Aug 26, 2015

13.

Eli turns 13 on September 1st.
This is pretty exciting stuff around here.
An official teenager.

Matt and I have been tirelessly working, ok not really tireless, but much effort was put forth in planning a special event marking this milestone.

I'm not sure when one officially becomes a man.  Maybe 18?
But then again, I know a lot of 18 year old males and I'm not sure I would call them "men" quite yet.

For Matt and I, 13 means more than becoming a teen.  It marks the time where this kid is heading out on his path to adulthood.  This is the time where he is building a foundation for who he will be as an adult.  So many of the decisions made in the coming years will shape his future academically, spiritually, and socially.
So it is a big deal.

Matt and Eli will depart this Friday for their male-bonding weekend.
I'm so excited for him.
I've been praying for this event for months.
It probably won't be "perfect", this is life after all, but I do hope it will go smoothly and it will be a treasured event in his life that he will remember fondly forever.

The itinerary looks a little like this:
Day 1: Surprise!! You are going on a trip with dad.
I'll drop them off at the airport with a pre-packed bag.  Eventually, he'll figure out the destination is San Fransisco but he will still have no idea what is in store for him.
They arrive in the city, check in to a super posh hotel, and spend the first evening together bonding or whatever guys do.
Day 2: Surprise!!  Who is in the lobby of the hotel waiting for you?  Papa, Papa, Uncle Tommy, Uncle Tom, and Cousin Mike (also sometimes called Papa Mike but I can't explain why).  After the shock wears off, he will find out all these men in his life are accompanying him and dad to a Giants game with dinner to follow.
He will be ecstatic, and if he isn't he better do a darn good job of faking it!
Day 3: Surprise!!  Fishing Charter out of SF Bay with dad.
After fishing, hopefully some catching is involved too, they will have lunch together and head back to the airport.

Eli loves: family, baseball and fishing.
Done.
We fit it all in.
And so far we have done an amazing job at keeping the whole thing a surprise!
We finally told him that we have plans for his 13th birthday, just so he would stop planning his own version of a party that included tentatively inviting friends over.  But all he knows is that we have plans.  Nothing more.  No hints, no clues as to who, what, when, or where.  So he will wake up Friday morning and head off on an unknown adventure.
I think that is quite appropriate way to start of his teen years.  Isn't that just how life is?
We want to know what is up ahead, we want to know how the stories will end, but we just have to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.






Aug 25, 2015

The Greatest Compliment

I have found that sitting in the bleachers at the boys' games and practices can be painful.  Not just for my bum, but also for my ears.
I am regularly subjected to unwanted conversations.  For some reason I have a look about me that invites very proud boastful type parents over to tell me how awesome their kids are.  I cringe.  Not because I don't care to celebrate their child's accomplishments but because the parent who brags about how amazing their kid is usually has a kid who likes to brag about how amazing he is, and (shocker) the kid is actually only mediocre or sub-par.
I smile and nod.  And when I have the opportunity I say something like "that's great!  My kid just really loves baseball. I highly doubt he will play professionally but we enjoy the game and all the life experiences that come from it."
Then they cringe.
They realize I'm not one of those competitive parents which makes me no fun to talk to.  Because how can you have a pissing contest with someone who doesn't need to pee?
In my many seasons of sitting in the bleachers watching America's most awesome sport, I have discovered that the truly great kids are surprisingly humble and their parents are as well.  Sure they are proud of their kids but they are not the ones who spend their innings telling everyone who will listen about how amazing their kid is.

Last night was the first night I showed up at the boys' fall ball practice.  Matt has been in charge of practices up until then.  I spent the first half of practice with Gabe's team avoiding all contact with other parents and then headed over to Eli's field.  A few ladies introduced themselves to me and pointed out which kid belongs to them.  Oh no, here it goes.  They were very nice and spared me any attempts at making me jealous of their kid's skills.  They asked who I was there for and I pointed out Eli.

One of the mom's said "he always has a smile on his face.  Every time I see him at practice he is smiling".
A man that was sitting in the bleachers who knows Eli from last Spring season said "Eli is such a good kid."
I looked at him probably a little shocked and said "thank you".
The man must have sensed my confusion of why he would make such a statement for a kid he hasn't really spent any time with and he continued "he works really hard and always has a great attitude".

