Thursday, January 16, 2014

a cup named grace...

it all started with a little too much noise & a misunderstanding.  a boisterous starbucks & a barista asking my name.  i said chris.  she heard grace.  and it feels so very right.  who doesn't need a cup named grace?

in this season of pjm+sick, i have been overwhelmed not by just the HUGE decisions like where to safely place him but also the littles including reordering checks with or without his name {i know, many of you are saying "debit card"...hello 21 century-but the delivery pharmacy for pjm & my bug guy-they need checks still}.  so a cup, or even a few drops, of grace randomly sprinkled about my day remind me that God is here in the middle of this mess.  and that He loves me and my precious family and my broken husband.

hebrews 4:16 says that we can approach our God of grace with confidence knowing we will find beauty and mercy in our times of need.  and yes, i know at the end of me {and pjm} there will be this beautiful presence of being with Him...but today-yesterday-8.3 months ago, i lose all focus of Him.  the complications of wearing many hats exhausts me...tending to sweet browns & that new common core math while balancing visits with pjm and attempting to keep a pulse on our businesses, are nothing less than taxing.  i do not deny having help from family & a very competent CPA but in the dark of night and some days even in the bright of the noonday sun, it is overwhelming & intimidating.

and that's where a cup named grace can be found...somewhere between the hope of yesterday and the mercies of tomorrow, He is ever-present in my today of messy.

dear God.
i want to say i am so unsure of how i made it a year,
but then when i search the very depths of my soul, i find Your grace.
thank you for a year of tender mercies when life was beyond crazy.
thank you for children that kept their focus & loved our family more than themselves.
thank you for friends that held space to allow me to grieve his presence, yet the loss of pjm.
for girlfriend dates-surprise parties-vacations in mexico to embrace family.
and for that barista & a misunderstanding.
but most of all, for a cup named grace that is new every morning.
grace aka chris

Monday, January 6, 2014

resolve for the new year

while chatting with a friend the other day, new year's resolutions came up.  we are all searching for that habit to either abandon or embrace as we hang the new calendar.  once i didn't each chips or fries for an entire year...including tortilla chips and i love me some chips & guacamole.  another year i worked out 201 of 365 days...more than half was my goal.  but, those are the only two i have made and kept.  and since i am not four, my ability to make a pledge and stick to it for an entire year is a fraction away from impossible.

i was explaining to her that yes, this year i did have a resolution but of a different nature.  not one that will test my willpower or brute strength or even determination.  instead, one of nourishment-of me-of my soul.  i have spent the majority of the past 11 years caring for the hearts and needs of my family.  first for sweet brown eyes and then when he was in kindergarten, i began to detect subtle changes in pjm's memory & behavior which lead us to this season.  in the midst of all of the parenting and care-giving, i had little time to think about what i needed.  when there were quiet moments, often i was exhausted and would drone out on tv & internet or catch up on a few moments of sleep.  so the focus this year is to nourish me...which sounds entirely selfish as i peck my way around the keyboard.  but truly, that's my cherish & strengthen-to give me what i need to grow and live and feel alive again.

in the quiet of my mind, i wondered what exactly that looked like.  i bask in calculating plans and challenges for myself in month-long increments.  i formulate rules and rigid timelines i must adhere to...some i tackled last year were journaling a pray every day, donating to a cause each day of the month instead of shopping, and of course there was carb-free february.  what i realize is i operate best when there are rules in place, yet the regiment becomes my god.  however, my intentions were to draw closer to God thru abstinence.

example: i love internet shopping.  genus idea.
ruben, who drives a brown truck, delivers boxes to my front door.
i retreat to the privacy of my bathroom, equipped with a full length mirror & soft lighting, unlike the cramped fluorescent dressing rooms.
i try on a variety of outfits with all my own accessories & proper undergarments.
winners are hung in the closet.  losers are packaged back up & brown, truck-driving ruben whisks them back to where they came.

but for 30 days, i decided no amazon-nordstrom-zappos.  instead it was the watoto childrens choir.  the alzheimers association.  temecula-murrieta rescue mission.  but my heart had not changed from this shopping hiatus.  i did not draw closer to God during this time, i just filled my time shopping for charities instead of clothing & accessories. my motives & efforts were valiant but the finished product was the same.

