Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The decisions we make ... Make us

I woke up one beautiful morning just over a month ago, looked at the date and thought, “Wow. I got married nine years ago today."

Nine years ago, my dad and I walked down the aisle all teary-eyed.
I pledged Forever in front of my family and friends (most of whom drove over six hours to celebrate with us) in my small town church.
I asked my very best friends to stand up for us and pray for us and support us as we embarked on the excitement of our happily ever after.
We danced the night away.
I sang with the band.
It was a beautiful celebration.
I meant it when I said forever. And as far as I know, so did he.

And for a while, forever made sense. So much sense. Before long, we had two beautiful kids. We had a grown-up life, complete with moves across state lines, job promotions, home buying, renting, and selling, play groups, and retirement funds. 

And then one day, shit hit the fan. Hard.

As much as we tried to repair that road to forever, we just couldn't. 
We tried our asses off for years, but we were broken.

You guys.
It was devastating.
It was lonely.
It changed me.

Thank God for my family. My parents, my brother, my cousins in Arizona. 
Thank God for my friends and my aunties and uncles--the ones I finally opened up to about our divorce who mostly thought I was teasing. (Understandably so. I’m a trickster).

That support meant the world.
See, nobody else can really understand what happens when two people get divorced. But they can love you. They can lift you up.
Are they sad for you and are they mourning your marriage, too? Of course they are.
But those people who are on Your Side, no matter what.
Those people who are there for you, family or not, who let you cry and pour you wine and make you laugh and watch your kids and talk you out of decisions that could land you in jail, or at the very least on a neighborhood watch list, are the gems in this life.

I’m not jaded. Obviously.
I believe in marriage. 
I believe in family. Again—Obviously.

I also believe in second, third … multiple new beginnings and supporting the ones I love in their choices.
The decision Joe and I made a few years ago to join forces, get married, and create our Anoka County 6 Pack was a fabulous one. 
Quite the amazing New Beginning.

You may have a decision staring you in the face and you could be on the cusp of a new beginning.
A decision to get married or end a marriage.
A decision to move or stay put.
A decision to get that Bacardi bat tramp stamp or those Aerosmith lyrics inked on your inner thigh. (Do both)

 After all, what is life but a series of decisions? Be strong in them. Whether your decisions are fueled by love or passion or spite or the desire for acceptance (don't have those last two be your fuel, hey) … when it’s all said and done, the decisions we make … make us.

There isn’t anyone else who could step into your life and live it better than you. So live it up, live it proud, and for goodness sakes—Lift up others as they choose their bumpy, imperfect but ultimately beautiful life path as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Three years of the Six Pack

"It's our anniversary!" That's what nine-year-old Max said this morning at breakfast.
Our anniversary.
The three-year anniversary of the Anoka County Six Pack.

Have those three years flown?

Have we packed an insane amount of life into three years?

We have laughed and sobbed.
We have fought with each other and fought much harder for each other.

We started our journey two broken people and four sticky, gap-toothed kids whose little hearts were in various stages of hurt.
We have grown together to find ourselves here.
In year three.

Health scares, job loss, lice, insane schedules, and a giant home remodel be damned.

Our sister-in-law Tanya summed us up in a message this afternoon: "Happy anniversary to a fun-lovin, love-lovin, life-loving beautiful couple."

Fun loving.
Love loving.
Life loving.

That's who we are. And we know how incredibly blessed we are that "We get this."

Happy anniversary to my five other partners in crime ... and most of all to the man who has gently loved my broken heart and helped me become the wife, partner, and mom I love being.
The man who listens to my dreams, schemes, and ideas and smiles and tells me that I'm so smart and that I've got this.
The man who cheers me on whether I'm embarking on a career adventure or singing a naughty version of Total Eclipse of the Heart.

A man who has shown me the power of This Moment and reminds me to never take it for granted.
A man who works hard, plays hard, naps hard, and laughs hard.
Usually at his own jokes.

We get this.

It's fragile and precious and I wouldn't trade our place in this world for anything.

Three years, Six pack.
Cheers to us!

Monday, January 12, 2015

This Great-Big, Teeny-Tiny World

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about Joe's illnesses and our time in the hospital. 
I was actually nervous to write it.
Our family and some close friends knew what was going on with Joe's health, but I knew once I put our story out there, it would be REAL. 
I have this thing where I kind of shut down and process things before I talk about them. 
It's my way.
It was actually easier to sit in the ICU with my phone off just staring at Joe and his monitors than it was to update people.

