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Dual Roles

I thought I knew what Kristi did as a mom. Right. Now that I have been both dad AND mom for close to two years, reality has become clear. Its a ton of work. It takes everything I have. And it keeps on taking. I love it and am glad to do it, but…wow!

Chad, Kristi and children, the day after diagnosis

So on this Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for all the years my children had an amazing, capable, loving, talented, giving, tough, hard-working, thoughtful, patient and never-give-up mom. On the way to church I asked them to recount memories they had and we got some good stories.

Coming home, after lunch out with my mom and dad, everyone was in good spirits. The start of summer break has definitely improved the mood around the house. So for a short time this afternoon, I put aside the motherly worries and the fatherly concerns and just enjoyed their banter.

Later this afternoon my stomach tried to revolt on me so I spent several hours sitting in bed. I kept getting cautious knocks on the door and reticent peeks to make sure that dad/mom was ok. By late evening the nausea had passed, thankfully without anything to show for the misery, and this dad/mom was able to tuck each child in bed, pray with them and send them off to peaceful sleep.

Somebody asked me in the past week how I do it. How do I keep up with life and four children and all the activities. If I look at the whole picture, it quickly gets overwhelming. So I take it one step at a time. Its just like a long endurance race. You can’t look at a 5 hr and 45 minute race as a whole. You have to break it down: 33 minutes for swimming. Then a 3 hr bike ride. Then a two hour, 13.1 mile run, checking the pace each mile and focusing on each step, knowing that for every step taken, you’re one step closer to the end. You do what’s at hand, trusting the Father above for the strength to continue and to do it to the best of your abilities. And oh yeah… a huge shout-out to all those moms in our life who bring the touch and presence of a real mother for my children. It adds immeasurably to this dad/mom’s efforts. You’re the best!

Just a Recovery Run?

Just a Recovery Run…

My quads are sore! That was the predominant thought on my mind as my feet hit the floor at 5AM yesterday morning. It was time for my post-race recovery run. I was headed to run with the tri group. I knew I needed to do it, but it sure didn’t sound fun. My legs were sore after all from the general thrashing I gave them on Saturday during the race. Its just a recovery run I thought. No biggie. Not much to learn here. Hobble through, move on.

As we started off at a very easy pace I figured we would go for 15-20 minutes and turn around for an easy 3 to maybe 3.5 miles. Left to my own devices I would have put in two miles and called it good. But each of us had raced 70.3 miles over the weekend and we had stories to share. Trotting along at a slow gate, our breath was easy and we chatted it up. Next thing I knew it was time to turn around.

“Wait, we’re at the low water crossing?! This is 2.5 miles in. That means a five mile recovery run! I’m gonna pay for this!” We had gone much farther than I expected. I actually felt good. The longer I ran, the better I felt.

I woke up this morning and my quads were almost entirely pain free. Wow! It worked! The five miles actually paid off; they didn’t cost me!

Three years into endurance sports and I’m still learning, still growing. I’ll tuck this nugget of experience away for future post-race and heavy training session recovery. Go a little farther than you think you need. Do it with friends if possible.

Sounds like grief recovery too! The emotions and body are often frayed and worn down after a significant loss. There will be a recovery period. There needs to be a recovery period. The pace needs to be slower, and it probably needs to go longer than you thought. But you’ll survive. Yes, its painful to work those exposed nerves and broken hearts, that’s why you need a friend along for support, but there’s healing on the other side.

Its a choice. How you live each day is a choice. You don’t have to work on those broken and injured spots. But if you just bury the pain, it can’t ever come out and leave you free to live and thrive again.

Yeah, it was just a recovery run. Right.

Down The Rabbit Hole – Three Years Later

While yesterday was a day of wonderful memories, today marks three years from the day we received Kristi’s breast cancer diagnosis. I remember the phone call vividly. The solemn monotone of the doctor, the look in Kristi’s eyes, the immediate tightness in my gut. Here’s the post about that day. My first post.

I’m encouraged as I read that post that even on day one I was looking to work with my Father above to bring about good in the situation. Boy has that turned out differently than I thought, planned or desired.

I didn’t realize it then, but grief arrived that very day. I didn’t know it was grief, but it was. We were planning to go out on an anniversary dinner, eighteen years plus one day late. Since we already had the children looked after we went to dinner anyway, just so we could process the news. It was a miserable affair. Without knowing anything about how serious her fight would become, that phone call ripped joy and peace right out from under us. We sat and stared at each other, pushing our food around our plates, appetites gone. We mumbled to each other, our breath too weak to form words properly. We stared blankly at the waitress, her cheery words falling on wan smiles.

