Monday, May 26, 2014

My New Life

Today I am 37. Yesterday was my birthday. Today I am stuck in the airport in Chicago after missing my flight twice. Twice. First time was totally my fault, I didn't give myself enough time to turn in the rental car but I got on the next flight. When I got there I went right to the gate and waited… and waited. And then I noticed it was 6:20 and I hadn't heard anyone call for boarding so I went looking for someone. No one was at the counter… And the door was closed. Wow. Totally missed that flight while sitting right at the gate! Weird. And there isn't an open flight until tonight. Which would make my total travel time 24 hours if I don't get on this 11:30am flight I'm on standby for. Ugh. I miss my kids. And I miss my fiancĂ©, who, btw is an amazingly sweet man to have in your corner when you're in crisis mode. Even if its your own stupid fault. I love Bill more today than any of the other days because he hears me. He listens. And when I need compassion and gentleness, he is that soft place for me.

I have taken a long hiatus from blogging again. Life got busy. School got busy. And somewhere along the way I fell in love. Also, I'm getting married in 4 days. For those of you who want to know how I got from:

One thing I want to address because people keep bringing it up: The idea of finding love again is of no comfort to me. None. As much as I hate being alone, I hate the idea of doing the work involved in dating even more. And I can't imagine sharing my children with anyone. Dating with 5 kids is not remotely the same thing as dating as a single person. I just don't have enough faith that there exists a man who could fill BJay's shoes and love all 6 of us enough. Also, I'm just not willing to put up with the humiliation of being that single mom of 5 looking for a man. I'm sure there are other ways to think about it, but that is how I feel.
To being in love and about to get married, I will tell you.

So, 8 months ago I did not believe that there existed a man who could love me and my 5 amazing children. I did not believe that it was possible that anyone could look at us as a package deal and say, "Wow, what a privilege and a blessing you all are to me."  When I imagined how it would be to date again, I could only envision rejection and heartache. And I just felt like it was my job as a mother to protect my children from any more hurt. So When anyone would suggest that I should date or that I would find love again--it really did annoy me. I had a partner in life, the children had a dad and that was all taken away from us. So- it felt like an insult in so many ways for me to go out into the world asking for someone to love me and my kids when ultimately, such a request could only end in heartache.

But then I had a complete change of heart. And for me it was like the flipping of a switch. For three years and four months I wasn't ready to think about dating. And then one day I was. I don't know if this is how everyone experiences getting to the point where you feel completely healed and ready to open up your heart, but this is how it worked for me.

I think everything brought me to that point, but it clicked for me when I noticed how my girls would light up around male friends of mine. I saw how much they were starved for a family that included a dad. Girls need fathers, I know that. And so do boys.

So I prayed. And I went to the temple and prayed. And I fully gave to God and BJay all my fear and trepidation about what it was going to mean to find and nurture love again. Because I knew I needed a man who could love my children--but I also knew that I couldn't settle for anything less than deep, abiding real love. I had that, I knew how good it was--and I wanted it again.

Enter Bill the Pilot

Does it matter how we met? (Online dating) I have felt God's hand in my life more than ever since BJay died. I have felt since the moment I knew BJay was gone and me and my world shattered that I could trust that God would guide me to protect and take care of my children. So when I met Bill the Pilot, I recognized something in him. He wasn't anything I thought I was looking for. And I wasn't anything he thought he was looking for. But there was a recognition immediately for both of us that something important was happening.

Bill saw that I was a widow and living near Fayetteville and assumed that I was a war widow. And he had compassion for me and my children because he is a Gulf War veteran. And that compassion only grew when he learned about BJay and how he died. And he wasn't one bit intimidated by the fact that I still love BJay and that we had an amazing marriage and life together. He also didn't flinch at the fact that I had 5 children. It was crazy how easy it was to talk to Bill and share with him my thoughts and feelings. And when I eventually allowed him to meet my children--it was amazing how they immediately warmed to him. And there was a softness about Bill with them that put me at ease.

The first time we met, Bill prayed with me. The first real date Bill took me on was just as bold. He took me to the beach where BJay died. I hadn't been back there. It was an amazingly healing experience. Ever since we met, Bill has always been thoughtful and compassionate. When I look back at the past 4 months--I really can't believe it has only been 4 months. So much has happened. I finished my last semester in grad school. I got a job. And I met and fell in love with an amazing man who loves me and my children back. I got engaged. And I'm getting married in 4 days!!