2014 will be about nourishment & gentleness.  eating & drinking that i which love-i am fortunate weight is not an issue, so i will savor crusty french bread and indulge in creme brûlée.  cherishing time alone & seeking peace for weary soul while leaving holes in the calendar for breathing room.  sustaining those peaceful friendships that bolstered me during this season.  filling my days with activities i hold dear like sewing, running, reading, homemaking; while incorporating others i have been afraid to attempt. what it isn't is a written game plan of intense guidelines i then use to evaluate personal performance because this cycle too often leaves me feeling substandard.

while readying myself for bed later that night, i saw what i hope 2014 holds for me...

wash inside out...that was 2013.  all of my insides were exposed for all to see & it wasn't pretty.  

dear target t-shirt.
my mantra was tucked inside you so nicely.
gentle cycle.  tumble dry low.  iron only if needed.
treat me with care.  don't over dry me.  apply intense heat only if essential.
proper care will make that $14.99  pullover last
and it will nourish my soul as well.
target consumer
p.s.  i purchased you with my red card on dec. 2nd...hope that 5% doesn't haunt me with that breach in security.

dear 2014.
i'm seeking the gentle cycle this year.
a year of  tumbling on low, leaving the soul withering heat of 2013 behind.
and when a hot spell of life begins to dry this soul, retreat promptly.
and allow the cool of God's living water to wash my parched soul.
happy about a new beginning

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 runs the gamut...

dear 2013,
you ran the gamut this past 365 days.
you showed us grace and devastation.
you handed us the grandest challenge to date as a family,
yet you surrounded us by loved ones that shouldered the heaviness of the load.
it is tempting to focus on the deepness of the loss,
yet learning to wade through the sad has taught me to bask in the simplest of joys.
it has taught me to be more alive-
setting aside the comfort of watching life happen around me & actively participating in daily adventures
laughing-crying-loving-living with wild abandon.
2013, i truly don't want another year like you,
but i am thankful for the hard lessons you have taught.

dear pjm.
i did it...almost.
mid-january marks one year of this chapter.
you continue to press me to do hard things,
but you have taught me i am strong in conviction & honor.
you have given me a voice i never knew i had.
  miss you, handsome.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

an anniversary.

27 years ago yesterday pjm and i were married.  our wedding anniversary.  our oldest wrote a most touching post about avahah love and her reflection on our marriage.  made me tear up and miss "that" pjm, not this sick one.

i wondered how to practically face the day & i did something very out of character for me.  i did what i wanted and did not go visit him. fridays are typically a visiting day.  yes, i there is some guilt but also tending to my heart felt more important, and facing the sad and ugly of dementia was too much.  i chatted on the phone about the funnies of life with his daughter in florida, went for a manicure and had my nails painted light rosy pink like i wore on our wedding day, pulled some weeds in the garden {yes, after the manicure}, ran with the boys to target to purchase sweet brown eyes a "dress outfit" and we attached the net to the trampoline santa did not have time to install during his late night visit on Christmas eve.  the night was finished off with homemade turkey noodle soup in spite of the 80 degree weather and a dirty martini with 3 olives.  that's how he liked them.

and i made it through the day just fine.  a few tears, yes, but last year on our anniversary i was touring facilities. places to call home for pjm.  and the rest of that day is a blur.  i don't know what we did for dinner or if there was any "celebration" to speak of.  being a year from those hard decisions gives a sense of accomplishment. remembering, we can do hard things together as a family & survive.

and tonight we will celebrate as a family.  pjm loved the theater.  i know, who would think a rough, nail driving construction man would love musicals, but he did.  i think all of the costumes, music and dance made him feel alive and part of the performance.  so i am dressing up sweet brown eyes {he only wears athletic clothes & owns only track pants}, loading up the rest of the family and we are off to hollywood to see the lion king.  promise to post pics on instagram!

dear pjm.
happy day after #27.
wishing we could have celebrate over dinner & martinis.
but i am also thankful i know right where you are 
and not driving around town like a loon in search of your wandering ass.
miss your big-bold-strong presence in my daily life,
but those warm memories of our adventurous marriage are aplenty.
thanks for asking my to be your wife on our way to mammoth so long ago.
and you continue to teach me & our children how marriage and family
 are about giving-determination-dedication.
hakuna matata my love.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

he's a mean grinch!