It fundamentally altered our marriage. She became the patient and I became the caregiver. All those changes brought grief. Grief of days wasted, time lost, changed roles, new responsibilities and so many more changes, little and big that are in the rabbit hole of fighting cancer.

I was determined that it wouldn’t define our relationship. We would beat it and move on. Living and loving each other more deeply for the scare she’d had. Nope. Didn’t work out that way either. And yet, by giving vent and voice to the grief over the years I’ve been able to let it flow on by. Feel it, own it, experience it and let it go. It will come again. That’s cool. I’ll dance with it again and then send it on down the line once more.

And in the letting go of grief, love remains. Life remains. Cancer hasn’t defined our relationship. We fought to make our marriage great for 19 years and three months and we succeeded. Cancer didn’t change that.

But the premature end of Kristi’s life has put a spotlight on how precious each day is that remains. My goal is still the same as it was on 18+1, three years ago today. Labor in love with my Heavenly Father to bring about all manner of good in this life.

Don’t avoid your grief. That will derail you. Meet it head-on. Let it come. Experience it. Soul-shaking sobs. Heart-rending cries. Whatever it takes. So you can let it go. So Love can remain.

“Now these three remain, Faith, Hope and Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Surprise! What I Pulled Out Completely Shocked Her!

Twenty-one years ago today I said “I Do!” It was “I Do and I will…” Forever. We both said it. We both meant it. We kept those mutual vows for nineteen years and three months until death finally did part us. But that didn’t mean it had to be a chore or boring the whole time. Far from it! I decided to get the surprises going early in our marriage and started during the reception…

It was time to throw the garter. Kristi was seated conspicuously in the middle of the guests and I knelt down in front of her and slipped my hands under her dress, found the garter and teased it off. Before I pulled my hands back out from under her dress, I stuffed the garter in the sleeve of my coat and out of the other pulled a pair of Kristi’s bright red undies I had secreted out of her honeymoon bag.

Chad Surprising Kristi at their wedding reception
Surprise! Chad pulls red panties out from under Kristi’s wedding dress instead of the garter.

The look on her face says it all. Complete shocker! It got everyone laughing and brings a smile to my face all these years later. A romantic at heart, I kept surprising her throughout our marriage to keep the fire bright and the love fresh.

May the memories of love fulfilled bring you joy today! I’m thankful for the years we shared together and the love of my children that keeps it real every day.

Celebrate life!

 

Taking Steps

As I climbed out of the pool after this morning’s training session I thought, “Man, my shoulders are worked!” On the way home I could feel the tiredness seeping into my entire body. “I shouldn’t feel this tired after 3100 yards. Fatigued yes, but tired like I want to go to sleep for hours? Nope.” 

After devouring my three-egg omelet I was still feeling as wilted as the spinach I had just cooked. Hmm. I don’t think this chest cold has truly gone away. So I called and managed to get an afternoon appointment with our family doc. He heard the wheezing in my lungs and ordered a chest X-ray to make sure I don’t have pneumonia or any pre-cursor to it.

My first triathlon of 2015 is in two and a half weeks. I need to be better by then. So I’m taking steps now to deal with this. Prayers are fully welcome!

Grief isn’t an illness or disease, but it can sure take you out of your normal routine and cause significant fatigue. To thrive again after loss, make sure to take steps now to deal with your grief. Don’t stuff it, ignore it or pretend you’re good and don’t need to grieve. Talk it out, write it out, get active! Pray. Rest. Take time to nuture your emotions and spirit. You’ll be back on your game soon enough. Give yourself time and grace.

Peace!

What’s Your Choice?

Up early for pre-dawn training run. 5.25 miles of intervals today. That means you run fast for a bit, then slow down and recover then repeat. Interval training is part of the journey to increase your fitness and speed.

It reminds me that grief is part of the journey of life. Sometimes we move fast, sometimes we slow down and recover.

Today I ran with our club president. She’ll be racing the Ironman Chattanooga course with me in September. Its always good to train with a partner. It keeps your effort honest and provides a source of encouragement. 

The race of life doesn’t have to be run alone. Even if you’ve suffered great loss. Jesus pioneered the way into the Father’s heart, opening it wide so that you and I never have to be alone, so that we can live a life surrounded by love and sharing it with others.

Its a choice. Love is always a choice. Its a willful act to embrace another’s life, knowing that the act of engagement will require much. But Love is always a gift and that gift, when received and returned transforms both lover and beloved. What’s your choice today?

Easter In A Nutshell

“Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete”… and “this is to my Father’s glory, that you show yourselves to be my disciples.” Both these passage of scripture come from the book of John. Jesus is talking to his disciples right before he is betrayed and ultimately crucified. Of course the story doesn’t end there. He crushes death through resurrection and opens the path to his Father’s heart for all of us to enter.

