In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Happened to My Life?

I have always prided myself on not thinking that I am better than anybody else, or at least, not TOO much better than anybody else.  I even try to give the benefit of the doubt to the shabby chic (minus the chic) men and women holding cardboard signs, knowing that each has a story and they probably wouldn't have chosen theirs if they had a choice.  Well, all that pride is gone after the past three days and today just put an exclamation point on it.  It turns out that I DO, in fact, think I am better than a lot of people, and I am pretty disappointed in myself.

I don't want to be an oversharer, but I have to set up the story a little.  As prepared as we thought we were financially for something like this, we never could have foreseen what has happened here with finances.  I will be fine.  I really will.  However, all of this craziness has led me to sign up  with a couple different government programs, hopefully, for the shot term.  So, today was the first day that I was going to use these special checks for the basics . . . milk, bread, fruit, etc . . . . I was told upon receiving them that they would be easy to use and that Wal-Mart knows exactly what to do with them.  So, I carefully chose a Wal-Mart that I would safely see nobody that I knew (see how awful I am). I made my list on my phone, so I wouldn't have to pull out this identifying folder and I headed into no mans land.  I'm sure you already know what happens next.  Within, about 8 minutes, I see someone that I know.  "What are you doing over here?" she asked.  I blubbered my way through the question.  Then she looked in my cart and said, "That is a really interesting collection of things in your cart."  (BTW - this is like one of my closest friends and I know she is going to die when she reads this).  I blubbered some more.  I just couldn't believe that I was in Wal-Mart trying to use these ridiculous checks that actually ARE very complicated.  I couldn't really tell her all I was thinking, because the tears were already itching to spout out.  So, I gather my basics and an Etch-a Sketch and head to check out.  My pulse is already rising a little.  I don't know exactly how to execute this exchange and neither did the cashier, for crying out loud.

First of all, she forgot to use one of the checks and made me use cash and then couldn't fix it. "Whatever, I just want to get out of here," is what was circling in my head. Then I needed 2 cartons of a half dozen eggs.  They were out, so I got a dozen.  Seems to make sense, but she was not satisfied with my answer, so she sent someone to the very last isle, about a quarter of a mile away, to check for the 1/2 dozen egg cartons.  Meanwhile, I'm starting to sweat a little.  People keep coming to my line and she kept saying, "I'm having someone check on a WIC item, so you might want to find another line."  I wanted to say, "Do you have to keep telling everyone that I'm on WIC?" I also wanted to tell her and everyone else that I've graduated from high school, college and even grad school.  That I didn't get pregnant irresponsibly.  That I didn't marry some dead beat.  And all those other terrible thoughts that I had running through my mind.  I just felt so little, standing there.  I wanted to say something to set myself apart from all the other WIC users.  Ugly, I know.  So ugly.  OK - so low and behold there were not any 1/2 dozen egg cartons and so we used the dozen carton that I initially picked up. She proceeded checking me out.  Oh, wait.  She scanned the orange juice.  "You can't get pulp free orange juice with WIC," she said.  I told her, that isn't what my little pamphlet said.  This time I said out loud, "Whatever - I've gotta go.  I'll just pay for it."  Again, the egg checker came back and she asked him to check on the pulp free business.  This is just getting ridiculous by this point.  I'm holding up the line again. (It is, for reals, like 20 minutes for about 8 items by this point). Again she keeps announcing, "We're having a WIC problem here."  Oh my gosh - I'm sweating like a pig now.  This is so embarrassing.  I keep considering leaning in, hitting the switch to the checker light and and saying, "Let's just turn this little guy off for now." The answer comes back after I've already paid for it.  Pulp free is fine.  Oh my lands - I went through all of that and for so little.

I feel like Kristin Wigg on Bridesmaids asking what happened to my life?  I used to go to Safeway and Costco.  I had even just entered the world of organic foods and now 6 weeks later, this is my life?  I don't care that much.  I'd shop at Wal-Mart every day of my life if I could see Dave one more time, but my life is such a series of "What happened to my life?"