merry Christmas eve!  sending a holiday high five to one & all.

so i can breathe.  some days not deep cleansing breaths, more like short gasps of just a few molecules of oxygen but air pressed in and out of my lungs reminding me i am alive and that life continues on.  a year ago, the reality of dementia dealt our family a mighty blow as pjm's wandering became his obsession.  morning-noon-night.  he desired to walked our local streets.  and me, his wife, but more importantly during this time my role was his caregiver and i became obsessed as well.  my preoccupation  was tracking his whereabouts.  this crazy disease had stolen his ability to recall his personal information and his fumbly fingers were confused about how to dial his cell phone.  last christmas eve morning is was sprinkling and pjm was no where to be found.  i was frantically searching for him while attempting to find a calm within my family.  but this disease had broken us-all of us.  pjm's mind and our peace as a family.  ams bravely spoke the words we all did not want to give life to...this cannot be done anymore. he is not safe. we are not at peace. it is time to past the care-giving reins on to professionals trained to deal with this disease.

and here we sit a year later.  with Christmas and all it's messiness of last year coupled with the unknowns and life here at home without pjm has the potential to ransack my heart of the joy of celebrating Christ's birth.  just like mr. grinch loading up every ounce of Christmas in who-ville in a well orchestrated attempt to divert Christmas cheer, i contemplate how this "mama who" finds joy in the middle of dementia?  i can place my sorry self atop of a grumpy mountain and look down at all who appear to have more blessings than me this holiday season or i can step down from my self-righteous lonely mount and join all the "whos".  and those "whos" know how to celebrate-not even martha stewart can compete with their wild abandon of Christmas food & festivities & ornamentation.

and in who-ville on Christmas morning when all that was supposed to sing Christmas was gone, they gathered around, holding hands and sang with Christmas joy in spite of all that had been stolen that Christmas eve night.  and this season, this "mama who" holds hands & hearts with my sweet "who" family as we gather around our Christmas embracing each other a little tighter to fill the gap "pjm who" has left behind.

dear mr. grinch.
you are a mean one, trying to steal all that Christmas joy.
i am blessed by your example.
i can chose to sit with my mangy dog.  alone. atop of my heap of pity.
or i can embrace the "who" season and sing arm-in-arm with my family.
glad your heart grew three times that day
and you carved the roast beast.
wishing you a merry Christmas-
chrissy "lou who"

dear "who" family near & far,
merry Christmas dear ones.
 people are watching and listening just like that little cindy lou who.
our lives always speak of our faith-and we have spoken well this year.
let's squeeze our hearts around Christmas
and encourage each other to live his and His legacy.
tight hugs & warm kisses-
mama-chris "who"

dear God.
your son.  his birth.
it is not about the gifts we give each other in honor of Jesus.
but about the gift You give us.
thanks for transforming hearts-mr. grinch's & mine.
me who needs you

Thursday, December 12, 2013

confessions of a 50 year old...

this morning i turned 50.  4:14 AM. before the sun met the horizon, i added another candle to my cake.

a few confessions about life & me.

1.  50 sounds old.  i don't feel old.  when i look in the mirror there is definitely evidence of maturity on my face-in my hair-hugging my thighs, so perhaps this is what 50 looks & feels like.

2.  i took my yoga pants to yoga for the first time yesterday {accompanied by our oldest son-he was a sport}. flexibility is a metaphor for my life.  learning to bend & stretch in ways i didn't think were possible.  holding the tension while remaining steady. breathing deep while time passes & relaxing muscles i was unaware existed.  remaining quiet & calm when the world around me is chanting.  me & my pants, we'll go back.

3.  my parents divorced when i was 18 months old.  my dad was absent from my life all my growing years.  he called me when i was 28.  he was arrogant.  i was not charmed.  he wanted to meet his "little darling".  i refused.  a few years later, he died.  i have never regretted not meeting him.  those reality shows are not everyone's reality.

4.  i lived with pjm before we were married.  yes, like in the "sin" kind of way.  for a long time i felt guilty about that.  with all of his sick, and life & marriage cut short, i am thankful for those extra 11 months we had living our daily lives together.

