Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Being Kinder Than Required



I've been home from California and my dad's memorial for 2 weeks now. A big take away for me, and I think for my brother, too, is wanting to be peacemakers. I don't feel like that's always been a part of what I learned about dealing with people. I learned to be right, to communicate my right-ness clearly, and to defend myself. But yet I just can't seem to find a time that the Bible instructs us to dig our heels in and fight like that. It does say, "Blessed are the peacemakers..." (Matthew 5:9). As I learned more and more about my dad I felt like he learned how to be a peacemaker. To accept judgement and criticism gracefully and to be one who said "I'm sorry" first. Learning that about him makes me want to be that way. I think that's a pretty awesome character quality and one worth being passed down to my brother and me. To learn to show grace always, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and really just don't put your nose and judgement in other people's business. I also find it interesting (aka, SAD) that often the harshest judgement we face is among our church or Christian friends. There is a pretty big difference between discernment and healthy accountability and just plain being judge-y and making your point heard just because you can.

What is the personal cost of just giving grace? Does it physically hurt us to just say, "man, that sounds like a super sucky day. I'm sorry you're going through this!"? NO, it doesn't have a cost at all to be kind. Why feel the need to push our opinions on why someone is having the bad day they are or be the one who thinks we can 'fix it' for that person? I mean, don't we all really just hate that? We know how to avoid rush hour or how to do the self checkout or which stores to avoid on certain days or blah blah blah. You know when someone posts on Facebook, "Geez, I can't stand Walmart. I've been in line 45 minutes!!!" And inevitably 5 people offer solutions of where and when to shop so that the person will not run into any issues. I would venture to say the most helpful responses are just, "I hate that, too! So sorry you're in that spot!"

So the question is maybe, would we rather big RIGHT than just be a friend???? I think women especially already know the answers, we just want to be validated. To be heard. We know if we're over reacting or being ridiculous...we don't need 'fixers' to point it out for us. 

The judgmental outlook tends to spread to bigger things. How soon you get married, what your marriage looks like, if/when/how you have kids, how you spend your money/debt, where your kids go to school, what you wear...Geez. I mean yeah, I've been there, too! I remember several times when things were beyond rough financially. Usually due to lots of court dates and Craig's ex thinking she was entitled to all our money. One particular time I was standing in the grocery store line and there was a 17 year old VERY pregnant girl in front of me buying junk food with food stamps. There I was, mid 20's, working full time, unable to get pregnant, buying vegetables, and not sure how to pay the car payment that month. It was a really frustrating moment and I didn't think graceful or loving thoughts about my situation vs. the girl in front of me. I felt very judge-y and self righteous in my judgement. Now that I'm pregnant and have DSHS insurance I wonder if people are judging me when I pull out of the DSHS card for medical stuff and I'm wearing Toms (a birthday gift from a friend) or pearl earrings (a family heirloom) or a Coach bag (that I bought 8 years ago). You see? We just don't know someone else's life and how they ended up in the shoes they are in. 

We don't know how they got the house they have or the car. I'm sure someone could see me with the kids at the grocery store and think that I have no idea what it's like to want a baby and not have one. Each of my children are an immense blessing. And I do know what it feels like to want and not have. Or to have and then lose.

Empathy for others has been something I've struggled with. I've tended to see the world through the lens of, "don't look at me for sympathy, honey! I've dealt with worse than you and I'm still here!" I learned young to just take care of me. Press my nose in and push through it. I didn't ask for grace from anyone and I didn't learn to offer it. That's maybe more about me just being overly tough..... But again, what is the personal cost of just giving someone grace??? 

