Just Keep Swimming

December 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

On October 29, I sent out the same text to a bunch of friends and family. It said:

Kind of suicidal please pray

I had spent a chunk of the morning on the phone with my neuropsychologist stepmom, who had called me after we exchanged a few crisis-riddled text messages, despite her being in the middle of a (no joke) suicide prevention tele-seminar.

I have great friends. They mobilized on many sides to keep me safe that day. For a good part of the late morning, I sat at the park with a circle of earthly angels (and probably spiritual too) around me. I couldn’t really participate in the conversation. Mostly I sat staring into a void of darkness, but I was so grateful that I wasn’t alone.

At lunchtime, one of my angel friends came home with me. While we sat at my table, we talked and cried. Our kids played upstairs. After a while, my daughter came downstairs saying something like, “Mom, we have this movie!” I glanced up to see what she was talking about and noticed that she was holding a plastic Dory bath toy. My friend smiled and said to my daughter [to me], “Yeah! What does Dory say? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!” What my friend didn’t know was just how loaded with meaning those words were for me.

Just keep swimming

September 8, 2011 at 4:54 am

[Trigger warning: This post contains loss.]

Almost five years ago, four friends went fishing in a small motorboat on a cool November morning.  Kimball and Steven were brothers. Steven brought his wife, Catheryn. The other was a friend. At first, the lake water was like a sheet of glass, calm and serene.  After a few hours, however, the wind picked up and so did the waves.  The fish started biting like crazy.  One after another, they brought fish in, not realizing that the waves were slowly filling the boat.  Suddenly, just as they noticed the too-deep pool of frigid water in the bottom of the boat, it sunk out from under them.

Based on the low temperature of the water and the distance to the lake shore, none of them should have survived.  All of them were praying their hearts out.  First they swam together toward the marina, crying out for help as loudly as they could.  Then Kimball realized that they were swimming against the current and needed to turn around and swim the other way.  He swam ahead to tell Steven, who said, “You think?”  Steven swam ahead to where Catheryn was.

Kimball thought that he was telling her the change of plans and that they would quickly follow.  He turned in the direction of the current with his friend, looking back repeatedly as the current carried him further and further from where his brother had been, unable to see them any longer, wondering whether they might have chosen to keep heading toward the marina to look for help in that direction.  As he swam, he heard these words over and over in his head: “Just keep swimming… just keep swimming… just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

Half of them made it miraculously to shore and survived, half of them moved on to the world of spirits.

Sister’s keeper

April 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

My husband was accepted into graduate school a few months before we had our first baby. Not long after starting classes, his cohort—fellow classmates starting the program with him—got together with their families for a get-to-know-you barbecue. I was in my last month of pregnancy and nervous about all the unknowns ahead of me, but God knew what I needed because it was at that barbecue that I met Tricia.

I remember her warm, friendly smile reaching out to me. She had crossed the bridge of new motherhood a few months before, and I watched with curiosity as she interacted with her infant son, imagining what my future would hold. We introduced ourselves and spent much of the evening talking about pregnancy, birth, and the various challenges and blessings of motherhood. It was wonderful to know that I had a fellow sister going through the very same experiences as me—being supportive as her husband started the long road of graduate school and navigating the trials and joys of new motherhood.

Six Things for Sunday: Postpartum Edition

January 18, 2016 at 1:11 am

Copy of six things for sunday

We’re now over 3 weeks post-birth, and it’s been a simultaneously intense and relaxing time. All I’ve really done since Christmas is eat, sleep, nurse, and cuddle my baby. Here are six things that have been on my mind as I have stared at that cute new little face in my family…

His 6th “birth” day

November 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm

You’ve seen me blog about my brother, Steven, before…

  • Just keep swimming (the story of how Steven and his wife died)
  • Songs for my birth (many of the songs I chose for my third birthing playlist reminded me of Steven)
  • Four centimeters (how Steven appeared in a recent dream and served as a metaphorical “midwife” for me)

Well, today is the sixth anniversary of Steven’s “birth” into the next life. In his honor, I wanted to share these thoughts…

 

I had a dream five years ago. I dreamed that Steven and Catheryn came back to life. Like they had just had a really (really) long near-death experience. You know how logic kind of flies out the window when you’re dreaming? Well, as crazy as it sounded, I had little difficulty accepting it. I was just so utterly excited and happy to see them that the logic didn’t matter. I don’t remember much from the dream, but I will never forget running at Steven, throwing my arms around him, hugging him tighter than I’ve ever hugged him in my life, and breaking (loudly) down in tears. It was so wonderful to see him.

Four centimeters

May 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

For months I had been writing things like this in my journal…

“Right now I just feel so drained. I feel like I give and give and give until there’s nothing left.”

