Father

Long hours worked.

Days spent at the hospital, weekends on drill and the pager that went off at ungodly hours. The pinging sounding a soldier with wings.

Last rites administered, returning home, he would make the sign of the cross on our heads, we knew nought; unaware he had sat besides deaths door.

The journey of those 60 years summed up in that example.

What is a life well lived if you have not served your fellow man?

What mark have your left if the imprint of Christ’s cross cannot be seen by those who walk with your offspring?

I can only imagine what he would tell me today, eleven years after his passing.

Most likely it would be to vaccum out my car, change it’s oil and call my mom.

He would also, like Tolkein, tell me “not to let grief harden my heart”.

So today I sit with a grateful heart for the man that walked with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question

The question asked.

“Are they all yours?”

We were in line waiting to use the restroom.

My smile and head nod, not enough of an answer for her.

“Were you trying for a boy?”

Thankful the stall door opened and my no” could end the conversation.

The truth is the story of our family cannot be shared in three second sound bites.

The girls know that. They don’t discuss details with curious strangers.

If asked they tell of their five sisters.

Yes there are six of them, no twins.

They often throw in a line about how the dog is a girl too.

It doesn’t matter they didn’t all come from one womb. They are woven together.

In those brief interactions with others, I struggle with the desire to summerize all that is our family.

Yet, these fierce, loyal, loving young ladies have come to understand what is taking their Momma year’s to accept -nothing needs explained.

Next time maybe I need not wish the inquiry away.

Joy in the knowledge that my daughters know what family is.

Sydney at 12

Dear Sydney,

I wish you were reading this on your birthday!

With the busyness of April and May, the days slipped away and almost a full month later you finally get to read my birthday mushiness. I’m sorry for the lateness kiddo. I promise I will do better next year.

You’re simply the best bonus daughter a step-momma could ask for.

Loving, kind, patient, hardworking, dedicated, funny and pretty darn smart.

Being a part of this loud, opinionated family can certainly challenge one’s patience yet your  approach is always level-headed.

The back and forth between homes with it’s changing rules and shifting boundries could be a struggle for anyone and you navigate it all with an unending reserve of grace.

Your ability to embrace my extended family has left me teary eyed. 

I am easily filled with hope for our tribe of eight when you are around.

Thank you Sydney Rae for allowing me to play a small role in your life.

I’m always here should you need a Starbucks run or a dance party in the kitchen.

Happiest of birthday’s my love!

H

 

PS-

This may just be the most perfect birthday song ever. I hope you get what I am saying with this pick.

 

 

 

 

Trust Fall

A year ago I sat in the sterile office of a specialist.

He told me tests I had taken revealed 80% of the hearing in my right ear was lost.

A silent virus had infiltrated.

A mistake at the urgent care meant weeks wasted on medication that never could have cured me. Time had been of the essence.

I was faced with the looming possibility of a lifetime of asking others to repeat their words.

In the midst of the tears I chuckled at God’s timing. No sooner had he given me six girls then he had rid me of my ability to hear them clearly!

I left with a high dose of steroids and a reality check.

Ten days later I returned and was told what I had already known to be true. The medication had worked and my hearing was “mostly” restored.

Leaving giddy, tucking away the specialists final warning- I would forever be prone to these types of inner ear infections. If left untreated the ear would go deaf.

Too many times to count during the previous months have I grown anxious.

When the ringing begins, when the world feels like it exists in a tunnel, I ponder the purpose of two ears.

I immediately feel selfish for fearing the possibility of such an insignificant inconvenience.

Such is the story of my life.

There is safety in the fear. Who am I without the worry?

Yet he calls me closer to the edge. He provides the possibility of the unexpected.

So I shall learn to trust in the timing of those things small and those things big.

And when he takes the moments to teach me, to lift me from my comfortable existence, it is then I will learn to fall completely into his arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken

There was a midnight wake up call from a sick child, a husband away on a business trip and an eight year old in tears over the standardized testing taking place that morning. I was over the day before it had even begun.

A saint, my mother, arrived in the early hours to shepherd the six girls through their morning routine while I hopped in the car for a nearly three hour commute.

It was no wonder that fog filled my brain and I found myself on the road less traveled. Miscalculating my route meant no cell reception for a great portion of the drive rendering it impossible to join a 9am conference call. I had no choice but to watch the sunrise over the rolling hills.

I pondered the hard parts;

this journey of motherhood and career.

Feeling called to both I wondered why it could be so impossible at times.

And in that moment I came to realize that I will forever live in this space of in between.

There is no magic fix, no way to Maria Kondo my way into balance;

always there will be something off kilter.

The imbalance does not make me broken, it makes me real.

So I will feel sad that I miss the tooth falling out and ecstatic when a project I shepherd moves forward. I will hold the hurts and the happy all in one place.

There is beauty in the rising sun. This is where I want to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Hallelujah

She dreamed of a man who worked hard, loved Jesus and lived a life of service. One who would desire a women and three beautiful babies to walk through life with.