Back to the story.  I got in the car.  I teared up a little and then God repeated something to me that he just keeps repeating, over and over and over in so many situations lately.   "Holly, you are a daughter of the Lord Most High."  I am not little, I am not forgotten, I am not less.  And neither is anyone who is on WIC or anyone who has lost a spouse, or anyone, anywhere in any situation.  I John 3:1 - "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"  I am a daughter of the Lord Most High!!!!!!!!!  He sees me.  He sees my crazy life.  He sees my children.  He loves me.  He wants the best for me.  He is with me.  I don't believe this at all times, but God is faithful to remind me when I need reminding.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Long Awaited Autopsy Results

For weeks I have entertained rational and irrational explanations of Dave's death.  To write some of the scenarios, would only solidify how crazy a person becomes when they have unthinkable loss and very few answers as to the simple question of how did he die?  Four and a half weeks of a sleep deprived mind, grasping at answers, can birth some pretty creative explanations.  But my logical mind always came back to the same two answers.  It either had to be some sort of a stroke, or a massive heart attack.  Something that killed him before he even hit the ground.  He had clearly fallen on his face and there was no evidence that he tried to catch himself.  My biggest fear was that the autopsy would show nothing internal and that it would have to be chalked up to a freak accident where he slipped on the ice and for some reason was not able to get his hands out in front of him.  I knew I wouldn't be able to live with that answer, because Dave was about as spry as they come. 

Each time the freak accident fear rattled me,  (which was about 30 times a day) I thought about our first hike together and how I was so taken by his spryness and his mountain skills.  We hiked from a spot off of Rampart Range Road, through Kings Canyon, all the way down to Glenn Eyrie.  Near the bottom of the hike there is an area called the punchbowls.  Anyway, to get across the punchbowls, you either have to swim through them or scale the sides of the rock canyon.  I knew I wasn't going to be donning my bathing suit on a first hikedate, so me and my friends chose the non swim route.  My friend, Marti, was clinging to the side of the canyon, when a dog emergency unfolded across the punchbowls.  As Marti shakily clung to the rock, Dave literally just climbed right over her.  We were all like, "How did he make that look so easy?" Quite frankly, he made Marti look a little pitiful.   I seriously remember thinking.  "Impressive, Dave . . . very impressive."  Just to finish that story up, at the end of the hike Dave and his friends were going to a Mexican restaurant near the start of the hike.  I'm sure Dave had no idea that my interest was piqued, when I so casually said that maybe I could swing by (it was a 40 minute drive up the pass) and catch dinner with him and his friends if I had a few extra minutes that night.  Oh, I miss him.  I literally miss him so much while I write all of this, that I wouldn't be surprised if I throw up.  I'll let you know if I do.  

Back to the autopsy results.  I still don't totally get everything, because it was written in official doctor language, but the gist of it is that he DID die of a cardiac something or another.  He had a mitral valve prolapse, which is typically benign, but in some people, it can cause sudden death, as in this case.  We never knew that he had this heart defect.  Sometimes it can be treated and sometimes it can't.  Obviously, none of that matters now.  We didn't know.  I wish we did, but we didn't.  I can't even think or talk about it right now.

I remember, in the hospital, that wretched morning, yelling over and over that I should have driven him to work.  That he would still be here if we had just piled into the car and I had taken him to work.  Maybe he still would be here, but only until some other random moment.  Dave's death, in and of itself, does not make me feel protected by God - at all.  But, there is no denying that God was protecting and even preparing me and my family.  I mean, what if the five of us all did pile into the car that morning and Dave drove like he ALWAYS did?  What if he hadn't run to work that morning and he was still at home getting ready and he died right in front of our kids? There could have been some pretty terrible places and times for this to happen.