“I am exhausted. I want to sleep for two weeks. I so need a break.”

“I am so run down, so overwhelmed, so out of reserves. But what can I do except just keep swimming?”

“I need a break. Big time. So much.”

Little red flags were waving in front of my face for quite some time. And then Mama Birth posted this:

I think that selflessness and sacrifice are beautiful things- and I think they can purify us and teach us. But I also know now that a woman needs balance. . . . Babies need a mother who takes care of herself and the other people she loves and who herself is nurtured in her relationships.

And it was another little red flag, another messenger saying, “Girl, you need help. You need a break. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” (Thank you, Sarah). But, unfortunately, those little red flags just kept on waving, and I just kept on running myself into the ground. I could feel myself sliding into depression, and it scared me. I have been in that dark place before, and I did not want to visit it again. Looking back, I can say that the damage was already done. A body chronically depleted of sleep and sapped of vital nutrients through chronic stress is going to have a very difficult time functioning, let alone functioning cheerfully.

Never Settle

August 18, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Dont-Settle-for-Close-Enough

A few months ago, we made an offer on a house we really liked in a neighborhood we really liked. It was right around the corner from some of our friends, and it had a swimming pool and a swing set and beautiful saltillo tile in the kitchen, dining room, and hallways. However, after the home inspection, we decided to pull out of the deal. There were just too many expensive repairs that would be needed, and the sellers weren’t willing to help with any of them. Part of me was relieved, but another part of me was devastated. For the following month, I continued looking for a home, but everywhere there only seemed to be dead ends and homes that just didn’t have the things I really wanted.

What I Learned from Our First Year of Homeschool

May 28, 2016 at 2:35 am

Last night I was reading John Holt’s Teach Your Own before bed, wishing it wasn’t a library book so I could highlight my favorite passages. Instead I kept ripping up a piece of paper to mark the parts I loved. It seemed there was something on every page. This might be a book I need to own. I’ll share some John Holt quotes in this post, in part because I want to have them written down somewhere to refer back to.

firstyearhomeschool

This blogpost has been writing itself in my head for several weeks now. But it never felt like the school year was complete for the same reason that it never feels like the school day is complete. Homeschooling never ends because children are always learning. We have “school” plans that extend throughout the summer. It seems sort of strange to even define grade levels now. I can see how they will all bleed together as we simply incorporate “school” into our lives year-round. But since the traditional school year has ended for the local kids, I suppose I can write this blogpost now.

The Power of Babies

February 19, 2016 at 10:00 am

Babies are such a nice way to start people. -Don Herold

DSC_0005

When my husband and I were engaged, we talked once or twice about our future family. We agreed that we wanted children, and it seemed to both of us that four kids was a good number. Three seemed too few, five or more seemed too many. But four sounded “just right.” Now, here we are, fifteen years later with baby #5.

Who do you think you are? (Part 1)

February 10, 2015 at 11:11 pm

A week ago tonight I did something very brave. I got up in front of about 100 [felt like a billion] women and gave a speech.

For years I have had this belief about myself that I am “slow of speech.” I am the daughter of a master teacher. My father has taught and trained professionally for most of his adult life. But I thought my apple had fallen quite far from the tree. For years I have believed things like this: I am a writer, not a speaker. I can be eloquent in writing, but not in speech. I am horrible at [vocally] explaining things, but give me a computer keyboard and I’m golden.

Simultaneously, I have had multiple experiences throughout my life in which I have been told or prompted (by teachers, friends, God and others) that I should open my mouth more, that speaking would be a part of my future. Me? Really? Me?

So, last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. I told her, “I think I can do that. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

booklilenginesm1I thought it was going to just be a room of maybe twenty women. I would only be speaking for twenty minutes or so. No big deal. But the truth was… it felt like a really big deal. A really, really big deal. In fact, that’s exactly how I started my speech. After a few introductory words, I said something like this:

Vaccines and Vulnerability

January 14, 2015 at 7:52 pm

A few years ago I wrote a blogpost in which I looked at the home birth vs. hospital birth debate through the lens of my brothers’ boating accident. It was my final word on the matter. Today I’d like to do the same with the vaccine debate. ‘Cause let’s be honest… it is getting really (really, really, really) old. Right? People on both sides tell tragedy stories and hurl horribly mean words at each other. I won’t give those hurtful words any weight by listing any of them here. Regardless of your personal views about vaccines, I think we can all agree that resorting to name-calling and meanness is… just not cool.

Here’s the thing about stories… we can never know the full story. Nothing will teach you to doubt the details in any news story better than being the family in those news stories. As my brothers’ boating accident made headlines, I cringed over and over at the mistakes and misrepresentations in both print and television outlets. When it comes to “news,” doubt the details. Always doubt the details.

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