Thursday, December 19, 2013

Heart Attack Reflections

Eyeballs...  Balloons...  Sharks... 

To the average person, these three words would have little, if anything, in common.  But to me, they all evoke the same feeling in my heart.  Fear.  I don't recall the exact moment any of these things started haunting my existence, but it was long before the man I married decided to make his profession one of slicing eyeballs; long before I had children who require balloons at every single birthday; and long, long before I moved to an apartment right on the beach where sharks are swimming entirely too close to me.  Facing these fears on a regular basis has not curbed their intensity... in fact, if anything the intensity has been inflated.  I now have rules about how much Brian can share about his day with me (no hand motions to describe procedures (only words), and I do not look into ANY eyes as he's talking about it).  I have rules about the presence of balloons in my house (ONLY on birthdays and NEVER in the car).  And I have rules about when I will and will not enter into the ocean.  My family and I laugh at the irrationality of these fears (mostly my family), but the laughter doesn't seem to curb their intensity either.

In addition to these silly and rather irrational fears, I have one very real and rational fear.  One that I don't laugh about (ever), sometimes cry about when I even think about it, and can actually remember the exact moment it hit my heart and latched itself there like a leech.  It was early spring.  I had just gotten engaged and heard a terrible story of a newlywed couple who, on their way on their honeymoon, got in a car accident which killed the groom.  (Why do people even share these stories?)  That was it.  A new fear had been born because I all the sudden had someone in my life that I loved in a whole new way and that I simply couldn't imagine living without.  And with each passing anniversary, each new child, each rocky path conquered, that fear of losing this man I love has only grown because now he's that person in my life that I love even more. And more. And more.

We have had a few kind notes and phone calls this past month from friends and family who are remembering the events of last Christmas.  Their messages are so appreciated and all have the same wonderful tone: thinking of you, and so happy you are all healthy together this Christmas season.  Of course, I've been reflecting about the last year because, that's what I do, and one memory keeps working its way to the front of my mind.  It was Christmas Eve, and the day had been so very emotional. After tucking the children into bed and leaving them in the care of Grandma and Grandpa, I drove to the hospital with a suitcase full of presents to set up in the hospital room.  (I must have looked terrible because more than one group of people stopped and asked if I was alright. No, I wanted to say.  My 32 year old husband had a severe heart attack a couple of days ago, I'm 7 months pregnant, and I have three small children at home, so... I'm scared... and I don't know what my future looks like. But of course I just smiled and nodded.  They smiled back and we shared a silent understanding.  You're here on Christmas Eve, too...)  I walked into Brian's room, so happy he'd been moved from the ICU that morning, and tried quite unsuccessfully to hide my emotional face.  I felt it so important to not worry him with my own feelings quite yet because I wanted him to focus on himself, so I explained them away by simply saying that I felt a bit overwhelmed.  I tried to set Christmas up quickly but, being the perfectionist that I am, I ended up staying too long and felt supremely guilty when Brian admitted that my preparations were stressing him out.  I left the rest 'undone', kissed him, and tearfully made my way to the door to leave him alone to rest.  As I opened the door I heard him say, "Oh, Linds," his tone was gentle and sounded as if he'd just realized something important. "I'm so sorry." I looked back at him, laying in that hospital bed and he continued, emphasizing each word, "This is your biggest fear."

I waved my hand to dismiss it, again, not wanting him to worry for me just yet.  "I'm fine, dear," I said.  Though, I most certainly was not and I'm sure my tears blew my cover.  "Get some sleep and I'll see you in the morning.  I love you."

Of course, I'm lucky that I didn't actually have to live through my biggest fear last Christmas.  But boy did I have to stare that ugly thing down face to face.  It came much too close.  Close enough to touch, to smell, to taste and, worst of all, to feel.

But, now I see that an unexpected thing has happened. 

Unlike my fears of eyeballs, balloons and sharks that intensify when faced, facing the fear of losing Brian has interestingly diminished it.  To be clear, it is still my biggest fear, and I pray every single morning that the Lord will protect him and keep him safe because that is certainly a trial I never want to live through.  But.  I'm not so afraid of it as I once was.  And it's because, through those indescribable hours where I wasn't sure he would ever be coming home with me again, I dug to the root of myself and somehow knew that I would be okay.  Call it faith or madness, but it is perhaps the most empowering feeling I've ever felt... the feeling of knowing that, even if my biggest fear happened... I would be okay. 

Maybe that's what the Lord wanted to teach me through all of this.  To have faith in myself.  To have faith in Him and to know that I could get through anything... anything... with His help.  How blessed I feel that the Lord could teach me that lesson without making me live through the real thing.

Oh gosh.  How blessed I feel in that.

 Sometimes the rest of the picture is just so great that your poo-face just has to take one for the team.

This past year has been shoved full of so many experiences and memories that, because of our humble feelings of mortality, have been absolutely cherished.  We have lived this year and I have a folder bursting full of pictures to show it.  Of course, we have struggled and cried and wrestled and woken up exhausted just as much or more than other years because, evidently that's just life, but we have also laughed and loved and played and dreamed. We've hugged more and listened more and navigated through our disagreements with more love.  Brian and I are having very different experiences this year - me living a sort of dream, and him living a sort of nightmare - and for all the friction that could cause in our lives, we've still managed to respect each others feelings, to stick together and to feel part of the same team through it all. 