In terms of God preparing our family, a week earlier, I had written a blog post that seems almost prophetic, now. (Not that I really think it was). I had written about how nothing was safe except for the knowledge of Jesus Christ and his saving grace! And within a couple days before December 21st, Leah randomly asked, "when are we going to die?"  I remember telling her that it could be 10 seconds from now, or 100 years from now.  I went on to explain that only God knows when we will die, but the great thing about it, is that it is not the end of life, it is actually the beginning of life in heaven.  I remember thinking, "Gosh - dying really isn't that bad of a deal."  I totally take that back now!  I hate it - death is the enemy.  I still can't help saying, though, that heaven is going to be awesome.  No more death, no more pain, no more sorrow AND Dave will be there.  I miss him. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maci-Our Little Walking Testimony

A year ago from right now, Dave and I were in Ethiopia, meeting Maci for the very first time.  We have officially known (and I say "known" lightly) her for 365 days.  Yesterday, I was telling her this little piece of trivia, which led to a sacred moment in time with her.  I asked her what she remembers about meeting us for the first time.  She said she remembers Daddy playing with her.  When I asked her if she remembers what they played, she said, "I remember playing chase with Daddy."  Wow - she really does remember! Often times Maci is a little parrot of Leah, so I don't always get thoughts that come straight from the heart and mind of Maci, but yesterday was different.  She disclosed memories and their accompanying feelings that only she would know and feel.  Playing chase is a memory that we have never reminisced over. Dave and Maci would play peek a boo and chase around the cars that were parked in the courtyard.  It was quite a sight, with her apparent lack of gross motor skills and her head to body ratio.  I love that she has this memory of Dave that is her very own.

Our sacred moment didn't end with that memory, though.  It was an entry way into a talk about the things that make her heart sad.  It was the first time, she expressed how sad she was to leave Ethiopia.  Last March we watched, with concern and panic, this grief when she came home, but she has never articulated it with words before.  She continued to address other things that she was sad about, but then she ended with, "but I'm happy that you take care of me."  The statement left me breathless. Humbled.  Even kind of like I haven't done enough.

Naturally, I am still dealing with a lot of questions about the timing of Dave's death.  I mean, what in the world?  We agonize through a horrific adoption journey, finally bring Maci home and then Dave dies 9 months later, leaving me to raise three kids alone?  I mean what in the world?  Three is just exponentially harder than two and Maci takes A LOT of energy.  And in addition to that, doesn't Maci deserve a father?  She and Dave had a special connection.  Even one more special than the one that Dave had with his two biological kids.  Maci didn't have a father in Ethiopia, so she thought that Dave was the end all, be all.  Nothing special happened in a day that she didn't say, "I can't wait to tell Daddy." Even yesterday, I gave her a piece of chocolate and she said, "I'm going to share this with Daddy, when he gets back from heaven."  She made Dave feel special, and Dave made her feel special.  I mean, what in the world?  How has this really happened?  It's so wrong.

Sorry about that, I just got going.  That is not the point of this post.  The point is that Maci Meraf is our little beacon of hope that explodes all over this house, all the time.  While she takes mucho physical energy, she gives all of us something that nobody else can give.  We've seen her loose a parent (and one she never knew).  We've seen her grieve GREAT loss. We've seen her tiptoe through healing. We've seen her invite love in. We've seen her heart grow. We've seen her infectious joy infect us and others. We've marvel at her resilience. We are floored by her love of life and all it has to offer. And we love her so so much.  Thank you Jesus for Maci.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This picture is how I feel.  I have been placed in a set of burning coals.  The first few days, my exterior was so hot to the touch.  To touch me was to burn yourself, which so many have been willing to do to try and save me.  Now, the initial fire is put out, but the coals are still hot and the heat is penetrating deeper into my soul.   I think maybe there is this notion, that sometimes I believe too, that as each day passes, I will feel just a little tiny bit better - even just the tiniest degree, but it is not so for me.  I think my exterior has found some cool spots to nestle in among the hot coals and I can find relief for a time, but my core is still being heated.  I imagine that there will continue to be, for a long time to come, puffs of air from all around that give oxygen to the coals, heat them once again, and the pain will endure.  

Some days I can go the whole day with only tearing up throughout the day. Monday was one of those days.  It was about as normal as a day could go. Got Spencer ready for school, worked out with Jillian Michaels, showered, got the girls in their respective "tards" (see Dec. 14th post) and got them to ballet, ate lunch, visited with friends, went over health insurance options, got Spencer to soccer, got them all to bed, shamelessly watched "The Bachelor," and then took a big giant step and watched Dave's and my very favorite show, "Castle." 

