Sunday, January 4, 2015

Johnson Family Christmas/New Years Letter 2014

For those of you who take interest in reading my yearly Christmas Letter, here we go again!   I have been writing Christmas letters since 2002 and now, with the progress of technology, I will officially be blogging my Christmas letters from here on out.  Know that I appreciate the interest, as I attempt to chronicle the uncommon life of the Johnson Family.  This letter has become important for me over the years... it allows me the opportunity to see where we have been and where we are going, and thank God for all of the blessings in our journey through life.  So... thank you for reading and enjoy a sneak peak into the Odd Life of Jeremy and Emma Johnson.

We really are odd people and our life sometimes feels, well...sometimes it feels as if we are a family of four traveling down the road of life in a '04 Jetta, with a guinea pig and a dog and windsheild wipers that won't stop wiping and the clicking of a turn signal that won't stop clicking.  Oh wait.  That was our drive to my parent's house on Christmas Eve, so I guess it's less of a metaphor and more of a reality.  

Anyway -- here goes 2014:

Last January we were arriving home from a peaceful 3 weeks in Oregon to a disgustingly cold winter storm in Indiana that left more than a foot of snow and below zero temperatures.  The storm was par for the course that winter, and despite having lived in Alaksa for 4 years, we hated it.  We realized that we had no desire whatsoever to endure Alaskan-like winters anymore, especially after Jeremy spent a large part of the winter plowing.  But, like any long and cold winter, the lack of ability to do much else caused us to think...think...think...

We needed to think because we had again, met a block in the road...Which isn't so hard to imagine when your lively hood is dependent upon being paid by a non-profit organization and an unemployment check.  Our lives had been in transition ever since Jeremy's career path vanished into thin air almost two years ago and the job he'd never wanted was relocated to Denver (meaning he was laid-off).  At this point (Feb of 2013) we took the opportunity to re-think our lives, exploring the possibility of making a living doing something we actually enjoyed.  In January of 2014 we needed to think especially hard because Jeremy's unemployment was coming to an abrupt end and someone was going to have to have a full-time job.  After a decent amount of thought and prayer, we arrived at a conclusion: I would officially become a full-time employee of Safe Families for Children and Jeremy would continue being a part-time musician and would add part-time homeschool/stay-at-home dad to his resume.  This decision was purely experimental and we decided that it couldn't hurt to try this new role-reversal for a few months.

By Spring everyone was still alive, but there had been enough days where Jeremy ended up cross-eyed with frustration over homeschooling that we began to consider alternative educational choices.  This was mostly because if Addi didn't feel like accomplishing school work that day, the whole house would suffer and many days she and her dad were still homeschooling at 6 pm.  

Working full-time was new for me, but it was good we chose this route because Safe Families in Madison County was becoming a full-time position whether I liked it or not!  A typical day for me can be rather ADD-ish and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Working with Safe Families full-time means that I wear about 10 different hats each day, 8 of which I have never worn before.  Sometimes I am a case coach taking crisis calls from referring agencies, placing children in safe family homes and working with the parent to establish stability (which is a broad generalization and can mean anything from finding resources for a backed utility bill to finding a suitable rehab facility and more).  Other times I am attempting to find new grants and funding streams and planning fundrasier and awareness events (which is NOT my gifting but someone has to do it!). Still other times I am outreaching to new churches, recruiting new host families and scheduling church presentations. This is the part of the 'job' (and I use that term loosley since this is more of my calling than my job) that Jeremy and I enjoy doing together.  His music fits well with the Safe Families presentations and there have been a handful of times that we have shared our story and his music... and it works out pretty well.  

I suppose that's because both music and Safe Families have sprung out of our lives entirely organically.  I did not set out, nor did I intentionally develop the skill set to start up a non-profit that helps families in crisis, nor did Jeremy purposely set out to be a musician.  However, to some degree it seems as though God has provided an open door for both of us to pursue these endeavors... and I suppose it is THAT fact that allows us to continue along our nail-biting journey.  I have to admit, there have been many days that I have felt completely unqualified for what I am doing; I will give you one example.  

I have overseen one adoption case in Madison County (which was highlighted on the Safe Fam's blog here).  During the hearing, our attorney asked that I testify on behalf of Safe Families and the host family wishing to adopt the little girl whose guardian was terminal with cancer.  I nervously took the witness stand, but was confident both in our organization and the families' ability to provide a good home for this sweet child.  The attorney asked about my background and training, right off the bat, "And what are your credentials?" 

Um... I meekly said, "I have a bachelors degree in English...." which was probably not the response he was expecting.  But what I wanted to say was, "I'm also a mother of two children.  One is strong willed and has forced me to refine my parenting skills.  I have endured a tumultuous marriage, and attended recovery groups and marital counseling because of the sorry state we were in.  I know what it's like to need help, to feel that you are at the end of your rope and can only pray that someone will show you the way out...and I would never shame someone for asking for help...and those are my credentials."

But of course I made mention of none of those things and quickly followed my statement about being an English major with, "...however I have recieved training from our professional staff in Indianapolis, who oversees all of the placements in Madison County..."  Shew, that seemed to work and we were on to the next question.

Come the Spring we also had a big scare with Sam.  Ugh... I hate talking about these things because it still makes me feel weak in the gut and oddly ashamed.  

It's totally normal for your 6 year old to fall 15 feet out of a tree right?  In front of at least 100 people?  At a funeral?  I won't recount the whole story (I did make mention of it in a previous post) because if I did I would be ridden with parental guilt and probably  just walk away from the computer and start eating cookies for no reason.  Suffice to say, Sam got overly ambitious and decided to rescue a poor balloon that was dancing at the end of a thin branch.  I watched his face, he was yearning for that balloon, and he felt that all eyes were on him (although they weren't...they were watching the other hundred balloons that were recently released, float upward)... but he felt like they were watching him, and he didn't want to disappoint.  Anyway, despite Jeremy's firm but calm words, "son do not step on that branch it will not hold you" he did anyway, and he fell, and the crowd reacted in unison, and I watched and he screamed his back was broke and it was harrowing.  

The whole ordeal hit me so hard.  I practically yelled at Jeremy at the hospital while Sam was getting his catscan, "What the heck is wrong with me?  Why didn't I see that coming?  Why was I so relaxed and just watching from a distance?  Who does that?"  The truth was, Jeremy was handling it and I trusted his abilites... I actually think I really felt like Jeremy would catch him if he fell.  Which goes to show that I think Jeremy is extremely capable, but I couldn't figure out why I hadn't gone over to help.  It truly knocked me "off my game" for a while and I couldn't let it go.  Sam's injuries were only a broken wrist and he was back to climbing trees before he was out of a brace.  Darn agile monkey children.

