Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The already and the not yet?

I was "home" (at my mom's house) over the weekend and several times in 36 hours, one or both of us said, "Holy crap! It's November!" or something like that.

Josh died in August, more than 2 months ago! My mom mentioned on her care page this week that time has sort of stood still since Josh's departure. While my journey these past months is no match to hers, I seem to have fallen into a similar experience and I cannot begin to understand it, let alone explain it.

So, perhaps a simple update on my world would be appropriate.

In the 16 days following Josh's diagnosis - August 8th - I traveled home twice for a total of 6 days there with my mom and siblings. I stayed 2 days more after his death. I was then back to Champaign 2 days and then back to Beloit for 5 days more. It was a whirlwind month to be sure, but it was perfectly what it needed to be.

My brother made his way back to Iraq in the early part of September only to find out he had taken and unauthorized extension of his leave. So, he had extended duty for 14 days (which meant he worked 6-10 pm on weekdays and 8-4 on weekends). He slept little and was none too happy with himself or the Army for creating such a situation. All is well though. He could have had his pay docked or lost rank, either of which would have been "worse" than extended duty. With the help of his CO, he has found his way to some professional counselors, Air Force officers, to help him with his emotional struggles. Ironically, his troubles have little to do with his experiences in the Army (which is what they're there for....to assist in dealing with being in a war), but the US Military is going to help him out and we all are more than thankful that our Patty Danny is finally making some progress with these things.

Work continues to be great. Not perfect, but really wonderful. The Firm Administrator, my "boss" is really quite a guy. Having nothing to do with his job, he is smart, passionate, creative, funny and generally great to be around. The best part is that he brings all of those things into his job, and therefore into my job. He recognizes and values highly the gifts of the people around him and works hard to make their jobs about those gifts. He's considerate enough to let me know when I'm doing something that might make my life a little difficult LONG before it ever could. I'm left plenty of opportunity to correct my foibles and they never then turn into something more that an "oops." He also is full of praise when things are done well. Not many folks are afforded the opportunity to work for such a person. Thankful isn't a big enough word...whatever the right one is: that's what I am.

The hubby and I have found a house we really love and we're in full swing of trying to get financed while trying to not get screwed...its a fun game when you're a complete idiot in the field which you are trying to excel.

Clayton is growing like a friggin' weed and I can't even believe it. Today on the way home there was some Christmas commercial on the radio with jingle-bells on the background. In the middle of a sentence (yes, he has real, honest to God complete sentences!) he said, "Listen mama! Do you hear those bells?" "Yes Clayton, I hear them." "They are such beautiful bells mama!" While we were home, my mom commented on how his conversations are real now. You can ask a question and he will answer and he will ask a question and you answer and he processes the answer and the conversation flows beautifully from one moment of interest to the next.

This is for another entry but: Whoever came up with the phrase "terrible two's" didn't have a three year old yet!!! It's like someone flipped the "defiant" switch in my child on his 3rd birthday. I sure am glad a year is only a year long...

So, it's fall and I still feel like it must be August or maybe September. I guess I was pretty smart when I named my blog. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The lengths God won't go to.

My brother (Patrick, 20), sister (Ivy, 16) and I have often boasted about how cool our family is and how glad we are that they are ours.

Ivy has encountered many 16 year olds, as many of us have, that are awfully selfish and don't deal well with the real stuff that life throws at us once in a while. Often when I am visiting home, she will share with me a tale of "immature" teens who are struggling with romantic relationships, trouble with their parents, bad grades, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. She always is so amazed by how “stupid” most of her peers are. She has also encountered teens (and I think this observation goes well across generational lines) who don’t deal with death and dying very well. She’s REALLY surprised by this one. Hmm, she amazes me.

It wasn’t until these last few weeks that we’ve realized something. Somehow, God has chosen to prepare us for the pain and chaos that is helping a parent die. My mom began her nursing career when I was 3 and completed her PhD on March 18, 2007. It’s been quite a road for her (and for us) and we are so proud of our mommy. When I was in elementary school, she began to build her expertise in end of life care and is now among the top experts in the country, if not in the world.