Once I was able to get my feet underneath me and articulate what had been going on, though... Wow.
You guys.
You sure know how to make people feel loved and lifted up and not alone.
Every Facebook comment, private message, email, text, phone call, treat delivery and visit made such an impact. 
Friends from high school that I haven't talked to in over a decade were sending us prayers. 
Friends and family from across the United States and around the world were cheering us on ... People were sharing our story with their people and strangers were praying for us.
It was so wonderfully overwhelming and humbling.
Joe was kind of in and out the whole time we were in the hospital but when he was "in," we were reading / listening to / discussing your sweet words and messages.

We spent nine days in the hospital. 
It feels surreal. 
Like it happened years ago. 
Or like I watched it happen to someone else. 
I don't know if that's my subconscious mind protecting me or the extreme sleep deprivation one endures in this situation, but, like I said in my previous blog, parts of our journey are fuzzy and others are crystal clear.

We are home now and Joe is on the mend. He went from panicked touch-and-go ... to the doctors thinking that he would maybe depend on an oxygen tank for the rest of his life ... to right now only needing supplemented O2 at night and as-needed --And we are hoping he can lose that in a week or two.
What an amazing turn around. 
I am so thankful to God and so grateful to all of you. 
I believe your prayers, your positive thoughts, your good ju-ju made a difference in our lives.
And, while I sincerely hope this is the very last damn blog I ever write about a health scare, I am so happy to be writing it with a heart full of gratitude and awe.
THANK YOU all so very much.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One Week of Mercy

Good morning from Mercy Hospital.
Today marks one week of Joe and I being here.
I have kept this off of social media because, well, things have been uncertain and for once, I haven't really known what to say.

Long story short, Joe and I have been here at the hospital for a week because he has a very bad combination of influenza and pneumonia. If you know Joe's cancer and heart history, you probably know that this is dangerous territory.

We came to the ER on Saturday afternoon and were put in the ICU late that night. Saturday night and Sunday were the scariest times either of us have ever experienced. The bottoms of both of his lungs were collapsed, his heart was racing, he couldn't breathe, and they truly didn't know if he was going to make it. I was completely helpless. Looking back, parts of those days and nights are a blur and other parts are crystal clear. It's weird.

After five days in the ICU, we were 'promoted' to the Step Down Unit. It's still on the ICU floor and can accommodate Joe's need for a large amount of supplemented oxygen but it's on a different side because he no longer requires 1:1 care.

He has had some chest pain throughout this ordeal and yesterday they noticed that the enzymes in his blood are elevated, indicating that his heart is stressed. This is tricky because they will need to do an Angiogram so they can see what's going on with his heart, but they can't do this when he is still dependent on so much supplemented oxygen. Therefore, this has been scheduled for Monday when we are all hoping he needs less oxygen.

He has made huge improvements over the last week. He has gone from needing 10 liters of O2 to needing just over six. He has gone from barely able to stand to the two of us taking a couple (slow, romantical) strolls around the halls ... with our nurse chaperoning and hauling his IV tree and O2 tank. But still. <3

We are exhausted but optimistic. We don't know what recovery will look like, we don't know if he will need an oxygen tank once we are released, we don't know what the deal is with his heart, we don't yet know what the damage is to his lungs.
BUT--I know he is insanely strong. And he inherently has an incredibly positive attitude. And we are receiving wonderful care.
And prayers help. So please send plenty of those up for our guy.

We are so happy to finally feel like we are on the 'back' end of this.  I have alternated between ugly crying and being on auto-pilot over the last week. We rang in 2015 in the ICU, for crying out loud. I feel like it's safe to say that Joe and I have really experienced a lot of ...life... in our time together. Our terrifying and exhausting week has gifted the two of us moments of candid togetherness that have been so raw. We have really gotten to know each other on some crazy levels.

I'm sure you are wondering about the kids--Max and Sam are in Fargo with their grandparents and Logan and Samma are going back and forth between their dad and Grandma Ginya. All four are being spoiled and having a blast. They know Joe has the flu but they don't know anything about the hospital or pneumonia. They will all come home on Sunday--my parents will be there--and we will decide from there if we will have them come up for a visit or how we will handle it.
Thank you to our close family and friends who have supported us this past week with messages, treats, visits, calls, and love.
And to all of you learning about this for the first time, thank you in advance for your prayers, juju, karma, etc. It helps and we appreciate it so much.

Team Nudie

Monday, December 22, 2014

I am Part of All I Have Met

There are quotes that have stuck with me in life. Published quotes that remind us to be kind to one another or not take things for granted. "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain!" -That's a good one. I like that.

"I am a part of all that I have met."
It's beautiful, isn't it. It's buried in a poem from the 1800's by Lord (Alfred) Tennyson called Ulysses. It's not an obvious part of the poem. In fact, you have to really be looking for something to grab your attention when you read it because, I'll be honest, it's not a particularly engaging piece if you're not into that sort of thing.

