Friday, April 21, 2017

Gifts From My Brother

Today my brother would've been 31 years old.  I realized that he has been gone for over 5.5 years, which is incredible for so many reasons.  To some extent, it feels like yesterday- other times it seems like so long ago because of how much my life has changed.  

As I drove to work this morning, he was on my mind.  Eric is often on my mind on the way to work.  I think it's because of the peace and quiet a car ride can bring you without three kids in the back.  I'm not even really sure what I think about- it's not really memories or wondering how he is, but more just seeing his face, saying his name in my mind.  Allowing my heart to feel his absence and giving myself permission and some time to grieve all over again. 

It's hard, sometimes, remembering him.  The last couple years of his life, he wasn't himself.  He was often a lying, cheating, stealing addict... crippled sick with his disease. He was also helpless, hopeless, and desperate. He was misunderstood by me.  I did not understand addiction as a disease like I do now.  I did not understand what drugs had done to his brain, his conscience, his ability to feel.  I did not understand the pull drugs have over an addict, how truly powerless he was. 

The beauty is, when I let my mind go there, I can remember Eric- the real Eric.  My first companion and my first friend.

Besides those quiet early morning drives when he inevitably lets me feel his spirit, he continues to leave "gifts" for me- ways for me to remember he's there. 

- I know he sent Prim, our cat, to be with me when I needed something the most.  I had lost my brother and suffered our first miscarriage in the same week.  When Prim literally showed up on my parent's door step a few days after, I told Josh I needed to take care of something.  She was such a healer for me at that time.

- My sister-in-law, Jessica has vivid dreams where he comes to her.  I think they are spirit animals or something.  In these dreams, he is always playing with our kids.  This gives me such peace thinking he is taking care of the two babies we lost and also gives me reassurance that he would have been and wanted to be the best uncle. He has also correctly predicted EVERY.SINGLE.BABY. that's ever been born in my family.  All three of my boys AND my two nieces were revealed in dreams to Jessica. 

- Keeping his birthday just his birthday- Having all three of my kids born in early May, I was holding my breath in the 20s of April hoping I would not go into any labor on Eric's day.  I asked him to make sure his day is only his and so far he's listened ;)   

-The way my boys talk about Eric- We are still muddling through how to explain death to Nolan and Judah.  I've talked about Uncle Eric with them and every so often, they will bring him up out of nowhere.  They've said they've talked to him or gone to visit him while they are pretending, but I know it's more than that :)

-Christmas stocking- My mom wanted to make sure my brother's stocking was full on Christmas just like the rest of ours so each year, she gives us an ornament with a picture of my brother.  Sometimes it's an old family picture, sometimes it's just a picture with him and I or him and another one of my sisters.  Each year, we always know we're getting a piece of him, a memory of him.

It's difficult to lose someone the way we lost my brother- it's difficult to have things left unsaid, relationships not at their very best, and to have a sense of relief knowing the demons Eric was fighting aren't plaguing us or him anymore.  I think that makes it all the more important that these little "gifts" be present.

Happy Birthday, brother dearest <3

Sunday, April 9, 2017

With Great Knowledge, Comes Great Responsibility

I tell my sixth graders all the time how freaking powerful knowledge is- in so many different ways, in so many different forms.  We talk about how empowering it feels to be knowledgeable about a topic.  How smarts and intelligence and information is one of the only things someone cannot take from you once you have it.  How their pen, their pencil, their voice is their most powerful weapon.  How they "are all geniuses and the world EXPECTS their contribution." (read Angela Maier's Classroom Habitudes- game changer!) 

I say these things, I believe these things with every bit of my being.

I love learning myself. Because we teach so globally in Team 61, I am constantly learning about the world, which has made me into quite the bleeding heart.  When you know all the needs that are out there- the heartbreak, the fury, the passion, the weight of so many causes and people, natural disasters, corruption, inequity, injustice, etc etc.  I walk around heavy with it- wanting to fix everything, help everyone.  It hurts, the weight.  