On a lighter note, Sam turned 7 this year and made some pretty serious decisions as well.  The kids and I decided to drive downtown to hear Nick Vujicic speak again this year.  We have heard him speak at least twice before, but none of us ever tire of hearing a man with no arms and no legs call people out of their seats and prompt them to accept a life following a Saviour who can make even a limbless man feel whole.  Every time I hear him, God shows me something beautiful.

The first time we heard Nick speak was Easter at our local High School.  He did his thing, shared his story, called people to the front to accept a new life.  Except no one really moved initially... there was just a lot of silence and quiet coughs.  Then, chairs started scooting and everyone looked to the row where at least 8 people had to stand up and scoot themselves out to the aisle to allow a man with a walker hobble his way out of a middle row, into the aisle, re-situate himself on his walker, and clink and clank his way down the center aisle with hundreds of people watching, to receive a new life.  Can you imagine the effort it took for him to do that?  He broke the awkwardness and others rose up out of their chairs and followed this brave soul to receive the same gift.  I have never forgotton that although it happened 5 years ago.

Anyway, this time was Sam's turn.  Nick made is call to the crowd and encouraged those who wanted to receive the gift of Jesus to rise up out of their chairs and come to the front.  Sam waved his hand wildly and jumped out of his chair, took himself down the steps to the center of the collsium to make his decision known.  Addi watched with a surprised and careful eye, as did I.  I made a point to let him do this on his own, and though he looked over his shoulder for me a number of times, a kind woman came to pray with him about his decision.

If I had to guess... this will not be the last time Sam will accept a life with Jesus publicly.  Last year at Christmas he made a similar commitment by raising his hand during a "come to Jesus prayer" and tithed his precious lava rock to seal the deal.  For some reason, he is very drawn to making this public declaration, and I think we will allow him to do it as many times as he likes.

Visit from Nana and Papa
House Concert in Charlotte
The summer flew by all to fast, especially since we had decided to try out public school this year and in our neck of the woods school began on August 5 (boo).  However, we packed in a large Safe Families fundraiser that was extremely laborious to plan, into June, followed by a visit from Jeremy's parents and a trip to North Carolina in July.  Despite the turmoil and sibling rivalary that defines practically every day of our home life, we all get along pretty well on the road.  There is nothing like packing our little Jetta full of music equipment and camping gear and setting off on the open road.  We all love it.  We rolled into my brothers house in Charlotte just in time for the house concert we planned.  My brother and his wife have the most fantastic deck for house concerts and the loveliest friends around that show up to hear Jeremy (and his helpers) sing.  

We drove ourselves to Carolina Beach for two days, where Addi and I happened to see a shark swimming in the ocean next to us.  It was a small shark no doubt but it sent us sprinting out of the waves in an instant.  My favorite shot at the beach was this one. 

 Sam was specifically asked NOT to share his Lunchable with the seagulls, but I found him sharing crackers with them anyway saying, "it's ok little guy I got another one for you too!"  He is such an animal lover and this picture says it all.  

We sqealed back into Indiana just in time for Addi to be a flower girl (she was not so thrilled about the PDA) and for Jeremy's band to play side stage at the One Republic concert AND to see our new cousin, baby Maggie, enter the world.

Then it was off to school.  For whatever reason, I seem to make things more difficult than they should be.  Jeremy was feeling peaceful about putting out kids in public school, because we had given homeschool our best shot and it was obvious that Addi needed something different.  I, of course, questioned and talked about it and racked my mind with reasons as to why I needed to freak out about it.  After a few weeks of adjustment, our kids began to love school and I began to have a huge appreciation for their teachers that made a special effort to acclimate them into the public school setting...which mostly meant they needed to be reminded multiple times a day to actually turn their homework in.  After that it was all good.

In the Fall we attempted to take one last trip while the whether was nice.  We packed our bags, squeezed in one of Addi's friends and got the kids all pumped to go to Holiday World.  It wasn't until we were 20 minutes down the interstate that we realized Holiday World wasn't open on Friday's in the off-season.


So we went home, packed up our camping supplies, and drove to Brown County for camping instead.  Jeremy and I felt like it was better than Holiday World and anyway, he made this sweet spoon out of wood.

Along with carving spoons out of wood, Jeremy has kept himself busy with household projects while pursuing a variety of musical endeavors.  Much of his time has been spent recording the new album that was released this past November.   It's truly incredible and I'll tell you more about it at the end of this letter.  

By late Fall, we were really starting to feel that things around the Johnson household seemed much more manageable and we have decided that this clarity has come for two reasons: 

1.) Addi is in public school 
2.) Addi is in gymnastics
Addi's first gymnastics meet

Our sharp witted, now 9 year old, spitfire daughter who normally causes turmoil and chaos in our family strictly out of boredom, is feeling much more calm these days as a result of staying completely busy.  The challenges of a new 4th grade classroom, plus gymnastics practices 3 days a week for 3 hours keeps her (and us) on a tight schedule, however I am entirely impressed with Addi's ability to face these new challenges undaunted.  I wish she knew how proud of her Jeremy and I are, but she tends to think that her parents accolades don't count. Addi is experiencing her first year with competative gymnastics, as she had earnestly expressed her desire to not return to my program at the YMCA and begged to do real gymnastics.  So we let her.  

Jeremy and Sam at Addi's first meet
Jeremy is becoming acclimated to the long and laborious nature of gymnastics meets, where you sit on a hard bench for up to four hours only to actually watch your child compete for a total of 5 minutes, all four events combined.  Welcome to the world of gymnastics my dear, welcome.  I should add that the picture you see here was taken the day after his big album release, and after Sam was at home simultaneously throwing up hot dogs with the babysitter.  On this day, Sam was still narrowly escaping leaving trails of bodily fluids on the floor as he dashed from his seat to the bathroom during Addi's meet.  You gotta love when a long-awaited album release, the flu and a gymnastics meet all fall within the same 24 hours of each other.  It made for an eventful weekend.

Addi's spunk and world view has always been extremely deep for her age.  She, like her dad, cares very much for those who are treated unfairly and seeks revenge on those who have wronged others.  Sometimes, her vengeful spunk is justified, like when she and I were at a grocery store and saw a mom treating her 2 year old daughter harshly.  I distanced myself in order to watch before making a judgement about her poor parenting skills.  It was bothersome enough that I mentioned confronting her about it.  Addi, as if she had been reading my mind said, "Yeah Mom let's do it, can I come with you please?  That lady should NOT be treating that little girl that way."  We ended up not doing it since she left the store before I could make an appropriate confrontation, but I wasn't surprised at Addi's desire to assist me.  On a not-so-good day, her revenge is hyper-focused on her brother, and she verbally attacks him for the smallest of disturbances: breathing too loud, chewing too loud, blinking, taking up space, etc.  

