Monday, August 08, 2016

Transition....New Chapters....Denial

It has been a while since I have written here.  Not because I don't have anything to say...far from it.  In my dashboard are multiple drafts of our life events that never get published...I don't even have a good reason why.

But here we are...August 2016.  Michael returned home from his mission just a couple months ago.  Neil graduated a few weeks before that.

Now in a few days they will start heading off to college.  These two boys.  I am not ready.  Let me write that again, I am not ready.

I am excited for them but my mama heart breaks as I think about them being away from me.  Sleeping under a different roof.  Why did time have to go so fast?  Kevin and I have raised them the best way we knew how.  They are great young men.  They have, this far in life, made good decisions.  I know this is how life goes but I just am not ready.

It won't matter if I'm ready, they are embarking on this new journey.  I thought it would be easier having them head off to college considering I have already sent one boy off for two years.  But having Michael come home and fall back perfectly into the fold of our family has gotten me too comfortable.

Why is this so hard?  Why is it making me cry and have that deep ache in my chest to see my boys start the next phase of their lives?

As I laid sobbing in bed, enfolded in Kevin's arms last week, he reminded me that Heavenly Father knows how I feel.  After all, He has sent His children away to learn and to grow.   That thought does bring me comfort and also strengthens me.

Remember friends, time goes by so fast.  One minute they are tiny babies and the next they are grown men.  Cherish the moments.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Wrestling is Family

Life is built with circumstances beyond our control.  Sometimes they are great and sometimes they just suck.  This was supposed to be Neil's year.  His senior year.  He had goals.  First, he decided he would play football.  His goals were to:  1.  Get noticed.  2.  Make first string Varsity.  3.  Get 75+ tackles.  He smashed those goals.  He also was voted Best defensive lineman and best defensive player by his peers.

He wanted to carry that momentum into his wrestling season.  He had goals there too.  The main one was to get on the medal stand at state.  He worked hard in the wrestling room.  Pushing through pain, illness, mental fatigue.  He coached kids club, he worked hard in his studies to keep his grades up.  He worked hard.  It seemed that after years of being plagued with mental weakness and injuries things would turn around this year.  He was wrestling solid, staying focused.  Even through losses, he learned, regrouped and moved forward.

Going into Ozark Conference, the first time since his freshman year, he was ready.  Didn't get the full results at the tournament he wanted but he still stayed focused on the steps needed to reach his goal.  He was ready for districts, the qualifying tournament that would get him to state.   Faltering a bit in one of his matches Friday night, he fell to the backside of his bracket.  Meaning he would have to fight his way back to reach his goal on Saturday.  He was ready, he was focused.  He fought through his first match.  Fought through his second match, wrestling solid.  He was one step closer.  Three seconds left and Neil in the lead when suddenly he goes down, his opponent jumps off of him and Neil screams in pain.  Three seconds left, Neil winning.  A knee injury.  It's all over for the season and there ends the chapter of his high school wrestling career.

Heartbreak....disbelief...why?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why couldn't he just reach this one goal?  Why did it slip through his fingertips?

As we were standing inside the treatment room with Neil and the athletic trainer, one of the coaches said he thought we were more upset than Neil.  I've pondered that statement for the past 24 hours.  Yes, we were upset.  But we haven't spent the past few years living our dreams through our kids, this wasn't about us.  They have their dreams, their goals and we support them...financially and emotionally.  It broke my heart to watch his dream shatter.

Then I saw this..
Neil's dad carrying him down the stairs after the tournament was over.  And I realized that wrestling has been so much more for Neil and our family than medals and what happens on the mat.  Don't get me wrong, those things matter but the bigger picture is so much grander than anything you can see.  Nearly every coach from all the other teams came and spoke to Neil after his match.  They were sincere in their words of encouragement.  So many wrestlers from different teams came and sat with him and talked to him, offering him support, encouragement and prayers.  His coaches, teammates and their families are a wealth of support and love to all of us.  That...that is what matters the most.  Wrestling is family.  One big, extended family that pulls together when the chips are down.  What a testament to who Neil has become as a result of wrestling.  His wrestling family carried him when he was down, emotionally and physically.  Wrestling is family.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not Just a Bracelet...

