Thor

A few weeks ago, we had to put our Thor to sleep. We did tell the kids that he went to heaven because both of us can’t imagine not having our pups again running and chasing. Anything that brings and teaches so much about love can’t just leave us.

Our family is grieving hard, and it’s definitely been an experience in honoring all the levels and types of grieving. Grief will immediately show the personalities of each individual. The girls are all at different levels of cognitive abilities, and they all process differently.

Kiddok at 19 is old enough to know exactly what happened, knew it was coming, and hated every moment. We woke her up on a Sunday to the message that she needed to come over and say good-bye. She’d previously lost a cat, and knew that this would stick with her. She’s a quieter processor. She wants to talk about it occasionally, but on her terms and more 1:1.

Peanut at 9 (by the way – it was on her 9th birthday this all went down) is at a different cognitive level. She’s never had a real loss, so this was her first experience. She’s been at a Catholic school for 4 years so that really played into her processing. She was alternately quiet and wanting to be left alone with  needing attention about it. She hated any reminders of the incident if she happened not to be thinking about it right then. Being 9, she wasn’t able to roll with every punch as it landed when someone grieved in her space.

Bug at 5 was very pragmatic. Rather than focusing on the loss of Thor, she focused on the fact that we still had Mahla, and she needed us. She tended to not process vocally at all unless someone started it. She sat and cried for a long time at the time, and then she sort of “bucked up” and moved on. I’m not clear how or why as we worked very hard to not tell the girls to change their grieving patterns. Crying (even hysterically) was honored a long time.

Bits at 3 is the one who truly surprised me and broke my heart. She had no filter on her grief. It was immediate, loud, and raw. (That’s the part that broke my heart.) The idea of her losing her buddy (as Daddy’s helper with the dogs in the afternoon) was so harsh. She also processes out loud. Everyone we talked to that day (and for days after) whether we knew them or not found out about our pup. (Of course, her language skills aren’t perfect at 3, so we sometimes had to interject and help the receiver of the message which isn’t at all awkward). She will still ask about it. This made it very hard on Peanut because she didn’t want the reminders and Bits needed to spit it out.

Then, there’s our Mahla. Our girl who lost a brother and has no cognitive ability to understand why he didn’t come home. She’s still grieving and we just had her into the vet because she’s clearly stressed. She’s licking and biting herself and giving herself an infection. She’s gotten so much love lately to try and make sure she understands she is still loved.

I can tell you that neither Mike or I was okay with this. It killed us to have to make the decision, tell the girls, follow though, and then “carry on”. I’m sure we failed each of the girls at different times by not honoring them and their needs through this. I’m sure we succeeded at other times by working with them to honor each other and give grace as needed. Mike and I both process differently (I’m an out loud – hence the blog, and he’s an internal). All I know is that we are both hoping that Mahla is with us for a long, long time.

See you again some day. Thor. Love you still!

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Ask for help

In December, I ran a lot. I ran high mileage (for me), and consistently. I did fantastic, and things were going my way. Then, reality hit. It’s cold in MN in January. Cold. And it feels dark all day. The little sun I get is the sun that comes through the dark and dreary clouds at the window behind my back. So – in January, I probably ran a total of 5 times. February was definitely going that way…

I threw myself one heck of a pity party. Poor me, woe is me. I can’t run, it’s too hard, I’m too out of shape now, I don’t wanna. You name the excuse, I had it, I used it.

I got sick of my own pity party this week. On Monday, I put out on a local running group that I was desperate for help. I need to run in the morning or I just won’t. My running buddy left and moved (how dare she?). I’m a turtle, although the average turtle with a sprained hamstring could probably out run me.

I was very specific in the help I needed. I needed someone to run in my town. I needed someone to run in my town at 5:30am (give or take). I needed someone to either meet me and then run their own pace, or to meet and turtle it with me.

Within minutes, I had two takers. That should be repeated: within minutes of saying “I need this help”, I had two takers. I didn’t know either of them personally, but both were willing to help me. Now – I’ll say they also had similar goals, so we’re working together on similar goals. The thing about my “ask for help”. It was asked of the right group (a momma’s running group), with very specific needs (when, where and how to help), and possibly at the right time (I can’t control that).