Each night praying for him, not by name but with descriptors. Every morning awaking hopeful hearted that today he would appear.

One day it was as if it all made sense.

The man in the pew in front of her with his own three beautiful babies.

The Sunday’s spent watching as he patted heads, tenderly held hands and shepherded souls though mass.

Grateful that she had not missed it.

Through the loss, her God had led her here.

Now nearly two years since that date, she can hardly remember a moment he wasn’t a part of her peace.

As he turns the page to 40 she dares to dream what 40 more will look like by his side.

The babies they will raise.

The mountains they will climb.

The love that will be multiplied.

Tonight she will thank God for answered prayers, for her hallelujah.

 

 

 

Audrey at 12

Dear Audrey Hope,

You are bold. You are brave. You are incredibly beautiful.

You tell stories, weaving words together and turning the mundane into magic.

When people come into your presence, they most immediately feel loved.

And that smile! It simply lights up our lives.This birthday feels different, a bit of nostalgia mixed in with the moment. The threshold of the teenage years crossed, earning more of your independence with each passing day.I want to keep you close, to protect you from the ugly this world can throw. But, in doing so, it would also hold you back from the joy that comes after the ache.

I am so very proud of you.

I know you will make good decisions.

Never doubt how much you are loved and how uniquely and wonderfully made you are.

I believe in you.

Love,

Momma

P.S.- This years birthday song says it better than I ever could

 

 

 

 

Rachel

The laughing hadn’t occurred that long and that hard for some time. Both on the threshold of 42, nearly peeing our pants while giggling in her kitchen posing for pictures.

The journey here, years in the making.

It began at a midwestern college campus when overalls were cool before they were cool again.

Spring breaks in Ft. Myers, summers corresponding with letters written by pen, and daydreams over espresso and fondue.

She was the first to show me how to live life less seriously.

Her crazy antics- the DQ runs, the pranks on boys and all the baby oil and Sun In one could lather on to tan skin and lighten hair. We lived in the moment when Rachel was present.

Years and years went on and when Sid was a bump in my belly, I thought of her and the laughter and knew instantly no other could be godmother to the first little lady to join our tribe.

She showed up on the day of her birth. Having driven more than five hours to simply sit with me and bask in the beauty of this baby.

And over the years that’s what she has continued to do. Time and time again she showed up.

When my father died she journeyed far to simply sit in my presence while we grieved.

She showed up again one week after my 14 year marriage ended. She held my hand, stroked my hair, feed my three precious babies and made me believe that the laughter would return.

And when it did return, when I found myself at 40 marrying a man who brought me more joy then I deserved, she listened to me gush and reminded me of the journey.

No one has lived friendship more beautifully than this woman.

She gives and gives and gives and she teaches me to love without boundaries.

When grief overwhelmed her this past weekend and the agony of the moment set in, she gave again. She let me return the favor.

I got to hold her hand and rub her back.

She let me spew words of insignificance.

When we were done being 41 she let me feel 22 again.

I wish for everyone to find a Rachel.

And for my Rachel I wish for millions of moments filled with laughter like she has given me.

Hundreds of miles away as I type I can still feel the breath catch in my throat from the giggles.

Thank you beautiful friend.

Know that this too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

Here

The leaving is hard to explain.

Fulfilling work, beautiful friendships and things still left to learn

but, the longing persisted. I listened and left.

After a decade, leaving behind a “dream job”, because it wasn’t where he was calling me to be.

People were perplexed by the choice.

Four months later I find myself most Tuesday and some Friday morning’s, on an almost three hour road trip through Ohio’s heartland.

At 5:00 a.m., while children slumber and the rest of the world sips their Starbucks, I am alone on winding, country roads.

The years of early morning runs have prepared me for this meditation.

It’s nothing more than mental when one small town turns into another small town and the sun has yet to rise.

I dodge deer, map out the day ahead and daydream about beach vacations with my beautiful girls and their handsome papa.

Just about the time I’m ready for the morning commute to be over, I see the fog in the valley and make the final turn up the hill and I’m onto campus.

Waiting for me there will be meetings and memos.

The day will be long.

The learning curve steep.

And when dusk begins to settle over that little hilltop, I will hop back in the car and make the journey home.

I will be greeted by smiling girls and a sense of satisfaction knowing that for now this is where he is calling me to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly’s 10th

Dear Molly girl,

Boy, do I love you!

I love your spunk.

I love the sunshine you bring to every room you enter.

I love your thoughtfulness and the way you examine our faces for reactions.

I love your crazy bursts of energy and your appreciation for a good, salty snack.

Mostly though I love all of the million and one little things that make you the best Molly I’ve ever known.

You’ve had one pretty big year.

You’ve moved twice and you’ve added three sisters, the best dog ever and a stepmom to the mix. That’s a heck of a lot of change, but you have managed it with such sweetness!

Thank you Molly for letting me be a part of your year. I’m so excited to see what 10 has in store for you!

Never forget how awesome I think you are.

I love you to the moon and back.

Heather

P.S.- Here’s your first ever birthday song. It pretty much says it all.