto a tiny, innocent mind with no choice.

As time marched on, so did my thinking and when I began the slight incline to 30, I started to experience the yearning.  I wanted a baby.  It seemed the natural order of things.  Chris and I had been married for six years, we had travelled (to the Oregon Coast) and we’d had many adventures with our friends.  I had even quit smoking.  I thought being forced to focus on someone else was just what I needed to continue growing emotionally and spiritually.

So, Chris and I began trying.  We were blessed with only having to try for four to six months.  I never took for granted the fact that I was able to get pregnant.  I knew women who would have given anything to be able to carry a child but would never have the opportunity.

I was clueless.  When the pregnancy test finally came back positive, I thought it was wrong, so I took another test.  I still had a hard time believing it was really happening.  I called an OB/GYN to see if they needed to confirm it for me.  They told me if the test came back positive, they had no reason to doubt it and they set up my first appointment – weeks out!  I couldn’t believe the doctor didn’t want to confirm it and I couldn’t believe the doctor didn’t need to see me for weeks!  So much could happen before that first appointment; there were so many things I could do wrong.  Already, I was surprised everyone was leaving it up to me to take care of another life.  I didn’t even trust that I was reading the test right!

Looking back, I had already begun to feel separated from everyone else.  Pregnancy was an experience only I could have, and I was scared.

The first trimester was challenging.  It seemed for the longest time there was no proof of why everything was changing.  As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I wanted a belly bump, something to affirm what was happening.  I was extremely tired – ALL THE TIME.  We had friends and family living with us and I became so irritable, I kicked everyone out.  I stopped drinking diet soda and anything with caffeine.  I was angry that people were going about, living life and suddenly, everything was different for me.  They could go to a movie and have a soda.  I couldn’t seem to stay awake past 7:00 p.m. and I was reduced to drinking plain, bland, flavorless water.  People were literally afraid of me.  I became the worst version of me and I felt out of control.

Then came the blessed, peaceful second trimester.  I began to show; there really was a baby in there!  We had an ultrasound at 20 weeks and found out what we were having.  I wanted a girl.  I told myself I would be happy with either girl or boy, but I knew I wanted a girl.  And once again, I got just what I wanted.

Chris and I signed up for child birth classes during the third trimester.  I was worried about labor, but never having been through it before, I hoped my high tolerance for pain (seriously – I thought I had one of those) would persevere.  I wasn’t opposed to drugs during labor.  At the time, the hospital didn’t offer epidurals, only intrathecal.  We watched birthing videos and practiced breathing and focusing.  We took a tour of the labor and delivery rooms and reviewed tips and techniques for new parents.

When we approached the topic of “baby blues” and postpartum depression, I vividly remember catching Chris’ eye when the nurse said people with a history of depression had a greater chance of experiencing postpartum depression.  The nurse explained that “baby blues” were normal, however, if they didn’t leave within a few weeks, it would be best to contact a doctor.

The only thing I knew about postpartum depression was what I had heard on the news.  I had heard about moms who used it as an “excuse” to get rid of children they probably never wanted anyway.  (Let me be clear, this is NOT how I view it today and I recognize that my belief at that time was based on lack of information, awareness and experience.)These Last Few Hours

I figured I could expect some “baby blues,” but I also thought if I began to slip into depression, we could catch it easily and deal with it then.  I wasn’t too concerned, after all, I didn’t know how I could be depressed with a cute little baby around.

My due date was July 29th and I had told Chris from the very beginning that I thought I would be a week early.  We’d had all of our baby showers, we had unlimited support from family and friends, the only thing left was to have the baby.

I became hyper-sensitive in the days prior.  We’d had a beagle that was four years old and up until that point, she had always been my baby.  I cried when I thought of how our relationship would inevitably change.  Unlike other women I knew, I honestly and truthfully was in no rush to be done with pregnancy.  I had no problem with being overdue.  The closer labor and delivery got, the less equipped I felt to handle it.  I liked having my baby in my belly.  She was safe, warm, fed, clean and I had control of her environment.  Once she left me, anything could happen.