It says so much. "I am a part of all that I have met." For better or worse. Whether it's someone I engaged with in conversation in a checkout line or a stranger I shared a smile with.
It's a person I made fun of years ago. She found out. I'm part of her life.
I dated a guy over a decade ago and didn't give him my best. I'm part of his life.
People will cross my path until there isn't a path to cross and they will leave with something of me and I with something of them. Whether I was at my best or at my lowest.
That's a big deal.
If I keep "I am a part of all that I have met" in mind, it grounds me. It does make me want to step up my game and offer a better version of Beth.
You know what else it does? It makes me want to grab the good in others as well. Because they are forever a part of me. I want to choose to see their goodness and not point out the flaws. Because that goodness is what I get from them.

I don't know if this is what Tennyson had in mind when he wrote his (lengthy, non-rhyming, non-Iambic pentameter, not incredibly engaging) poem.
It's just a line.
But, intentional or not, it's a damn good line.

I would have never known this line had it not been inked on Jodi's ankle.
Jodi was my husband's first love.
The boys' mom.
Jodi found this quote and embraced it. She wanted others to embrace it, too. She was a teacher. She knew she was shaping and changing people. She knew she would be part of the lives of her students and colleagues forever. For better or worse.

She passed away five years ago today.
I never met her.
But she is such a part of our lives.
She is in Sam's thoughtful, analytic, and quirky conversations.
She is in Max's creative and enthusiastic stories and one-liners.
I know she helped shape Joe into the wonderful husband I was lucky enough to marry--that doesn't just happen. ;)
She is part of all of us.

She is a big part of how I parent the boys. Her boys.
I think about how I would want Logan and Samma raised if something happened to me. This is always, always on my mind.
I feel like it makes me better. It makes me more aware.
It makes me stop and ask: What part of me is shaping all of them?
The busy part? The frustrated part? The part that slips up and causes one of them to gasp and remind me, "We don't say that word"? The part that is so freaking tired of hearing them pick at each other that my yelly voice pops out?
Probably. I'm human.

It's also the part that lays with them a little longer during tuck in time, scratching their back and whispering about their day. The part that laughs at their little jokes. The part that reminds them how loved they are. These are the bigger part of their lives.

I am a part of all that I have met. Just a little quote. A soundbite, really. Do with it what you will. Allow it to be a reminder that who and how you are makes a difference in the lives of others.
For better or worse.
You are leaving a legacy.
You are changing a life.
We don't get to decide when we are done doing this. That's up to God.
My opportunity could end abruptly. What part of me did I share with the world? My colleagues? My family?

Whether the message sticks with you for the day in honor of Jodi, or you keep it in mind over the Christmas season, or it becomes a part of your life, I wanted to share her message today.
You make a difference.
You make an impact.
You shape lives.
You are a part of everyone you meet.
Make it count.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Step Mom (Not the movie)

I have remarked that my husband Joe swept me off my feet with his two dimples (among other things) and then sealed the deal with his two sons. When we got married, we each brought two wonderful children into the union.

It's a little fairy tale-like.
His son is 18 months older than my son, my son is 18 months older than his next son, my daughter, the only girl, is the baby by--you guessed it--18 months.
The six of us have grown and adapted and learned and we will keep doing this, well, forever.
Joe and I made the promise that this is what we would do.
This is a giant promise--Not in the sense that it was difficult to make or that it's even hard to keep.
It's just a giant promise.
To promise your love and faithfulness to your partner is beautiful and powerful and wonderful. To promise these things to three people and trust your partner when he does the same for you and the most important people in your life is breathtaking.
It's overwhelming.
It's jumping out of an airplane.
No, it's telling someone else to jump out of an airplane and then assuring them that you've got their back when you're mostly positive you're cut out for such a role. Hopefully.

Taking the leap and becoming a Step Mom magnifies every parenting insecurity with the awareness that there are now exactly double the amount of little people I could potentially screw up.

Being the Step Mom means disagreeing with their dad from time to time about what is best for them. It's listening. It's holding back tears when they're crying. It's being frustrated with them when they're not trying their best. Or when they're acting too "seven."
Or when they're fighting with "my" kids.
It's not favoring them and taking their side and it's also not sticking up for the children that I birthed.
Blending families with kids is HARD!
It's a tightrope walk with fat feet, a giant heart and more patience and diplomacy than the U.N. could ever hope to exhibit.
Because all four of them keep score.
And, while remembering that getting dressed for the day also includes changing undies is a struggle for all of them, remembering who was victorious in the last "They got to go first playing Wii last time!!" battle can be recalled and backed up with cold, hard facts including, but not limited to:
1. The day ("Because Samma wouldn't stop singing that song she sang in music that day and she has music on Tuesdays so it was a Tuesday.")
2. What someone was wearing ("Remember? It was the day that Max's shirt was inside out but you said he didn't have to fix it because he had already gone through his whole school day like that and that he better hang it back up in his closet later because it technically was not dirty and you didn't want to have to wash it again?")
3. What time of day the incident occurred ("I was hungry because we hadn't had supper yet." or "I was hungry because we had had supper and I was being picky so you told me you were going to mail my food to poor kids and that I could wait til breakfast.").