I can’t tell you often I’ve told my girls “ask for help, don’t whine, don’t lie about why you got it wrong, etc. If you need help, ask”. But, we’ve learned as adults that “asking for help” is the equivalent of “showing a weakness” as though having weakness is somehow bad. It’s screwy logic and I’m not exactly sure how we got here.

It’s not a long blog, it’s just a bit of a reminder that asking for help often yields the help you need. Ask and it shall be given unto you.

And now – I need $1 million dollars, a personal chef, and a new car… (I’ll let you know if that worked!)

There but for the Grace of God

With lots of things going on in this world and in the US, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the phrase “there but for the Grace of God”. I don’t mean to presume that God loves me more than he loves someone else, by any means, as I often joke that there’s a gold-plated chair in hell for me.

My circumstances are pretty awesome. I happen to have been born into a white middle-class family who valued education where abuse wasn’t in our vocabulary. I’m healthy (well, nothing a little less laziness, and a little more attention to what I eat can’t fix). I don’t have issues learning in a traditional format or working in a traditional format so I fit into the “traditional” mold. My parents could afford to help me get a great education. My life, and that of my kids is pretty sweet.

But, then, you hear about these moms who have buried their sons and daughters for things as heinous as not using a blinker… I think of the moms who are sending their kids across the border to try and get a better life because it’s better to be without the mom in a foreign country than stay home. I think of the parents who are trying to get to another country on a raft I wouldn’t let my kids use in a swimming pool. I think of parents who are working 3 jobs so they can afford to feed their kid(s) and never see them.

You can bet your sweet bippy that if my choice was to stay in a war-torn country where the odds are 50/50 my children and I can die, or take some crazy chances to get out, I’d be looking to get out. Legally or not. If the law isn’t going to keep my kids and I safe, I’m not going to give two figs about the law. I can’t imagine living in this country where my skin color would put me at risk for walking down the street.

I understand the men and women who are protesting in inconvenient locations (freeways, malls) because they are sick and tired of worrying about their kids every time they walk out the door solely because their color makes them a target. Protesting on the freeway and inconveniencing some people for a night when I’m at risk every day, yah, I can get why they are doing that. There but for the Grace of God, these are not scenarios I face day in and day out.

Right behind “there but for the Grace of God” is “where much is given, much is expected.” Sometimes when I watch the rhetoric (and no, I didn’t watch the Republican debate), I think we’ve lost our way as that “city on the hill”. We’ve been given (or we took) a country with some phenomenal natural resources. We have had some leaders drive us through some dire times. We have the geographic distance from so much of the rest of the world, that we’ve been privileged to avoid so much of the world’s problems.

We have forgotten that we have a responsibility to everyone on this earth to do our best to make this a better place to live. We have forgotten that we have founded this nation on the words of “Give me your tired, your poor. your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… I lift my lamp besides the golden door” (Emma Lazarus). We have forgotten that “All men [and women] are created equal.”

We have forgotten the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are blithely walking by the men and women in this world who have been beaten and robbed, whether of their goods or their human dignity. We seem to have taken a philosophy that since my life is hard, I don’t have any sympathy left for someone else. Not only do I not have any sympathy, I also no longer have any energy to care about anyone who is different than me. Oh sure, if a natural disaster hits, we’ll give some nominal money to assuage our consciousness. But we’re not giving our comfort, real money, real effort.

I am far from innocent in this. I’m definitely guilty of paying attention to that which is close to home. And not worrying about my neighbor unless something brings their pain to my attention. We need to do better about remembering our neighbors are across this world as well as in our back pocket. Our neighbors are people trying to save their lives and the lives of their family whether they are in a war-torn nation or a poverty stricken part of Detroit. Our neighbors are those fighting for the Republican nomination (even though I personally can’t stand what comes out of many of their mouths). Our neighbors are those who are  trying to go to school, go to work, raise a family, not raise a family. Our neighbors are those humans who are inhabiting our earth with us.

Fears and hopes

My second grader’s teacher sent an email the other day about “ALICE” lock down procedures. Further down in the email, there’s a notice that they will have these drills 5 times a year. (5!!!). I Googled “Alice lock down” and learned I shouldn’t have. It’s freaky the kinds of training our teachers (to be frank, I’m guessing it’s ministers and other public buildings) need to have these days.

It hurts at the deepest level that I have consistent reminders that I can’t keep my girls safe. I have to hope and pray that if something should happen, my kid’s teacher can figure out how to keep them safe.