I responded "he loves baseball.  It doesn't matter what position he is playing, whether he just did something great or messed up, he loves the game and is happiest when he is playing I guess that shows".

As if I wasn't already feeling proud enough, the man went on to say "Eli was always there willing to help, cheering other people on, the first one to get on the field and do what needs to be done.  He's a great teammate".

And I melted.

Good fielding, great hits, an awesome steal, or a phenomenal block are temporal.  I highly doubt that Eli will be the one out of the millions of boys around the world that gets to play baseball professionally.  But he will most definitely be one that gets the opportunity to use these traits of being a good teammate, of loving something so much that he finds joy in the doing even when it isn't going well, and of working hard with a smile on his face.

Three practices and this one mom noticed that Eli was always smiling.
One season of sitting in the bleachers and this guy noticed that Eli was a great teammate and surmised he is probably a good kid.
Give him one year?  How about one lifetime?  What will shine through him?


Aug 24, 2015

In the past two weeks at two different churches in two different states I have heard two different pastors say this exact phrase "show me your friends and I'll show you your future".

Both times that particular part of the message was speaking to youth about their choices and challenging parents to stay involved and make a stand as to who their children would be allowed to hang out with.

I did a quick evaluation of Eli's friends.  Based on his current friends, his future will be filled with baseball, Minecraft, and card games.
The friends' favorite pastimes are acceptable, they come from involved families that don't put up with crazy behaviors, the kids are respectful, and really just plain old "good kids".  So far, good choices.

There are two things that are missing in his friends: smarty pants and church friends.

Eli is a smart kid however his friends are not, at least in the academic realm.  This is a problem.  I notice that Eli doesn't want to participate in any of the extra activities at school that are for "smart kids" because he doesn't have any smart kid friends.  He also seems to resist the possibility of being labeled a smart kid or over achiever, although he has never spoken negatively about these kids.

While Eli loves going to church and really has a great time there, enjoys his leaders and hanging out with other kids his age at church, he doesn't have any friendships there that extend beyond the walls of the church.

I want his future to contain both of these elements, working to his greatest potential academically and involvement in a church community, so if it is true that his friends predict his future, the absence of these two types of friends is slightly concerning for me.

However, what if a kid doesn't make friends easily?  What if they have no friends?  What does that say about their future?

Eli seems very outgoing but he is quite shy when it comes to making new friends.  He enjoys the surface relationships but he doesn't often push further to make a new friend to hang out with.

And that brings me to Gabe.  He has no friends.  He has kids he hangs out with at school but he has rarely invited anyone over to hang out with him outside of school.  He doesn't attend a kids' service at church so he knows absolutley nobody there.

I don't think Gabe is particularly unhappy about his friend situation.  He is definitely frustrated with the fact that he doesn't have any neighborhood friends, but the reality is the kids in the neighborhood would play with him if he chose to play.

I feel good about the friends that the kids choose, when they choose them.  So I guess the challenge for me is to facilitate and encourage the kids to build more relationships that will help carry them through tough times.

Just over two weeks before school starts...time to buckle down on some prayers for good friends!



Aug 22, 2015

Summer: Day 72

Just under three weeks left of summer.
Remember that whole plan about working on healthy minds and bodies?
That lasted a week or so.
I left town and working out was not a priority in California and it was melt-your-face-hot and these Washingtonians were not acclimated.  
The healthy mind thing didn't stick long either for one of the same reasons: priorities.

So here we are 3 weeks out and attempting to buckle down.  We'll see how successful that is!!