A couple weeks ago I was at the lab in our local Military hospital when the young Soldier drawing my blood asked me about my bracelet.  He mentioned that he had seen quite a few people who wore them, mostly Soldiers, and he wondered what they were.  I looked at his young face and smiled and proceeded to tell them what the black bands were all about and then went on to tell him about the two Soldiers for whom my bracelet honored.  As he withdrew the needle and bandaged my arm, he put his hand on my arm and thanked me for sharing.  I looked at him and thanked him for asking.

Everyone wears the bracelet for different reasons.  9 years ago I made a promise to honor these men.  I promised to never forget.  The bracelet is a reminder to me of that promise.  Some people don't need the bracelet and I hope that even if I wasn't wearing the bracelet that I would still be doing my best to honor these men. 

It's weird to think that it's been 9 years since these men were called to Heaven.  I've had people ask me if I am ever going to stop wearing the bracelet.  I don't know.  Whether is 9 years or 49 years, I plan on doing all I can to never forget these men and the many others who were called home sooner than anyone anticipated. 

A couple months ago, Kevin's bracelet broke.  He has worn that bracelet for almost 9 years.  Slipping it on his wrist a few weeks after Bryant and Jose were called home.  I can count on one hand how many times he has taken it off and only out of necessity.  When he slipped it off after it broke, my heart ached when I looked at his face.  This bracelet was important to him.  I anticipated this moment and 9 years ago I had set aside an extra bracelet for him.  It's not just a bracelet to him.

I can't pretend to understand what the Herlem or Gomez family are going through on this day and I don't want to nor do I want to take anything away from them.  I'm simply sharing how important these men are to us and our promise to honor them the best way we know how. 

We live our life serving Soldiers, we try to honor both the living and the dead.  We wear a black band on our wrist...

It's not just a's a legacy.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day, But for Us, That's Everyday

"There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do." Temple Grandin 

We have always told Neil he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. We have encouraged him and at times even pushed a little. Our goal for him was to live beyond being a label. The journey hasn't always been easy, in fact there have been days where I wondered if we could endure. There are victories and there are challenges and above all of that, there are blessings. 

I hear all the time that people never knew that Neil was on the spectrum. For a long time I didn't really talk about it, not because I was ashamed but because I didn't want him boxed into a label. We worked hard so his potential wouldn't be limited by a stereotype. We've been blessed with educators, counselors and coaches who believed in him enough to push him beyond the shell he lived in for so long. 

Not too many years ago I feared for what kind of life he would have. Today I find comfort in knowing that he is a friend, an athlete, a leader, a coach, a mentor and an amazing son and brother. He is more than a label and a diagnosis. He is my Neil and I'm grateful for all that he teaches me.

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day, but for us, that's everyday. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

I'm Okay With My Son Losing

We just finished up our last weekend of folkstyle state for kid's club.  It's the last one for our family as Daniel will head off to high school next year.  I can't even believe I just typed that!  Daniel did not reach his goal to be on the medal stand but it wasn't for lack of effort!  Saturday was a devastating day.  Daniel went out in his first match and won by pin.  He went to his second match and fought hard pushing the match into overtime and just falling short of the win.  He went out and won his 3rd match and he fought hard in his fourth but again went into overtime and just fell short.  I could have cried...I might have cried, I honestly don't know.  Daniel was devastated. 