One of my main concerns was knowing when I was in labor.  In our classes, we learned if a woman’s water broke, it took all the guess work out of whether it was time to go to the hospital; if the water broke it was time.  There wasn’t the need to time contractions and there wasn’t the possibility of going to the hospital prematurely.

Once again, I got what I wished for.  At 5:00 a.m. on July 22, 2004, my water broke.  I woke Chris and said, “Either I just peed the bed or my water broke.”

It was time.

At the hospital, I was given Pitocin to induce contractions.  The nurses encouraged Chris and I to get some rest since we were more than likely going to need it.  I thought they were crazy.  We were about to have a baby!  Our lives would never be the same, we came as two, we were leaving as three, rest seemed ridiculous.

Contractions finally started, slowly.  For the first while, I thought it was easy and hoped labor wouldn’t end up being much more than what I was experiencing.  It didn’t take long for the contractions to become more frequent and painful.  I honestly don’t know if I could have lasted without Chris.  He tried to prepare me when he could tell a contraction was about to begin.  The Pitocin was in full effect and I had no down time between contractions.  I was hoping for even a 30 second breather, but once one ended, another seemed to have already started.  I locked eyes with Chris and he breathed with me.

We thought perhaps the Jacuzzi would help since many women enjoyed the Jacuzzi during labor.  I found no relief in the Jacuzzi.  In fact, I became nauseous and developed diarrhea.  I suffered while sitting on the toilet during contractions and Chris suffered while breathing in the bathroom with me.

I had horrible back labor and the only relief I could find was a few seconds of sitting on the inflatable ball in the delivery room.

When I couldn’t take it anymore, I requested an intrathecal.  It felt like it took forever for the anesthesiologist to arrive.  He went through the warnings and possible complications which I couldn’t care less about at the time.

Chris said watching the intrathecal was an intense experience.  The doctor inserted a long needle into my spine.  All I knew was that after hours of pain, I was finally experiencing some relief.  This was the first time when rest seemed an appropriate suggestion.  I was completely exhausted.

Back LaborThe nurses came in and said the baby was facing the wrong direction; she was facing my stomach instead of my back.  They wanted me to use the relief I had from the intrathecal to do hip sways and lunges in an attempt to get the baby to turn naturally.  Thankfully, the baby turned and all the exercise during labor was worth it.

The intrathecal lasted a couple hours, but it seemed more like half an hour to me.

I had no idea what the “urge to push” might feel like.  I thought maybe it was similar to my “urge to be done with the beautiful frickin’ journey of labor.”  But finally, shortly after the intrathecal wore off, I experienced the strangest sensation.  It was as if everything in my body was joining forces to expel something.  I said, “I think I just had the urge to push.”

Approximately twelve hours after my water broke, it was time to begin pushing.  I threw up once, but other than that, I was thankful to have something to do during contractions besides suffer through them.

At 6:53 p.m., Grace Violet Coen was introduced to the world, all nine pounds, one ounce of her.  I had asked for her to be put on my chest right after delivery for skin on skin contact.  There was a lot of celebrating.  I cried tears of joy and tears of relief.  The nurses took her measurements and rated her color, temperature and several other things while I was stitched up.

I had plans on nursing, so the nurses helped me begin that process as soon as possible after delivery.  Family came in, people passed her around and everything seemed right.  I was so thankful labor was over and I was ready to finally get some rest after they moved us out of labor and delivery to our family room.

I was sore and my legs were horribly itchy from the intrathecal, but everything else seemed fine.  It was time to live our happily ever after.

I had no way of knowing or even guessing what was about to transpire.  Thank God.

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

It has been eleven, almost twelve years since I went through my crisis, but thinking about it and talking about it can make it feel not so far away.  I was very vocal about my experience after my daughter was born because I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to FEEL alone.  There is a difference between BEING alone and FEELING alone.  I can be alone just fine.  Feeling alone?  It is probably the closest thing to hell I can think of.

As Grace grew older and I was introduced to social media, I shared my story a little but was also focused on making sure she wasn’t negatively affected by our experience and as I mentioned in a previous post, I NEVER want her to feel it was her fault.  EVER.