Then other days, like yesterday, . . . . there is no normal at all . . .  just puffing coals.  Heat diving deeper.  Searching for a cool spot, yet strangely wanting to lay on the hot coals, hoping that by receiving their heat now, it will help extinguish the burn in the long run.

This quote from C.S. Lewis has resonated with me last night tonight.  It doesn't sound very hopeful, but I bet he wrote when he was in a similar state as me:

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.” 
 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Friday, January 11, 2013

writing in pencil

It has been exactly three weeks since that phone call and it feels fresher today than it has for the past couple of weeks.  I'm lost.  I'm teary.  I'm scared.  I can't stop reliving that awful day. I miss him.  So, that is how I feel, in a nutshell today.  The rest is stuff I have written here and there over the past couple of days.

Some of you have followed our crazy adoption story from the inception, when it was a cute, beautiful dream and the super hard part of life was waiting for that first picture.  Some of you started reading when the story started taking some twists and turns and others have maybe happened upon it with the still shocking news of Dave's death.  Nevertheless, the title to my blog still seems fairly apropo.

Dave and I had a sometimes vague and sometimes specific outline of how our lives would continue to be written, but those outlines, sadly, are being erased with our tears and rewritten by God's grace.  As I'm sitting here, I keep trying to write about how December 21st was the end of our last book and now we are starting at the copyright page of a new one, but something about that doesn't sit right.  I think because while the outlines we had drawn will look dramatically different (and right now they don't look inviting), the theme of the book is exactly the same.  That there is only one hope and that hope is Jesus. Sounds too simple, but it's the ONLY TRUTH that reaches deep enough into this crevasse in my heart.  I guess that even makes the end of the book the same as before, too.  And what a great ending.  And all the pages in between will still have Dave written all over them.  He is a part of all of my thoughts, many of our conversations,  and his DNA will also continue to have quite a presence.  

One other thought that has crossed my mind in reference to the blog, is that this continues to be an adoption story.  Not in the traditional sense, but in our family being adopted by countless others.  I literally feel adopted into families as plans for the future are dreamt about.  I'm already picturing how Jim (or Anthony, or Alex, or Marvin or any other willing participants, besides Chuck) will be driving my minivan***, with the louder and needier kids in back, pulling the pop-up, while Monet and I are driving the RV with one or two of the quieter cherubs.  And there will hopefully be so many other cars as part of the caravan to camp.

***Sidebar . . . . I don't have a minivan yet.  Dave was a touch anti-minivan and as my friend Mari says and I echo, "I'm way to cool to drive a minivan."  However, I'm about making life simple right now and bringing our elderly cars into the shop every week doesn't make for a simple life.  Neither do doors that swing way out or cramming 3 kids with booster seats into one row.

Anywho . . . adoption.  Not all of you may know that you have adopted a whole family of "kids from hard places," which includes me.  I, for reals, and I'm not exaggerating, think I would be someone who would never get out of bed, if I had more to think about that feeling what I'm feeling or trying my best to make life feel semi-normal for my kids.  If I had to figure out finances (scary), fill out gagillions of pieces of paperwork, run all the errands, do laundry, call about medical benefits (again scary-scary), call medicaid, do laundry, make doctors appointments for our kids, take our sick dog into the vet, figure out the broken underground fence, order windows, shop for a minivan, sell our cars, start organizing the house, take down Christmas lights and decorations, take out the trash, scoop the poop, cook dinner, do laundry, bathe the kids, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the house, try to finish Maci adoption paperwork, so we can figure out social security, do laundry, and the list goes on an on and on, I would seriously be so overwhelmed and defeated that I wouldn't even be able to start each day.  So, to all of you who are doing all of that, I don't think I am overstating the obvious - our family would be in dire straights without ya'll.  You are literally saving us.  As well as those of you who have given given to the fund and otherwise.  I'll need a dedicated post to explain how each undeserved gift aids in calming my scared self and reassuring me that maybe my kids can still have some normal in their lives.  All that rambling to say, THANK YOU for adopting us and if you didn't intend to, then you are still stuck with us.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I just miss him!