In our house, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were part of the everyday conversation. We didn’t shy away from uncomfortable things and I believe we are better for it. As mom’s experience with terminal illnesses, bereavement, pain management, palliative care and other things grew, she began appropriately sharing things with her children. I vividly remember standing in our kitchen and having her share wonderful and amazing stories of God’s grace, the amazing human body, the will of souls and non-verbal communication between soul-mates from her many hours spent with families and patients who were transitioning from this world to the next. It was in those years I began to see death as an amazing force rather than the scary end. The end of someone’s life can be filled with peace and love if pain and symptoms are managed properly and if primary care givers are empowered to love their loved ones until the very last breath.

For me, this is the reason our family is the coolest on earth. This weekend while I was home with my mom, step-dad and two siblings, there was no panic and very little anxiety (Atavan is a wonder for patients and care-givers alikeJ). We spent as much time as we could talking with Josh, holding hands, kissing, hugging, laying next to, breathing, joking and every good thing. If you only have 2 weeks to spend with the one whom your soul loves, this is the way to do it and my mom is an example like no other.

There is no doubt there will be many tears in the months ahead and we certainly aren’t with out questions, anger and frustration. But if I could find a way to give the gift of peace and love during the death of a loved one, I would give it to everyone…since everyone goes through it at some point.

I don’t know why God chose our family for this gift, or if he gave us other gifts to make it so we could receive this gift from our mother. I know that I am grateful for whatever it is. I know I hope He will give you all similar gifts in your life; I believe that He will.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's been a little bit of a month...

Some of you know and some of you don't...
Two very significant things have happened in my life in the last two weeks (don't worry, I still have a job). I plan to blog lots about them in pieces as I can manage, but I wanted to get everyone in the loop first.
On Tuesday, August 7 (Ivy's 16th birthday) I was in a head-on auto accident in my cute little blue Vue. I am fine, but my car did not survive. My dad likes to say it was a great object lesson for my baby sister on the day she received her license and a car. There are pictures and a "lecture" to the teenagers in my life on my facebook, if you're interested.

On Wednesday, August 8, my step-dad Josh was diagnosed with Pancreatic, lymphatic carcinoma cancer. I have been asked on more than one occasion, "What stage?" My smart a#$ dad would say "stage 12," but the serious answer is that its far past the point of a staging label. Upon scanning his abdomen, his pancreas was full of tumors, with innumerable legions in his liver (it is worth noting that this cancer has nothing to do with and isn't caused by his alcoholism). At this point, on the 21st, we are expecting him to live only days. My mom has set up a phenomenal blog with a daily entry on Josh's progression toward heaven. If you are interested:
If you can't get in that way, let me know and I'll get you hooked up. I spent the last 4 days putting in 16 hour days of helping my mom manage the millions of meds it takes to keep someone so sick comfortable. It certainly has been a labor of love and as the oldest child, I felt a huge pull to fulfill a responsibility. However tired I am and will continue to be, I wouldn't imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else. My mother is an amazing woman who has processed these last two weeks with grace and strength the likes I have never seen before.

As I said, I plan to blog on these things in pieces as I can manage. It has been a time full of emotions and such, so there is lots to process. More later to be sure.

All my love to you all. I don't usually solicit prayers, but please pray for my family and everyone that loves Josh, this is such a huge loss for the world.
Until next time....

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lifeguards and 911

I never thought I would be compelled to tell a lifeguard to "relax, it's not that big of a deal."

A week ago Friday, July 20, Kurt, Clayton and I were at the local pool/aquatic center. After a 20 minute ordeal to convince Clayton to go down the big tube slide with me, I was relaxing in the summer sun and Kurt took Clayton to the zero-depth-entry, 1.5 foot kiddie pool (don’t worry, we sufficiently checked that the drains had covers).

