The Husbands

They are an unexpected bonus.

Their wives, on the other hand, were a given.

I knew the minute we met, a thousand years ago as college freshman, that our friendship was forever. I don’t believe, at the time, I thought about how the men they would marry would participate in our story as well.

And now, fresh off a fortieth birthday celebration weekend in Florida with these ladies, I find myself reflecting on the unexpected gifts of our friendship- those men who love them.

I looked back through my library to find their photos. Not at all surprisingly there weren’t many pictures. Not because they aren’t present at our gatherings; but rather, because they are often the ones behind the camera, off wrangling toddlers or fixing worms to hooks on fishing poles.

These men are a constant presence.

The girls refer to them as their uncles.

Among the first to hold them upon their births;

participants in birthday parties, thanksgiving dinners, spring break adventures and the yearly Labor Day weekend reunion.

They’ve rough housed, fixed bike tires and encouraged silly behavior that their Momma would have never allowed.

The gifts extend beyond their influence on my girls.

I’ve sought their counsel on topics ranging from financial planning to the purchasing of new computers.

They’ve served as my cheerleaders, my running partners and my changer of light bulbs.

Most importantly they’ve encouraged and nurtured the friendship I share with their wives, never questioning my place in the lexicon of their family.

Thanks boys for loving your wives the way you do,

for being the incredible dads you are and

for being my friend.

I’m glad I’m on this journey with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declaration

“This,” said Reepicheep “is where I go on alone.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The envelope arrived thirty-six months after the civil courts had declared our marriage over.

The contents when read told me of another type of ending.

Fingers hover over the keypad now as I hesitate to type the words.

So much of this life I share, yet certain pieces find comfort, alone, in the quiet confines of the heart.

The journey that brought me the letter from the Catholic Diocese, didn’t go unsupported.

A small team of prayer warriors leant their words to the examination of how my love story began. They relived times long since forgotten.

I am forever grateful for their contributions. Their adjectives painted a picture of a young women I needed to recall.

Gratitude extends as well to the man whose life I shared, as he willingly participated, one more time, in our ending.

Declaration of Nullity.

It doesn’t mean the union never existed.

It doesn’t mean those girls weren’t born of love.

What was missing there can now be found in his time, not mine.

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Twenty years removed from the start of the story, a final gift,  forgiveness.

And in this we find our joy.

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/annulment/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love

“I said I love you Momma and now he’s gone”, the words choked out between the sobs.

“I shouldn’t have loved him if it wasn’t going to be forever”, the ache in her heart a reflection of the joy his presence brought.

“Baby girl but isn’t that how Jesus taught us?” My words offered in the moment through God’s grace.

“We are to love without expectation”, I reminded her and I.

“You felt it and you gave it freely. Don’t ever feel badly about giving your love”.

“You are my brave girl”.

 

 

Talent Show

She caught me as I walked in the door.

Waving the green paper in her hand, telling me she was going to do the school talent show. All she needed was my signature.

What if she froze on stage?

What if kids laughed?

What if she looked at the others; the gymnast flipping, the ballerina leaping and the boy and his violin concerto, and somehow she felt less then?

How could I place her in the path of those possibilities?

Wasn’t my job to protect? Yet there she stood asking me to be a willing accomplice.

I was worn down in the moment. The paper signed, off she went.

For weeks she practiced with her friend and talked excitedly about the show.

Even after the preparation, I worried.

The evening arrived.

Glowing faces, happy smiles as parents and grandparents lined the aisles.

I sat glued to the hard, metal, folding chair wishing the night away, placing my own elementary school fears squarely on the shoulders of my ten year old.

Fears of rejection and failure from a recovering perfectionist, no wonder the air felt heavy.

But, as it always happens, she took the chance to teach me.

She sang.

Her face flushed with excitement, voice beginning softly then growing in confidence. The two friends side by side supporting one another.

Two minutes gone in the blink of an eye and it was over.

The exhale was for me alone. She had not needed it.

My story was not hers.

She wrote her own that night.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer

A rough night at gymnastics.

A cut, a fall, more tumbles when tumbling was not supposed to happen.

A quick trip for frozen yogurt and a smile returns.

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Just as the sun sinks into the sky, while she licks the last remnants of treat from the spoon, her small voice catches me off guard.

“What can I pray for you for Momma?”

I cannot claim credit for teaching her to ask the question.

After weeks of watching us start each Sunday mass with that question to the person in the pew beside us, she has learned this is a way she can engage.

Her church community has nurtured in her the desire to connect in this manner.

I paused not sure how to answer.

There is a line I’ve often felt when revealing ones prayers that are closest to the heart.

“Will you pray for guidance and for wisdom for Momma?”

With the heart of a six year old her response makes me pause one more time.

“Can we pray now Momma? I want to pray for you and for some others I’ve been thinking about.”

Grateful for our church.

Grateful for this journey of mothering where I receive more then I give.

 

Treadmill

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She’s gone.

She died a slow, painful, sputtering death almost two months back now.

Her last leg was 13.1 miles on a very cold, winter day.

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A personal best, if there is such a thing on a treadmill, was a great way to go out.

What is a girlfriend to do when her best friend leaves her with no fallback plan?

