Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The One in which I take my Father for his Covid Vaccine

I got a voicemail the other day from the hospital saying ‘since you’re the contact on record we just want you to know your Dad can get a Covid vaccine.’ I ask my Dad if he wants one and he practically jumps out of his Lay-Z-Boy. (Not an easy task.)

ABSOLUTELY he wanted one!

So I call the number back, have to complete a 15-minute auto-response survey pressing buttons 1 or 2 before being transferred to an actual human being who sets the appointment. They tell me the Elkhorn and Burlington hospitals are way backed up and he’ll be dead before they can fit him in
; however, there is a new site in Milwaukee at the Advocate Aurora Health Care Center in Walker’s Point like THE. NEXT. DAY! I think to myself, 'huh. Walker’s Point. An hour away – how bad can it be?' and sign him up.
I announce he has to wear a t-shirt and bring his ID and face mask and that we're leaving at 8:00 am today to get his Covid vaccine. The man is absolutely giddy with excitement.
Until this morning when he asks which hospital we're going to. For the next 55-minutes I listen to him repeating over and over what a stupid waste of gas this is and how I should’ve told the lady working in the scheduling department that there would be space in Elkhorn if Biden didn’t let the god damn illegals in because that’s whose getting all the vaccines.
I grip the steering wheel a tad tighter.
We get to the clinic and park. It’s an old converted warehouse that is gorgeously remodeled. However, he’s commenting on the “trash” on the side of the buildings surrounding us. “Some people refer to that as commissioned street art, Dad.” “Well, it’s stupid!” he declares.
Walking out of the building as we come shuffling up to it is an elderly man with a cane and the cutest hat I’ve ever seen, accompanied by his tiny, 80-pound elderly wife. The man lifts up his hand in a wave and says to my Dad cheerily, “go get your shot!” To which my dad angrily spits back “that’s what I’m doing!”
Undeterred, the happy stranger asks my Dad if this is his first or second shot. My Dad spits back, “first!” Like he’s accusing the guy of being a thief. Happy stranger says congratulations and good luck, my Dad ignores him (as he was the entire time) and I follow-up with a sweet congratulations of my own, telling the happy stranger I will pray he has no side effects and that I am so happy for him! (See Dad, that’s what being nice looks like.) The happy stranger waves and tells us to have a great day! I wonder how much wine I'd have to give to the workers in the nursing home if God forbid my father ever needs to go there.
Anyway, we get inside without any further hassle (i.e., happy people) and have absolutely no wait. Dad is shown to a chair where two nurses sit. They check his ID and begin their spiel, at the end of which the sweet nurse asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”
And my father responds: “yeah, why'd they rename the Brewer’s Stadium? That’s just stupid! No one’s going to call it the American Family Stadium!”
“Dad! They aren’t in charge of renaming the stadium!”
Nurse: “Oh! Are you a baseball fan?”
Dad: “No.” (As if that is the most asinine assumption anyone could ever come up with. He would have handled being asked if he was a drag queen with more decorum.)
I start laughing – because what else can I do - this is what I have to contend with. “Are you ready for your shot, Dad?”
After the shot you’re supposed to wait for 15-minutes to make sure you don’t die. But none of the chairs in the place have arm rests which he needs to help push himself up from in order to get out of the chair. The average age of the vaccine recipients are 87-years old and none of them can get out of the chairs. Instead of sitting he walks.
WE walk.
Around the entire perimeter of the waiting area.
Step. …
Step. …
Step. …
Step. ...
In 15-minutes we took only 47-steps.
The entire time he’s bad-mouthing the converted warehouse we're in (which looked amazing, by the way) because they have to raise prices at the hospital to cover the cost of what it must be to heat the place and there should be a law that doctor offices and insurance companies are only allowed small buildings. (Okay; I confess, I'm with him on the insurance companies. Some of those office buildings are ridiculous!) And then we're back on to the subject of the idiotic renaming of the Brewer's Stadium.
I finally get him shuttled back to the car and we’re on our way back.
At this point I am emotionally exhausted.
I need to stop for gas. I figure that at least gives me a few minutes to breathe in the fueled aroma. Maybe I even have a chance of achieving a slight high. I could use a little relaxing. As I’m headed toward the highway exit (read: going very, very fast) my dad is attempting to dig into his back pocket for his wallet. His arm is about to break off, the seat belt is threatening to choke him and I’m like “Dad! You don’t have to give me money. I have enough money! What are you doing?" but he’s insisting and I’m all “stop moving! You’re making things worse and I’m not going to be able to untangle you!”
For the love. I just want to go home.
We’re back on the road and I'm practicing the breathing techniques I learned in birthing class.