I had been laying down for about 23 seconds when the energy around me changed substantially. I opened my eyes and turned to see 5 lifeguards hauling ass to the kiddie pool and one shouting, “CALL 911!” I turned a little farther in my chair to see many families being hastily ushered from the area. I made one more turn into the sun, squinted and saw Clayton sitting on the pool floor, in about 3 inches of water, Kurt towering over him and no less than 4 lifeguards in their bright red swimming suits, all trying to hold Clayton’s head still. Clayton was screaming for his daddy and wildly fighting the lifeguards’ clutches. As my sun-bleached brain put 2 and 2 together, I decided I better go see what all the fuss was about. I hesitated for a moment (what kind of mother am I, anyway?!?) knowing the guards at the gate would say something like, “I’m sorry ma’am, you can’t go in there right now.” Then I thought, well, duh, it’s not an operating room and we’re not in the pentagon (where, while on a High School social studies trip, I had to be escorted to the restroom and was scolded when I looked down a hallway we walked past), surely they won’t give me a hard time. Sure enough, though, I was told I wasn’t permitted to enter the gated kiddie pool area. Once I told them that was my son there was nothing to justify my daydreams (again, what kind of mother uses this time to daydream?!?) During this whole time, I was more and more sure that Clayton was really okay, and what the heck did they need to call 911 for? He was speaking clearly and moving all of his body (it takes a lot for a 2 year old to fight off 4 full-size people), I didn’t see any tell tale signs of a head or neck injury. All of this took about 45 seconds and the whole time I was wondering, “can we call the ambulance and tell them ‘Nevermind’?”

I made my way to the place where the will of a startled, scared 2 year old was in a furious war with 4 very dedicated teens. Needless to say, Clayton won. By the time I reached them, Kurt had been permitted to pick Clayton up, who immediately laid his head down, accomplishing the stablilty of his neck they had unsuccessfully been working for the entire time. Amidst the very high stress level and Clayton’s continued wailing, I ascertained the cause of it all: Clayton had slipped walking into the pool and bumped his head. REALLY?!? You called 911 for a 2 year-old’s bumped head?!?! Clearly, these people are not parents!

Kurt’s primary concern was keeping Clayton’s neck still (juuuuuust in case of a neck injury; always the first responder he is) so it was my job to try to help Clayton to settle down. I felt his head and he surely did have a nice goose-egg. After some low-tone encouraging words of his bravery he managed to stop crying (which surely was making his headache worse).

Then the ambulance and firetruck showed up, lights and sirens all for Clayton. We tried to make it a fun adventure for him. “The firemen and doctors are coming to see you Clayton! How fun. What color are he lights on the ambulance Clayton?” He wasn’t interested in anything but hugging his daddy and being grumpy to the lifeguards. The paramedics somehow got the message that the victim was probably fine, so they came calmly to the site. I can’t imagine what a nightmare it would have been if they had come rushing in, poking and all talking to Clayton at once. Clayton likes doctors these days, so he was okay with someone gently feeling his head and rubbing his small back and neck just to be sure everything was in the right place. We told them we didn’t think it was necessary for him to go in and we got a 2 minute run-down on the symptoms of a concusion so we could bring him in if there seems to be a problem later. We signed a legal document saying we refused treatment and it now resides appropriately in Clayton’s baby book.

A dose of Tylenol and Motrin when we got home and 30 minutes later Clayton was running, jumping, laughing and singing just like usual. He was a little cautious with laying down and table corners for a few days, but overall it was a pretty mild injury.

Lifeguard training should include a unit called “God makes small children out of rubber for a reason.”

Friday, July 6, 2007

I haven't used my brain lately.

My apologies to my regular readers. After my job hunt ended (thank goodness), Kurt and Clayton went on summer adventures and left me to watch WAAAAAAY too much TV for a week with my sister. It’s amazing how the tele can zap your ability to think altogether.

After such a week, I needed some recovery time, to let my brain reboot. Then, I started my new job and didn’t really have a chance to think about what I was thinking.

But things have calmed down a little bit, so here I am…

First of all, I truly love my new job. I must admit, the actual tasks of the job aren’t all that exciting (especially when you compare them to my last job) but the environment in which I work, and the people with whom I work are soooooo amazing, that the work is thoroughly enjoyable. A few examples:

On my third day of work, it became known that I had a tongue ring until January 2007. Rather than scolding and lecture or disbelief in such an atrocity, I was met with curiosity and humor about such a thing. Before long, there were about 10 people gathered around my cubicle asking me about the experience of getting it pierced and of living with it for nearly 8 years. They were asking me to stick out my tongue to see the hole that is left behind. The best part: 3 of the spectators were partners in the firm! This is not a stuffy CPA firm, no way!

