On Being A Mom

I'd always dreamed of being a mom. Always.  Being a mother has brought me more joy than any other experience in my life. I love being a mother.  I guess we all were quite naïve when we entered motherhood.  Perhaps it is best that way.  Looking at what motherhood might cost a mother might have scared me from walking down that path more than half a century ago, but I doubt it.  I think no matter what, I would have chosen to be a mom.
Amy, Keicha, Ryan, Julie, Jonathan

Now, as I look back on my life knowing the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the heartache that being a mother has brought me I still would not change a thing.  Truly, all grief I’ve ever experienced over the death of a child has been tempered by joy and gratitude for being a mother. The journey through motherhood is one I would never want to miss. I would do it all again. 

In fact, sometimes I wish I could go back and live all those days with my children over again. Just one more time, I'd love them ALL under my roof again.  ALL of them.

Julie, Keicha, Mom, Jonathan, Amy, Ryan

 I’d listen to their banter, and laughter, and I'd laugh with them.  Oh how we laugh when we are together. I'd watch them chase each other around the house teasing and taunting and acting like a bunch of pups frolicking in the joy of having spirited, like minded playmates and likely call out, "watch out or one of you is going end up crying." 

The household in which I raised my children was anything but quiet. When the children were small they roller skated and rode their tricycles in the house.  They practiced their high jumping skills by moving the family room couch to the middle of the room so they could run towards it and jump over it.  The result was that Julie in particular could not only jump high and wide enough to clear the couch.  She also learned to stop running quickly before she ran into the fireplace.  Her track coach once told me he loved how wide she jumped when she ran the hurdles event.  “She learned that at home,” I said with a laugh.

Garbage bags or sleeping bags provided were repurposed to slide down the basement stairs.  An old bedframe with only springs and no mattress perched under the apricot trees in the back yard provided a unique trampoline, a place to build forts with blankets, and a place for summer night sleepovers.  My kids were inventive, resourceful, and imaginative when it came to turning found things into just another way to have fun.

If I were together with all my adult children, I'd listen to their informed and insightful conversations that would include very divergent points of view.  I would, and do, rest assured that no matter how different they all may be from each other, they love and respect each other so much that they will remain a pretty tight group.  They may have their squabbles, but I truly doubt anything could ever destroy the bond they have with each other.

These bonds and this devotion to each other was hard won.  Even though the early years of my children’s lives together were spent establishing and creating childhood bonds with me and with each other, our family was split many years ago by a judge in Utah. 

It happened when my children’s father and I went through a divorce.  My five children ranged in age from fifteen to five.  In those days, custody of the children was not an issue in most divorces.  In the case of my divorce, custody was not even discussed.  As a stay at home mom, I was the major caretaker.  In fact, at the time of the divorce, I didn’t even have a job.  The home in Utah was awarded to me, and so was the custody of the children.

A year after the divorce, I decided, after much urging from my parents, to find a job in Colorado. I had no restrictions on the custody I had been awarded, and the children only occasionally saw their father, so I proceeded with my plans to rent out my home in Utah and move my children with me to Colorado.  Once their father learned what was happening, on a day when visitation rights were to be established for him, he instead surprised the court by filing for custody of all five children.
After a hearing, the judge could see no reason why I should not maintain custody.  He then did a very interesting thing. He asked my thirteen-year-old daughter and my fifteen-year-old son what they wanted to do.  Both said they wanted to stay with their father so they could stay with their friends.  Probably most teens would have said the same thing.

And so, the trajectory of our family was irrevocably changed.  After that fateful day in court, my two oldest children remained in Utah with their father while I flew home in a state of shock and devastation with my three youngest children.

Through absolutely no fault of my own, I lost children legally before I was finished raising them, loving them, and being with them as a mother should be with her children.

Being a mom has brought me some of the greatest emotional pain in my life.  I am not the only one who suffered because of this legal decision.  My children, every single one of them, also suffered immeasurably from this judge’s decree.

In the years when our family was divided down the middle with two children living with their father and three children living with their mom, so much was lost.  I think of all the time I lost where I could have been involved in those teenage years with my two oldest children and my heart nearly breaks.  I wasn’t there to watch over their schooling, their choice of friends, the way the spent their time, or the choices they made.  I didn’t get to make or help pick out prom dresses, or even a wedding dress, for my daughter.  I wasn’t there to advise, console, comfort, or admonish when two teens needed a mom in daily attendance.  So much was lost.  One never gets back time once it is gone.