About 15-minutes from home, cruise control set to 75, he opens his coat and pulls out a white plastic envelope thing from the breast pocket on the inside of his coat and hands it to me saying “we have to stop at Poplar’s.” (His local doctor.)
Holding the envelope I say, “Okay. What is it?”

"My stool sample."

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Child, You Have My Full Attention

Our one constant growing up was arguments revolving around excessive alcohol consumption. My father would be the "fun guy" out with his friends after work and during the weekends, then get to that tipping point and head home to finish things off. We experienced the downside. (The part his drinking buddies weren't privy to.) He wasn't the "fun guy" for us. He was critical and angry, annoyed and distracted. He would come home to "fall asleep watching tv" (pass out). In fact, unless he was yelling, there was very little interaction.

My father's choice to regularly over-consume meant poor financial decisions that affected us all. My mother had to carry the brunt of responsibility raising us children while working full time and a part time job. (She had to make up for the money being spent at the bars and liquor stores.)

Any hope for a sense of self worth was distinguished through his constant criticism. No matter how well we did in any particular area he'd tell us what we should have done to earn an even better finish. He called it encouraging us. We felt it as we still hadn't earned a position of worth in my father's eyes. When people aren't happy with themselves they subconsciously tear others down to make themselves feel better. We were the bystanders who took the hits.

My father barely knew what grades we made, who our friends were, what our interests were, especially as we got older and in high school. By that time he had been so selfishly living his own life that we really didn't understand the need for him when he suddenly piped up with some bit of advice.

Some classmates got to know him and, while there were some that thought he was really cool for passing out beer in the auto shop where everyone hung out, most kids shook their head out of pity. "Is that your dad?" was a question that would send me reeling with embarrassment. He thought he was fun and happy; I saw him as loud, foolishly animated and trying too hard to cover up the fact he was drinking.

No matter how many times there'd be an argument explaining how this. is. not. okay. he would feel justified. He worked hard. We weren't starving. It wasn't like he was having an affair or asking for a divorce. He had a right to have friends. And, god, why can't you just relax? Maybe you could use a drink!

It didn't matter how many ways we would try to express how the negative ramifications his choices to regularly overconsume had on us as individuals, on our family. When faced with a choice it would always be the alcohol.

And so we simply learned to live around him.

I lost count of how many times new friends or co-workers would express shock when they found out my dad was actually alive.

"Hold up! You have a dad?!"

"Yeah, my parents are still married."

"But you've never mentioned him before!"

I wasn't intentionally not talking about him; he just was not involved in my life in any meaningful way so he had no context. He was positioned in the center of his drinking buddies, but that meant he was in my peripheral. Either he had to move closer to me or I had to move closer to him in order for us to be involved and known in each other's lives but, personally, being teen surrounded by my father's model of excessive alcohol consumption was probably not where I needed to be if I wanted something different for my life. In the end, we each stayed where we were positioned. Although we lived together for the entirety of my young life, being on the fringe meant my father knew me no better than the kid at Blockbuster.

The interesting thing is this doesn't just happen between alcoholics and their children.

As parents, we get to choose where we position ourselves in the lives of our children. When we make our career our priority we move toward that and our children get pushed out to our periphery.

Excessive volunteering can convince us that we're doing all the good, right things but we have to know that we're also moving your kids to the fringe. (If you're on more than five boards or committees it's time to honestly evaluate where your kids are in your life.)

Making everything about sports and putting the worth of our children in how many baskets they make or how fast their split was centers ourselves with the activity itself and shoves our kids off to the side - especially if they're heart is in music or something else. It's so easy for us to believe that we're doing this for "their good" but unless relationship with our child is at our center we can get off base pretty quick.

As parents, we decide if we want to position our children in the center of our lives or if there is something more valuable to us. And if there is, fine - but own it.

"I never went to any of those art shows my kid was in because they were always held on my bowling league night."

"My kid is really active in drama but I want to focus on my dating right now."

"I don't know anything about the classes my child is taking because I choose to use that time I could be talking with her to instead engage in the chaotic drama with my ex."

Understand that your relationship with your child is on you - not anybody else. You can make all the excuses in the world and I guarantee that if you truly wanted to, you'd be able to position your life to where a connected relationship with your child is at the center. Now, that doesn't mean you give up yourself completely and entirely and do nothing but the bidding of your child. We're talking about something entirely different here (but if that's where your headspace is at right now, feel free to go back to the top of this post and re-read it from the beginning).