Aug 20, 2015

Summer: Day 70

70 days ago: my family loaded headed out on our first of many summer adventures: a cruise to the Bahamas.
That same weekend my grandma, parents, two aunts, and an uncle were in Eastern Washington to meet up with my great aunts and uncles, cousins twice removed, and other extended family in Eastern Washington.  It was a mini-reunion of my grandma's side of the family.
When I saw my grandma back in April she brought out a vest that she purchased to wear on the trip up to Wa.  She was asking my sister and I our opinion of what pants she should wear with it.  Still 2 months out and her anticipation of the event was growing.
Before I boarded the ship, I checked in with dad and he told me that everyone made it to Wa safety and was having a great time.  Grandma made the journey fine and seemed to be enjoying herself.
She walked with a cane.
I was out of communication for a week.
62 days ago: Shortly after I got off the ship in Port Canaveral, I received word that my grandma had arrived home from her trip and was demonstrating some very unsettling behavior.  Dad informed me that my sister took Grandma to the hospital and by the end of the week it was determined that grandma could not be left alone.  My sister stayed with her for a few days and then my aunt came to help out for another few days until my parents returned from their extended vacation.
57 days ago: My parents picked up my kiddos near my house and headed home. By the time they arrived, the decision was made to move my grandmother into my parents' home. My boys had a chance to hang out with grandma, they took a field trip to Leatherby's for ice cream with her.
A few weeks later grandma's decline was so great that the family was searching for affordable nursing homes.
She now uses a wheelchair.
29 days ago: I arrived in California at my parents house.
When I walked in to the house I found grandma sitting at the dining room table finishing her dinner.  I smiled and said "hello" and gave her a hug. She returned the smile and hug. In the coming hours and days I realized the struggle she was having to move from wheelchair to bed or chair, and conversation was minimal, if at all.
My heart was breaking.
27 days ago: she is taken to the hospital.  She is not eating, can barely keep down water and has slept for most of the past 24 hours.
The family gathered.
The diagnosis arrives.
Without food and water, her time is limited.
She is brought home for hospice care.
She can barely move on her own accord.
18 Days ago: my grandma speaks to me for the last time.
She never leaves her bed again.
12 Days ago: I head back to California.
She has gone 2 weeks without food and 5 days without water.
She is in a coma.
7 Days ago: she died.

70 days, not even the whole of summer.
Her path was quick but steep.


Aug 17, 2015

Blessed in the Waiting.

Waiting is so difficult for me.
It doesn't matter if I am waiting for something good or something bad, waiting for an event to take place or to receive news, the waiting is hard.
The waiting may be time spent trying to tame my excitement or hours or days of dread.
Waiting is helpless and can be frustrating.
There is nothing I can do to speed things up, all I can do is, well, wait.

I waited by my grandmother's bed for 5 days.
We watched.
We turned, changed, medicated....and waited.
We knew she would be dying soon, so we waited.

If we thought there was a chance of recovery, we would have been anxious, prayerful, and holding to glimmers of  hope, but we knew there wouldn't be healing.
We knew she would die.
All we could do is sit by her side, tend to her needs and wait.

While watching her linger in her earthly body was so very difficult, something unexpected happened in the waiting, I was blessed.

I consider it an honor to have helped usher her through the last days other life. It was painful, and ugly, but I was humbled to have the opportunity to serve her.
I sat for hours with my dad, mom, aunt and sister as we talked about everything under the sun and passed time. We laughed, we cried, we sang, prayed and sat quietly together watching and waiting. We formed a cohesive team. We made schedules for night watches to optimize opportunities for sleep, there were dinner makers, cleaner-uppers, coffee runners...every task shared working together in orchestrated harmony.  There is something remarkable, unspoken, and indescribable that occurred within us all over this week. I will treasure each moment for the rest of my life.

The days slipped into hours and the waiting was no more. I was sitting in the window beside her bed, and suddenly I realized I was witnessing her last breath.
And in the blink of an eye she was gone.

I speak with complete honesty when I claim that past weeks have been the most difficult challenge I have faced. And at the same time I argue that I have never felt so blessed.

I'm going home tomorrow.




Aug 8, 2015

Another drive another book....or two.
I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to books this summer to pass the time while driving.
I think I've read 3 and listened to 4 so far.
I have two more downloaded, ready for my next trip down to California.

I can't explain my desire to go.
I went, did what I needed to do, extended my stay and said my goodbye.
I vowed I wouldn't return until her memorial service.
And yet.....top of the morning I'll be southbound on I-5 again.
I don't know why, but I feel an overwhelming desire to be with my family in the coming days.

I was conflicted.
Lots of phone calls to my sister, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
Then a few days ago my cousin offered to take the boys camping for a week so I would be free to go back down if I needed to.
And then this morning I got a call to update me that breathing had become less frequent and labored.
Time was short.
My decision was made.
My cousin will take my ticket to the baseball game tomorrow then take the boys for a week to hang out by the lake, fishing, wake boarding, tubing, and camping.
And I leave tomorrow for Ca.

