Monday, June 23, 2014

You are not broken

Tonight was 5th grade recognition.  She was not recognized for any award, she received two certificates.  But no recognition.  She shared with us a few weeks ago that they had to self identify awards and then share reasons they felt they were eligible to receive the award.  I was impressed that she chose the service award and doubly impressed with what she chose as her supporting evidence.  She wrote about some of the things she has done at church to raise money for a cow for an orphanage in India, she wrote about caring for animals for various friends in town. We prepared her for the likelihood that she wouldn't win, because she has a propensity to set expectations and be summarily devastated.  And tonight it happened.  And she was poised while holding herself together better than I ever could.  I was proud, she was cut to the core.

She started at the school as a pre-schooler, in the fall of 2007.  She has had many ups and downs along the way, but last summer we finally came to the realization that in addition to her ADD that she also has anxiety. These are super tough things to handle as grown ups but my kid?  My kid has been working on facing her fears on Saturday mornings for almost a year.  She doesn't like to play group sports, she tries things and then peters out.  She does not have many friends.  She is a kind soul and like the rest of the world, is just trying to figure it all out.

It is hard is hard to be her is hard to be her dad...and most of all it is hard to be her! She gets up every day and uses strategies to pay attention and uses strategies to keep her anxiety in check. She is very smart and loves to read.  She likes science and her bravery amazes me! This summer she is going to a camp where she knows no one and will ride a boat every morning and night to get to the camp. She  overcame much of her worries and got up on stage in three different shows for a concert at her school this past week.  She is the first kid to get up and go sit with the kid who is alone at the lunch table.  She is the first one to console a friend.  But she received no recognition.

So I got to thinking...what is all this recognition about?  Great at sports?  Clap loud.  Good in art? WAHOO!  Orate well?  There's a prize for that.  Played in the band for two years?  What about the first year?  But what about all the kids, mine included, who are simply hanging on to get through the day.  What about the kids who worry until they are sick, what about the kids who expend all of their energy simply to pay attention to what is being taught?  What about the kids who can't read social cues?  What about the kids who are left behind, the ones who go unnoticed?  What about recognizing those kids?  I think it is time to rethink what we are recognizing our children for.

I would like to award her the biggest award for SHOWING UP.  Every day she shows up and gives it her all, and it is hard.  I would like to give her an award for doing her best when every day it is way easier to just throw her hands up and walk away.  Her mountain is a lot taller to climb than many of us and that is what I want to be recognized.

So to our sweet girl, you went without recognition tonight and it was painful for you, but we recognize all that you do and all that you are and you are loved beyond all measure.  Tonight it stinks for you and I promise you, it will get better.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Emoting was not a practiced 'sport' in our home.  It is a learned skill for me, I have spent years mastering it and still fall short.

Two weeks after being invited in and rejected, once again, I have more clarity.  I had allowed myself to deny the reality, because it goes against nature.  I have been repeatedly rejected by my father.  Due to his own lack of emotional capacity, that and his inability to stand up to his wife.  It is painful, unimaginably painful, to say aloud, "My father has rejected me."  To own that?  Is mind numbingly painful.  It is not an inherent flaw in me that made him reject me, but his own issues.  But I do not excuse that, he does not get a pass.  He made these choices.

We are all living our lives, day in and day out, separate from him with limited interaction.  And yet, when the crumbs get thrown out, i.e. come and see me, we run.  If my children were in a relationship like that?  I would sit them down and let them know, in no uncertain terms, how dysfunctional and unhealthy this 'relationship' is.  That they deserve to be with someone who is devoted, loving, supportive and who makes them a priority.  They are worth more than crumbs.

Now that I have this clarity, I have to work through it on my own.  He is in no position to process nor comprehend my feelings and if he were able to comprehend, he would shut me down.   I have missed my chance to be actively angry at him for these wounds.  So I will continue to say the Serenity Prayer and work on letting go, of him and these feelings of anger.

I spoke to his sister this evening.  She shared that when she spoke to my dad last week, he was unable to make a connection and simply stated, "I am losing my mind."

I pray that God has mercy and he loses his mind quickly.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memories, age and love

My father has never been the father that I wanted or needed, but he is, indeed, my father.  He left our family in 1987, 26 years ago.  He immediately met a woman and they married in 1989.  We were either graduating high school or were in our 20’s, when he left.  There were no custody battles, and support for college was provided for those of us who were of college age.