Last winter, Addi made the decision to be baptised at our church, along with her good friend Daejah and her cousin Anna.  This was Addi's first attempt at making any type of public decloration about her faith, as this is a careful, well thought out subject for her.  

Though she is the tiniest version of a 9 year old in the 4th grade, she is certainly fierce.  It seems that she is determined to forge her own path in the world, and she is not open to my suggestions about which paths are best to take.  She's a little more open to Jeremy's suggestions however... and I'm glad for that.

As 2014 comes to a close, Jeremy and I feel like we really are making progress and have no one but God to thank for giving us the opportunity to pursue our passions.  We have likened our investments with Safe Families and music to 'growing babies.'  As the year ends, my baby looks like 25 approved host families, 10 involved churches, almost 200 placements, and a few successful fundraisers.  His baby looks like a brand-new 10 song bleedingkeys album (completely paid for by the band's hard work and financial planning I might add) a SOLD OUT album release at one of the best original music venues in Indy, and a sponsorship with Klipsch music company.

 I am especially proud of Jeremy for pursuing his music.  His ability to capture a moment in time and write a song about it is truly a gift.  The new album entitled Ghost Again is one that captures a myriad of moments, I will share of a few of them with you.  Beauty in the Black shares the roller coaster of emotions present when tragedy strikes, and the glimmers of light that can be seen amongst all the darkness.  For us, those moments were represented through the tragic accident my very dear friend Andrea Vellinga endured, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at a Sugarland concert over 2 years ago.  Redline is also a tough pill to swallow, but I think it's musics' job to help us humans better process the difficult emotions life hands us.  After hearing about the purposeful death of a High School acquaintance, Jeremy was moved to write a song to the ones, namely children, who are left behind after suicide.  Poison Gold and Slick Black Cadillac are both songs that were written on the tails of Jeremy's last corporate job…the former depicting what it feels like to work for someone else's gain, and the latter tells of what it's like when you are cut loose from that job… and happen to be in Vegas all at the same time :)

This album is worth it's weight in gold and I can only hope that God has plans to further his music in 2015.  The album is available on iTunes & Amazon OR you can download a copy of the brand new bleedingkeys album HERE.

Below are links for following the goings-on of Jeremy and Emma.  Be sure to check this blog for other musings from Emma in 2015.  We hope and pray that God has plans involving more opportunities to share music and Safe Families.  We feel very blessed and humbled to still be on the path we are on and are thankful for all that God has given us.  Please stay in touch with us…follow us, like us, whatever.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, 
Much Love,
The Johnson's


Safe Families:

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Problem with Protection

Last night Sam came inside from building a snowman (which is not the point…. the snow STINKS and that is all) and his feet were freezing cold.  He wanted to keep his cold, damp socks on, but I told him to take them off and put on his warm sock-slippers!  Sam said, "No no no!...Okay your right."  I said, "Sam, I usually am right you should start remembering that."  He said, very seriously might I add, "No not really.  That was like the first time in a really long time that you were actually right, so…"

My first thought is to shake my head in sarcastic laughter say something like, "the sooner you learn that I'm always right -- the better!"  Life would be so much easier if my kids would simply believe what I say.

Then I thought of the compliant children-turned-adults I have met that have grown up and been unable to find their own way in the world because no one is telling them what to do anymore and they were never taught to think for themselves.  The last thing I want for them is to grow up with no way to navigate the world because I didn't let go enough to let them learn, or let them fail.  

However, giving kids the space and freedom to fail is easier said than done.  Sometimes my kids make me look like a super-bad parent and quite frankly it's embarrassing. 

I will give you two examples.

Addi with her two beloved animals
How about the time Addi was brought home at 7:45 am by a local prison guard?  I have not shared this story on the blog because honestly Addi and I are both more than a little embarrassed by it.  It was two Springs ago when all types of life was bursting forth in the neighborhood--including the life of baby skunks underneath my neighbors house.  We, along with the neighbor, had caught some of the babies and were attempting to keep them alive for 1 day until a rehabilitator could come and pick them up.  Addi is an animal nut-- and especially good with small animals.  She is at her best when a small creature is dependent on her for its existence… it brings her to life.  

Feeding a baby skunk
So the following morning after our discovery, Addi woke up with Skunk Fever.  She could not contain herself and HAD to go to the neighbors house to see them again.. like right now!  She woke me up at 7:00 a.m. asking to go.  I mumbled no and went back to sleep.  

She was so desperate that while I slumbered, she talked herself in to just going over to the neighbors for a quick peak at the baby skunks, just a peak.  So she walked out the front door and into the neighbors back yard and wiggled the back door knob, to find - of course - that it was locked.

Addi's plan was not to be disrupted by a silly ol' locked door!  She remembered that Grandma's house (4 houses down) had a hide-a-key, and maybe THAT would work in the neighbors back door!  So down the street she flew, barefoot in her purple night gown at 7:15 am.  She was almost back to the neighbor's house when a employee from the prison was driving by and didn't think things looked right.  She asked Addi if she needed any help:

"No, I don't" she said.  

"Can I take you home?"

"No, I'm not going home."

Well that was enough to worry this prison security guard.  She asked where she lived and delivered my tiny determined child to my doorstep, all wide eyed and barefoot in her nightgown, with Grandma's hide-a-key mysteriously folded into her sweaty palm. 

I thanked the security guard who brought her back.

"She needs these real world experiences! Thank You!"

I don't think she was feeling me because she looked at me kinda weird as she walked off and I'm pretty sure she went ahead and called the police after she left.  Despite awkwardness and embarrassment of that situation, Addi's a strong willed child and she will remember the lessons the world gives her better than the ones that come from her parents.  For that reason alone I was glad for it.

Or how about the time Sam fell out of a tree in front of at least 100 people last Spring?  This one was a severe social boo-boo and it took a toll on me emotionally.  Sam has a super-hero type personality: a tender heart matched with over-confidence.  He was climbing too high, going after a balloon that was hinging on the outer edges of a branch.  I could see the look in his eye -- brave and determined to be the unexpected hero.  The yellow balloon was dancing at the edge of the limb, like a frightened cat stuck in a tree.  His tiny, agile body was inching it's way out on the limb, taking careful steps on an even smaller limb to fetch the abandoned balloon.