My younger children also lost all those times they could have spent with their older siblings.  One never gets back the occasion once it has occurred.

To that judge in Utah that ruled to split my family down the middle, I would like to say, "You, with all of your legal power, hurt my family more than you will ever know.”

I wonder if he ever again wondered about the welfare of our family as a whole, or of each child as an individual.  I wonder if he ever even thought of us again.  Did he really consider the financial, the emotional, and the spiritual costs that his decision would place upon all of us?  Did his decision ever wake him up at night?  Did he spend sleepless nights wondering how to restore all that was lost by his decision?

When faced with making, as my daughter has said, a decision worthy of the wisdom of Solomon, this judge abandoned his responsibility and asked two minor children to decide their own custody arrangements.  These children were not old enough to vote.  They couldn't be licensed to drive.  Under law, they still had to go to school, but this judge left a decision, that they could never have had the skills to make in their hands.  I would say to this judge all these years later, “You did great harm to them and to all of us.  The legal system failed my family dreadfully, and each of us paid the price."

All those years ago, when my family was shattered and broken into two distinct pieces, I wondered how all the problems that were created for all of us as a whole and for each individual would be resolved.  It was ordered that all the children spend as much time together as they could.  The order seemed to place precedence over the children visiting each other over the children visiting with the parents.  Or so it seems to me now.  Perhaps, what really evolved from the situation was that the children spent more time all together with their father in Utah then they spent individually or collectively with me.

As a single mom, I had to work to provide for my children.  My earning capabilities were severely limited due to a lack of education and a lack of experience.  I worked as a very poorly paid secretary school secretary.   The irony was that while I had spring breaks and summer breaks off, I did not end up having those times with my children because their father, a teacher, was also off of work and the two teenage children were by that time beginning to work.  They seldom were able to come to visit me or spend time with me.  The three younger children spent every summer with their father and siblings.  Spring and winter breaks were also nearly always spent with their father.

Practicality was not the only deciding factor that led to the visitation arrangement that developed.  In my heart I had determined that I wanted my children to spend as much time together as siblings as they could.  The relationships they forged with each other was of great importance to me.  I wanted them all to experience and create a sense of family that would surpass the limitations that time, money, and a legal decision had placed on the family unit.

Early bonds are not easily broken when they are carefully established.  My children and I have endured as a family.  We love being together.  Each family gathering is a cause to celebrate each other and the family we are.

The law has great power, but it can never have the power that love has.  Love wins.  It always wins.

My children have lost a sibling and I have lost a child to death.  That loss was another loss that was painfully woven into the fabric of our family.  As a family, we experienced much of the sorrow, the shock, the pain, the grief that came from the death of our dear Julie together, or by sharing our grief with each other.  This experience gave us another thread that has sewn our family together into a beautiful covering to provide mutual love and healing for us as a family and as individuals.   
Ryan, Keicha, Amy, Jonathan
Death is often seen as the ultimate show of power, but death cannot destroy love either.  Again, love wins.  Love always wins.

When I think back to those years when I dreamed of being a mother, I wonder what I thought being a mother would look like.  When I brought my first born home from the hospital, did I have any idea of all that being a mother would bring to me?  If I had, would I have had children?

The answer to the first question is: No.  I had no idea what being a mother would mean when it came to how I lived out my life. None of us ever do.  The answer to the second question is:  Yes!  I would not have wanted to miss out on being a mother.  I love being a mom.

Somehow, my children navigated those teenage years and became successful adults.  They are pretty amazing as far as I’m concerned.  There are no other adults I enjoy hanging out with as much as I enjoy my children. 

I have been blessed beyond measure by each of the lives of my beautiful, bright, articulate, funny, complex, and thoroughly delightful five children.  Knowing the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the heartache that being a mother has brought me would not change a thing.  I’d do it all again.  I’d do it and savor every single minute of it.  Thank you Ryan, Keicha, Amy, Julie and Jonathan for being my children.  Thanks for letting me be your mom.  XO

My Mother ~ An Inspiration

My mother is a beautiful woman.

Of that there is no doubt. 
I must have been only about four or five years old
when I found myself studying this portrait of her.  
I was struck by her beauty.
I remember placing the framed image back on her dresser, running into the kitchen where she was working.  I then ran back to her bedroom and took the portrait off of the dresser.  
Taking it to her, I said,
 "Momma, did you know how pretty you are?"