When I said I miss my old life, I meant it. Eight months ago I couldn't imagine that life would ever be that good again. What I could not have imagined was how good my new life feels. This journey God gave me has been every bit as difficult as it has been amazing and wonderful. Every struggle is matched with overcoming. Every challenge ends with some kind of victory. Everything God takes, he restores again. I always trusted God. I just could never have imagined the way he put me back together. And I certainly couldn't have imagined how he could make it right to my children.

I love my new life.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A long time coming

I realized last month that I had forgotten the day BJay died. I hadn't forgotten that day, but the date. I couldn't remember if it was the 10th or the 13th. I had to look it up. I try not to put much stock in this day. Today, three years ago was the worst day of my life. To mark this day, to make something of it feels wrong to me. I will never forget. It comes back to me all the time. I have always felt there is nothing worse about this day than any other day that I live without my husband. It will still be hard tomorrow as it was last week. However, the body just won't forget. I have felt on edge this week, and yesterday a feeling of heaviness settled deep into my heart and bones. Three years ago last night was the best night of my life. Three years ago this morning was the worst morning of my life. It is remarkable how quickly life can change. Even more when you start to realize the permanence of it.

I think I ended year one and two with hopefulness. The first year was surviving, the second year I started to feel as if I could manage. This year has been a tough year because, while I've learned how to be an only parent and I've evolved into a version of myself I feel is a pretty good incarnation--I have hit a wall of anger I just can't seem to get past. The road seems so long ahead of me. I am so angry that I have to walk this road alone and I don't know how far it goes. I am tired. I am maxed out. And there really isn't anything anyone can do to make it easier. The fact is, nobody in this world will ever be as invested in my children as I am, and as BJay was. It is a heavy thing, being responsible for 5 children. Even if I get a "break" and leave them with someone I trust I worry the whole time about them because I know no one else knows and loves them as I do. It breaks my heart to know that are missing out on having a dad. It isn't fair.

One thing I want to address because people keep bringing it up: The idea of finding love again is of no comfort to me. None. As much as I hate being alone, I hate the idea of doing the work involved in dating even more. And I can't imagine sharing my children with anyone. Dating with 5 kids is not remotely the same thing as dating as a single person. I just don't have enough faith that there exists a man who could fill BJay's shoes and love all 6 of us enough. Also, I'm just not willing to put up with the humiliation of being that single mom of 5 looking for a man. I'm sure there are other ways to think about it, but that is how I feel.

I am thankful for my good friends who get me through the hard moments, lonely nights and share my small triumphs when they come. I am happy a lot of the time, I can find joy in the moment most of the time and I love and adore my sweet children. I am taking it one day at a time, and I can do this. It isn't at all easy though.

I miss my old life.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spotlight on Amanda Gowin: real beauty

Summer has been a slow blur so far. It feels like it has been more than 2 weeks, but also those two weeks have just evaporated into the ether without much to show for it. I have a few other excuses for not blogging, but the short of it is, I am scared.

I have put off this spotlight because, mostly, I am so intimidated by Amanda Gowin I don't know that I could fully explain her in a way that would do her justice. And that isn't fair. So, I'm just starting with an apology. I wish I could do this better! And I promise to do my best.

First off, I think the first interaction I had with this girl is what defined her, for me. Amanda is a writer, so already I am in awe because I know that takes mental stamina that I just don't seem to have. Back to first impression. I noticed Amanda had posted a picture of herself with her hair shaved and I think I commented that she has a really nice shaped head, and probably (making it about me) I said something about how I could never rock a shaved head because my head is flat in the back. I'm vain. In my younger, less experienced days I used to think if I got cancer I would forgo chemotherapy because I wouldn't want to lose my hair. Because I would be ugly? That was before I had kids. Anyway, this girl-- Amanda, replied that a cousin (I believe) of hers was, in fact, battling cancer and that she had shaved her head in support. I think Amanda said something like, "I wanted to make the point that it's only hair." It's only hair. That idea stopped me dead in my tracks. First of all, the gesture... It was just so beautiful. And second of all, I'm not sure I have progressed so far as a human that I have that kind of perspective. I should be. I "met" Amanda after BJay died. So I should have known already that nothing in the world matters more than life. More than health. That baubles and things, and hair, are just not that big of a deal. Things can be replaced, hair grows back. But life is right now, and it is all that really matters, it is all we really have of value.