That's when my husband started giving him verbal commands while walking toward the tree.

"Do not step on that branch son it will not hold you."

Sam stops and doesn't take a step.  
Only a broken wrist but a CAT scan just to be sure
My husband walks closer, almost underneath him. The presence of his dad moving closer must have given him some kind of last minute false hope… because he took that step.

The tiny branch broke the second he stepped and I witnessed my tiny son falling at least 12 feet to the ground.  My husband made a grab for him but missed.  He hit the ground lopsided and wailing, "Aaaahhhhh!  I'm so sorry!!!  My back is broken!  I'm so sorry!!!"

The infamous balloon in the tree, and my husband below
It was terrible.  A moment I truly wished would never have happened.  A broken wrist instead of a broken back was the only result.  It wrecked me for a few weeks as I wouldn't forgive myself for letting him get that high in the tree on such a flimsy limb.  Plus it did not help that I played the incident over and over in my mind with the sound of the "oooohhhhhsssss" from the crowd in the background.  One of my biggest parenting failures was witnessed by so many people, it was hard to forgive myself.

My children are overly confident and slightly manipulative…and they are my flesh of my flesh.  Their senseless determination and boldness is something I recognize in myself.  I am the nurturer who will stop at nothing to ensure the safety of a small helpless being.  I am overly-determined and will set my sights on an elusive goal that is too far reaching to carry out in this lifetime.  

I see our similarities.  I get it.

I'm incredibly thankful that over the years God has granted me the time and space and freedom to work out my own determined will and rough edges.   Thanks to having parents who were wise enough to raise me well and then release me to my Maker, I have learned and I have failed many times.  But as a parent myself, I'm not quite sure I can extend the same freedom to my own kind…because it's just not socially acceptable.  

I read this article by Dr. Tim Elmore entitled Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids…and How to Correct Them and it made me feel a little bit better and worse all at the same time.  Better because he points out that "pain is a necessary teacher" and in order to raise kids successfully we must allow them to fail and experience pain.  Worse because I'm afraid I don't live in a society that thinks pain and failure are our best teachers.  We are instead dominated by fearful parents who 1)Risk too little  2)Rescue too quickly and 3)Rave too easily, creating an adult that is ill-prepared for a world full of risks and uncertainty.  

I would take this a step further and say that our over focus on safety and averting risk also keeps us from each other.  We want to play it safe, not get involved, criticize rather than do something to help.  Too often we turn our backs on one another instead or judge parents whose children are too high up in trees or are running down the sidewalk in nightgowns…

I'm encouraged when I hear other voices saying the same thing.

Two Sunday's ago I listened to a sermon at Bridgeway Community Church called Who Is My Neighbor?, where Scott Fadness, the Mayor of Fishers claimed that too many of us lives in quiet desperation in neighborhoods that are chock-full of people.  We distance ourselves from one another and put on the veneer of perfection, meanwhile the most common response from local police was suicide.  He challenged us to be better neighbors to one another, because "no government institution will ever be able to rival the collective impact of people helping people."

I couldn't possibly agree more.  I wish instead of calling the police the woman who brought my daughter home that day would have stayed to chat for a while.  I'm living proof that there's tremendous power in people helping other peopleand I suppose I'm gonna keep beating this drum because I think it's the one that God has given me to beat.  

After many, many, many trials and error in life, it feels good to have landed in a place where God wants me, leading an organization that's all about the people helping people by giving them the grace, love, and understanding that God has given us.  

Now, when it comes to giving the same things to my kids… well its just going to be an uphill battle because I do not know how to really give them back to God quite yet.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

When Those Needy People Interrupt Us When We're Trying To Learn About God...

On Saturday I went to the Women of Faith Conference.  It was slightly haphazard morning and did not bring my make-up bag.  Ugh.  How could I go to a large Christian women's conference with no make up??

As I approached the doors of Banker's Life Field House, I passed a homeless man with a sign saying "Hungry…God Bless."  I wondered if my ticket included a free lunch, and thought that after all the chili and cookies I had eaten the night before, I could stand to give mine away.  If I saw him again, maybe I'd give him my lunch…or half my lunch... maybe.

Almost immediately after passing this man, God reminded me of a vivid memory from a Women of Faith conference 4 years prior.  This memory was so clear in my mind, it was like it happened a month ago.

I have always loved going to Women of Faith, even though I have to fight through jealousy of the speakers stylish outfits and cute hairdo's.  Their hearts are so pure and teaching so sound… They always speaks to my soul in a way that sticks.

In August of 2010, my heart had been especially full after hearing 2 days worth of deep speakers and beautiful singers.  I stepped out of the conference early, intending to make a quick stop at the mall on my way home.  However I found myself walking back to the edge of the top step of the stadium to absorb one last minute of energy from a worship song.  I was smiling especially big because in front of me I saw a tiny old woman waving her arms excitedly.  The worship team was asking the crowd to raise their hands, and she was raising both!

I stood behind her, watching her tiny body sway back and forth in joy.  I was just about to step out and go on my way… when she turned around abruptly and looked at me.  She walked toward me and began talking like she had been waiting on me the whole time.  She told me about how badly she needed food… she explained a list of reasons as to why she was in such a desperate state.  Something about not having her food stamps and needing a ride to the grocery to get a few small items at the store.  She didn't have a car… she needed to feed some people or children at home…

I don't know what she said because I was blocking her out.  I was going through my own list of excuses as to why I couldn't help her.  I thought, 'Just because I'm at a Christian event does not give her the right to solicit me… Why can't she take the bus?  What if she doesn't even need to go to the store and she's just telling me a story and she really wants to hijack my car?" (although she was only 4'11'' at best and at least 65 years old)  Plus, I had just spent a lot of mental energy rationalizing the fact that I deserved the right to purchase a new shirt for my 10 year High School reunion!  I had put a lot of thought into manipulating my grocery budget and I wouldn't be giving up on this so easy.

It was decided.  I would not be giving this granny my precious money or a ride.  I apologized and gave her my list of excuses, trying to smile through them because my heart was sinking and I felt so bad.  I walked off briskly.  She slowly wondered away, taking a short cut out of the stadium and back to the street.

I wondered how she had gotten in anyway.  Had she snuck in?  Perhaps upon hearing that there was a conference of Christian women in town, she ran to the doors of Banker's Life Field House, dodged security, threw herself into the worship, then turned to the first person she saw, excited and expectant of help… then walked slowly and mechanically out the doors and back onto the streets.

Had she actually gone to a gigantic room chock full of Christian women expecting help?

How….. dare….. she…..?