I think Jesus was joyful. Everywhere he went he set people free from the death, disease and destruction. What a joyful mission! He demonstrated what life looks like when you are in close contact with God. As he prepares his dsicples for his imminent departure, he says in effect, “Look, ask for these same kinds of things. The very things that I’ve been doing, you’re going to be able to do too. Look for ways to bring life and it will bring you complete joy! It will also bring glory to Father God as well.”

Joy. What a powerful motivator. Everyone seeks joy. But Jesus says it comes as a byproduct of bringing life to others. You get it when you’re not aiming for it. You get it becuase you get to see people loved and set free through Jesus. How cool is that? Its so cool its glorious!

I break it down this way: Bring life, Revel in the glory, Find joy!

Happy Easter!

What She Said Shocked Me, What I said In Response Brought Her To Tears…

I volunteered to help with an event for my son’s class at school today. Afterwards I was visiting with another parent and she asked if I was from California. “Born in Austin, but grew up in Northern California.” I answered, wondering if she knew or cared about the difference between NorCal and SoCal.

“Me too.” She responded.

Oh, this might actually be interesting. “Where?”

When “Grass Valley” left her lips, you could have picked my mouth up off the floor. “No way!” Was all I could muster in response.

“Why?” She probed.

“I graduated from Nevada Union High.” I was grinning now. Joyfully shocked to be in the presence of someone who not only knew Grass Valley, but understood that living back on Retrac Way off Lime Kiln Road meant I lived in the sticks!

“Bear River!” She pointed to herself.

“That’s where my sister graduated! Wait, did you go to Magnolia Intermediate then?”

“Yep!”

“Unbelievable! We grew up in the same town, went to the same Jr. High and you and my sister went to the same high school and elementary school as well!”

With that exchange, we were off to the races, talking about rural, foothill life from a backwater corner of California. As we relived memories and shared how we each made it to Texas, recent history cropped up and in the rapid fire course of catching up, I told her about Kristi’s illness and subesquent death. She was stunned. Tears immediately flooded her eyes and the conversation halted abruptly until she could gather her composure. I consoled her and assured her that her emotion was appreciated in that it was heartfelt.

I didn’t realize she didn’t know our circumstance. I can’t keep track of who knows and who doesn’t anymore. But when I come across someone who doesn’t know, it of course brings it all back to the front. And there it’s stayed for the rest of the day. I left the school and went to take care of some shopping. As I slipped the key in the ignition, the thought, “She’s not here anymore.” went through my head. That’s why you’re going shopping. That’s why you were at the school this morning. That’s why your kids are in school. And so it rolls.

I remember the shock and fog of the first few months. All those thoughts cascading through my brain would threaten to overwhelm my emotional control and I’d be on the brink of shutdown. I’d clinch my eyes tightly but the tears would flow anyway. How was I going to do this? Could I do it? Training was a real salvation in those days. I could let my emotions and brain rest while I pushed my physical limits.

Today, I have to say that by the time I got into the store, I was focused on finding what I needed and getting home before the kids. Its the new normal. It still feels different, its not even a two year old normal. Every day I’m reminded of the new normal. In ways big and small. I can’t escape it. But here it is. And I realize I have license to decide what to do with this normal. Waste it with “what ifs” or “only ifs”? Or live it. The agency to act is mine. I choose life.

I Decided to Try It

This chest cold doesn’t bother me much until the afternoon. Today it dropped the hammer at 2PM and I had to shut my eyes for 30 minutes. After shaking off the grogginess I realized Luke had baseball practice this evening. Nice. A perfect time to see if some light training will help push this cold out.

So when Luke trotted off to the ball field, I laced up my running shoes and hit the trail. 45 minutes later I was back after a nice easy five miles. I felt great as the run ended but wondered if I’d crash when we got home and my body came off the running high.

Nope. I did great through dinner and early evening. Looking forward to rest tonight. Hoping I’ll be on the mend now.

So glad I decided to try and push my limits today. It wasn’t vigorous, it was just a gentle nudge to let the body know it needs to get well. Sometimes you just have to push through the resistance.

Today I Sat

As Katie steered the Honda out of the driveway and off to school, the quiet settled over the house. The sun was shining. Work needed to happen outside. I settled on the back patio, not fit to do much else. I skipped my normal Tuesday morning 5:30AM run with the group. I’m battling some sort of chest cold. I slept in until 6:00AM, what a treat! Saturday is the first long bike ride of the year, 85 miles down around the LBJ ranch. I’d like to be healthy for that. So I’m backing off the physical stress to see if I can kick this.