This, I suppose, is what Elizabeth Stone meant when she said having kids is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body’. I trust her teacher with my daughter’s life. However, there are 18 other sets of parents also trusting in that, and if something happens, she just might not be able to save them all.

Most of the time, I want my kids to go and explore this bright blue world. I want them to see and experience and enjoy this life and planet. And get to breathe in all of it’s glories. But then I get an innocent email or see a story on the news or talk to someone who has gone through hell and I’m reminded I cannot send them into this world trusting that no one will harm them. I have to trust but protect and educate and shelter and pray and hope and keep my fears to myself.

The oldest was accepted to college out west. *WAHOO* And now she’s going to go so many many miles away. I think it’s fantastic actually, in nearly every way possible. I hope so very much that she gets to spread her wings and fly and find friends that boost her, and friends that challenge her. And classes and clubs that drive her and grow her. I hope she finds her heart’s desire ( and I don’t mean a man), and expands her knowledge and all those things that going to college should do. And I hope and pray that danger not find her, that she not need to call me or text me and say “I’m okay. Don’t worry about the news. It was on a different part of campus” or so much worse, someone else contact us because she couldn’t.

The thing is, I don’t want my girls to live from a place of fear. I want them to live in a place of hope. I want them to peripherally understand that people can be bad, but not that people are bad. Living in a place of fear stops growth and fun. It prohibits flying. So, I guess I have to limit my fear, trust that we can handle what comes at us, and pray that they never need the training they are getting.

Titles aren’t us

I’m a mom and step-mom. A wife. A lover. A daughter and daughter-in-law, a sister and sister-in-law. A friend. A best friend. An aunt and cousin and niece. A Senior Business Systems Analyst. A geek, a dork. A democrat. A moderate. A Catholic. A runner? An Athlete? A college grad. A grad school graduate. A blogger? A Minnesotan. A reader. An American (as in USA – American). A dog lover. A Disney-fan. A snob? (well, that’s not a question, that’s real). A recycler. A world traveler (once upon a time). A breadwinner. (choice of family, not by circumstances). A jerk. An evader. A poetry-hater. A mess. A Ms. A Twins fan. A Cardinals fan. A US soccer fan. A slob. A tomboy. A Caucasian.

We so often label the world around us, and eventually we label ourselves. Sometimes we like the label, because hello, when my girls shout “mommy” and mean me, or when Mike says “wife” and means me, that’s awesome. But when someone slanders another piece of me (dork, slob), it’s hard to step up to that. I don’t mean to suggest I’m perfect. I have plenty of people who love to help me improve in my life, or just point out my shortcomings. It’s just that I think we accept titles because it’s a way of defining ourselves. But, I don’t know if the paragraph above is me.

I just wish we could stop trying to pigeonhole people, and this starts with ourselves. Yes, some of these are roles that I fit. But I AM more than that individual role. Clearly. We are all. And every time I hear “just a”, it hurts at the heart level. We are so beautiful in some way or another to someone. All the titles in the world don’t (can’t, won’t) describe the uniqueness that is you. I don’t care if you are a partner in a law firm, a president of a college, a pastor of a church, a custodian, a high schooler, a drop-out, you are awesome. You are you. And guess what. You are so amazing to someone.

I want to be a runner. Does it matter than I am slower than molasses? If I run (jog, whatever), does it matter? Can I still be a runner if I look nothing like a marathoner? I don’t make it to church often, but many of my beliefs are founded… But I don’t believe in everything espoused by the Church right now… Who gets to decide what I am? Me? You? Some random person on the street? Does it matter what you or the random person think? Should it?

Many years ago, we lost one of my cousins. And I can remember thinking he’s going to heaven. He has to be. He’s left behind love. People who he loved and who loved him. People came from around the country to celebrate his life and pull together. How much better is that description of him, than say, college student, son, cousin, brother? All of those are a piece of him, but none of that is the whole. The whole of him was his heart and the intangible pieces he left behind.

We have a choice. We can choose to be loving and kind. Supportive and thoughtful. Or we can choose to be angry and horrible. Tortured and unloving. No title really can do justice to the legacy we (hope to) leave behind. So, more than anything, I wish we could work on our insides, and remember that no matter what title(s) we have (hidden, or not), they are not the sum of us. We are more than words.