It's time we start taking seriously the responsibility we've asked for. For eighteen years, this person who we chose to put in our lives should get our focus and attention. 

Do you prioritize parenting or have you found that something else is occupying the center position in your life?

Have you built the kind of connection with your child that lasts beyond just the moments when you're face to face with them?

What do you need to reduce or remove in your current life in order to prioritize the relationship you (should) have with your child?

Now, what are you waiting for? Because no one else is going to make your relationship with your child their priority.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Stop Thinking the Answer is Moving in with Him

Our society puts a lot of pressure on girls to look a certain way. Those tall boots you bought last season need to be replaced with ankle boots for this season. Your hair needs to be colored because your natural color isn’t enough. Your nails need to be done, your make up perfect, and your pictures on social media will be dissected so you need up to date home décor for the background. You need a new car and a new phone and a new purse.
That’s a lot for one young person to afford.
Somehow you’ve got it in your head that if you just move in with your man (or some guy you start dating), he can take care of the rest: the house, the utilities, yardwork, the groceries, etc. On top of that, he should take you out for dates regularly because you’re young and you don’t wanna be a loser sitting at home. Besides, what’s the point of getting your hair done if no one gets to see it?
This is an incredibly selfish way of thinking.
You have the dream of the house and car before you have the vision of your relationship; what you need in a relationship, what you want in a partner. Start imagining your partner and if you are the right kind of person for him - stop imagining the dining room furniture. You rush into moving in so you can plan parties with your friends without understanding the person you’ll be living with.
What will you gain by moving in together? I bet you know the answer to that without thinking too hard. What will he gain?
We’ve got so many young, broken men. Broken financially from having to start over and over each time the live-in girlfriend decides the relationship itself isn’t working and she’s going to take all the furniture and décor with her because it’s girlie and she picked it out and he doesn’t like it anyway.
And our men are emotionally broken because they’ve been so busy working to fulfill these ridiculous standards and requirements they never had time to figure out who they are as a person, what they want in life, what they want in a relationship. They’re hurt, angry, and feel used. They don’t trust anymore.
And you know what the world tells them? “Be thankful it wasn’t an actual divorce! That’s even more expensive!” We might as well be saying, “don’t ever commit to marriage; it will cost you even more than playing house with the first girl who pushed you into it.”
So, girls, how do you afford to live on your own when you know you can’t afford to live on your own because it’s too expensive for anyone young to live on their own?
Well, you can get a roommate! Did you know you can rent a room from someone? Or, if you have a home you can rent a room out? Did you know that you and a friend could actually rent a one-bedroom and share the bedroom? Like a dorm room. Only bigger.
Get four of your friends together and rent a 3-bedroom house. Convert the dining room into a bedroom. We all did that in college... but usually with double the roommates to rooms ratio.
I guarantee you’ll treat your roommate much more fair and respectfully than your boyfriend you live with. You'll learn to ask nicely, negotiate household responsibilities, be respectful of each other's space and time. It will be good for you to learn to do things for yourself - like budgeting. It will teach you what your financial priorities are before you commit to a long term, loving relationship.
Guess what? If you don’t save money on your own you’re not going to go into a relationship saving. And don’t tell me you don’t have enough money to save anything. You will save $1 a paycheck if saving money is truly important to you.
If you spend $5 a day at Starbucks on your own it’s unlikely you’ll suddenly stop your $1,200 a year habit cold turkey just because you moved in with that cute guy.
Figure your own self out. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.
And give our men time to figure themselves out. It's the best thing you can do for them.
This is real life. Not a game.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Re-Evaluate Your Rough Day

Job not going right?
Feel unappreciated and overlooked?
Spill coffee on your new cream colored tights?
Hair look ridiculous?
Sister mad at you?
Mother-in-law hate your guts?
Boyfriend forgot your birthday?
Car trouble?
Missed a doctor appointment?
Loose filling in your tooth?
Dog run away?
Mortgage company misapply your payment?
Speeding ticket in a known speed trap?
Neighbor's garbage cans out for the third day in a row?
Can't get those concert tickets last minute?
The holiday "it toy" completely sold out?
Coworker throw you under the bus?
Client humiliated you in a very public meeting?
Teacher called you in because of your kid's behavior?
A simple misunderstanding morphed out of control?