Four and a half years later, I had another child and my postpartum experience was completely different than the first.  I got about the business of living life with my husband and beautiful children and neatly tucked what happened away in my memories to drag out and dust off if needed.

Here is the thing:  when I was trying to survive postpartum depression, I told myself, my husband, my family, my friends that if I ever made it through, I better be able to help A LOT of people.

It is hard to help when nobody even knows I can.

In the spirit of awareness and unity, I will be working on my story to share on my blog over the next week or so.

Stay tuned for . . . the rest of the story . . .

Middle School Swag

Middle School Swag

It happened in less than a minute, but it has profoundly affected my thoughts.

Yesterday, my daughter had a company dance photo shoot.  She wore the costume for the dance, “Cook Kids vs. Nerds.”  Of course, she was a nerd and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  A little later, she wanted to go to the store to look for earrings and I wanted to find new jeans, so we went shopping.

I’m getting a new tattoo; it is a semicolon with butterfly wings.  I first heard about the semicolon project from my niece and if it doesn’t sound familiar, it would be worth your time to look it up.  The most basic meaning would be, “my story isn’t over yet.”

I haven’t discussed my past at length with my daughter, but she is getting to be that age where she has started asking more and more questions.  Next week, I am going to a presentation called, “Playing Monopoly with God,” about a woman’s experience with postpartum issues and returning from that place I once knew all too well.  When asked if I would be willing to share my story in an interview, I hesitated.  Most of you who know me well wouldn’t believe that.  My life = open book.  But, my daughter is to the age where she can surf the internet, she knows about my blog and I’ve never discussed what happened after her birth with her.  I have NEVER wanted her to think it was her fault.  EVER.

She and I began discussing my tattoo and the meaning behind it.  I told her I wanted this tattoo in a very specific place for a very specific reason.  I finally explained to her that I used to injure myself.  We spoke a little about depression and suicide, but didn’t dwell on the issues.  She brought up the fact that she wished people would take more time to put themselves in other people’s shoes to see how they might feel if they were treated the way they treated others.  She said she thought some of the reason kids her age get depressed is because of things other kids say to them.

We went to the mall and she convinced me to go to Claire’s to look at and purchase earrings.  The gal at the checkout said, “Are you having a mommy/daughter date?”  Grace and I looked at each other to decide if we wanted to give our time together a title.  I looked at the gal and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”

As we walked out of the store, I noticed the gathering of four girls sitting on the benches around the trash can.  They were whispering and giggling and each of them had their own cell phone they were glued to.  I vaguely sensed they could be talking about Grace, but honestly, couldn’t figure out why.  I looked their direction and noticed one of them had a black eye.

On our way out of the mall, the girl with the black eye shouted out, “What are you wearing!?!”

And suddenly, everything rose up inside of me.

I turned around to make sure the girl was speaking to us.  I turned around to make sure the girl knew I was speaking to her.

“It is a dance costume,” I said emphatically.

The girls sitting on the benches looked at each other, “We’re sorry, she’s just being rude,” they apologized, swatting at their friend’s arm.

I kept looking.

Grace finished it off with, “And it is the swaggest dance costume around!”MiddleSchoolSwag-001

Less than a minute, but a lifetime of influence, both in cause and effect.

As we made our way to the car, I was considering going back into the mall to make sure that girl knew her words had consequences, but Grace stopped that line of thinking by saying, “You know you didn’t have to do that, right?”

My heart was still racing.  “I didn’t, but I did,” I tried to explain.

“Well, your confidence made me more confident,” she said.  “I couldn’t have said what I did if you hadn’t said what you did.”

After a few seconds of silence, she continued, “And by the way, what she said didn’t offend me.”

And then, I took a step back to review the situation.  My daughter and I had just finished a “mommy/daughter date” and were on our way home, together.   We had been talking, laughing, sharing interests.    Grace is a dedicated dancer with confidence enough not to worry about what others might think of her “costume.”

I began to wonder what kind of home life the other girl had.  She was at the mall, unsupervised, with a black eye and a cell phone.  She probably thought her friends would think her comment was funny and maybe for a split second, she would feel like she belonged if she was able to make them smile.