Over the years, I come to admire so much more than just her beauty and style.
It has been many years since I was a child  dressing up in her size four and half high heels.  
I never did fit into those shoes.
My feet were much bigger than hers.
Now, I see so much more in her than I once did.

My mother will turn 98 years old at the end of this month.
She lives six hours away from me.
This past week, I was able to spend just a few hours with her
 as we drove home from a trip to see grandchildren.

While I was with her,  I went out into her yard to dig up some
Lily of the Valley.
I wanted to bring them home to plant in my yard.
These plants originally been transplanted by my mother 
after she dug them from my grandmother's yard over forty years ago.
I wanted to return those plants to Colorado Springs.
I wanted them to grow in my yard.
Lily of the Valley were in my mother's wedding bouquet.
Lily of the Valley were in my wedding bouquet.

I was surprised to see those beautiful pearl shaped white flowers in bloom 
when I went to the side of the house.
I decide to pick a bouquet for Mother.

While I was with her earlier this week, I was able to deliver her Mother's Day Card to her in person.
The front of the card said,
Sooner or later, we all quote our mothers.
Inside the card, the message said,
See, I was listening.

I wrote:
I am also watching.  
I continued to write her a note telling her she is an inspiration.

Yes, I'm taking notes on how to age with grace and beauty.

Mother had tears in her eyes after she read my card.
I faced her and put my hands on her shoulders.
She seemed so small.
She seemed so fragile.
Her once bright eyes seemed more cloudy than I want to see.
She said,
"When I gave my life over to the Lord and told Him to take control of my life, that made all the difference.  He has always taken care of me.  
Look how He provides.  
Before I get up every morning, I ask Him to take care of me, 
and He does.  
I don't worry about anything.  I trust Him."

She asked me to trust more and worry less.

She doesn't know how much I worry about her.
I do.

I wish she were not so far away.
I wish I could work in her yard, take her to the store, visit with her,
help her with the daily tasks of living.
She wants to live where she has lived for so long.
Who can fault her for that?
She is stubborn.
She is a woman with whom you cannot argue.
She is a woman determined to keep her independence.

She also is a woman trusting the Lord minute by minute.
He has taken care of her all these 98 years. 
She knows He's going to continue to do so.

Her favorite song is,
Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow.
That is the anthem of her life.

She knows how to age with grace and beauty.
She gives me much to admire.

I love you, Mother. 
Thank you for all of the life lessons you have given me.
Most of all, 
thank you for allowing 
God's grace to shine through you 
as you have modeled for me, and for so many others,
 the walk of faith.  

* Note
My mother will read this post on her computer.  She is up with the times.  She is amazing.

A Room with a View

This has been my view since Saturday night. The view is great even if the location to obtain this view is not. I'm on the ninth floor of Penrose Hospital. I'm hoping I'm released before I finish writing this blog post. I spent my Mothers's Day here. I spent yesterday here. I've spent half of today here. I'm watching a storm roll over the mountain. After watching folks on the street below my window walk, jog, or bike in the sunshine while I was cooped up inside, I have little hope of feeling "sunshine on my shoulders" if or when I'm released today because rain in in the forecast.

I'm breaking a rule of advice my father always gave me by writing this blog post. "No one wants to hear about your maladies and surgeries," he'd say, but here I go writing of such things even after his advice.  For weeks, I've not blogged much, nor have I done much of anything, because I've been unwell. I've had more medical tests than I've been able to keep track off.

For years, I've had chronic problems with my esophagus and digestive track. After my ninth scope of my esophagus in January, I decided to get a second opinion from the GI doctors at National Jewish Health in Denver. I've been fortunate enough to be a patient at this prestigious hospital  for respiratory problems for the past seventeen years. My wonderful doctor at NJH, an outstanding doctor who has been treating me, caring for me, and listening to me at least once a year since 1996 referred me to their GI docs. Since my initial consult with the new doctor, I've had enough tests to make my head spin: CT scans, ultra sounds, MRI, colonoscopy, and there are more to come.  Unfortunately, I have more than one type of GI problems.

In the meantime, I've continued to have terrible upper right abdominal pain. On this past Saturday evening,  after two days of persistent pain, I had my husband take me to the ER. This was my fourth visit to the ER since Easter. This time, the lipase levels were up high enough to get the doctors' attention in the ER. Thankfully, the surgeon I had consulted just last week for the possible removal of my gall bladder was on duty at the ER. After reviewing my symptoms and my blood work, he determined I should be admitted to the hospital for monitoring, observation, and for further testing.