As I walked away from her, I was bitter toward God for giving me such a confusing ending to a rather fulfilling day.  Before that had happened, I had some great take-home teaching I was planning to treasure in my heart for many days to come, but this poor woman had totally ruined it.  I tried to shake it as I got in my car and drove to Circle Center mall to spend money I really didn't have on something I really didn't need.  Deep down, I must have felt more entitled to purchasing that top at the mall than to a human being in need.

This past Saturday, something similar happened.  I walked out the doors of Banker's Life with my boxed lunch.  I carefully ate half of the sliced sandwich, as I had planned to share it before I left my seat.  I walked past the spot where the "Hungry, God Bless" man sat.  He was gone.  I walked to my car to check my email and sit in the sun during the break.  I sat on the passenger side with the door open, and over heard a conversation beginning to happen at the parking meter next to mine.

A man on his bike had stopped to talk to a woman who was sliding her card in the meter.  I didn't hear every word, but what I did hear was, "I mean… I just don't see how there can be so many Christians and not…"  he trailed off then picked back up.  "I mean I have foodstamps and medicaid, I'm just asking for some food, I have kids I gotta feed.  I mean I don't want your money I just …."

His plea was similar to the woman four years prior.  He seemed to be bothered by the fact that there were so many Christians on the streets, walking around, yet he found no help.

The woman at the parking meter didn't say much, but she mumbled something like, "…I'm sorry I don't even know you…"  He took off starting to pedal, riding his bike past my car.
I expected him to stop and talk to me next, but he didn't.  He was shaking his head, visually disturbed.

I spoke loudly, "Do you want the rest of my lunch?"

He stopped his bike and looked at me. "I'm not trying to take your food, lady.  That's your food."

I said I didn't mind, that I had eaten some of it.  I opened the box and showed him the sandwich I had eaten (which had been cut in half) and pointed out that the chips had not been opened, and I had carefully torn the cookie in half.  I handed him the box and smiled.  He said thank you, took my box, and peddled off.

I went back to my car, pleased that God gave me the opportunity to do that.  The man was obviously disgruntled over Christians who wouldn't help him, and I got to give him my strategically half-eaten lunch.

Obviously, I had been like the woman at the parking meter four years prior.  I think God was asking me that day, "Emma will you give this woman the $15 you were going to spend on that shirt?"  I said no, I would not.  I, like many American-Christians, was taken aback by another's bold and direct ask for help.

For some reason, we American-Christians believe a lie that says it's ok to waste your hard earned money on things, but it's not ok to waste it on people.  As if giving to a person would be more scrutinized by God than feeding the beast of self-entitlement.  We are a culture with a high list of needs, coupled by an over-concern with enabling and being taken advantage of.

Yet we worship a Savior who did not count equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied himself taking the form of a servant.  He gave and he gave and he gave...and then he gave himself…. and I struggle with giving $15 of my 'hard earned money' to a poor old woman, or giving food to a man who is desperate enough to ask for it.  Maybe we believe that "these people" are not our responsibility.  If they need something they should go find a food pantry or a soup kitchen…or better yet, why don't they simply take advantage of one of those programs our tax dollars pay for?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a person who is in need?  

A few months ago I got a flat tire on my way to my kids' dentist appointment.  I called my husband and told him he needed to come change my tire.  He did. Then I called my sister-in-law and asked her to pick us up and drop us off at the appointment.  She did.

A few weeks later I got a text from one of our Mom's who has placed her kids with Safe Families.  She was on the side of the interstate with a flat tire.  I asked her if she'd like me to come and pick up her kids and drop them off at daycare for her.  She said yes.  I asked her if she needed a ride too, she said no she didn't want to leave the car and besides her friend said he could come pick her up and the tow truck was on its way.

I stayed in touch with her that day, I found out at 7 hours later she was still in the car, waiting for the tow-truck and her friend who never came.  I left at 8:30 pm and went to give her a ride home.  We had a really great talk on the way home and I was thankful that God let me do that for her.  I thought how sad and hard it must be to admit that you don't have anyone else to pick you up when you get a flat tire and your stuck on the side of the road.

Working with Safe Families has opened my eyes to this world of struggle and welfare.   There's a lot of people out there with a whole lot of Nobody in their lives to help them when small things like flat tires happen, or big things like homelessness happens.  

We as Christians have steered dangerously clear of helping people who are in need, so much that the effort that the church takes to meet the needs of people are no comparison to the programs our government offers.  In fact, I would say that our churches are no longer a place where people go to get their needs met.  I have been working with Safe Families for the past year and a half, and I have met three parents who were in such a state of crisis that they either called or considered calling CPS on themselves.

Can you imagine being so desperate?  Can you imagine a day where there are thriving churches on practically every corner, filled with well dressed families with smiling faces, yet a parent who has nobody to turn to calls the government for help… not the church?

Now that I am able to understand the struggle of people who find themselves in the unfortunate state of being in "need" it makes it a little bit easier to stop and listen to someone when they are asking for help.  I still don't know if I would have put that tiny Grandma in my car, but if I were to do it again, I can assure you my response to her would be different.  I have come to the place where I am at peace with offering someone help, or $5, or food even if they do waste it.  I'm not worried about my kindness being taken advantage of either.  If I'm prompted to offer something as a free gift, it's a free gift with no strings attached.  When God gives gifts to his people, he does not revoke them based upon how we use them.  I'm convinced He watches his people waste his gifts on a daily basis. 

Besides, what if we give and we are wrong?  What would be worse, giving to someone who doesn't recognize the value of the gift you are giving them, or wasting the gift that Jesus gave to us?  Jesus poured himself out for us while he lived, then he went so far as to offer his own life so that we may be able to experience God's great love and forgiveness.  Think of how many people are walking this earth each day, fully aware of the gift Jesus offers them, yet they take it for granted…or they feel they have done something to deserve it…and  they waste it.  

It would be like this:  What if that boxed lunch I gave that man on Saturday, were my last meal… the only thing that would have kept me alive through the end of the day?  And what if I, like Jesus, gave it to him… and he took the boxed lunch, said a mere thank you, and then tossed it in the trash.  I'm quite certain that this is the type of sacrifice Jesus offered humanity, and many of us waste this self sacrificing gift.  I bet Jesus knew that many of us would waste his precious gift, but he gave anyway… and so should his followers.