I pondered all night and even yesterday and this is what I came to.  I'm okay with my son losing.  I mean as a parent, we need to teach our kids that it's okay to lose.  Losing stinks and it hurts but it can make kids have tremendous growth if you let it.  Daniel made the decision to stay for the rest of the tournament to support his teammates and friends.  I know how I felt watching everyone else, I can't imagine what it was like for him but he was amazing.  He cheered his friends on.  He hung around with other wrestlers from other teams and he turned a hard situation into a fun one.  It wasn't until medals were being awarded that he broke down.  He sat next to me in the stands, put his head in his lap and cried.  There was nothing I could say to make him feel better.  A friend sat next to him and talked to him, hugged him and made him feel better.

As terrible as that was, I am still okay with my son losing and this is why.  Through all of that, Daniel held his head up high.  After his loss that knocked him out of the running for a medal, he stood up, walked to the center of the mat, shook his opponents hand and even hugged him.  Yesterday as I watched the medal rounds, I saw kids and coaches screaming, throwing headgear and having tantrums when things didn't go their way.  I sat in front of a woman who complained to anyone who would listen using vulgar language for over 2 hours about her son's loss.  She even threatened to beat the other kid if he looked at her.  The kid is 7.  When her son sat next to her, she just told him over and over that he was the true winner.

Wrestling isn't always fair, I will say that.  You have one man as a referee who doesn't always see what we see or share the same opinion as we do as to what should be points or what shouldn't be.  It's frustrating.  Guess what?  Life's not fair either.  Sometimes things aren't what we think they should be in wrestling or life.  We need to teach our kids that just because their best efforts don't give us the results we want doesn't mean that they failed.  We need to encourage without taking away from others.  Why must we step on others to bring ourselves up and why are we teaching that to our kids?  Yes, it is frustrating when it seems that someone has an easier journey but we just have to take away that perhaps we have something to learn from our own path.  I was so proud of Daniel's actions on the mat and off the mat.  He was a good friend and good teammate.  I definitely learned from his example over the past couple days.
A smile during a tournament earlier in the season

He didn't step on others to make himself feel better.  If losing made him a better person than I am all for it.  This is but a moment in his life, he will look back at this and use it as motivation for the coming years as he continues his wrestling career.  Even if he never stepped on the mat again, I will forever be grateful for all that he has learned from this sport.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I'm Grateful for Perspective

November brings messages of Thanksgiving and plenty of food.  Yesterday when I woke up and pondered on what the day would bring, I was surprised that I wasn't feeling depressed that Michael wasn't here to celebrate the holiday.  I reflected on that for a moment and wondered how I could have such peace when in the past during separation from anyone in our family, I have felt extreme sadness.  What I realized quickly was that my heart had a deep understanding that Michael is exactly where he should be doing what the Lord wants him to be doing.  The slap in the face for me came when I realized that I should have felt that way during all of Kevin's deployments as well.  I say I know that the Lord has a plan for us but my fear and worry in those cases contradicts that.  I should have prayed for peace and understanding that Kevin was also on the Lord's errand, it just looked different than Michael's.

So many other missionary moms talk about their sadness and pain and I started to wonder if I was the weird one because I wasn't overcome with those emotions.  I fully expected to be as Michael prepared to go on his mission.  I mean, let's be serious, I am the mom that stresses when the kids drive themselves to school.  I almost had a heart attack a couple days ago when Neil drove to work out and it started snowing while he was gone.  What's interesting is that I don't have that anxiety when it comes to Michael being in a completely foreign county. 

Michael is on the Lord's errand and He is the one in control.  I can't be sad that Michael has been obedient and willing to do as his Heavenly Father has asked.  I need to be obedient and not live my life with fear and worry.  I need to exercise my faith that all will be well. Who better to watch over Him than his Father in Heaven?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Boys of Fall 2014 - Daniel

 Daniel had a great season.  He was a tackling machine!  He was frustrated that he was on "B" team but eventually just focused on going out there and doing his best.  He was happy just hitting people.  I am constantly amazed that my little boy is so athletic.  When he first started playing he was so awkward and now he is a force to be reckoned with.  I love the games where they announced names of those making tackles...#29 is a beast!!!