So, as the kind of person who has this vital perspective at such a young age, Amanda is one of those women you admire. But not in a petty, female way. People like her. And not because she is pretty, not necessarily because she is one of those super fun moms who makes the job look glamorous. And probably not even because she seems to be one of those super cool wives who doesn't seem to take for granted how fortunate she is to have found and nourished love. I'm pretty sure it is because she may have been born fully-formed as a woman who emerged from the ocean with a complete understanding of her place in the universe. I'm kidding. Sort of. I really think what makes Amanda so likable is that she is a little bit too wise. It seems to me that she's comfortable in her own skin, that somehow she holds the reigns to her own insecurities. And having that kind of hold on herself, she's able to lift other people up. That is the kind of strength that drives our species forward. That is real beauty.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Facebook Friend Spotlight on Sean P Ferguson

I am at this really strange intersection in my life where I am questioning everything I do and think and believe. I wonder if it is a midlife crisis? Anyway, a funny thing happened after I wrote about my Facebook friend Craig Wallwork. After writing that I wanted to be the kind of person who can be there for my friends, I had the opportunity several times to practice what I preached. It was like the universe heard me and threw the words right back in my face, saying, "prove it". So it turns out, this silly idea I had to spotlight my friends is becoming my midlife crisis social experiment. Brought to you by social media. The experiment is now this: How I would reshape myself drawing from the extraordinary qualities of the people I am friends with on Facebook. Or: How can I Frankenstein myself into a better person by vampiring the best qualities of my Facebook friends list. 

I was overwhelmed trying to decide who I could prey on next, then I decided to ask Craig to pick for me. He gave me 3 names. To decide my lucky victim at random, I asked my friend Mr. Corbier to choose a number between 1-3. The name associated with the number he chose was:

Sean P. Ferguson

Not to be confused with Shawn Ferguson, who is another of my facebook friends. We used to close our eyes and think about things while being photographed back in high school. I may have to write about him another day. :)

The Sean P. Ferguson I'm talking about right now also has no idea I'm stealing pictures of him to put on my blog. I just got an A in my behavioral ethics class, so I'm not sure this is right. Hopefully I'll be forgiven. Just in case, I'm using a picture of Sean partially hidden behind a great book with some gorgeous legs on it. ;)

I met this Sean for real in the flesh when I went to Boston a few months ago. I don't know Sean very well, we don't have a lot of history. So I started asking a few of our mutual friends for some input. But then I decided that should be against the rules. I should focus mostly on the things I know. I have included just a couple quotes because they are sweet. So there are three things I can tell about Sean even with very limited exposure:

1. Sean loves his people.  If you are lucky enough to make the cut into his friends list, he will love you like you're his family. I don't know a lot of people like that. I think it takes a very courageous kind of vulnerability to love people, to say it and mean it. And to mean it without any kind of selfish agenda. I admire that. I don't have the guts to open my heart up like that. I want to be able to love that kind of strong.
 "my son said he loved me as much as all the hearts out of everybody's chests in the whole world all mashed together and put together to make his body. that's the way sean is - the way he loves people. i don't how to put it better than that." --Amanda Gowin
2. This is a guy you want in your corner. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they chose to do for a living. Certain professions are dominated by the good people. I really believe that. Sean is a *Paramedic. And I think there is just something special about the people who chose to be the ones who run toward the disasters. People who deal with the best and worst of society every day, and somehow don't get completely beat down by it. I wish I had a Sean to watch The Following with. Or, to ride with me in unregistered taxis in India in the middle of the night. Or, sometimes to just take out the trash at night when the ghosts are looming in the tall black pines.

I know when you are unlucky enough to need a *paramedic, they show up and take charge of a bad situation. They can deal with blood and poo and vomit all while alleviating your pain and anxiety. That is how my friend Pela describes Sean as a friend and writer for Manarchy. "He's not above doing any or all of the grunt work of a project." She also said that he was just made something like press secretary (?) for his local Democratic headquarters. Yeah, he's one of the good ones.

3. He's funny. My older sister is also a paramedic. I had a conversation with her that still intrigues me about the dark humor that she and her colleagues have developed to handle seeing some of the things they see. I read, I don't think it was a story--just a vent maybe about a day in the life of Sean that involved a pretty gruesome murder he had to clean up after that I still can't get out of my head. The way he wrote it was somehow hilarious as much as it was horrifying. And I guess that is what makes funny people funny. They are able to take the horrifying or disgusting and messy parts of life, turn them inside out and make them funny. They can take uncomfortable emotions and give them a pleasant outlet. And that is probably one of the best qualities there is. And to be clear, I don't think a lot of Sean's humor is dark. He's just a funny person. I don't know if it is possible to develop the ability to be funny--in the moment--like that. But if it is, I want to.
"Ferg once shat on a copy of Down Periscope. He is crude and disgusting and perfect and awesome. He will be there for you if you need, with a good word and a fart joke. Hard working and hard living son of a bitch. Helped me sculpt great stories out of bad ones. He is a good friend." --Chris Deal
I will laugh at fart jokes every time. Every single time. Farts are just funny.