I don't know what I hope to accomplish.
I don't really know why I feel I should go.
And I even know that it is somewhat foolish to go back down.
But the draw to leave is difficult to ignore.

My husband is the most supportive guy out there.  He absolutely doesn't understand why I came back and why I am going down again but he genuinely told me to do whatever I want to do.
I struggled to give him a reason for leaving but he finally said "you don't need a reason just go".

Thank you to my amazing cousins to are making their relaxing week at the lake way more stressful by adding my kiddos to the mix, and to my husband for being awesome, and to my boys for being so flexible as the end of this summer has spiraled off to something so unexpected.

Thank to you God for His ever present peace and for the assurance that because Jesus died on the cross, covered our sins, paid our debt and set us free, my grandmother will soon spend her eternity in heaven.

Aug 7, 2015

About 12 years ago Matt and I were sitting in the office of a financial advisor in Alabama.  Most of the questions were expected and Matt and I were able to answer quickly and confidently.  Then the financial guy asked the question that stumped me "will you be taking care of your parents in the future?"
Um WHAT?
Me take care of my parents?
They are my parents...won't they always and forever be taking care of me?
I quickly called my dad.
"Dad.  Do I have to take care of you in the future?  The financial guy wants to know, and now I'm pretty freaked out and I want to know too!"

Dad assured me that he thought I wouldn't need to be financially responsible for him in the future.
Whew!  Prior to this moment that thought hadn't even crossed my mind.  College funds, our retirement, buying a house...those were on the list but I had never thought of caring for my parents.

Later dad told me that he figured Katina would take care of them.
That should have been a little clue about the favorite child thing (perhaps I falsely assumed that because I was favored he didn't want to burden me with things like geriatric care.)
I told him that I would gladly help Katina choose a good old folks home for him and mom.

We joke.
That's what we do because my dad and I find it difficult to be serious at times.  We have this odd urge to provide comic relief when situations are uncomfortable.

For quite a few years now dad has talked about how he has to be nice to me to make sure I will find a good home for him, and I respond that I promise to visit often.

This long standing joke provided great relief last week, a giggle when we needed it most.

Dad and I were in the kitchen preparing a dose of morphine for my grandma.
This was a very difficult task for me.
The morphine was delivered along with many other "end of life" medications a few days earlier.  Just the sight of it made me shutter.  It brings back sad memories.
We didn't use the word 'morphine' at first.  We called it "the other stuff" or "rexinal",  the brand name.
We hadn't needed the morphine for the first few days that grandma was at mom's house.

The fact that we needed a stronger dose of pain meds was hard for me handle.
That medicine being morphine made it even worse.

So there we were in the kitchen getting out the bottle and preparing the syringe.
Dad had the drugs and asked "how much?"
I replied "5-10".
After I answered I looked over at the syringe that dad had ready to start drawing the liquid and noticed that the whole syringe was only 1ml it was very tiny.  We both immediately thought "that doesn't seem right".
Thank you Lord for logic.
I looked back at the bottle for the dosing instructions "5mg - 10mg with is 1/4ml to 1/2 ml" is the proper dose.
I looked at dad with horror in my eyes.
He looked back equally shocked.

Then I said "See dad.  You have to go to a home.  You need SKILLED professionals to take care of you"
We both laughed.  For quite a while.  Not because overdosing anyone was funny, but because the whole thing scared me out of my mind.
I vowed not to touch any more medication and promised dad I would find him a very, very good home.




Aug 4, 2015

IF there were any little thoughts in the back of my head about being the favorite daughter they were completely dispelled this past weekend.
I asked my dad to log me on to his computer so I could buy some tickets on-line.  Instead of just keeping the password secret and typing away, he decided to start to tell me the password.
He said "its Katina (my sister's name) and then...." 
I interrupted him.
"WHAT?"  I said.  "Are you kidding me?"
There were some numbers and special characters following her name.  It may or may not have been "is#1".  He started to tell me the rest of the password but thought better of it.  So, that leaves me to surmise that it must be something he didn't want me to know.
I said "hey!"
He claimed my mom made up the password and maybe they made the password up right around Katina's birthday or something that made it seem like a good password.  There was a lot of mumbling and not completing any sentences.
Hmmm.