After all purchasing a new treadmill during the post Christmas/ New Year’s health kick rush is not fiscally prudent.

And living without a daily run was not an option according to the girls who loudly and very vocally told everyone they knew that their Momma was not fun to be around when she missed a run.

That’s how I found myself one Saturday morning at the local gym purchasing a monthly membership and promising myself I would only come long enough to get me to  spring when treadmill prices would plummet.

In the intervening weeks from the time I joined until today, I have found myself in the throes of a metamorphosis. The woman who thought running was the only sport which would satisfy her soul has now found herself eagerly awaiting her strength training days.

She’s also found herself relishing the indoor track. My sprint runs have turned me into an athlete I didn’t think possible as I enter my 40’s.

And those people at the gym, I sort of find myself looking forward to seeing them each day. My crew, usually in the women’s only section, quietly motivates each other. I the recluse runner recognize the power of working out with a team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still anxiously awaiting the day when I can once again respond to my 4:45am alarm, lace up my shoes and head downstairs for my morning run.

But, for now, I will be grateful that the death of something once deemed essential, was the catalyst for the birth of something new.

 

 

 

Here now

Haircuts and braids,

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string’s concerts,

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cuddling on the couch,

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books together before bed,

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budding artists and their designs,

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Valentine’s celebration’s.

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Always thinking far ahead when in reality, simply here, now, is were I need to be.

 

 

Here

I’m still here.

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While the celebrations have ended the marchers and the revelers gone home, there is a group of us day after day, week after week and year after year who remain, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office or gavels congress into session.

We wake up each day kiss our children and our partners and go about our work believing we make a difference in a world that for a very long time has viewed us as inconsequential.

We welcome your presence in this city. Whether you wore a pink or a red hat we applaud your enthusiasm.

We do have one request.

Don’t let this month or this week be just a Facebook picture or a Tweet. Let this be the beginning of your participation in our democracy.

If I may be so bold, may I offer you some advice from a well worn lobbyist?

Don’t save your vote for once every four years. When this spring rolls around and the polling places open again, please don’t tell us you aren’t voting. More is decided twice a year in the voting booth in your town then all year in Washington D.C.

Show up. No doubt at some point soon you will receive a mailer from your school board, your township trustee or even your congressional representative asking for your participation in a town hall or community conversation. Your first reaction should be to clear your calendar and to engage.

Turn off the TV and pick up a pen. Yes I said pen. Write your elected a letter. Start by thanking them for their service. Then let them know what you are thinking. Ask questions and offer to be a resource.

Speak with passion to your children about why you choose to engage in this great democracy. The last thing I want to see happen is this increased interest in the political process be fleeting. My hope is that my daughters will never question why they engage politically because being a part of the national conversation becomes an EXPECTATION of their generation.

One last thing. Pray for all of those that work daily in a place they believe has great beauty and even greater potential.

Until next time.
I’m not going anywhere.
I will be here when you return.

For When She Turned 10

Dear Audrey Hope,

Double digits kiddo.

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You’ve hit it.

10 is here.

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Happy Birthday!!!

Before we celebrate the big day, can I gush about you for a moment?

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You make your momma so incredibly proud.

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You are light and love and all things good in this world.

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You touch people with your generous spirit and your smile is as wide as a rainbow.

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You dance through each day. You radiate energy.

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Most importantly your presence in our lives is a reminder that this life is a joy to live.

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As you walk your way through your tenth year there are a few things I want you to remember.

You will accomplish great things.

You will move mountains and make this world a better place.

I know this as it was embedded on my heart the moment the nurse placed your head on my chest on January 12, 2007.

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Don’t give anyone the power to place doubts in your head about your abilities.

Follow the prompts of the quiet voice inside your heart. God is working in you.

Finally, don’t ever forget how loved you are. My love for you is immeasurable.

Enjoy this year and all the blessings it will bring.

Happy birthday my darling girl.

I thank God for choosing me to be your Momma.

I love you,

Momma

PS- This, this my love is what I want you to remember. Play it often and soak in the words- your birthday song.

 

 

Reflection

We took a break.

The four of us in a little bubble for 10 days.

We traveled.

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Saw ones we loved.

Woke up late and enjoyed our new toys.

It was a glorious holiday season.

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And when New Year’s Day rolled around I found myself wanting nothing more than to curl up with my girls and enjoy the last remnants of the season.

Now we are all back to school and work and activities. Finding myself in a reflective mood; so very grateful for the year that was.

The adventures we had, the dreaming we did.

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And as we begin a new season of dreaming, I realize what I want for this new year is all rather simple.

One of these little ladies is only 5 years away from moving out on her own.

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Soaking up her light in my home is my new year’s desire.

Helping her find her calling will be another.

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Gifted with a laptop for Christmas I’ve found her typing away on the keyboard. Essay’s and musings by Audrey Hope; that makes a Momma’s heart swell.

And this one, bringing up the rear.

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I will hold her more. I will carry her whenever she asks. I will read her stories before bed and sing her lullabies. Because, experience has taught me, I will not know the exact moment that it is the last time I carry her in my arms or loll her to sleep with an off key rendition of Baby Mine.

So that is how I will choose to live out this new year.

I’ve spent too many years looking back. This is my year to live in the present.