Do not judge, or will you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Matthew 7:1-2

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Story Time: The Window

Tonight my son Sam slipped and cut his leg on the stump of a tree.  He completely over-exaggerated his fall, begging for sympathy over anything else.  As has been our tradition since the start of public school: we tell stories.  A story about their day in school warrants a story from my school days; tonight it was a story of pain.  Although intended to take my son's mind off of his scratch, it turned into much more.  It's a story that needs to be told, and tonight, I'll stay up late to tell you the tale.

Almost 14 years ago exactly (we're probably about a week out from the actual date) I found myself laying on the concrete, 25 feet under a broken window in Seattle, WA.  I had managed to fall out of that window, sailing through the air from the second story before the ground met my body.

I had been goofing around… which for anyone who knows me is not shocking.  I'm a graceful klutz; back in my gymnast days I'd be the type to finish a floor routine and trip on my way back to my seat.  In high school, I actually fell down an entire flight of stairs at my senior prom, while holding flowers, cookies (too many… I'll explain why in another post…) and wearing gigantic heels.  By the time I got to the bottom, my toe was sliced and bleeding, my dress was up to my waist and my cookies were in someone else's hair.  I'm not kidding this really happened.  But, back to the window…

Hillary, me, Emily (Tweedledee)
I had been goofing around after enjoying a glass of cheap wine with my goofy college friends I had met the year before, my first year at Seattle Pacific University.  To this day I still say this event would have taken place without the wine… since the goofiness was inevitable.  But, I'm quite certain the wine didn't help…

My super-cute boyfriend in College
My two friends and I decided to leave my boyfriends apartment and take a walk back to campus.  My boyfriend and I were just getting reacquainted after a long summer apart, and traveling in groups still felt like a must.  Maybe we were giddy about being back in Seattle and starting our sophomore year of college, maybe I was extra giddy about being in the presence of the boy I knew I'd marry… I don't know, but merely walking down the apartment complex stairs must have seemed too boring.

My friend, Tweedledee, had the idea first, "Hey, slide down the banister and I'll catch you!"
"Ok sounds fun!"  Tweedledum replied.

I slid, she caught me like a momma bear would her cub, and we laughed.

"That was fun do it again!" said Tweedledee.

Tweedledum hopped on the banister again and slid down.  Tweedledee thought it would be funnier to switch things up this time.  She stood with her arms out and then just as I began my decent announced, "Just kidding!" expecting me to fall on the ground and we'd laugh even harder this time.

But instead, she moved and I exited the end of the banister, took two headlong steps on the landing, stuck my right arm out to brace myself, and the next thing I knew I was weightless.

My hand had broken the thin, non-tempered glass of the old 1970's apartment like it was made of paper  mache.  I was falling and there was enough time for me to realize that the ground was not coming soon enough.  In a matter of seconds, I remember having the complete thought, "just open your eyes once you hit ground."  It's wild to think that in 2 seconds I went from goofing around with my friend to attempting to prevent my own death.

Somehow, it worked.  I couldn't believe it but when I finally stopped falling, and the broken glass from the window stopped breaking and landing all around me, I opened my eyes.  I saw my arm, blood soaked already, but at least my eyes were open.  I peeled myself up off the ground and began wondering around aimlessly looking for my friends.  I knew I must have been injured badly, but I was still in survival mode and I felt if I kept moving I'd be ok.

I had fallen out of that two story window into an area that was an access to the basement.  It was built into a hill and there were concrete walls on two sides meeting the ground.  My friends found me wondering up the stairs towards the parking lot, both Hillary and Emily were flipping out, saying "She's not ok.  There's no way she's ok.  She's not ok…"  I almost made it to the car before I passed out the first time and awoke to Jeremy leaning over my gently shaking my head back and forth, "Emma… wake up baby please wake up."

I came to, and my friends were crying, frantic again.  She's not ok, I know she's not ok.

Despite the chaos and trauma I managed to feel humiliated somehow.  Why was I always hurting myself?  During my Freshman year on the SPU gymnastics team, I had managed to break my hand, my ankle, my foot and had stress fractures in my shins on top of it all (the reason for this will also be told in another post… and it's definitely related to the cookies…).  Anyone else would have quit a sport that provided me with so many casts in one year… but not ol' Emma.  She was determined to compete on that dang collegiate gymnastics team no matter what.

Now, things weren't looking so good.

We made it to the hospital and once the doctors cleaned and uncovered my wound, I was able to see that the major injury was my right wrist.  The glass had gouged it open.  I thought I would need a skin graph to repair it.  The wound was huge, white tendons were exposed, and I couldn't move or feel any of my fingers.  It was deemed a miracle that my main artery wasn't sliced along with the tendons.  The hospital staff began to wonder how this (besides a few additional stitches here and there) was the only injury despite a 25 ft fall to my head.

The next morning, after waking up from a surgery that re-attached the 8 tendons I sliced, Jeremy and his roommate and my roommates all filed into my hospital room.  Jeremy moved forward, and I could tell he had something to say.

"I went back to the apartment last night, and I looked around where you fell.  There was a lady who heard you fall, and she came out too, asking if you were ok.  We began looking at the window and the glass on the ground.  She noticed the lid to the trash can was dented in entirely.  We realized that you landed on the trash can first before you hit the concrete.  So... that's why your ok."

I felt amazed, happy that something was making sense.  Everyone was baffled that I didn't have a head injury, or a neck injury, or worse.

But then, he told me something that would give me goosebumps each time I would think of it in the coming years and even now brings tears as I write this.

He said, "The lady was telling me… she said the trash can you landed on didn't belong there.  She said that someone put it there by mistake yesterday.  There were no other trash cans around.  Just that one."

Jeremy was 20 and I was 19.  We had fallen in love our freshman year, but our relationship was still in its infancy stages, and processing miracles and trauma together felt like too much.  I didn't know what to do with this news, so I tucked it away until I was alone.

The next day at my apartment.
Alone came soon enough.  I was discharged from the hospital, given a ride home and my friends carried on with their busy schedules and classes.  I sat in a dark apartment, contemplating my blood-stained pajama pants and the events of the past 24 hours.

The feeling was one I had never had before.  Gratitude mixed with anger.  "I was being a goofball…I wasn't doing anything wrong… yet I have this injury that will cause me to quit the sport I love…"  and then "but I was being an idiot!  Why am I here?  Why didn't I end up paralyzed or dead?"  I couldn't figure it out.  I flipped back and forth, I was so thankful and yet so mad.