Sometimes, life is so sensitive, it hurts.

And sometimes, I am just extremely grateful that my daughter has the “swaggest dance costume around.”

There Was a Time . . .

There Was a Time . . .

I am turning 40.

I have to keep saying it, because I almost don’t believe it.  It isn’t a dread for growing older, or an aversion to the aging process.  It truly is because there have been many times in my life when I didn’t think I would even reach 40.  It is gratitude I’m feeling.

There was a time, when I was very young and was being raised in the religious teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses that I thought the world would end before I even reached 20.  My sister had said one day it was very possible Armageddon would occur before my niece’s generation passed away.  My niece is only six years younger than I am.  Once I spent the night at a friend’s house and she explained she didn’t like going to other people’s homes for sleepovers because she was worried Armageddon would happen while she was away from her parents.  I made no plans for my future because I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to have a future.

There was a time when I believed if I was just good enough, or smart enough, obedient enough or pure enough, perhaps God would turn His eyes my way and would spare me from His wrath.  A time when I believed the people teaching me about God were supreme authorities in my relationship with God.  A time when I gave up because I couldn’t measure up and a time when I grew discouraged and blind to God’s love because of human error.

There was a time when I was closer to 20 and realized Armageddon could be a lot further away than I originally thought.  Then, I began to question the validity of what I had been taught and my desire to be with “God’s people.”  I fell in love and did things I knew I wasn’t supposed to.  I was disfellowshipped from my religious congregation, my family and my friends.  The boy I fell in love with had a drug and alcohol addiction and was incapable of completely giving himself to our relationship.  I had never felt so alone.

There was a time at 17 years old when taking a shower exhausted me, when my boyfriend tried to kiss me and my skin burned, when I wouldn’t eat and slept all day only to remain wide awake at night listening to Pink Floyd, “The Wall,” without end.  There was a time when my memory failed and I fought with my parents, ran away from home and punched holes in their walls.

There was a time when I wanted to disappear, to die, to no longer exist as a problem in anyone’s life.  I caused injury to myself, over and over, hoping to build up the courage for a final act.  A time I had planned to say good-bye to those I still loved and instead broke down in the shower and confessed to my mother my intentions.  A time when I was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for two weeks.

There was a time when I thought I had begun dealing with my problems when truthfully, I was drinking to forget them.  I became a person I never imagined and kept myself drunk so that I wouldn’t care.  There was a time when my only purpose was to avoid pain, which sadly caused even more pain – to myself and others.  A time when I would look to the sky and curse God for what I’d done to myself.

There was a time when my selfishness blinded me and I almost killed myself and others by driving while intoxicated.  A time when God gently and firmly placed His hands upon my shoulders and held me in place until I opened my eyes to see the chaos I had chosen in my life.

There was a time when I married someone I knew I shouldn’t because we were too young, inexperienced and unhealthy.  When we separated shortly after, there was a time when I thought I couldn’t live without him, when I writhed back and forth on the dirty, cigarette ash filled carpet thinking I most certainly could and would die from a broken heart.

There was a time when I was sure I would never love again.  I went through divorce and my ex told me it would be as if we never met.  A time when I relied totally on God and the friends he put in my life.  A time of spiritual enlightenment as well as growth.  A time I lived by myself (barely) while spending every waking moment trying to find ways to help others.

There was a time I loved and married again.  Even though I was still young, my new husband explained to me that love is a choice – not some willy, nilly, here and there emotion – a choice to respect, honor and support each other.

There was a time when I didn’t want children.  I believed I was too messed up.  I was too focused on my own pain to even attempt healthy parenting.  A time when I was too immature to risk the responsibility of molding fragile, young minds.

There was a time when I was sure Armageddon was upon us and I wasn’t right with God.  Although acts of terrorism occurred in other countries every day, when it hit the United States, it felt like the end of the world.  And even though we were told to be brave and to show we couldn’t be terrorized, I was shaking in my boots, literally and figuratively.