There's a whole culture watching you quietly: we're the Mama's who have experienced a level of rough that frightens you. We're the ones you say, "I wouldn't be able to live..." after hearing our story. We hear your complaints and read your posts and we stop ourselves from saying back to you, "you have no idea what rough is."

Rough is your child being rushed to the hospital with yet another seizure with no understanding of why.

Rough is the insurance refusing to pay for a procedure that will keep your baby comfortable... and alive.

Rough is picking out a coffin instead of a Christmas present. Laying your child's body in the ground instead of lifting her up into your lap.

Rough, we know, is dependent on your own personal circumstances. We get it. We really do. We get that you have no idea where "car troubles" land when that truly is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.

But, as we listen to your complaints, we wonder if there might be a way for you to understand without ever having to go through what we do. A way for you to see your day not as a series of inconveniences, but rather of a beautiful, glorious, magical experience there for the taking.

We wonder if there is a way for you to feel the incredible joy a sunrise can bring without having to sit hostage through the dark.

We wonder if there is a way for you to taste the crisp air of December without having to experience what it feels like to fight for breath.

We wonder if there is a way for you to celebrate the wins instead of focusing on the losses... because the losses have a way of wrapping themselves around you like a python intent on slowly strangling the life from your soul, leaving your eyes dull and expressionless.

From all of us struggling Mamas:

- the one's who have experienced a forced and sudden without still struggling to put one foot in front of the other,

- the one's with too many womb losses holding their plastic smiles on their hurting hearts just to let everyone know they're okay and sometimes this happens (when really all they want to do is scream WHY?!),

- the one's hanging on by a thread making desperate deals with God to please just keep their child alive....

our wish for you today and throughout this holiday season is that you RE-EVALUATE... look for the joys, search out the happiness, revel in the light, and choose to fight against any "rough day" that threatens to dim your world.

We need your happiness.

We need your joy.

We need your laughter.

Because, especially at this time of year, we need you to light the way.

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Eighth Year

Eight years ago I paced alone throughout a house wondering where my daughters were. An inquisitive 3-year old boy as my shadow. I remember feeling so utterly alone. 

I called their phones.

I sent texts.

I posted on Facebook.

I called my sister.

I called the police.

I called my mom.

I drove to the church.

I called the police again.

I walked in circles.

I panicked.

I prayed.

I answered the door.

And my world went dark.

I broke down.

I broke apart.

I broke empty.

I broke completely.

I broke alone.

Then I lifted my head and let God in.

There has been countess blessings and so much incredible joy from sweet friends and absolute strangers! So much goodness! My heart swells just thinking of it all! The Avery House in Haiti. The 19 Days. The Avery Step You Take 5K. To this day I still meet people who say, "wait - are you Avery's mom?" Her story and her love for Christ has reached the hearts of people from all over. How could this be possible except for such a good, good God? 

And I have experienced the deepest cuts of betrayal. Endured active deceit, the abuse of alcohol, adultery's humiliating sting. I live now with my parents, struggle financially after achieving debt-free status, and go to sleep wondering why grieving a child wasn't enough for me.

Yet every morning, through the grace of God, I rise to a world filled with beauty beyond words. Avery's memory and God's Word tells me to love. Love deep. And I will continue to do just that. To the stranger, to the neighbor, to the friend, to the lonely, to the unknown. I will continue to do my part to throw good into the world, to make others laugh, to feel included, to feel heard, to come to recognize they are not alone but that God is with them if you just let Him in - because I do not know what pit they're clawing their way out of. This world is filled with far too many hard things. 

If I have learned anything from Avery's death it's this:

(1) God is good. Always.

(2) You have a finite amount of time on this earth. Find out who you are supposed to be - and be brave enough to own it.

(3) Kindness matters and has its place in all things. Especially the ugly and difficult.

These past eight years have produced the greatest growth and the most amount of fruit in me. There have been times when I wanted to tap out, call uncle, roll over and go to sleep and never wake up. I look back and realize I am so far from where I was the day before Avery died and that movement in me was absolutely needed. Every second of my suffering God has taken and produced something wonderful for His Kingdom. I will praise Him even when I can barely catch my breath. I will praise Him even when I feel shattered and destroyed. Satan will not have me because I belong to God and God alone.

Eight years without. Yet every single day God is showing me how good He is to me. Sending me support, encouragement, friendship through the incredible people he placed in my life and brought just when I needed it most. Eight years and I have never been alone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Missing Pieces

I have this theory that every one of us is born with missing pieces of our soul. 