Oh Lordy!  Just a little while ago, I had a day 2 cry.  For those of you who were not here to witness such a cry, it is just loud.  Really loud.  On day one to three, I actually couldn't cry loud enough, but tonight it felt like it brought about a much needed release of simply crying out to Dave.  This is what elicited such pangs.  For 10 years now, I have played on the same-ish volleyball team.  After every. Single.  Game.  I have called Dave on the way home to give the game stats.  Did we win or lose?  Who played well?  How many hits did I get and if I didn't get any, who wasn't setting well that night? (just kidding).   Dave was just as passionate about volleyball as I am.  He got giddy about a lot, and volleyball was one of those things.  It was a terrible, lonely, achy, ride home, not having my personal cheerleader and stats keeper on the other end of the line.  Who would care about my stats except for Dave?

During the game, I held things together fairly well, but it got a little touch and go when an opposing player said across the net, "You are really good at placing the ball."  There is just something about a man affirming you verses a woman, in my humble opinion.  For the record, I don't think I would be a very good candidate for the women's lib. circuit.  Not because I think women are any less capable at everything, other than maybe heavy lifting, but because I think God made men and women different.  My best friends have always been girls.  I have the funniest, most amazing, inspiring, loving, caring, and the list goes on, friends ever, but not one of them can affirm me, the same way that a man could.  And Dave was just so good at it.  I miss him so so much.

While I'm sure I don't have to explain that nobody can take Dave's place or affirm me like he did, I will say that I have been so impacted by the support of so many men.  Even the mail man and the window guy have shared tears with me over Dave.  And some of the letters and messages that I have received from guys have felt like they have come from a sacred place within them.  The time and thought put into the right words, the way they desire to help protect me financially and otherwise, the schedule they have set up to carry out all the manly duties around here, and the willingness to cry for me is something that I can't figure out how to thank.  I see it as standing in for Dave as much as possible, in a way that my girlfriends just can't.  I'm not in any way diminishing the desperate need and love for my girlfriends here - I mean they are practically breathing for me - but I think you probably all know what I mean.

Back to Dave, real quick.  I loved how he thought I was a sports super star, even though I'm a fairly average athlete.  Whenever I burned a meal or the laundry started piling up and I would be upset about not being "Holly Homemaker," he would say, "Holls, that's not why I married you.  I married you because you play hard."  In fact, one of the first and probably one of the only memories he had of me in college (as hard as it is to believe, he was in the cool crowd and I was not) was me scrambling around the flag football field.  I always loved it when he told that story, because that is what I wanted someone to love about me - that I love to play.

I miss Dave.  I just can't say it enough.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lopping to Day 4

I feel like I have to write.  Countless people, made perfectly to love me in these dark days have come along to help me cover the most mundane in life, in an effort to create space to grieve and have enough energy to connect with my kids in a loving way.  Therefore, most of the day, I am thinking 86 million thoughts.  So, in the mornings, I just kind of need a jumping off point.  Where am I?  So, to figure it out, I have to write.  Climb up on the shaky diving board, walk to the wobbly edge, describe where I am and jump into the waves of grace for another day of floating.  

So, in a couple short words, where I feel like I am, is DAY 3.  I keep saying, "Today was like day 3."  I can't quite get past it.  The hurt continues to remain day 3 fresh.  I'm not weeping and hysterical like days 1 and 2, but each day brings new sorts of hurt.  Each day, as my body and mind can handle it, I peel away one new layer of REALITY as I am still trying to grasp what just happened here and all of the fallout.   

One thing I hear a lot is, "There are no words."  How true that is.  There probably are words somewhere if we combine all the worlds languages, but there are just no words and even when I try to use them, they seem deftly inadequate.  I cry and say, "I just miss him,"  But those words feel like they should be used while someone is away on a business trip.  So, just know that when I say, “I miss him, I’m really saying,  “my heart is bleeding, my soul is begging and my body is broken.”  I don’t just “miss him.”  