There was a time when my heart began aching for the chance to be pregnant, to feel a baby moving inside my tummy, to be able to raise a child to make a difference in the world.  There was a time when I had confidence in my ability to parent for even the most brief of seconds.

There was a time when my body revolted against me and became unmanageable.  When I had completed the birth experience and wanted to relax into the duties of motherhood.  A time when my mind began racing and my stomach began churning, when I couldn’t wake without feeling startled and a time when I wanted to hurt or kill myself because I couldn’t make the crazy stop.  A time when sadness seemed the most illogical reaction, yet had set up camp in my heart and home.  A time when I was paranoid I would never be normal again.  A time when another psychiatric hospital stay was required and medication became not an option, but a necessity.  And a time when my husband had to remind me that “Every day is a victory.”

There was a time when the death of others was an abstract concept.  A time when I was safe in the knowledge that those I loved dearly were always available and would be for a very long time.  A time when I couldn’t relate to anyone who was grieving because I hadn’t experienced it.  A time when I thought perhaps death was similar to Armageddon – I awaited its arrival, but it never came.

There was a time when death finally came – sometimes loud and angry-like and sometimes soft and quietly.  My Grandpa, my Grandmas, my ex-husband, my father, my brother, my friends.  The people I had talked about life and death with were actually dying and I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

There was a time when I believed I would never stay at a job I didn’t enjoy.  A time I kept my mouth shut during many injustices and allowed my soul to shrink deeper into itself simply because of the almighty dollar.  There was a time when money reigned supreme and I believed being a Deputy Clerk of District Court was the best I could ever do in my life.

There was a time when I didn’t have to worry about my weight or my health.  A time when I ate whatever I wanted and hardly gained a pound because I was smoking.  A time when I quit smoking and began to gain weight and then became pregnant and began to gain weight and began taking medications that added more weight.  There was a time when I told myself it didn’t matter what other people thought about my weight, it only mattered how I felt.  And a time when I realized I didn’t feel all that great about how I looked.

There was a time when I once again turned to self-injury and tried to convince my doctor that hurting myself was better than killing myself and he threatened to put me in the hospital again.  A time I reached out and a loved one got me in touch with a therapist who helped change my life.

And then, there is this moment, right now.  When I am about to turn 40.

I have been sober for 21 years and have been happily married for 18.  I have two beautiful, bright children.  I am a business owner and work from home.  Instead of scarring my skin with self-injury, I honor those I love with tattoos that decorate my skin.  I have a firm belief that God has my back and it is a knowledge I can rest easy in.  Today, I know that God loves me, not because of my actions, but because of His grace.  My relationship with God is personal and something I can celebrate with others who know God’s love.  I still take medication and quitting it is not an option. – but I’ve accepted this about myself.  I have a healthy diet and have been working at exercising more frequently.  I have a community of friends and family who cheer with me during success and mourn with me during sorrow.

I am not naive enough to think there will be no more troubles in this life – but I am hoping the legacy of my 40’s will bear the titles, “Wise and Youthful.”

I think I’m gonna like it here.

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“Only Love Can Break A Heart”

“Only Love Can Break A Heart”

(The title of this blog entry is from a Neil Young song.  It says so much in just a few words.  Our hearts wouldn’t break if we didn’t love so deeply.)

If I were asked to describe my relationship with Brittney, I would have to say there are too many words and not enough all at the same time.

Of course, everyone’s relationship with Brittney was unique.  While she had many familiar quirks, to spend any amount of time with her was intense and personal.  Her sister explained it best when she said it was easy to feel that Brittney, “was mine.”

I had very few “casual” times with Brittney.  We had our fun (I can still hear her laugh), but most of our interactions were a raw, powerful outpouring of our struggle with the human condition.  It was because of these interactions we either became closer, or at times became weary of each other because we knew too much.

Through this process of grieving and attempting to understand, I have come to believe that Brittney was so connected and so acutely aware of spiritual matters that it became difficult for her to pretend.  It was also this connected awareness that led her to help others.  She knew she had a gift, a knack and a purpose.