5.  my mom was a champ at raising us girls on her own, but the kitchen was her battlefield.  hot dogs, bean burritos, frozen fried chicken, fish sticks and mac & cheese were her culinary specialties.  i taught myself how to cook.  i love being in the kitchen and creating.  hosting and serving.  baking and sharing.  and my children share in the joy of the kitchen.

6.  sweet brown eyes was named jeremiah by his birth mom.  in the bible, jeremiah is a prophet, speaking out for God and guiding people to Him.  sweet brown eyes' presence in my life as my son speaks directly into my heart, guiding me to focus on God in the middle of circumstances i have tried to pray away.

7.  i swear.  there is nothing feminine or attractive about it, but i swear anyway.  i keep it "clean" in front of sweet brown eyes, but letting those words roll off my tongue just feels delightful sometimes.  and somedays in the very dark honesty of my heart, fucked feels like the best one work answer to describe all of that sick & loss.

8.  i struggle with God.  i have grown closer to him over these past few years, but i wrestle with wanting to ask why, and expecting prayers to be answered on my timeline and with specific outcomes. and yes, i am so very blessed but that does not make the burden of dementia feel less heavy.  and yes, i have an inner strength beyond what i thought was possible, but i long for my old life with pjm when the load was upon his shoulders, not mine.

and what's your confession?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

my trouble with social media...

sitting in the warmth of my car on the sidelines of a soccer field in the drizzle while sweet brown eyes muddies his new neon cleats, i check emails, instagram and good old facebook.  i have this love-hate relationship with facebook. i am like an addict with two days of clean under her belt, but then in quiet aloneness i misstep and checkout the happenings of my "friends".  and i roll across a friend's status about the challenges of Christmas-all the stress and no joy.  my very first reaction was to comment {publicly} that she has a bounty of joys...including a healthy husband. but that's being a cyber bitch-never attractive. my second thought was to do the old "defriend" thing, but then i remembered i was almost 50, not 15 and this isn't high school.  but i couldn't let the thoughts about all of this go, so i slept on it and here is what i have concluded.

1.  social media allows us to stay connected with one another.  but, it also is this weird arena where snippets of our lives are broadcasted without the backdrop of a few hours ago or the landscape of two days from now.  i have no idea what path she was on yesterday but i stood in judgement.  ugly judgement.  

2.  joy is a choice.  at Christmas and the rest of the year.  it takes effort, work and a lowering of expectations.  i have to intentionally find the blessings in this season of Christmas & rework those areas where the stress & sad want to swallow my joy.  and perfect is never going to happen...ever.  the less i expect from myself & others, the more joy i can unearth because i haven't chosen this unrealistic "hallmark card" to measure up to for the next 20 something days.

3.  letting go of traditions is permitted when they aren't working anymore.  i have been at war mentally over our annual Christmas cards this year.  i hand-make 106 photo Christmas cards every year...for the last 25 years.  i love doing it and selecting the perfect professionally pic of our family.  it isn't happening this year.  if i were going to create a Christmas card that depicted our family this year, it would probably be a blurred shot of all of five of us scrambling eight different directions duct taped to a recycled postcard for a discounted oil change.  no one on my Christmas card list wants our hot-mess family photo, so this year i am placing the crafty card thing on the shelf & will revisit it again next year.  and my heart is comfortable with that.

dear social media.
you are a mysterious beast.
i am driven to check-in too often.
your bits & pieces give me a few words out of someone's complicated book of life.
i draw faulty conclusions & unfavorable judgments.  
undisciplined member

dear friend in holiday struggle.
sorry you are feeling the stress and not the joy.
glad i didn't blast you with a nasty comment.
prayers you can stop-reflect on the "haves" more than the "haven'ts" of Christmas.
sorry of the ugly judge.
wishing you genuine peace & joy.
old friend

dear God.
you-Jesus made it simple.
not easy, but a life of simple.
why do we make it so complicated, especially during Christmas?  
the card & all of the other expectations
  of the season are from me, not You.
i must actively keeping my "eye on the prize" this Christmas-YOU!
my peace comes from knowing You have planned my life,
and will be with me {and pjm} always.
celebrator of your Son.