It’s a tradition…

A sure fire way to make Christmas the most un-wonderful, exhausting and dreaded time of the year? Work in retail. I’m certain restaurant veterans could say the same, but retail is where I spent entirely too much time during Christmas. So much time, that when the boys were younger, December 23rd rolled around and the Millers didn’t have a Christmas tree.

Yep, December 23rd. No tree. And Santa was coming soon. Yikes!

Kroger to the rescue – that year and every year since.

I’m a traditions girl; once I have settled on “We’re doing this every year.”, there can be no end to it in my book. I think it must be a little bit of control, mixed with knowing what’s coming, a dash of “I’ve done this before; I can do this again”, a touch of stability, and the ownership of it being uniquely us – “This is our thing; this is what we do.” So each year, the Kroger tree it is. Sometimes, it’s a tree that looks like a total reject; other years, no one would guess we didn’t get it from one of those expensive tree lots or the ever popular “cut your own” tree farms.

And because I got back in line four times when Jesus was handing out the gift of being strong-willed and then another four times when He was passing around the stuff that would pull on my heart strings, I don’t do well when “tradition” goes out the window; if it’s a Miller Life tradition, you better believe Mama is going to become a contortionist to keep it going. As J & C have gotten older, the traditions I hold so dear have become more difficult to keep, but we’ve managed to hang onto 95% of them.

Until this year. And it has sucked.

Heart wrenching, heaving sobs more than once a day. I was frequently tempted to just get out everyone’s presents and put them, unwrapped, in the middle of the floor and scream, “Merry Freakin’ Christmas – have at it!” My Fave heard me say, “I just don’t even want to celebrate this year.”, more than I care to admit. Even worse, J & C both said, “It doesn’t even feel like Christmas.”, which is like a dagger through a Mama’s heart – and they didn’t just say it one time. (And, I’m sure it being 60° in Cincinnati in December didn’t help but I’m certain Mama losing it carries much of the blame.)

No matter how I tried, the “This is what we do at Christmas.” just wasn’t happening. Cookies – not a single one made. Kroger tree – My Fave and I picked it out 10 days before Christmas; it was dried out before we got around to decorating it 4 days before Old St. Nick would arrive. Outside lights – none. Inside decorations – put most of them out solo. Our annual trip to Pier One to pick out Li Bien ornaments and then Buca di Peppo for dinner – postponed twice; we finally managed to buy ornaments one evening, but dinner fell victim to a party, so it happened two nights later and the ornaments never even made it onto the tree. The Christmas Eve service we haven’t missed for 10 years – missed it and with it my method of measuring milestones, a Christmas Eve family picture. The picture perfect outfits – flannels. And Vans. And forget tucking in the shirt – My Fave went so far to ask if he had to tuck in his; you can imagine the glare he got as an answer. A flannel is technically a button-down shirt and they agreed to khakis – I had not an ounce of energy with which to battle them any longer so flannels it was.

“This Mama of teenagers thing will get easier.” ranks in the Top 5 of the lies I continue to repeat to myself. Our sweet boys are 15 and 16 and want nothing to do with Mama’s traditions. Okay, that’s harsh and certainly an exaggeration but it’s felt very much like that for weeks. The combination of a med change (insurance companies are stupid – really, really stupid and in no way should be considered a means to caring for one’s health; I will continue to wish their stockings be filled with coal each year.) and no longer being able to ignore that my babies are, by the second, quickly looking/acting/talking less and less like my babies and more and more like young men who will soon leave me has been brutal. I’ve had a lot of tough Christmases; this one has been among the most difficult.

I think this Christmas season was a means to force me to deal with a hard truth: “Mama, your Christmas past and Christmas future are going to be miles apart and Christmas future will be here before you know it.” I know I’m not the only parent out there struggling with this same reality. It only makes me feel one-tenth of an ounce better knowing I’m not out here solo, but I will take what I can get. Over the next week or so, I will spend some quiet time updating my eulogy. It’s become an annual exercise in moving from where I am now to where I want to be, while also seeing how far I’ve come; in short, I write what I want people to be able to say about me, even if it isn’t currently true, and celebrate where I’ve made strides toward becoming the person who can hear “Welcome home, My child. Well done.” when Jesus takes me from this earth. My prior efforts contain many of the traditions I hold so very near and dear but don’t mention traditions our family will establish as the boys get older and land wherever life may take them.