My casual interactions with Brittney involved music, food, laughter and art.  Our more in depth interactions included music, food, laughter and art.  Our conversations ranged from silly to spiritual, ethical to political, and intellectual to deeply personal.  We provided shelter and comfort to each other, resting in the knowledge that we were not alone in this crazy confusion of life.

Brittney challenged me constantly.  If I asked her a question, I rarely got a straight answer.  Sometimes, in fact, her responses felt like puzzles I had to put together or take apart.  Maybe she would give me everything BUT the answer so I would have to arrive at my own conclusion.

My biggest regret?  The last time she tried to get a hold of me, I didn’t call her back.  She didn’t want to force herself on me and perhaps she thought she had become a burden.  The truth?  Our relationship was so intense and involved, it was difficult to find time to continue our self-analysis.  Admitting that is embarrassing and sad.  I didn’t have enough time or energy for more than a casual relationship?  What a poor excuse – and yet, I don’t know if I could have done it any different.

Brittney introduced me to a variety of new experiences and was my biggest champion for spiritual growth.  She took me to pow wows, art shows, medicine men and healers.  We went for drives and listened to endless music.  After one drive in particular, she dedicated the song “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed to our experience.

She loved Elvis, which I always found odd.  She never liked to be mainstream about anything, yet . . . Elvis?  (I secretly thought it had something to do with the fact that her brother had Elvis hair.)  While she did enjoy some of Elvis’ mainstream music (we would sing Suspicious Minds to each other) she explained to me that she loved his gospel music and she enjoyed reading about his various spiritual experiences while taking mood altering chemicals.

Her preference in entertainment would be a foreign film titled, “Dreams,” or a movie about a spiritual quest such as, “Into the Wild.”  However, I remember once we sat and watched “Old School Sesame Street” episodes and, “Facts of Life.”  She loved nostalgia and found humor in the way society used to instruct it’s younger generation.  We shared a love of The Muppets and “Rainbow Connection” became our anthem.

Brittney got up late and stayed up late.  I remember countless nights thinking to myself, “We can only visit until 11:00 and then I have to go to bed.”  I would usually end up putting my head on my pillow at 2:00 a.m. and waking up for work the next morning.

I can’t even remember all the places we helped her move in and out of.  In fact, I wish I could remember more, because as we packed, she explained the meaning of each item.  Everything had meaning to Brittney.  If it didn’t have meaning, she didn’t keep it.  Perhaps this is why she loved to give gifts.  It was her mission to find something meaningful to the person receiving it.  And not only physical items.  Sometimes she would simply see something that reminded her of someone and she would share that moment with them the next time she saw them.

Brittney wrestled with herself a lot, but didn’t want anyone to know except a select group of people.  She used to look at me with amazement, wonder and skepticism.  She didn’t understand how or why I would want to put my issues out in the open to become “public property.”  She read my blog and would email her responses.  I wrote a blog entry about taking grief personally and how it can feel lonely grieving for someone.  Brittney responded with an in-depth, heartfelt and comforting piece.  I have felt so blessed to have those words from her – to comfort myself after her passing, but also to comfort the many, many people who loved and continue to love her.  (P.S. Brittney, this is a good example of why I put my issues out there for everyone to see.  We wouldn’t have your insightful words if I hadn’t shared my struggle with you.)

I believe there isn’t any aspect of my life that Brittney didn’t touch in some way.  This makes it difficult and easier all at the same time.  So many things remind me of her and I am sad that I can’t share them with her again.  At the same time, I am happy to have so many reminders of her full and lively spirit.

This is becoming lengthy, but I’m afraid to end it.  It has been such a relief to finally write about my friend.  It almost felt like she was here with me, offering her resounding, “Ha!”, making snide comments, contradicting some things, giving me as someone described it, “The North Eye.”

I do know this, Brittney believed in an afterlife.  She believed all the experiences we had with one another became part of us.  If anyone were able to express her presence, it would be Brittney.  Some people might not believe in that, but she did.

It is becoming easier to accept that she is at peace.  While I think any of us would fight tooth and nail to keep her alive and with us, she accomplished more than most, despite her struggles and young age.  I would like to say her work was done, but I have a sneaky feeling she will continue her work . . . just in a different capacity.