We saw him a various gatherings, dinners or what have you.  Certainly no day to day contact as he moved away.  The years went on and some of us got married and had babies.  He always come to see the babies and was appropriately excited upon good news.  When he did practice medicine, after he left our family, he always told the front desk, “If my children call, come get me out of a room.”  So when we did call, we could speak to him.  He sent the monthly "I love you and am thinking of you" emails and rarely called.  He loved us as best he could and many of us have come to accept that.

We have also accepted that he is a weak man and whatever his wife says goes.  So when he had cancer in 2006 and subsequent surgery in 2007 we were not allowed to be at the hospital because his wife "can’t handle the family," we complied.  He survived that surgery and is now 77 years old.

In April we received news that he had some “memory issues” and can no longer work or drive. 

I cried.  I have never been more important to his man than anyone else in his life and my only claim to him is that he is my father.  And now he will forget me?  It was and is so very painful.  But, the truth is, he, his life and his medical condition have no material impact on my day to day life.  My husband and four children need my emotional investment and moreover, want it.  I am happy to sow the seeds of these people, for I love them unconditionally, and I invest in them unconditionally. 

We were again, asked to stay away because it would drive his wife, “ape shit,”  if we came around. He and I exchanged a few emails and spoke on the phone.  He can no longer tell his right from his left and is having a very hard time accepting the changes in his mind.  All I can do is tell him I love him, and so I do.  I pray that he will lose his mind quickly so he doesn't have to suffer the knowledge of the loss. 

This past week there was a very dramatic decline in his abilities.  We were told that the, “visiting restriction had been lifted” by his wife, as he had been hospitalized.  I was so very conflicted about going to visit him, unimaginably so.  Stay away, stay away, stay away, no COME.  Come NOW.  It is the story of my childhood, repeated mixed messages.   

I went.  I went because he is my father and he needs my memory.  He needs to know that he has memories and they are meaningful.  He may not remember yesterday, but he would remember when we were little and when he was little.  We were asked to bring pictures, they would help too.

According to the nurses, he had been unresponsive, blank stares, veritably catatonic. When his sister called, they told her that he would likely not remember her and they would hold the phone up to his ear.  He did remember her, he was quiet in voice and clearly confused, but he did remember her. 

My mother and oldest sister went on Monday.  They brought his favorite food, and one that is rich in my memory of childhood, Kentucky Fried Chicken.  He has had no appetite for a long time, has lost a lot of weight and was able to eat some of the chicken.  They took him outside, with permission of the medical staff; he sat in the sun and had a visit from his dog.  They rubbed his feet and got him some warm, cozy socks.  They held hands and Mom told stories of when they were in the army so many years ago.  He remembered the story!  He said he was not able to recall that memory but that he did remember it.  He had a smile.

I took his sisters up on Tuesday, they too, had been shut out long ago.  I was there to hug him and let him know I loved him.  I helped my aunt prepare a book of pictures of when he was little.  We added a few pictures and it was so lovely. 

We stayed only an hour and half and he ate some leftover chicken, an entire plate of macaroni and cheese, side of tomato salad, a slice of blueberry pie.  He had a cup of coffee and a glass of milk.  When it was time to go, I hugged him good bye.  I told him that he was loved,  “I know, ” that I love him,  “I love you too,” that I would come see him again soon,  “I may not be here,” I’ll come to wherever you are, and I said that we would be his memory.  He literally melted into our embrace; he shuffled closer and held on so tight.  As tears spilled over, I held on, too. 

I knew.  I just knew, as this is the way it has been, and even more so now, that this window of welcome, of visitation, would soon close.  My father is weak and now he is incapacitated.  His condition improved so dramatically as a result of visits from his family that he was discharged on Wednesday to go home with the care of the VNA.  He has many tests coming up that will hopefully pin point what is going on with his mind.   

His wife sent an email yesterday updating some things, but the message that she needed to deliver was this:

“…he has asked me to tell you that your visits meant a lot and he loves you all very very very much.  But he is terribly tired and asks that you hold back from phone calls and visits for a while.  He says he’ll call when he feels up to it.  I know you want to hear from him and encourage him on his way.  He feels that love even when he isn’t up to conversation.  I’ll try to keep you up to date with any changes or new information that come our way.”

Was I surprised by this email?  No.  However, it is a lie.  He doesn't have the capacity to have these thoughts.  If you do not want to talk on the phone, you do not answer it.  He is suffering and we gave him a glimmer of hope.  We warmed his soul and let him know that his memories are there. 

As I said, he is not in my day to day life and the repeated rejection of this woman is overwhelmingly painful at a time like this.  I often wonder if she will let us know when he dies or if we will be ‘allowed’ to attend his funeral.