Over the last year I have found myself needing a lot of grace. 3 family deaths, a miscarriage, a surgery, and trying to raise a teen step-child amidst fairly frequent drama with his mom. It has not been an easy year. I have seen my dear friends step in and just love me and listen to whatever I'm feeling and give me acceptance. By loving me they aren't saying, "what you are feeling is 100% right and you're entitled to it." They're saying, "I love you. I get that life is hard. I know you're in a tough place." Isn't that really what we need when things are hard? Fair-weather friends tend to hold judgement over us. When life is fun and we have smiles and easy-living to share, they are right along side us and ready to party it up. But when the storm rolls in and it's not easy anymore, we might go through a phase where we're grumpy or have zero patience or just aren't fun to be around. Fair-weather friends make their judgements and head for the door. Sadly, I've had a couple of those during my hardships. I'd like to just say, "good riddance!" But it's not that simple. The judgement hurts and the rejection hurts. I'll also add, my only fair-weather friends have been Christians. Every single time. What I want to do is try to make that a mirror for myself...to look in the mirror and ask myself if I do that. Do I write people off when they are struggling or the way they live their lives doesn't look like mine? Yep, probably sometimes.

So for me, I want to change the habit of arguing. I'm writing about it because I think, yeah, it's an issue for me, but maybe it's an issue for a lot of people. Maybe it's something a lot of us can work on together. Giving grace, being kinder than required, and thinking about other's needs. Accept people where they are, even if you disagree with things. Don't jump to fixing things for people. Just listen and actually hear. When someone trusts you, then you might be asked your opinion! 

So, that's where I'm at. Thinking about my dad, wishing I'd known him more/longer, and hoping I can take his best qualities and carry them on.

I also ran into this blog a week ago about how to really be a friend and I think it's pretty awesome- Are you a fair-weather friend?

~Diana



Friday, February 8, 2013

15 Weeks

You should all feel so special, I didn't even bother to put makeup on for this photo. tehe.

Found this cute jacket yesterday in the Junior's section at Ross. It's a peplum that is shorter in front, so kind of works with a belly. Needed some color in my prego wardrobe.

I'm feeling the baby move now, which is really cool. I definitely didn't feel it this early with my first. I'd have to check the baby book to know about my 2nd, but I think it was later. It's not every day yet, probably because baby is so little still, about 4 inches long. I'm really glad to have the doppler, it really gives me peace of mind, especially with so much going on lately. I can find the heartbeat in about 10 seconds, but lose it just as quickly since baby is moving so much.

I would rather my weight gain was only 4lbs by now, but considering life and the amount of croissants I ate last week, it's alright. Still not planning to find out the baby's gender, but we both think it's probably a girl. Either way is A-OK.

~ Diana

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We love you, dad.

This past week was quite the storm.

My brother and I purchased tickets to fly to LAX on February 8th to see my dad, who was told Jan 1st he had cancer. After a brief conversation with my step-mom on Jan 31st, I knew things were bad and we needed to get there sooner. I switched our flights, car, and hotel and we flew out Feb 1st to see him. After 16 hours of travel, we arrived in Lompoc, CA at 10:15pm. I was in shock walking into the house and seeing my dad. I hadn't seen him in just over 3 years. My step-mom, aunt, and uncle were there with him. He had just been released from the hospital that day and sent home with hospice. My aunt is an RN, so hospice wasn't there at the time we arrived. His official diagnosis had come just 1 1/2 weeks prior. So fast no one could wrap their heads around the fact that it was already time for hospice. My dad looked like himself, but different, too. At 6'3", he was still larger than life, but he was sleeping on a large hospital bed in the middle of his living room. He had an oxygen tank, a sheet on, and the fan to keep him comfortable with the fever. I won't  go into much detail about the 12 hours that followed as it was a deeply personal and heartbreaking time for our family. It was touch and go all night, and emotionally a storm I could've never anticipated. His oxygen saturation was so low we knew his brain would never wake up again. He fought hard all night and really didn't want to go. We said the things to him we needed/wanted to say, we held his hand, wiped the sweat off his forehead, rubbed his shoulders, and told him it was ok for him to go, that we'd be ok. My step-mom said Psalm 23 to him and kept talking to him and telling him how much she loved him. The sun came up and he was worse by the hour. At 9:55am he took his last breath here on earth.

I'm not sure how to wrap my head around it all. It feels like he's just in Cali still and I'm back in WA and I can call him at any time. The thought of him being nowhere here on earth is really weird. I wish he'd been awake and I'd had the chance to look into his blue eyes and tell him how much I love him. I really wish I could go back about 10 years and visit him every year and talk to him more. I know I can't live in a place of regret and that things happen how they do and it's ok. But right now, I do feel regret. For him and me both.