(When I began writing this, it was dark and cloudy.  When I finished, the sun broke through the clouds.)

A couple days after Brittney's passing, Chris told me the fog was amazing around the Lake.  I went to take pictures and the sun began dispersing the fog the closer I got to the Lake.  This is what the "fog" looked like by the time I arrived.
A couple days after Brittney’s passing, Chris told me the fog was amazing around the Lake and I should take pictures. This is what the “fog” looked like by the time I arrived.
Love Is Love

Love Is Love

Yesterday, the State of Montana overturned the ban on same sex marriages.  It happened a lot quicker than many thought it would, and not soon enough for others.  I had been interested in the outcome not only because it would have a profound effect on my business, but more importantly, because it directly affected someone I love.

As soon as I read the news, I posted the announcement on my niece’s Facebook wall – I thought for certain she had already heard, but as I found out later, I was the one to let her know.  She responded with, “I could cry.”  I was so excited for her!  For years, she has been hoping for this day.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (as was my niece) and we were taught that homosexuality is a sin.  Not hard for me to believe as it just didn’t seem right and I didn’t have any exposure to it.  However, as my niece became more familiar with feelings she wasn’t sure how to sort out, she realized she was attracted to females.  I can’t imagine being in her shoes coming to that realization with all the negative attention homosexuality received even as far back as when she was young.  Not only from the public, but from the people closest to her, her own family.

My niece is, and always has been, one of my favorite people.  She was an adorable baby and toddler with big doe eyes that were the only indication she had been hurt.  She rarely made a sound, but if something was wrong, we could tell because her eyes would be half filled with tears, ready to splash over.  As she grew older, her humor became quick and perfectly executed.  We would turn down the volume to the Planet of the Ape movies and make up our own dialogue.  She was a blast to be around.

When she became best friends with another girl, I thought nothing of it.  I had a best friend when I was in Junior High and early High School and that friend happened to be a girl.  When I heard the notion that my niece and her best friend might be more than friends, I had a hard time processing it.  Everything I had been taught in my past reared up to threaten the relationship with my niece, but my experience as her Aunt and friend suited up and showed up and began fighting back.

I didn’t know how to respond to the news.  I wanted to be able to pretend it didn’t bother me, but I couldn’t be dishonest.  I wanted to be like those progressive, freedom fighting, equal rights for everyone characters I saw, but my mind was stuck in what I had been taught for years.  Had it been anyone else besides a close family member, I could have distanced myself and pretended it didn’t matter.  But I was unwilling to sacrifice my relationship with my niece just because of the gender of a person she loved so I was going to have to work it out.

I had always thought of the scripture in the Old Testament when it came to homosexuality; the scripture in Leviticus which states:  “Man shall not lie with man . . .”  That was good enough for me – until it wasn’t.

I’m going to get a little religious here, but it is important to my point.  I was raised to believe Jesus came to make a new covenant between God and mankind.  We no longer had to concentrate so much on every little detail and every single commandment, because Jesus came and paid the ransom.  His command was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12 : 30, 31.

These two commandments cover a multitude of sins.  If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not murder, you will not commit adultery, you will not steal, etc.  If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will not create idols, you will not take God’s name in vain, etc.

Basically, what I took from that is Jesus commanded me to Love.

I was not commanded to only love those who believe the same things I do.  I was not commanded to only love those who follow the rules I believe apply.  I was not commanded to spew scriptures at those I have judged unworthy of God’s love.

I WAS COMMANDED TO LOVE.

Brianna and SadieMy niece has always brought up the point, why would she choose to be homosexual?  Why would she choose to live and lead a life that much of society considers dirty and sinful?  Why would she choose a lifestyle that people feel such raging hatred against?  She didn’t choose to be attracted to women, but she has accepted it about herself – especially because she has fallen in love with someone pretty spectacular.  They already live like a married couple, they were just not allowed to have the benefits of a married couple.