So I will let go of him.  Although I told him I would come see him soon and now I cannot.  He may not remember that, but what if he does?  He did not say these words and this is not his sentiment.  And I KNOW this to be true.

I love you dad.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Gifts come in many shapes and sizes. They come in the form of material things, spiritual things and friendships. Friendships ebb and flow, life, time and distance often limits interactions with those once held close. In spite of that fact memories, feelings and admiration keep personal connections within the heart. The heart expands and contracts with fondness, sadness, laughter and sorrow.

The gift of friendship has been given to me, more times than I can count. Although a consumate collector of friends, I do not speak with all of these friends consistently, if at all. I believe the hallmark of a good friend is the ability to pick up where you leave off and not to worry about the inbetween.

I spent one full year living in Washington State. I had broken up with a fiance two years before, I was diagnosed with depression for the first time in my life, I climbed to the top of Mt. St. Helen's, used explosives to unearth fossils, used a back hoe and met some amazing people. 

My first or second day after moving in, I was invited to a neighbor's house to her daughter's birthday party. We clicked instantly. She was warm, gregarious, beautiful, intelligent and full of wit. We spent a lot of time together solving the world's problems, solving my problems and sharing our life stories. We would spend hours at her kitchen table drinking sun tea out of ginormous cups, conversing.

Her daughter was just 10 at the time and we spent time playing together. We played outside, we played inside, we put her rat in the bathtub eventhough her mother told us not to. We were howling with laughter as the rat jumped out and locked the front door to ensure mom wouldn't find out.

She loved Abraham Lincoln and being a democrat. She helped and cared for everyone, she did not have much but what she did have she shared without hesitation. When she didn't have money for something, she bartered services to ensure her daughter had everything she needed. She was fiercly loyal and called her aunt every Sunday. She was a flight attendant and traveled the world.

Her home was immaculate - she vacuumed twice a day - it is the only way to keep a nice carpet in good shape, she would say. She loved fine things and was well educated. She read voraciously and had one of the prettiest homes on the block. She had a great laugh and always wore her glasses on a string around her neck, always. She wanted the best for those that she loved, especially her daughter.  She listened to classical music and when she was on the radio, Dr. Laura.  She always told me not to 'shack up.' 

The last time I saw her was 10 or 11 years ago. I visted a few years before I got married and certainly before I had children. Our interactions had been reduced to Christmas cards and letters. I would get a letter after the hustle and bustle of the holidays subsided. She would provide me with a treatise on all of the activites of the previous year. It is hard to describe the love and admiration I have for this woman.

I learned last week that she was in the hospital, it was an honor to call her my friend - my family - and to be one of those with her when she died.

I worried that she didn't know what an impact she had on me and my life. I worried that she didn't know how much I loved her. As I was flying across the country I disected all of my memories of our interactions, I laughed with tear filled eyes. I was comforted to know that whenever we corresponded I closed with 'love.' She was truly one of a kind and will be missed by legions of people.

Rest in peace Jude, rest in peace. With great love and fondness - Betz

Friday, April 27, 2012

Photo shoot

Clearly I am not a professional photographer, but look at this subject!  She was so pleased with her outfit and felt so beautiful.  Love this girl!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


How is it possible that my freckle splashed red head is six?  How?

Well it has happened.  On 4/5/2006 he was born and here it is 6 years later.  What a wonderful, wonderful son.  Everyday he leaves for school, I yell out before they get on the bus, "Have a good day, I love you!"  And he is the only one who responds everyday with, "I love you too!"

Happy Birthday, Ollie!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Last week it was hot.  As in put in the airconditioners, hot.  But it is March.  We normally don't have the air conditioners in until May.  So I slept on the couch.  Our house is a 1 and 1/2 story house, which slanted roof on the second floor.  It is always warmer up there even when it isn't hot outside.  But it was 78 degrees at night in my room. 

So I slept downstairs.

And while I slept downstairs, Oliver woke up in the middle of the night, went into our room woke up daddy and told him he has an ear infection.

The next day I took no action, until after school when Oliver mentioned his ear still hurt.  So I took him over to the Minute Clinic.  Lo and behold...he has an ear infection!

I told him he should be a doctor. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


On Sunday Merri turned nine years old!  I can't believe it!  
She is a lovely, gracious, elegant creature and we are so proud to be her parents.
Around these parts we decorate elaborately to celebrate birthdays.
And we eat specially made cakes.

What a special day!  Oh to be nine again!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


If you can have a snow drought, we have had one.  Until today.  He was outside by 6:30 and had this created by 7:10.