Saturday morning after he passed, my aunt, uncle, and I started calling the people that needed to know. We started talking about a memorial and what the plan was. It was surreal and I did as I always do in those type of situations, I press in and get it done. Later that afternoon The Neptune Society came and got his body and then we faced the empty house and his husky, Shadow, searching everywhere for him. It was hard.

Having not slept or showered in a couple nights, my brother and I went to our hotel and showered and changed. We were just in a haze. We returned to my dad's house and we all forced ourselves to go get something to eat. We drove to Orcutt and ate at an amazing new Mexican place called Pasion. The food was awesome, the company was awesome, but it still broke my heart thinking that we were all together and my dad wasn't there. Afterwards we went to our hotel and I called Craig and updated him on things and what had happened the night before. It was all too familiar for us as his mother had passed in a very similar way only 8 months prior.

Sunday and Monday were filled with tears, laughter as my wonderful step-mom shared stories with us in her passionate Spanish accent, and a time of connecting with relatives we hadn't known since we were little kids or hadn't known at all. I realized how wonderful that family is. Not perfect and full of mess as any family is, but truly wonderful and loving. There was no drama or anything mean, just so much love and support and honor as my dad was remembered in the stories told and the love given to my brother and me. My step-mom's sister arrived from Mexico City and looked at me and said, "oh honey, I see Truman in you." I started to cry as I felt so honored to look like him. He was handsome, his whole life. Over the weekend I learned about traits I'd obviously inherited from my dad. I could see clearly certain things from my mom and certain things from my dad. Even down to the music we listen to. Going through his stack of CD's, I realized he loved Motown and Diana Krall and Luther Vandross. He loved soul music as I always have since I was really little. How could I have ever known he listened to that stuff? I heard numerous accounts of him singing and people telling me what a beautiful voice he had. I wish I'd had the chance to hear him. That kind of breaks my heart.

The long days and late nights with family were a salve for my soul. It was incredibly healing to hear about his life and learn so many details I hadn't previously known. He was so funny, easy going, and people loved him. The way people describe Bill Clinton and his uncanny charisma, is so very much the way my dad was. Several people described him as a people magnet. He stood up for the under dog and was a defender of those he loved. Hearing about his childhood and what he had to overcome was awe-inspiring. I wished then I could've told him how proud of him I was. In feeling that, I realized how he never failed to tell me how proud of me he was. He was my lifelong fan. Every achievement he applauded. He made a big deal about all of my successes and encouraged me when I wasn't doing so well. My step-mom told me how thrilled he was when I started calling him about 10 years ago and that the last 4 years of us talking a lot really meant the world to him. She said he was over the moon when I called to tell him I was engaged and the same when I told him I was pregnant. He was proud of me as a person and only now with him gone do I realize how much that meant to me.

His service was on Monday, at a small Lutheran church. With one day's notice 40 people showed up. We expected about 15. Had there been a week notice we would've filled the place. He was so deeply loved. My step-mom told me when I was young I had sent him a copy of me singing Hero and he would sit and listen to it with tears streaming down his face. He even went and bought Mariah Carey's CD after that. She asked if I'd sing it for his service. I felt honored to do so. I decided to play the piano and sing so I'd have music to look at and wouldn't see my family members crying. That surely would've broken me. I started off shaky, recovered after the first line and held my tears til I was done. Then hugged my step-mom and we both cried.

The next morning my brother and I left for LAX and headed home. 12 hours later I arrived at my house to my husband who listened til midnight as I shared stories. I've been home for 2 days and am working on adjusting. It's hard when tears are literally just under the surface and they appear unexpectedly. It was this way when my MIL died also. With her we had 7 months to prepare for her passing and it still felt very fast. With my dad I had less than a month, so it's hard to even comprehend. I can't think of how to explain the rest of my thoughts right now, so I'll end with his photo:

My brother and me with my dad in 1988.