Yesterday reality that I peeled away was a delicate layer.  Other peoples lives continue, they announce “Happy New Year,” they post on facebook how many of their fleet is out with the flu, they post a picture of their darling, homemade elephant cupcakes, etc. . . . And, naturally, I want others lives to go on.  I feel like everybody else’s life slowed down with mine for a little while.  We all hit a traffic jam, we all slowed down, but traffic is clearing, people are moving forward at different speeds and my old 79 Volkswagon rabbit is hobbling off to the side.  Plenty of people have tried to rev the old Rabbi (that was the nickname of my old VW Rabbit) and a few have even towed it, a lot of people yelled encouraging words, which has kept me on the road at all, but I am far from keeping pace with the pack.  And who would expect me to?  

What keeps me pressing the gas pedal of this old junker is that people keep rotating in and out of the car.  Enough people are stopping long enough to hop in, nestle into my uncomfortable seats and lop along with me.  And those who can’t be passengers are helping to drip gas into this guzzler with each prayer.  Prayers have been my fuel.  Sometimes I feel it and sometimes I don’t, but without a doubt my lop would be a stall without them.  Surely, I'll make it to day four sometime soon.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Maci's Birthday and 10 Days

If you would have asked me eleven or more days ago, where would you be, 10 days after your husband died, I would have said, “In my bed, under my covers, with 10,000 soaked tissues adorning the floor.”  But where I found myself today, was at Chuck E Cheese.  Seems impossible, doesn’t it?  The world has stopped for me, but as for my kids, my friends and family, the world has continued at varying paces and I’m trying to be present, knowing way way way to well that each day is not a guarantee.  So, I hand over another token and trade 10 dollars worth of tickets for a mini box of pink Nerds.  

The days keep coming, which means that birthday’s still come, and today happens to be Maci’s Birthday.  Our sweet Maci didn’t even get to celebrate one birthday with Dave, let alone any father ever.  It feels so unfair.  I guess that is why I am still trying so hard to make this day special, or at least normal.  Let me say that one more time.  "My people" are trying so hard to make it special and I am just trying to show up.  We had originally decided that we would celebrate it on April 22nd, which is her Ethiopian birthday, however, that is also Dave’s birthday. So, I made a decision to go ahead and celebrate Maci’s birthday today, so that we can celebrate Dave’s birthday each year on the 22nd of April.  By the way, I knew I was destined to marry him, because I love 2’s and 4’s.  He was born on my favorite date on the calendar.  

Back to Chuck E Cheese.  I am struck repeatedly with three thoughts while I’m there.  First, “How am I here, doing this? How am I actually able to pile the kids in, drive over there (with some help), and do what I would do on any other day?”  The second thought was, “People keep walking by me, crossing my path, exchanging words, but they have no idea what I am in the middle of.”  I want them all to know.  I want people to hurt with me, even if they are strangers.  I want special treatment, but I really don’t.  The third reoccurring thought is probably the same as everyone else there, which is, “I hope someone sprays a little Clorox on these surfaces from time to time.  That third thought comes with a little relief as I realize I have some normal Holly thoughts peeking through.  

I realize that many of my thoughts and my talk has been aimed toward the supernatural and towards Jesus and my faith, but today I just want to float in His grace as someone suggested. I don’t necessarily want to think about it or try to figure it out.  I just want it. I want enough grace to go to Chuck E Cheese or maybe I should say more than the usual amount of grace it takes to go there even under normal circumstances. 

In a few minutes I’ll be heading out to retrieve my son from a friends house, and stop in for a little New Year’s Eve celebration.  Ten days in, and I am facing my second major holiday without Dave.  I have cried and cried and cried this afternoon over what I am sure to feel while I am there - that Dave is GONE. I hate it.  I hate it.  

Just a few more hours of floating in His grace and I will have made it through another day and another event.  I want to hurry through these milestones if you can’t tell, but I know there is no rushing - only floating.