Also on my third day of work, Wed, June 27, the air conditioner stopped working. On Wednesday evening, when it had been established the air wasn’t going to be fixed, the office manager called me and said “there is no dress code until further notice. Wear jungle appropriate attire.” He wasn’t kidding. They only got it running yesterday and it is still waaaaaay hot in here. We have been without a dress code for over a week. Granted, it isn’t busy season and there aren’t a lot of professional meetings happening these days, but still…..the powers that be are entirely concerned with the well being of their staff. They would rather explain to clients why their accountants are running around in tank tops and shorts than have us feeling crappy (which we were anyway for a couple of the hotter afternoons).

So, MHFA is going to be my home for a while and I’m very happy about that. When I made the decision to go back into the business world, I was worried that I would just be working to make it through, that I would be counting the hours until I could find another church to work in. I don’t think that’s going to be the case.

I remember how overwhelmed I was with God’s grace and providence when I found Good Shepherd. I’m feeling that way again. I don’t think it was in God’s plan for me to have to leave GSLC, but since it happened, He has now found a way for my life to still be filled with meaning and a sense of worth (and I can pay the bills too!). Yay God! Who’da thunk?!?

Friday, June 15, 2007

No longer in limbo.

I was hired today to the Administrative Staff at MHFA, an accounting accounting firm here in Champaign.

While I was interveiwing no less than 10 people walked past the confrence room window and waved or made a face and one of the partners pulled her floor length skirt up to her knees. We talked about how much fun working there. They have company Halloween and Christams parties, summer barbecues and pool parties.

I start on Monday, June 25. That means I can spend my last week of retirement with my sister, Ivy, 15, who is visiting for two weeks. Bring on the swimming pool and 90+ weather!

Monday, June 11, 2007

I don't often wish time away, but...

Yet another reason I can't wait until Jan 20, 2009.

This is what blogs are for, right?

A very good friend of mine is in his 4th year of living with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. He's 27 and he recently had to go on disability leave from his position as Sports Information Director at Buena Vista University because his body will no longer allow him to do the job.

Nick has done such a great job getting info out about ALS and the severe lack of funding for research and many aspects that affect his life on his blog:


After watching the video from the link from his June 1st entry, I was so angry (but I'm sure not nearly as angry as Nick and his family have been time and time again in the last 3.5 years). This was the first time I had seen-and-heard the toll this disease has taken on my friend (and a former crush, as a matter of fact. Nick, I think you were the wise one of the pair!). I would never wish harm or suffering on anyone (really, I wouldn't) but of anyone I have EVER known, Nick is the LEAST deserving. So, I share his story with you.

My blog certainly does not draw a very big audience, but take a look if you would. The more people exposed to Nick’s story and others like his, the bigger the voice speaking for the ALS cure.

I won't go on a big long thing about stem cell research, or our President's stupidity (Nick does a much better, less emotional [read: girly] job of it), but I will say this: The legislation that is bouncing around DC right now is the stuff good stewardship and faithfulness is made of. Stubbornness is such a waste of my time, and causing the physical decline of a person I love dearly when he could be keeping his job and working is way toward Bob Costas-ness.

I know everyone has their causes and most people feel like they have enough going on in their life to add one more thing to care about. Please know that this is a DREADFUL disease (for anyone, but especially for someone young like Nick) and its prognosis is senseless. We could be researching treatment for this disease that robs people of their physical ability to function in the world (and eventually of their physical ability to breathe) all the while leaving their mental faculties in tact. We don’t research it because the victims don’t usually live long enough to make it worth the industry’s time and money. REALLY?!?!?

It’s senseless, that’s all I can say. Please take a look at Nick’s Blog and spread the word to people in your world. What a wonderful day it will be when we can say that no one in the world has to be held hostage by a senseless disease and that dear people like Nick won’t be stolen away from us. Thanks be to God for the hope of such a day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Generation of 35 Jobs and 3 Careers

Twelve months ago, if you would have told me I would be beginning a new career, I would have said you were flat out nuts! I am sure that God has called me to Youth and Family Ministry and I am sure He has not called me to ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament.

The longer I'm in this field, the more I realize how much I didn't learn about God in my teens. It is incredibly difficult to be a faithful adult. I believe many of us would have a much easier time of it if we had the proper "training" as we were growing up. Now, let's be fair, our parents, pastors, confirmation teachers and youth volunteers did the best they could and I applaud them for that. Thank goodness, though, for theological training for people like me so we can really do right by our teenagers.