Eventually I landed on mad.  My beloved sport was gone, and I couldn't write or even type to keep up with my classes.  I had been having a deep internal conversation with God, and had been pointing out all of the reasons that he must have picked the wrong girl to give a "wake up call" to.  I really truly believed this lesson was not one that I needed.  In September of the year 2000, I had every single day of the rest of the school year planned out already.  Plus, as a bonus, I had been praying at night and sometimes before meals.  This was a serious upgrade from my freshman year.  I was sure that God was putting extra stickers on my chart for all my dedication to school, sports, and my efforts to give him 5 minutes of my day.   I failed to see that through this wild and unplanned event, God had allowed me to be stripped entirely of the things I depended on to keep me feeling satisfied with who I was.  Sometimes we call these things idols, and mine were huge.  Sitting on that couch in my apartment, I actually said to myself, "If I can't do gymnastics ever again… I don't know why I'm here."

Me and some teammates @ SPU Sept 2000
I know that sounds dumb, but I really did feel that way at the time.  Gymnastics was my life and breath and had been since age 6.  I loved it and wanted desperately to compete in college.  It truly was my only goal in life and one that felt good and honorable and pure and I couldn't fathom why God would allow such a good thing to be taken from me.

But to exist on the earth only for the sport of gymnastics?  Even for a die-hard like me that seemed a bit overboard.

Still… I couldn't make sense of what happened.  Did He put that trashcan there just for me?  I didn't know.  I couldn't say that God had caused these events to take place.  He certainly didn't cause me to drink a glass of wine and then encourage my antics with Tweedledee.  But in my senseless and carefree 19 year old spirit, I had somehow naively chucked myself toward certain death.  I couldn't blame Emily who had moved.  Had she not, we both may have fallen out together.

I began to move away from wondering why and simply considered the fact that I was given the opportunity to contemplate it all with a fully functioning brain.  It felt like I was being given an inappropriate gift; and I sheepishly accepted.  God had given me an extraordinary amount of grace despite my senseless choices… and a second chance.  Despite the pain-pill haze I was in, I formulated a clear thought.  After all this, after being shown such grace in my senselessness, how can I go back to my idols and shove God back into the upper right hand corner of my life again?

I couldn't.  Deep down I felt this yearning to move toward God.  He wanted more of me.  Having the sense of receiving undeserved grace, the space between me and God felt wide open.  Like the waters of chaos had been parted and all I had to do was say Yes.  He was paving a way for me and asking me to surrender everything…. my plans for the future, my idol of gymnastics, my fear of the unknown.

I knew it.  So I gave it to Him.  This was the first, of many times, I turned over a big chunk of who I thought I was and handed it to my maker.  I likened the transaction between God and I as if He had kindly tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was ready to get out of the driver seat yet.  I was.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

From the Archives of Alaska...

This blog is a Memoir I wrote for an English class a few years ago.  It speaks of both the dysfunction and adventure that comprised our first years of marriage.  I hope you are more inclined to relate than to judge; relationships can be difficult.  Enjoy.

I can’t approach him.  I can’t even look him in the eye.  He’s so mad there are tears in his eyes.  He picks up the jack and the remnants of the blown tire.  The kids are calm by now; I nurse Sam and get Addi settled back in her car seat.  Our dog, Tok, runs up out of nowhere and jumps back in the truck.   I squeak out a shameful, “I’m sorry.”  I know my presence is not welcome yet, so I turn and get back in the car and wait.

When we had exited the restaurant two hours previously, I was livid. “I’m riding with my Dad.  You can drive the kids by yourself.  Sam’s been fed, and Addi needs a nap.”  Not waiting for his response, I close the passenger side door to our truck and get in the car with my Dad.  He is driving my Isuzu Rodeo down the Alaska Highway for me.  We are moving from Alaska back to the Lower 48. 

We had stopped for lunch about 300 miles north of Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory.  We would spend the night in Whitehorse, and that day was supposed to be our easiest day of driving.  The Alaska Highway, on that stretch, would be at sea level; winding and beautiful, devoid of snow and ice.  In late October, this was the only stretch of the Highway where we would be driving on bare cement.  We had spent the majority of our lunch break arguing in our car in the parking lot.  Mostly I cried, while my husband stared at me with a hardened, unsympathetic look on his face. 

We used to love each other.  On our way to up Alaska, four years ago, we loved each other.  In a few days we would arrive at Cache Creek, British Columbia, where we spent the first night of our trip in early October 2003.  I remember we had driven about 18 hours that day and arrived at our hotel room exhausted and travel weary.  Back then we could laugh about the ways in which we failed each other.  That evening at the hotel, Jeremy had discovered that the entirety of his rear-end felt slimy to the touch for some odd reason.  I remembered, and then confessed, that I had sprinkled detergent on a load of clothes and neglected to start the washing machine earlier that day.  I gently folded the dirty clothes and placed them back into our bags, as though no one would notice.  My unsuspecting husband then chose the detergent-soaked boxers to wear the morning of our trip.  He had laughed about sliding around on the toilet seat at a rest stop; I laughed too.

I get in my Rodeo with my Dad.  I let him drive.  We take off and my eyes continually glance in the side-view mirror at the white GMC pick-up that is carrying everything that really matters in my life, one husband and two children ages 2 1/2 years and 5 months, and dragging behind it a small U-Haul trailer with everything we owned. 

Our time in Alaska, aside from making a few close friends, had been mostly a disaster.  We moved there straight out of college to embark on a business venture spurred by my husband’s business-savvy family members. My husband’s dad, grandpa and great-uncle wanted to put Jeremy’s brand new business management degree to use and wondered if we would be willing to move to Alaska for five years to run a gas station/convenient store.  We could manage it together, so they thought, be part owners with them, and in five years sell it and go home with cash in our pockets and a step up in life.  Phrases like “put your time in early” and “work hard now, relax later” were thrown around.  Without much debate, we said yes: Jeremy in an attempt to prove to his dad he wasn’t a failure, and me because I was pretending to be submissive.  So with a chip on my shoulder and a weight on my husband’s back, we moved to Wasilla, Alaska.  We had been married for one year.

The Superstore, as it was called, contained many surprises in and of itself.  Within the first week of owning it, there was a false attempted armed robbery.  False because the guy was using a paint ball gun.  It only took two weeks for me to realize that there would be no “working together”… not if we were planning on staying married.  My husband’s surely talented and a very hard worker, but he has his own way of doing things.  One day, he decided it was time to start remodeling the kitchen.  He ripped out the counter tops and sink all in one afternoon, chucking the old hardware on the front porch, where it stayed for the next 4+ weeks.  We then found out the new sink and counter tops were on back order, 3 weeks out at least.  So for the remainder of the time I washed all of our dishes in the bathtub when showering, and made meals on top of open drawers, while toting around my first very large pregnant belly.