I felt OK today until about 3:30. Then I just crashed. I went down for a 30 minute nap and then realized when I woke that supper needed to get going because Luke had to leave at 5 for his ball game. I think I’ll need the extra rest tomorrow morning as well so I’m going to skip the 5:30AM swim tomorrow morning too.

Back to the sitting…I sat and I thought and I prayed. What about this? What about that? Little questions. Telling Father what’s on my mind and heart. Giving it to Him to let Him sift it and give it back. No answers yet. That’s ok. I trust Him.



I sat some more tonight. My daughters were inducted into the National Honor Society and as I sat through the ceremony I was so proud of them. They’ve endured so much change in the last 24 months. Their mother went from remission to fading quickly and then gone. They had to go to a new school, make new friends and learn new  skills. They’ve become meal managers and cooks, cleaners and brother sitters. They could have folded, called  it quits and airmailed it in. But they didn’t. I’d like to think part of that reason is that I’ve dedicated myself to being plugged in, leaning into them during this time and forging new relational links that just didn’t have to exist when they had a mother.

Yes, that’s definitely part of it. But part of it is the 50% of their mother they have in them. They’ve handled all the change with amazing grace and skill, just like her. And of course, another part of it is the grace from the Father. He strengthens us when we are weak. All of us have been there. But now we’re working with Him to bring about good things: Luke turns 12 on Monday. We are celebrating on Sunday evening. I’m sorry you won’t be able to come. Its going to be a hoot! LIterally!

Its a Harry Potter themed party complete with owls in cages. Our dining room table is covered in decor, ready to turn our house into everything from Kings Cross Station (Platofrm 9&3/4) to the Hogwarts Castle. The girls are the driving force behind this creative binge, but we’re all engaged. Everyone is excited about it.

We’re doing life together. Celebrating the passage of another year. And believe me, we don’t take those years for granted any more! A birthday celebration is big news!

I thought today would be wasted, in the sitting. But in the sitting I found rest not only for my body but encouragement for my heart and soul.

You.Create

you.create-blog-framed

I carried death yesterday. I was a pall bearer for my grandmother. Bearing the pall. Such a graphic image. The finality was palpable. As we eased her casket onto the rollers over the grave, I was glad to be relieved of my burden.

Death isn’t something we enjoy handling up close. But many of us who’ve been touched by it, refuse to let it go. We carry its pall around with us, letting it color everything we encounter. Of course that’s a choice. There is another alternative.

Create. Creation is the very essence of humanity. We learn in the opening pages of the Bible that God created humankind in his image. The ability to create is at the core of that likeness.

Create what?

Life. Goodness. Wholeness. Just to pick three.

I don’t think its accidental that the first image the Bible paints of Father God is the creator, the author, the originator of good life. He created only good. In fact when God answers Job, his answer is a recounting of all the natural wonders he created. And what he created was good. God isn’t the author of death.  He didn’t create it. He made life.

Jesus demonstrated this same penchant for creating good through the way he lived his life. To make sure no one got confused, he blatantly said: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” In other words, the work I’m doing, this is the essence of my Dad’s heart.

And then he invited anyone who wanted to follow his example. To be a partner in bringing life, freedom and goodness. Then he enabled us to do that very thing through his death and resurrection.

So where does that leave you? You have a choice. Try to hang on, survive, avoid pain and just get by. Or go and create.

Bring life. Build up. Give.

Don’t think you’re equipped to do that? Are you using oxygen? You’ve got what it takes. You won’t be prepared, you won’t feel ready. Just start. It may not work out the first time. That’s ok. Keep after it.

Consistent effort will soon produce a habit of looking for ways to create goodness. Here’s a post I did last year about changing habitual actions in 30 days time.

The choice: carry around death (death is static, unchanging and unable to adapt) or create life, goodness, wholeness, etc?

You.Create (hint: its a command)

 

What Are You Going to Do with the Time Given You?

I must admit, I came to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy via the initial movie by Peter Jackson. However I gobbled up all the novels before the last two movies came out. While I love the entire trilogy, I still think the first book and movie are my favorite. And out of many weighty passages, the one that is perhaps most meaningful now to me is an exchange that takes place between Frodo and Gandalf while lost deep under the Misty Mountains in the mines of Moria. Gandalf is providing Frodo deeper context to his quest to destroy the ring. Frodo isn’t happy with his predicament. The back and forth ends with this:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Like Frodo, its your call. Frodo has already endured loss and more will come his way. I don’t expect my life will be free of loss, pain and grief from here on out. What I do know is that I am determined to thrive… to bring life, build up and give hope along the way.

What are you going to do with the time that is given to you?