So, this is what I do. And you know what, I'm pretty dang good at it. I'm thoughtful and intentional. I create an environment in which kids and teens can really feel God's love for them (and what an amazing feeling that is when we finally recognize it!). Once they know what God's love is like, I help them to extend that love out into their world. Once they've gotten a taste of all of this, their hooked (proof, I think, that God's story is worth telling) and they never want to go back. As much as they might have fought me tooth and nail, once they get on board they kick themselves for not getting there sooner. They thought they would miss "having fun" and the dreaded "too much learning and thinking." It doesn't take long before they get upset when we're having too much fun and not spending enough time taking care of the others in their church family.

So, if a year ago, you would have said that I would be "falling back on" my accounting degree, I would have said you were crazy. I love what I do and I don't want to do anything else. But, as it turns out, there is one VERY important part of church work that I'm not very good at (read: I suck at it!).

Politics. Who knew that a Christ-centered, growing, generous, kind, loving, Spirit-filled middle America ELCA congregation of 700 could have so much of that stuff we all hate. Don't we spend hours over the course of every four years talking about how awful politics are and how it would be nice if Washington was filled with people rather than politicians? Yeah, me too. I'm not a politician. I don't use talking points, I don't have tag lines, I don't take polls before I use a certain word or decide what color shirt I should wear. I'm a straight shooter: I say what I mean, I mean what I say and I take others at face value too. If you want me to have a piece of information, you better say it straight out 'cause I don't have time to try to read your mind. If you don't say it, I'm not gonna even know it exists. And that's why I'm starting another career: politics. Who knew?

So, I guess accounting will be my second career. Time to make some lemonade. I will still be working with people and helping them reach their goals in life/business. I can still be a servant of God in many of the same ways: kindness, grace, compassion...and I won't have to deal with quite as much politics. At the end of the day, I will shut down my computer, say goodbye to my office mates and go home. I won't be worried if such and such stock did well for this guy and I won't be worried if this company made enough profit to pay their dividends. I'll get to spend my evenings and weekends with my husband and my son and when I grow weary of them, I'll go back to work on Monday.

Here's to hoping that two times is the charm!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough.

I've already said goodbye to my brother (twice) before he deploys to Iraq for the next 18 months. Except, he hasn't yet left. He leaves on Monday.

But does his still being stateside make me feel better? Nope, not even a little bit. I still don't get to see him again until my 2 year old son is 4 and I have a new job (which won't be new anymore) and hopefully a new house.

My dad came through Champaign yesterday on his way to Ft Bragg to bid his only son farewell.

War sucks. Memorial Day in our house means watching the ENTIRE "Band of Brothers" series, so I have a healthy perspective of how much less sucky this war is compared to wars of the past. Relative to many of the military families in the US, we have it quite good. Patrick enlisted during wartime, so we knew he would be going overseas (unlike some of the folks in the Reserves who have been away from their families and jobs for 3 of the last 5 years...or more). And also, Patrick's job really is quite safe so we have a great chance of getting him home safely. Patrick isn't married and doesn't have any children, so less people have to miss him while he's gone. Even with all of that, war still sucks!

Patrick was the boy who got homesick (I mean really sick) at sleep away camp until he was a teen. When he was a teen he began to grow an intense network of friends and I am convinced they saved his life. His family is more important to him than any other 20 year old, strike that, any other person I know. And now he has to be many thousands of miles away from all of it.

So, this weekend I will be consumed with thoughts of Patrick's last days and hours stateside with his dad, girlfriend and 3 of his tricking friends, wishing desperately I could be there too. Then we will all wait until he gets to a computer to let us know that he arrived safe. It could be this week, it could be next month. The army isn't very helpful with all of that.

I can't wait until we have a new president...

Friday, June 1, 2007

...and it begins

For many months I've been thinking about starting a blog. I've thought it would be a useful tool for journaling and sharing my life with those I love. I've also been very intimidated by blogging and by the thoughtfulness of my friends who blog. I guess I didn't think I had anything to share that would be of value to anyone.

I have found myself writing quite a lot in the last week or so and decided to use the string of inspiration to give this a shot.

So, here we are. I hope my experiences and thoughts will be of some use to you...