Having and acquiring knowledge and learning new things changes me... daily.

The things mentioned above are big and overwhelming.  But even on a small scale, like a tiny, little, bitty scale- getting smarter about something makes me a constantly growing, molding, and changing human. 

That brings me to today... 

Potty training has been a son of a __________ in our house.

Nolan and Judah are almost four years old and we've been using the potty since they were 18 months old.  Anyone who did it faster or easier or better- GOOD FOR YOU! Teach me your ways for when we potty train Carter.  As of now, I am at peace with this being a journey... like a long one.  Like a 'going around the world' type of journey.  I empowered my boys to drive this bus.  So we scaled back when they needed and experimented further when they were ready.  Because of that, potty training has taken F O R E V E R, but has been a fairly positive experience.  

I digress... So much to say about potty training... maybe for another blog...

Anyway, we told N and J months ago that once they were really wearing 'fancy pants' during the night and during naps consistently and staying dry, we would get them each a FISH!

Judah has arrived at this place!  HOORAY!  

So my family of five headed in to a pet store super excited to get everything we needed for our new pet.  

I grew up having fish.  When I was in elementary school, my art teacher's goldfish had like a million babies so she was pawning them off on anyone who would take them.  We took three and they lived until I was in high school!  Penny, Nickel, and Dollar were their names (I'm sure you were dying to know).  When I was in college and living on my own, I got into guppy fish.  I had Nancy and Ronald and then Prince Charming and Gus Gus.  Those fish all lived a respectable couple of years.  I've had pretty good luck and have kept these fish just in a regular bowl using room temperate water.  I picked out the fish, they were put in a net, and tada! 

Shame on me for thinking this trip would be anything like that experience...

I gained knowledge and it changed me. 

After Judah had picked out an adorable yellow guppy with a red tail (he LOVES yellow), we went to the nearest worker to get our little new fish bagged up.  Instead of walking over the tank, using a net, and getting it out so we could be on our merry way like I was used to, the worker started asking us questions, "Did you pick out your tank?  How many guppies are you getting? Do you already have the water ready?" Among others.  

We showed her the 'tank' we had picked out and told her we hadn't gotten anything ready at home yet.  She was aghast and began to smarten me up on how to raise a guppy fish (or really any fish for that matter).  I learned that guppies are school fish and really should have a least two other friends with it to behave normally. I learned that guppies are tropical fish and therefore need a heater.  I also learned that guppies, even though they are the size of a raisin, need at least a 10 gallon tank.  That pretty much ALL fish need at least a 10 gallon tank.  

My eyes got big and all the memories of my fish raising came flooding back at me.  I said to her "woah! I've had guppies before.  I just had them in a bowl and they lived for years.  I don't understand."

Her answer was "Well, a dog can survive in a crate, but that doesn't mean it will thrive in one."

I am a fish abuser!  I had no idea.  

I told her we would clearly need to read and learn more about this and would NOT be getting a fish today.  I grabbed some packets and got the heck out of there.  

This is where knowledge gets really tricky.  Once you know stuff, you sure do have more power, but you sure also do have more responsibility.  Before today, I had no idea I had done anything wrong or inhumane to my beloved past fish. But now I knew- they survived with me, but did not thrive with me.  I was a bad fish mother.  I could no longer get a goldfish or guppy, put it in a simple bowl and think everything was great. 

I was changed, yet again, but knowledge.  

Now that I learned this new information, I needed to act more responsibly.

So we are currently fish-less exploring several options of how to proceed so that Judah (and Nolan when he's ready) can be loving, caring fish parents.

Thankfully, Judah is taking this set-back like a CHAMP and was super excited to leave the store today with a net and rocks that we will put on the future aquarium floor.  He knows the fish is coming, but he knows we have to get smarter about having a fish first so we can do the right thing by our new pet.  

Apply it globally or locally- to basic human needs, global issues, war, famine, politics, poverty, or getting your potty- trained son his first pet... with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.