So. Thank you, Sean P. Ferguson, for existing so well and for wearing mean hats. (That was Caleb J. Ross) I am lucky to know you. (That is me)

And now, if you wouldn't mind playing along, please message me just one friend from my friend's list I can pick on next. :)

* Update-- I'm told by Sean that he has never been a paramedic. Only an EMT--which is the same thing to most of us. Also, he no longer works as an EMT because of an injury. Currently he works for the Sheriff's department dispatching EMS, police, and the fire department and taking 911 calls. I don't think these facts change what I've said, but for accuracy's sake I am putting this update in here. He's still a good one, and he's still works in a profession that says all good things about him. :) 

Friday, April 26, 2013

BJay would have been 40 today!

Today would have been BJay's 40th birthday. I was going to say something about how he's lucky he never had to turn 40, and how I would have teased him all day about being so old and how lucky he is having such a young wife. But then... I think about yesterday and all the fun we had celebrating Bridger's birthday. I am the lucky one. Because growing older is a privilege.

This morning I slept in late and when I woke up I made one of BJay's favorite breakfasts. Ebelskivers.? Little ball-shaped pancakes. Except they were gluten-free. And I put a ton of cinnamon in them. And I was thinking as I did that if BJay would have been annoyed about that? But I think if he were here I wouldn't have slept in. And I would have made them exactly the way he liked them. And so, I guess the point is... I guess the point is I'll never know what it would have been like to celebrate BJay turning 40, except in the way I'm celebrating right now.

I am lucky to see him the way I see him now. All the day to day compromises and annoyances have long since turned to ash. And all that is left is what is burned into my heart, and these five beautiful little children. And I can't help but sound like a broken record, I am the lucky one! Because I was loved in such a way that it changed me for the better. And when I get to 40 in a few short years, hopefully I'll have learned and grown that much more. And I will appreciate what a gift and honor this is, every year I get.

Happy birthday, BJay! So much love,

your young and gorgeous wife. ;)

Two studs

BJay wrestling with Paige on Halloween 2009

BJay doing the dishes...that might be why this is my favorite picture.

BJay taking a moment to enjoy the view.

Family picture at Hanging Rock. :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On the virtues and flaws of humanity and Lance Armstrong

I started writing this yesterday, but I never got it together. I couldn't pull my thoughts together coherently. And then I saw the news about Boston. I still can't wrap my head around it. I was up late last night with things to think about. And I think I'm going to try this again, only, with a little different slant.

I wanted to make a point about what I see as the main flaw of humanity. But in processing last night, and after having read this comment by Patton Oswald from Facebook that my sister posted:'s what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will." Patton Oswald
I think this message is more on point. This idea about the goodness of humanity diluting and weakening the evil. It is in the same vein as one of my favorite quotes:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always." Mahatma Ghandi
When I started writing this yesterday, I wanted to call us out as a species for having this one universal flaw--the need to exact justice, tear down our heroes and kill our Gods. Yesterday as I was grocery shopping there was a crazy long line and my baby was done being patient. I was surprised when I got to the register and a woman came from I don't know where with her cart, got right in front of me and started unloading her things on the conveyor. Not just a couple things, but a cart full. She didn't make eye contact, but I could see from her expression and constant huffing that she was almost daring me to say something. Somehow she felt justified, cutting in line. So I just kind of sat there, watching this happen and in my mind I was trying to figure out what series of events led up to a woman acting like that, oblivious that everyone else had circumstances too. I didn't say anything, because, I really didn't want to get splashed with whatever ugliness she was experiencing. It just took a few extra minutes of my time, holding my 2 year old and putting back all the candy he kept reaching for. I decided it was an opportunity for me to practice what I'm about to preach.

That brings me, finally, to what I've been trying to write about since yesterday. Lance Armstrong. I have a hard time saying this exactly right. Because, I don't want to justify lying. Nor do I want to condone the kind of bullying that he did to maintain his lie. That is disheartening. But I also think it is important to just pause a minute and try and understand what series of events lead up to those lies, and aggressively maintaining that false narrative. 