So, the writing of some new traditions it is. Who knows, I might even manage to dream up one or two we can put into practice sooner, rather than later. But let’s be clear, there’s one tradition I refuse to give up: the Miller tree will continue to come from Kroger – weird or not, some things should simply never change.

Just don’t die…

image_80775643-afa7-4b93-9448-c0963076a08f.img_3285My baby is 15 today. I am not old enough to have a 15 year old. I am not sure how I blinked that much. I am not ready to let go of him needing his Mama. I am not sure how to loosen the white knuckle grip I have on the stage of parenting that I can see coming to an end. I am certainly not looking forward to the speed at which the next few years will fly. I am not at all prepared for his Launch and yet its target is in sight. I’ve been really emotional about Coleman’s birthday this year. He’s 15; it’s not really a milestone of any sort. Doesn’t come with any real “rights of passage”. Doesn’t evoke some new freedom. So it seems a bit odd that 15 would hit my in the face, and heart, the way it has.

I do realize that “Just don’t die.” likely seems a terrible title for a blog post written in honor of a kid’s birthday. It was that or “I got you, Mooms.” “Just don’t die.”, however, is a statement that has been uttered, in some fashion, to and about Coleman for almost 15 years and has morphed from a desperate plea to total sarcasm over those same 15 years.

Short version: on Christmas Eve in 2004, I went to bed to catch an hour or so of sleep before C’a next feeding. Newborns are exhausting – add to it C having to be taken via C-Section because at 36 weeks he measured 42 weeks and my “4’10’ & never been over 100 lbs until I got pregnant” body wasn’t bringing what turned out to be a 9lbs 2oz monster size human into the world by natural means. Oh, and J was 17 months old. And there’s the little detail that BiPolar meds and pregnancy/breastfeeding don’t play well in the sandbox so I wasn’t exactly of sound mind. Mama was tired a lot. Two kids under two, a 6 inch incision in my gut and a really unstable brain. “Mama was tired a lot” is an understatement. So when My Fave woke me up that night, I believe the words that came out of my mouth were, “Good God – he just ate!” The reply was, “C’s burning up. Where’s the thermometer?” The reading came back at 104.7°; by the time we got to the ER, it was 107°. Three spinal taps later, we were told C had bacterial meningitis and would be placed in isolation in the NICU to start an aggressive cocktail of antibiotics. The diagnosis and course of treatment were followed with a statement of caution, “If he makes it, we will have no way of knowing the damage to his brain – he may very well never walk or talk; only time will tell.” How’s that for “Baby’s First Christmas”? Four weeks of treatment, in the NICU and at home with a picc line, wiped the illness out. 10 weeks old and C had already given us enough of an adventure. He wasn’t done. (Still isn’t.)

A few months later, we discovered his left lung was only partially developed. “He May outgrow it; if he doesn’t by the time he turns six, we’ll have to go in to remove the undeveloped portion so his lung has a chance to fully develop.” He spent nearly six years on steroids, breathing treatments that took place multiple times a day, regular and increasing doses of antibiotics because a simple cold almost always became pneumonia so we learned to be aggressive early. C slept with us for almost four years because the movement monitor in his bed would sound its alarm so frequently because he’d stop breathing in his sleep and therefore be lying more still than he should. So he slept with us.

Not so much a “short version” but that’s the best I could do. Minus the annoying discovery that the illnesses and copious amounts of medications somehow resulted in most of his vaccinations being only slightly effective, C’s defied every single caution we were given. So if the anti-vaxxers could just vaccinate their kids so kids like mine, and others who don’t vaccinate well, I’d have little worry about C’s health.

“Just don’t die.” for a good chunk of C’s early years were a plea. To keep breathing and fighting. To keep pushing to defy the doctors who had caution after caution about what sort of life he might face. It was a prayer and sobbing hope. Over the past 8 or so years, it’s become almost a joke.

The kid has an Emergency Room frequent flyer card. How in the heck someone hasn’t had us investigated by Child Services is beyond me. Stitches, near brain-eating eye infections, broken bones, surgeries to remove marble-sized lymph nodes, flesh eaten by the lining of a cast – the kid is a mess. And none of these have come from just a casual living of life – C lives bigger than any of us would like him to. “Just don’t die.” isn’t a somber plea for life – it’s a shake of the head send-off because the kid we repeatedly told he wasn’t going to die, lives life like he never will.