So we made an agreement in regards to running the business:  I would help out by doing the “deposits”.  I counted the revenue from the Big Lake Superstore every day, and deposited it at the bank.  Some days, I couldn’t do the deposits, like on the days I was giving birth.  On this day, Jeremy brought the deposits to the hospital and counted thousands of dollars on the small coffee table in our birthing room, while I sat adjacent to him, rocking and moaning in pain, preparing to give birth to our second child.  It was comical and awkward and I think the nurses thought he was a drug-dealer.  

My husband worked practically around the clock.  With seven employees, the superstore wasn’t large enough to warrant hiring an assistant manager.  So he filled the role of owner, manager, human resources personnel, payroll/bookkeeper, and handyman.   His job was exhausting and his ears became attune to the sound of the phone ringing late at night.  Sometimes he’d work a full day and then end up working the night shift when an employee would call in last minute.  He had to fire two employees for stealing money out of the vault, and another for stealing food.  He also had to come home to a wife who was unsympathetic to his work schedule, frustrated when he came home late for dinner and angry when he didn’t answer his phone, or help out enough with the kids.

I talked him into starting our family mostly for spite, but also out of sheer boredom.  A few weeks before this conversation, my mother-in-law had come up for a visit.  She heard us talking about having kids and strongly suggested that we wait, since we were running the store and all.  I thought she was giving unwelcome advice.  Soon after that visit we got pregnant. 

Turns out my mother-in-law knew what she was talking about.  It is not wise to have children when you’re running a brand new business and your husband isn’t entirely ready.  He even said as much when I asked him about having a baby: “No, I like our time together.  I want to wait.”  My na├»ve response was: “We’ll still have time together!  Plus, a baby will make our love for each other grow!”

It didn’t help that pregnancy for me was a cry for help.  I had wild fantasies of my husband running to open doors for me and swooping large bags of groceries out of my hands.  Those fantasies never materialized and nine months later we had a tiny colicky baby girl with a will that was stronger than mine.  She screamed at me when I didn’t feed her quick enough, woke up wailing at least three times every night for the first year of her life, spit up buckets of baby barf around the clock, and would be pacified by nothing besides pure exhaustion.  She ate up all the goodness in me in no time.

Things had declined quickly for us, and now we were five years, 2 kids, and 1 dog deep into marriage, having months earlier gone through the worst turmoil of our married life thus far.  Things got bad enough that we finally called a marital counselor.  He told my husband he fit the ADD profile like a glove.  A common diagnosis nowadays, but to us, it was surprising to hear.  In a way, it was really handy having an un-medicated ADD husband around.  He was a super easy target.
For example, I usually showed up to my Bible study late.  Not like 10 minutes late, but like 45 minutes late.  This, you see, could easily be blamed on Jeremy.  He would have done something like leave for work later that I expected, and return to the house two more times for his wallet and phone before actually leaving.  Therefore Addi’s breakfast and my shower were delayed, therefore I couldn’t find my pants, therefore I was late to Bible study and it was all his fault.  Same thing with yoga class.  Didn’t matter what time it started, I was always late and it was always his fault. 

There wasn’t much, really, that anyone could prove was my fault.  I had an imaginary neat and tidy file, you see, completely organized with my good deeds alphabetized from front to back.  Bible read today? Check!  Homemade dinner most evenings? Check! House picked up and kids cared for? Check! Smile on Sunday morning? Check! Volunteer at church? Check!  I was keeping track, just in case anything ever went wrong; just in case God or anyone was wondering where to point the finger when things fell apart.

Obviously, this time, as we sat in the car and argued, it wasn’t my fault either.  He hated me again for not being sympathetic.  I hated him again for being weak.  Once I’m riding with my Dad, I try to talk to him about our marital troubles, try to explain the type of personality my husband has: smart, definitely talented, but backwards, teetering on the edge of laziness but always getting his work done on his own time, forgetful, late.  

I could've counted on two hands the number of times Jeremy had gotten a phone call from the Superstore on Tuesday morning that went something like this: “Um, Jeremy?  Yeah, this is Mary.  We was just wondering if you were gonna pay us today.  This my only day off and I got to get to the grocery.”  Jeremy: “Oh crap, is it Tuesday already?  Sorry Mary, I’ll be down in a few.”  

My dad is trying to understand as I explain things to him, the forgetfulness and the unpreparedness for life in general.  Thank God Jeremy had me around, to hold all the loose ends together. 

We are speeding along, enjoying the crystal clear Yukon sky and dry pavement.  I look again in the side view mirror for the headlights of the white pick-up.  Jeremy and the kids have fallen behind, but how far?  When was the last time we saw him behind us?  Was it 10 minutes ago or 30?  We don’t remember.  We drive on, but slower, expecting his headlights to come up from behind.

They don’t come. 

We pull over and wait another 10 minutes.  Still nothing.  Did he pass us?  Could he be in Whitehorse already?  Or is he behind us?  Or did something happen?  We look at the clock and realize it has been at least 35 minutes since we saw him last.  Suddenly I am nervous and feeling embarrassed about the subject of our conversation.  I know that Sam will be getting hungry soon.  Still we don’t know: is he ahead or behind?  Our cell phones have zero reception. 

We decide to flag down a passing car to ask if he has seen a white truck and trailer.  Nope, nothing.  In a few minutes, we flag the next passing car.  He doesn’t stop.  We decide to try one more.  He stops.  Yes, a white truck and trailer, pulled over on the side of the road, about 30 minutes back.  We say thank you and drive 90 mph I the opposite direction.
I find my sweet, beloved husband.  He has just finished changing the busted tire on our trailer.   It had blown over an hour ago.  When the tire blew it popped so loud it woke my sleeping children and they start to cry.  Addi is consoled by her daddy; he has let her out of the car to help him change the flat on the side of the Alaska Highway somewhere in the Yukon Territory.  Sam cries for me, no screams.  Our dog, Tok, gets out to roam.  He doesn’t come back.  The jack we have doesn’t fit the trailer.  Jeremy has to take our two year old into the woods and find a stick to leverage the trailer up high enough so the jack will fit.  Sam is in the car, hysterical for me.  Our dog still doesn’t come back and Jeremy sees a wolf in the road ½ mile down.  There are no other cars.  He puts on the spare, Addi is helping, Sam is screaming, and our Schnauzer has heard the Call of the Wild.  I am not there.  I did not notice he was missing.  I am too busy telling my dad about my husband’s forgetfulness and ADD.  

Our home in Wasilla

Our sassy daughter and brand new son, both born in AK

Me and almost Sam in our finished kitchen!

Enjoying a day hike with Addi and the incredible beauty of Alaska