He is such a good man, guys.  And I am one lucky lady.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Don't Judge the Bird

I watched the seabird struggle against the wind.  His wings flap, flap, flapped and I could see from below the backwards progress he was making.  He was tilting from side to side and then in a moment of decision, folded his wings into his body and dove - beak first - into the choppy waters below.  He came up empty handed and the wind blew him back over the sand and the dunes.  His flight became more staggered and his elevation dropped and rose and dropped and rose as if he were being jerked around by a cruel and invisible puppeteer.  That is the most ungraceful bird I have ever seen I thought to myself.  His brothers in the air were able to maintain their level of grace and composure despite the high winds... what a funny bird.

He seemed so unsure of himself, so confused at how to use his wings that he kept my attention.  And then, just like that, I was surprised to see him open broadly his magnificent wings and use the winds to soar beautifully, gracefully, majestically through the air directly above my head.  As he passed above, I saw what had been hidden to me from the distance.  He hadn't come up empty handed after all; a giant, floppy fish hung from his tight talons.  A bigger fish than I'd ever seen a bird that size carry.  And as I watched him soar gracefully down the beach to find a place to feed, I realized that he had never been ungraceful.  He had been struggling.  With the fish.

This was interesting to me.  You know, I thought sadly, I wonder how often I've done that to other people.  It seems to me like we're all wrestling in mid-air with sometimes invisible-to-others issues that could make us appear ungraceful, or curt, or unfeeling, or snooty, or fillintheblank.  A problematic car with no money or time to fix it might make me prone to snap at my kids.  A friendship that is falling apart might cause me to appear distant to my husband.  A child who is struggling in school might make me unwilling to help a friend (okay, confession: all of those things have happened).  But most of us are good people who care about others, and who are trying the best we can.  And, thankfully, we all have moments when we soar through life majestically, too.  This bird made me resolve to look deeper, as I continue on through life and its ever changing making-friends-and-keeping-them cycles, and try to be the kind of friend who will look at another with understanding and compassion.  The kind of friend that will be more careful about not letting an impression hide the truth.

Because, as I learned today, someone who might seem ungraceful might actually be very graceful, but struggling instead.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Defying Gravity

The fun thing about school this year is that I get to teach whatever I want for science.  For example, I could take a whole month and teach my kids about the science of glass blowing if I wanted.  But I don't.  We chose space instead.  Nothing warms a homeschooling mama's heart more than seeing her children dress up like Neil Armstrong and crew during their free play.

After we finished our unit, we pulled out the butcher paper, glitter, glue and markers and went to town drawing whatever we could think of.  We thought up a lot of spacy stuff.

And then, coincidence!  We happen to live kinda close to the Kennedy Space Center, so... field trip!

These kids are nerds.  They loved everything about the museum and ran from one exhibit to the next shouting, "Hey!  I know about this!  That's ...."  They sounded so smart they must have a really awesome teacher this year.

This was also the first time I decided to leave the big camera at home and just rely on my little camera phone to capture the memories.  She did a great job and I've grown fond of her since.

Some of our favorite things from the day included the Atlantis Exhibit, the Angry Birds Exhibit (which really had not-so-much to do with space, but had so many ipads and games that the kids could hardly be torn away) and, of course for Carson, food.

The kids even got to meet a real astronaut.  Though, Miles hid behind the safety of Daddy's leg the whole time.  Astronauts are scary.

We learned a bunch more about space.  And entered into massive giggling fits when we read through this exhibit.

Let's just say that there are cameras involved inside the toilet bowl so the astronauts can make sure everything is aligned properly before letting loose.  No one wants poor aim when there's no gravity... I think I want one for my boys.

Everyone was exhausted by the end of the day which, in my opinion, is pretty great.

 And after the day, who knows?  Maybe we'll have an astronaut in the family someday. (But they'll have to work on their aim first.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sandy or Snowy... Christmas feels like Christmas

I grew up with snowy Christmases.  And still, nothing feels quite as cozy to me as sitting inside a warm house on a comfy couch, dressed in a sweater, wrapped in a favorite fuzzy blanket, and sipping hot cocoa as the snow falls outside.

It doesn't seem like that is going to happen this year.

I'm a rather sentimental soul, so I wondered how I would react to Christmastime when the temperatures stayed in the shorts-and-swimmingsuit numbers.  Especially after I felt Halloween was an imposter plugging itself right into the middle of my summer.

Turns out the spirit of Christmas doesn't really care if it's sandy or snowy.

I love Jesus Christ.  Really, I do.  And the warm testimony I have of him, and the intense gratefulness I have for what he has done for me is, of course, always kindled during Christmastime.  This year almost feels more intense because I'm surrounded by what are, in my opinion, some of the crowning masterpieces of his creations.  

Waves, clouds, filtered sunlight, breezes, salty air, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, the warm blanket of humidity... all these things are wrapping me in the warmth of this season and touching my heart in that cozy way hot cocoa, sweaters and snow have done in the past. 

It also helps that we have a few tried and true traditions that make it feel familiar.  Christmas music sounds the same no matter where it's played, and the decorated Christmas tree looks the same no matter where it stands.  Also, this group...

Even though we do miss so many wonderful people, I have a feeling this year will go down as one of the best.

And hopefully we'll get enough Christmas cards to fill up our door and make it seem like we're not *quite* so lonely.

Merry Christmas, friends.