Yesterday, when the decision was released, I was so happy for her, I didn’t even think about all the people who would be angry and spiteful.  I didn’t feel like it had been a fight against people as much as a fight against an idea.  However, when the news station posted a picture of the first gay couple getting their marriage license, the comments reminded me that just because same sex marriage is now legal, it doesn’t mean it is going to always be accepted.

Last night my niece explained to me that after she learned she had the right to marry, for just a brief moment, she felt like everyone else.  After a lifetime of fighting a feeling of “different,” I’d say it truly is a victory – just to feel normal!

I understand that by writing this, I may have lost some friends, followers, etc.

But if my niece can be strong enough to stand up for the person she loves, the least I can do is the same.

I WAS COMMANDED TO LOVE.

 

No Rest for the Weary

No Rest for the Weary

Parenting can be exhausting.

I used to think once my children grew out of the baby stage, things would get easier.  Then I told myself if we survived through the toddler years, the rest was cake.  It became an endless cycle of looking for the next stage – waiting for stages to get easier.  The thing I have realized over time is that some things do get easier while other things get more difficult.

Yes!  They are out of diapers and I don’t have to carry a diaper bag anymore.  But . . . now when they have to go to the bathroom (which is sometimes every single store we step into) I get to walk them in, wait for them to finish, make sure they wipe well, make sure they wash their hands, etc.

Yes!  We are finished with nursing and they are moving onto solid foods.  But . . . now I have to watch what they eat, try to make sure they don’t eat too much sugar, have to make sure they brush their teeth morning and night.

Everything is a trade off, I suppose.  In the beginning we do FOR them and as they grow, we SUPERVISE.

Chris and I recently purchased a business.  The kids are pretty much used to my routine as it was something they followed all summer.  I have to go to the post office at least once, usually twice a day.  Sometimes I have to make at least one, sometimes two trips to Whitefish to deliver paperwork.  If I receive a phone call, I need to take it; if I receive an email, I need to answer it.

There are a few exceptions.  If we are sitting down together as a family to eat, I will not answer my phone.  If I am engaged in a conversation with someone else (for example a checker at the grocery store) I will not answer my phone.  But I’m on it.  A lot.  Not always talking to someone, but sometimes checking my emails or logging onto Facebook to find out the latest and greatest in everyone’s lives.

Chris and I have become weary of our parenting skills and our children’s behavior.  Are we letting them spend too much time on electronics?  Are we teaching them to respect their elders?  Are we encouraging them to eat healthy?  Are we helping them develop good communication skills along with empathy and compassion for their friends?  Where is the line between showing empathy and compassion and teaching them they are not doormats for others to walk all over?

I have had a rough couple of days in the land of motherhood.  Zero patience.  Minimal understanding.  No motivation or ambition to give it my best and feeling guilty because of all of these things.

We decided to go out for a treat this afternoon.  Even things as simple as going out for a treat can sometimes feel like a chore.  One person isn’t ready, the others get tired of waiting and find something else to do, then, the one person is ready and everyone else has found something else to occupy them.

No Rest for the Weary

We went to Twisted Bliss for frozen yogurt.  It was enjoyable, once we arrived.  We sat at a small table together and shared stories and laughter.  I looked at my phone a couple times, but when I saw I didn’t have any new emails, I left it alone.  Chris had his phone out and on the table, but I can’t recall him touching it.

As we got up from our table to leave, a woman who had been sitting at a table slightly behind us walked up to Chris and handed him an envelope.

“I just want to tell you, I have sat here and enjoyed watching you and your family interact with each other.  You weren’t on your phones the whole time and it was a pleasure to see you and your children having conversations.  I want you to have this.”

Chris accepted the envelope and said, “Thank you,” and as I walked past, I made sure to tell her, “Thank you,” as well.  She added, “You’re children are very well behaved.”  (As she said this, Micah pretended he was dying and threw himself on the floor right next to her.)

We all said, “Thank you,” one more time and went out to our car.  As we drove away, I opened the envelope and found a gift certificate for $20.00.  It was made out, “To:  A Loving Family; From:  Somebody Who loves Seeing Families Sit Together.”

Perhaps there is no rest for the weary – but apparently – there is – frozen yogurt.

 

 

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