So here's a little friendly public service annoucement.  If there is ever a possibility that you may have to tell anyone a password, it should definitely not be one that you may not want someone else to know!!
I came home and read my parent's will...just to double check and see if I wasn't cut out!

Aug 2, 2015

The Drive

I'm heading home.
It is just over 700 miles from door to door.
I've driven from Sacramento to Olympia about a dozen times.
3 of those earn the status of "extremely difficult".

January of 1997. My dad, Matt and I loaded up in a Ryder truck and headed to the first place Matt and I would call "home".  We were stationed at Fort Lewis and starting our life together as married adults.  I cried from Sacramento to Redding.  I was scared about the future and sad to leave home.

April 2014. The boys and I started North around 5pm.  It was a much later start than I had planned, but I just couldn't drag myself out of town any earlier.  Matt deployed a week before Spring break and  as soon as school got out the boys and I spent our vacation in California visiting family.  We had a great time with everyone, and the sadness and fear of the deployment seemed to be dulled by the joy and fun of being with family.  When it came time to leave I was overwhelmed.  With every mile that I drove toward the empty house in Wa, the further away I was from the loving support of my family in California.  With Matt in Afghanistan, California felt more like "home" and I just didn't want to leave.  Thankfully, I was bombarded with phone calls and texts that encouraged me and brightened my day until I got to Medford where we stopped for the night.

August 2015.  My five day trip to spend time with grandma has already doubled and still my stay seems too short.  Leaving now seems impossible.  And yet I feel it is the right time to go.  The bags are packed, the van is mostly loaded, and I accomplished the things I came for.  I spent time with my grandmother and helped my parents with her care for a week.
Other family members are arriving to take a shift helping with Grandma.  I've said what I need to say.  I've laughed, I've cried, I've simply watched her sleep.  There is nothing left to be done here, and yet I'm not confident I can physically pull out of the driveway and leave.
Unless God performs a miracle or I get back on a plane in a few days, I do not expect I will see my grandma alive again.  And that makes leaving unbelievably hard.
I also know that there will be tough days ahead for my grandma and my family and I desperately want to be here for them as they deal with pain that comes. It is hard to leave when you know there is still so much work to be done.
I loath my face being touched.  
When I was in labor with Eli I remember writing on my "birth plan" that under no circumstances would it be considered acceptable to touch my face.
A sure way for Matt to freak me out is for him to reach over an caress my cheek.  
He never does it as an expression of love.  He does it on purpose to make me crazy.
I don't know why it bothers me so much but I think it has something to do with my germ fear.  Hands are dirty and I don't want germy, dirty, greasy hands touching my face.

There are two circumstances that I welcome the face touching.

First: Face touching by a certified professional face toucher.  Such as an esthetician giving me a facial or sprucing up my eye brows.
Totally fine.

Second: the sweet, tender touch of my grandmother's hand.
I was blessed to spend all day yesterday with my grandma.  It was a good day for her.  For the first time since I arrived a week ago, she was able to speak to me.  Not just answers of "yes" or "no".  Or repeating "good night" or "I love you" after I spoke the same words to her.  But actual sentences that were clear.
We talked about the ever important subject of acceptable ice cream brands.  For the first time when I asked her if she wanted me to read the Bible to her, she said she did, and she listened as I read.  She talked to me about how she was feeling, and she laughed and smiled as we spent a good chunk of the day together.  
Later in the evening she was uncomfortable and I bent down beside her and told her how sorry I was that she was in pain.  She reached up and touched my face and settled her hand on my chin.  No words were needed.  Her eyes and her touch spoke to my soul.
Before I headed for bed I prayed with her and again, she reached for me.  I can still feel her hand move across my cheek and stop at my lips.  I leaned over and gave her a kiss and told her I love her so. She told me the same, and I know she wasn't just repeating the customary words this time.  I knew that she was taking in this moment just as I was doing the same.

Today…was a new day.  No conversation that made much sense at all.  A lot of confusion, discomfort, and no gentle touches.  Though I would have never thought I would want it, I found myself hoping for her to reach out to me again, and run her sweet hand across my face.