I was told I would have a HIDA scan  on Sunday.  So, I spent Mother's Day in the hospital waiting for this test.  This meant I had only fluids coming into my body via an IV.  So much for the nice brunch that my husband had made reservations for at the Fine Arts Center.  I was very disappointed, frustrated, and upset that I found myself in the hospital on this special day, but on the other hand, deep down inside, I knew I couldn't eat anything anyway.  Food has just not been agreeing with me.  It hasn't for weeks.  Finally, at about 4:00 in the afternoon on Mother's Day, the doctor, a hospitalist, met with me and told me the test would not happen until the next day. He said I could order anything I wanted from the hospital menu because they wanted to see if I got sick.  (That seems a bit sinister, doesn't it?)  I chose wisely and ate salmon and other low fat options.  Once I finished eating, I was told I would have nothing else to eat until after the test scheduled the next day  for "first thing in the morning."

In reality, I finally had the HIDA at about 1:00 in the afternoon.  The test showed that there wasn't enough criteria to prove the gall bladder was not functioning.  Even before the test, my GI doctor in Denver had told me that based on my symptoms and the MRI, she suspected I had a condition called Sphincter of Oddi.  After having the HIDA, even though the tests showed no remarkable signs of a non-functioning gall bladder, I became quite symptomatic.  My symptoms became worse after I ate my hospital sanctioned low fat dinner, the first meal I'd had on Monday.  By bedtime, I was given morphine for pain.

As predicted when I started the post, I was released to go home after the sun went away and the rain began to come down.  Before I was released, I was advised to talk to my GI doctor at National Jewish Health about having the test and procedure for Sphincter of Oddi done.  As I already knew, this procedure is only done at the University of Colorado hospital in Denver.  I called Dr. M at NJH and told her nurse what was going on. Within an hour, Dr. M was on the phone calling me.  She said, "I'm sending a text to Dr. S at the University Hospital to see you ASAP."  I told her a text sounded pretty impressive.  She laughed and said they were close colleagues and she was sure he would see me as soon as it could be arranged.  In the meantime, she said I was to meticulously follow a fat free diet and go immediately to the hospital for my lipase levels to be checked if my pain got worse.  She said she doesn't want me to get pancreatitis.  Believe me, neither do I.  The pain I've had is bad enough.

So, the testing continues.  I still have no answers, but I believe we are on the right track.  I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful doctors at National Jewish Health looking after my health.  I have never known a place that is more responsive to medical needs or more thorough  in checking for the cause for a problem.  They don't just treat the symptoms.

I am also very fortunate to have great medical care here in Colorado Springs.  The surgeon who was consulted on the gall bladder didn't just jump in and take it out.  He made sure all things were checked out.  My  GI doctors in Colorado Springs were on the case while I was in the hospital.  The PA that has cared for me for years popped in twice to check on me, consult with me, and do her part in getting to the bottom of this, while also bolstering my spirit.  She has always taken so much time with me, listened to me, and treated me with extraordinary care.  Just seeing her smiling face when she appeared at the door of the hospital room and walked to my bedside lifted my spirits.  I felt a friend had come to visit; she was not just someone from the medical profession.

In the meantime, I wait until I can get more answers when I go to the University of Colorado Hospital.  I will not be eating any hamburgers!  I will be meticulous about not eating fat.  I hope I can dodge the bullet when it comes to having anymore attacks before we get to the bottom of this.

One thing is for sure, I had a memorable Mother's Day.  Amazingly, I didn't feel sorry for myself.  I didn't let myself go there.  I felt loved and cared for by my wonderful husband.  I talked with each of my children.  I was visited by a step-daughter.  A pastor from my church came twice to visit and pray with me.  I was cared for by some wonderful nurses who gave up a Mother's Day with their families in order to care for those in the hospital.  And, I had a wonderful view of Pikes Peak in a room all to myself until late last night.

 I am going have my husband take me for that special brunch just as soon as I can eat again.  He's not getting off that easy.  I'll wear the beautiful amber necklace that he gave me for Mother's Day when I finally get to go to brunch.  Isn't it beautiful?
My Mother's Day gift from my hubby -
a beautiful amber necklace.