First, why was there so much doping in cycling?   Basically, to compete professionally in cycling, you have to be a superman. And you do have to be a man. Not because cycling is sexist, it is just that men physically have greater lung capacity, so no woman has ever come close to qualifying.  You have to have a VO2 max of like 75+ to compete. VO2 max= milliliters of oxygen used per kilogram of body weight per hour of activity. The average, athletic woman's VO2 max compares to about the average for a man. About 45. From the article:
Over the long, flat stages, the monitors suggest that riders hover between 50 and 70 percent of their VO2 max. That may sound like a light workout, but keep in mind that when a Tour de France rider is “resting” at 60 percent of his maximum capacity, he’s working about as hard as an average person at full exertion.
The time trials and mountain stages are entirely different. The long time trials last more than an hour, during which the cyclists remain above 90 percent of VO2 max. (As a crude comparison, for the average person that would be like sprinting for an entire hour.) In the mountains, thinning oxygen supply becomes an issue as riders traverse terrain above 8,000 feet, all the while staying in the vicinity of 90 percent of full exertion. Researchers have identified pulmonary edema — an accumulation of fluid in the lungs caused by the effort to supply enough oxygen to the body — in Tour riders after mountain stages.
Studies have also shown that, during the course of a multi-stage race, professional riders experience a steady decrease in levels of testosterone and cortisol as the body struggles to rebuild itself after each day. This decline seems to be unique to cycling, as professional marathon runners have to train hard for six months before experiencing the kind of hormonal deficit that cyclists suffer in three weeks.
Again, I'm not trying to justify the use of illegal substances. But cycling is a brutal sport, even if you are some kind of He-Man you still can't overcome the toll it takes on your body. See how it might be easy to justify? Even as a superior athlete with a precision-tuned body, you just can't overcome your body's process of righting itself. Because it isn't natural to do what those cyclists are asking their bodies to do. I am in awe of that kind of drive and determination. I love running, but I only love it for about an hour, and I'm never at a full sprint. 

Aside from that, the Lance Armstrong story is this amazing story. It was anyway. An athlete who came back from nearly dying of CANCER to win Tour De France. And then he just kept winning. I really wonder how many people had the will to keep on fighting, just because Lance did that. How many people have been directly helped, financially by the Livestrong foundation? I can't think of one other athlete that has done more, or who is more synonymous with philanthropy the way Armstrong is. I understand wanting to control the narrative. When BJay died, I wanted to control that narrative. I repeated that story to everyone willing to listen. It was vital to me, that people understood that BJay was a hero. He didn't just die. He died saving our sons. I wonder if somehow in all the justifications it wasn't a lie to Lance either, his version. Because he had this thing to uphold. It wasn't right to maintain that lie, and it was terrible the way he did it. But I get it. He was mythic. And that was the problem. As humans, we have a problem with myths. We need to expose them for what they are. What is that? 

Initially, I couldn't watch the Oprah interview. I knew it would just make me mad. I finally saw some clips the other day and they broke my heart. Especially when Lance was talking about telling his son to stop defending him. And the heartbreak in realizing that, even though he'd never talked to his children about it, they fully trusted that he was telling the truth. That is hard stuff. Breaking the trust of your kids. Hard, hard stuff.

It was a hard interview to watch. And Oprah needed those ratings, btw. In the interview, Lance admitted that when he lost control of the story, he expected that he'd lose his sponsors and his titles. But he didn't expect to lose his foundation. He also said that he deserved to be punished, but he wasn't sure he "deserves the death penalty". And that is what he got. As an athlete. He is not allowed to compete. In anything. It doesn't seem fair to me. When most people are punished for a crime, aren't they supposed to pay their debt to society? Lance hasn't just been stripped of his titles and disgraced. He's been stripped of every good thing he's done, or could do. And what a waste! He can't run in a marathon for charity?

 I think this is the problem with humans exacting justice on humans. We're so limited. We don't have the ability to see the big picture most of the time. I think eventually, at some point this will be righted. I hope, at some point Lance Armstrong makes amends to the people he's hurt, and only those people, because I don't think he owes anything more to society as a whole. I hope he gets to compete. I hope he gets to do what he was put on the earth to do. I hope this isn't the end of this story.

I love Oprah, but I wasn't loving her in that interview. Especially when she questioned him about tweeting this photo:

I don't know, I get this photo. And in the interview Lance apologized for it. To me, it says: Fine, take away my titles, I deserve it. But you can't take away the fact that I experienced every one of those races. That is my take anyway. In my opinion, the good of Lance Armstrong totally dilutes the bad.