Throughout our lives we pick up different pieces - experiences, relationships, careers, hobbies - in the hopes that the piece fits and we become one step closer to whole.

But sometimes we pick up pieces where the shape fits but it is obvious when we look at the color and pattern that it isn't supposed to belong there.

I think it's especially this way with mental illness and addiction. There are so many shapes that match but they aren't right. In fact, if you leave them in place, you'll never be able to complete your soul. 

Alcohol to take the edge off. Getting drunk by 4pm on a Tuesday. Hooking up with people you don't actually care for just because you're lonely or bored or, truthfully, just desperate to fill that empty spot. Smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, popping oxycontin, xanax, ativan. Inappropriate behavior that hurts innocent people who didn't even know you a month ago. Forgetting your responsibilities. Disappointing loved ones. But the desire to fill that empty hole with anything you can shove in there takes priority over treating others with respect. With treating yourself with respect.

It takes an incredibly brave person to admit a piece needs to be removed. 

It takes courage to say I cannot do this anymore.

It takes every ounce of strength to ask for help getting rid of it.

It is not for the faint of heart to admit that when we look in the mirror we don't even recognize the person staring back. 

That things got out of control and you can't even recount how it happened. 

That everything you worked hard for in the past six years completely crumbled and was destroyed within three months. 

And that you have to start over. 


Just like you started over the last time. 

And the time before that.

But it's not just chemical addiction that can take us seriously off track. Some people are so scared of dealing with the holes in their soul that they fill it with things that look good but are taken to the extreme... like exercising. That's a good thing, right? But when you're working out so much and so often that you're unable to nurture friendships or get enough sleep or attend family gatherings it's time to acknowledge it isn't the right piece.

Some people like taking care of others. And that is a super noble thing to do. But when your worth is wrapped up in doing everything for your children or your spouse or your boyfriend/girlfriend a red flag is being raised. You cannot change someone. You might be able to influence them but you have no control over whether or not they want to change to be the way you want them to be.

Relationships that are toxic but you don't know how to get out.

Jobs you hate but are convinced this is the best you can do.

The landlord raising the rent again but you feel guilty leaving because they're so nice to you and you know they need the extra income. 

Gym memberships you just keep paying on because admitting you don't even like going to the gym makes your feel like a loser. 

Look, we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that try to convince us to keep the ill-fitting pieces in our soul but we also know deep down that we aren't meant to live this way: incomplete. Uncomfortable. Feel less than we deserve.

If you're ready to start over and take a step to a new kind of freedom - whether it's your first time or your thirtieth - give Celebrate Recovery a try. Just enter Celebrate Recovery and your city or town in your search bar and find a meeting near you. Most likely, you'll be able to find several meeting places around you throughout the week. Go to however many you need to go to for however long you need to go. I promise it will be one of the most welcoming places you will ever go. And they'll help you take out the pieces that need to be removed and you'll start finding the ones that are supposed to be yours. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Package

The other day a package, sent to me, from me, was delivered to my home.
Except I didn’t actually send myself anything.
So I had no idea what it was or who would send it or why they would.
Inside was an anonymous note referencing Avery and The 19 Days and I’m not including the note because the sender went through great lengths to remain anonymous and therefore I’m respecting that and no one will be able to scrutinize the handwriting.
Because it isn’t really about trying to figure out who sent it.
It’s about allowing yourself to just feel loved and cared for. In this case, allowing myself to just feel loved and cared for.
Because the truth is, I’ve been craving that for a long time. Years and years, really. And I kind of forgot what it was like - to just receive.
To just accept.
To just think about how someone, somewhere, thought about me and said, “I think she’d like this.” So they took out their money and purchased something that was perfect for me when they could have bought something that was perfect for them or perfect for anyone else in their life. And then they went to the post office and purchased a package to send it in and then paid for next day shipping in order to have it delivered to me.
Do you know how great it feels to be considered next day shipping worthy? Because I do. And it feels really amazing.
And on top of everything, this person essentially made certain that I had absolutely no obligation other than to simply receive and enjoy. I have no name to send a thank you card to. I have no name to reciprocate. I have nothing... except for this gift that was given to me.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, expected of me in return.
Except to receive and enjoy. And to know that somewhere, someone believes I’m pretty wonderful.
And that makes me feel pretty dang incredible.
So much so, I can't wait to do this to some other unsuspecting soul.

The One in which I take my Father for his Covid Vaccine

I got a voicemail the other day from the hospital saying ‘since you’re the contact on record we just want you to know your Dad can get a Cov...