It's knowing that all of us are in this together.
It's giving space and helping with homework and scolding and hugging and cuddling and rolling eyes (me) and screaming (the girl) and mumbling (the boys) and laughing.
So much laughing.
It's boundaries that even I think are extreme but, damn it, they're necessary. (Probably).

It's being Mommy.
To kids who will never call me mommy.
Because they remember their own mommy and I would never want to replace her. I am just hoping I am living up to what she would want.
I never met her, but I owe her that.
I'm a mom. I get what an honor this is.
I get to be the person who takes care of them when they're sick and listen to their stories and keep their secrets and encourage their dreams--Especially when those dreams are "growing up to be a pilot of everything. Even airplanes and jets and taxi cabs!"
I get to be the person who kisses them goodnight and tells them I love them.
And I get to pray for all of them.
And I tiptoe in when they're sound asleep just to "check" sometimes. And I steal kisses. And I whisper "I love you! God bless!" and "You're so awesome!" And I mean it. So much.

I fell in love with a man. And I fell in love with his kids. And I fell in love with how much he loves my kids and how much my kids love him.
And even though I feel like the title should be much more bold and dramatic, like "Giant-Scary-Leap-Mom" or "Fingers-Crossed-I'm-Doing-This-Right-Mom, I am blessed so many times over ...as a Step Mom.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Incomparable Auntie Joyce

I’ve never liked thunderstorms. I know there are people who just love all the thunder and lightning and wind and excitement, but they have always scared me.
I remember one thunderstorm when I was a little girl. I don’t know how old I was—probably five or so … we were living out in the country (back when Mom liked to cook) and Uncle Zip and Auntie Joyce were staying with us. I’m not sure what the occasion was but I’ll assume it had to do with hunting or fishing.  There is nobody who loves fishing like my Auntie Joyce.  She’s a legend in the boat and on the ice. Anyway, they were sleeping in my room and I was out on the hide-a-bed in the rec room.
A thunderstorm woke me up and, of course, I was scared. I remember Auntie Joyce coming out and just laying with me on the hide-a-bed. Always the patient teacher, she told me little stories about her students-- and I’m sure I told her a few, too. Right there, in the middle of the night, she comforted me. She could have sent me up to my mom and dad, but she stayed and visited until I was calm enough to go back to sleep. She has probably long since forgotten about that night, but I will always remember it.
When I was little, Auntie was like a celebrity in my eyes. She had these long, manicured nails and do you know what she had—stuck right in the corner of her pinky nails?? Rhinestones! Oh my goodness. I used to try to glue stick tiny pieces of paper to my chubby, dirty fingernails to try to be like her.  And she always wore the most beautiful and unique jewelry… We would just sit with her and admire her rings. She would point out the little intricacies in each piece and tell my cousin Jen and me about where they all came from.

When a baby is born in our family, Auntie Joyce makes him or her one of her special quilts. It always ends up being the favorite. When Andrew was little, his was absolutely threadbare and tied together. There was nothing left of it. (I’ll have to ask him if he brought it with him when he joined the Marines). All the kids love their Auntie Joyce Blankies / Kikis / Nigh-Nights. It's not hard to draw a parallel between a comforting blanket and the wonderful and generous woman who made each of them so lovingly.

We found out on Thanksgiving  Day that Auntie has pancreatic cancer. I have spent quite a bit of energy asking God why this has “happened to her.” Asking boldly for a miracle. Pointing out that, of all people, Auntie Joyce has been through enough and does not deserve this.
And then I realized something. 
I need to pray for comfort. 
I want my Auntie comforted and comfortable. 
I want her to feel like she’s under one of her special blankets and safe from the storm. I want her to know she’s admired—not only for her glitzy and glamorous sense of style, but for being so incredibly strong and for being such an excellent teacher and for being the wife and mom my Uncle Zip and cousins have counted on and adored.
I’m still praying for the miracle, of course. But I’m also praying that all these gifts she’s given to our family and the huge number of lives she’s touched, she’s getting back. Because if anybody deserves that, it’s my Auntie Joyce.