He’s spent 15 years proving those doctors wrong. He’s played sport after sport, finally finding his spot in golf and basketball. He will try almost anything once. He lives big and loud and hilarious. There has not been a single teacher who within a week of the school year hasn’t said, “I love that kid. He’s hilarious and obnoxious and a handful but I love that kid!” Recently more than one teacher has said, “He’s such a little s$!t but God, I love him!” And he’s itching to get to the next stage of Launch while a whole bunch of us watch with bated breath.

When J started playing high school golf and his coach started to get know C a bit, it didn’t take long for him to realize just how different the brothers and future teammates were. When it came time for J to get his temps, his coach said to me, “You won’t have to worry about J driving, will you? You’ll send him off with, ‘Have fun and be safe.’ When C gets behind the wheel the send-off will be, ‘Just don’t die.'” And full circle those three little words came.

Happy Birthday, C! You’re exhausting in a hundred great ways and a few not so great ones. You make me smile every day, even when I am so mad at you I could scream. Life is such an adventure for you and it’s so fun to watch. Boring you will never be. Charm will never elude you. “I got this.” is your anthem. I am so crazy proud of your fight and your heart and your fearlessness. You’re a total jerk-face teenager and have done enough in your short high school career to already be grounded for life, but you can negotiate your way out of almost anything and you share your Mama’s love for UK, so we’re good. “This is my world and I let you live in it.” is our funny way of saying the world is in your hands and you have no intention of missing any part of it!

I could go on and on about the kid who will make My Fave and I empty-nesters in just a few years. My greatest tribute to him would be this: “You have spent your entire life showing doctors who said ‘If he makes it…’ eat their words. I might be your Mama but you inspire me on the days when my fight is bigger than I think I can survive. Keep being your larger than life self – the world needs people who can get stuff done but don’t need to be so serious doing it. Love you, Cheeto – jerk-face and all!”

Oh and, please, Just. Don’t. Die.

Who are these people…

I cried myself to sleep last night.

It’s not the first time in the last month or so and it won’t be the last between now and March, when the clocks “spring forward”. It sucks. It makes for crappy sleep which makes for a long next day. It makes clawing my way through the days, when psych meds just aren’t enough to make my brain believe that quitting life isn’t an option, increasing difficult. It makes it harder to not let the miserable people, who want to make others miserable so they aren’t alone in their own misery, get to me. It makes getting through the “get to” list of tasks, that requires me to juggle multiple hats, really hard to concentrate on and check off, making the next day’s list longer and leave me feeling like I accomplished nothing and hence am worthless and letting the people I do life with down. It makes me feel weak and pathetic and like the person who will in fact be driven into the ground because I care entirely too much. It makes everything more difficult and ultimately makes me feel like the two things I have as non-negotiables each day, I can’t possibly succeed at: 1) Be the person I was on purpose made to be by a Creator who me as a Masterpiece in His image. 2) Be the wife to My Fave and Mama, I believe He wants me to be, to the greatest gifts He gave to me. Continue reading

A new chapter…

jancoaStop me if you’ve heard this one before: Girl, recently diagnosed with bipolar, gets into a car accident and her injuries require finding a new job. Girl uses a temp agency and gets placed at Boy’s family’s company. Boy comes into the office to meet the new Girl one day. Boy and Girl talk for 2 1/2 hours. Boy asks Girl out. Boy shows up 2 1/2 hours late for their first date. To “end” their first date, Boy crashes at Girl’s house and never leaves. Continue reading

Maybe someday…

I needed a moment to process this one and proud to say that I could do so rationally. It’s a nod to a great psychiatrist, that I’m blessed with provision to afford out of pocket, and her vast knowledge of medication, also blessed to afford, that made it possible to not fly off the handle in a total meltdown mess when I saw this the other day.

Continue reading

F-bombing Jesus and living to tell about it…

When+you+tell+your+secrets,+they+lose+their+power+over+you.Before I write another word, let me be clear: I. Am. Good. I am safe. I am taking my meds. I am seeing my docs. I am living life – cursing it along the way at times – but living life. I am good and still here. Don’t always want to be and yet here we are. Crawling and clawing through the next 60 seconds.

Now that we’ve established that…

“Jesus, we’re really doing this today? Really? Why? I don’t want to do this for one more second. That whole ‘I know the plans I have for you…’ thing is crap. Crap. F*#! You, Jesus – Your plans suck!” Continue reading