Friday, April 14, 2017

"Good" Friday

I sit and write this in my bed as I recover from another melanoma surgery.  Last week I had a mole removed and the doctor assured me if anything it was atypical, so I was a little stunned when the nurse called and said that it was in fact melanoma...again and that I would need to schedule a surgical excision to be sure we got it all.  "This one was caught early" she said.  Somehow that didn't comfort me.  It felt like another battle to fight and while it definitely could be worse, I've been exhausted from fighting battles.

I remember finding out that Asher was not well while I carried him.  It seemed so cruel that I'd have to go through that twice.  I mean, I had the thought that "I had paid my dues".  I praised God despite having to let go of my second born son.  It seemed cruel that I'd have to also let go of my fourth born.    They say lightning doesn't strike the same place twice.  They're wrong.

Death can strike twice, cancer can strike twice, and it leads me to think of how Jesus' people must've felt on Good Friday.  Good Friday couldn't have seemed "good" in any way shape or form.  It had to be agony, it must've felt cruel and crushing, much like the trials we face today.  Good Friday wasn't good.  Sometimes we need to sit with that pain, we need to feel it, let it wash over us.  Brokenness, fear, sickness, and death are all part of this fallen world.  Christ suffered, we suffer.

The truth is, that we can live the Friday and Saturday experiences with hope.  Jesus gave us a beautiful example.  It's Friday, but we KNOW Sunday is coming.  Christ died, but he ROSE.  The rising would not be so powerful without the two days of death.  Jesus overcame death so that we would be able to have the hope that one day all of these trials, these hurts, these battles will be won...maybe not by us, but one day all of the sad things will come untrue, there will be no more hurt, no more fear, no more death.

Jesus died, the tomb was empty, and he was resurrected.  Friends who are living a Friday experience right now, hang tight, hold on and turn your face upward.  I am not sure what it will look like but Friday doesn't last forever, don't lose hope, don't fear that Sunday won't come.  He assures us it will.  It hurts right now, there are so many questions, anger, disappointment, longing, grief and fear.  Allow yourself to feel ALL of them, just don't reside there, feel them and keep on moving on to Saturday, Sunday WILL come.  Beauty will come from ashes.  It may not look anything like what we hoped or expected, but these trials are changing us, they're preparing us for greater things even when they don't feel so great.  You may not feel like you've got this, but He does.  Hold fast.  It's Friday now, but Sunday IS coming.  I don't know all of the answers, or really any, but I know this isn't the end.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Nine years ago today, I sat in a hospital room hooked up to monitors, with the crushing knowledge that my sweet fourth son's life was near it's end.  I was taken for a midnight ultrasound to take a look at the umbilical cord as it was suspected that the blood flow was beginning to slow to his body.  My greatest wish was to meet him alive.  I was told it was a long shot, but the doctors promised they'd try.

The ultrasound confirmed that our time was running out and I was bombarded with decisions.  Big decisions.  I am not by nature a decisive person, anyone who knows me knows that any decision causes me pretty great anxiety...ok, maybe not any decisions, there have been some decisions in life I have unequivocally known the way to go...marrying Howard, adopting my kids, those were no brainers.  What kind of mattress to buy...nope.  Hours and hours of research, to be sure I don't make the wrong decision and have to sleep on a lumpy mattress for the rest of my days precede a decision like that.  I am not being dramatic, it really causes me great anxiety, some days I just need someone else to make all of the decisions that I KNOW aren't a big deal but somehow make a big deal.

This day, there was no such person.  Howard and I were faced with what to do next.  We could have a c-section immediately and hopefully meet our boy before he died or we could wait it out and let his lungs mature more giving him a greater chance of longer survival.  Then, once he was born, what measures would be taken, who would be in the room, what would happen next?

We took a breath and decided we wanted to meet our boy, his heart was slowing, and it wasn't looking good.  We made phone calls to our friends and family and let them know they were welcome to come and meet him, we called our favorite NICU nurse, a photographer and our pastor.  We made a plan.  I would deliver the baby and they would close me up ASAP and I would be taken to recovery where his siblings would come in and meet him, followed by grandparents, aunts, and friends.  The photographer would be there all the while capturing every precious moment.

The decisions came easy, we just knew what to do, we have NO regrets about our time with Asher and we somehow got a tiny lifetime out of the thirty minutes he lived.  He met many people and he knew only love.  He died peacefully in our arms and it was a day of tangible love, grace and hope.

Fast forward nine years, tonight I stood in Target and cried a river because for the life of me I could not choose a toothpaste.  Why on earth are there so many choices?  They all do the same job, but what if there is a better one, which one gives me the most for my money?  It is maddening.  I stood there and cried and cried. I finally threw one into the cart and moseyed back to electronics to find Luke.  He could see I'd been crying and he asked what was wrong.  I told him I was overwhelmed picking a toothpaste.  He looked at me and said, "Mom, I doubt it is about the toothpaste. It maybe is because tomorrow is your dead son's birthday."  Maybe.

On the ride home he spoke with wisdom and kindness that made my heart overflow.  We stopped at a drive thru for ice cream and fries.  As we pulled away, I looked at him and said, tomorrow is your brother's birthday.  He handed me a fry and said, "Let's have a fry and cry".  We did.  I sometimes worry about secondary trauma inflicted on our kids because of the things they've lived and continue to live and then my thirteen year old shows me he gets it.  He didn't try to offer meaningless words, he didn't try to fix it.  He handed me a french fry and cried with me as we talked about what a nine year old Asher might be like.

We got home and he helped me carry our bags in and he went to get a shower.  As I was putting things away I heard him soothe the baby back to sleep when she began to fuss and I thought about how lucky I am to have that kid.  He then came out of my bedroom and said, "Mom, I found this kitchen knife lying around in your room, I figured it ought not be there, so maybe just put knives away when you are done using them in your bedroom."  We both laughed, and he hugged me and thanked me for spending the evening with him and as he went to bed he said, "You're a good mom, Asher was really lucky to have you for his whole life."

His whole life.  Asher had his mom and his dad for his whole life, not many of us do.  While I'd do anything to have had him here with me today, and I sure wished he were following me around Target tonight picking out birthday goodies, I had him for 31 weeks, 4 days within my womb and 30 amazing minutes outside.  He had his mom for his whole life and she could not have loved him more.  I'll probably always wish for more, but I know he now wishes for nothing.  He is perfect and whole and with his Heavenly father, and while my body physically aches for him every day, he lives on in us, we are different because he lived.  We know a compassion and a depth of soul that we never would have known without his brief life and while my heart aches, it also bursts with joy and pride that he was mine.  I had him for 30 minutes, he had me forever.  It is well, it is well with my soul.

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be.

Asher "Happy" Joseph Bolte 2/22/2008

Monday, February 13, 2017

Let Light Shine Out of Darkness

2 Cor 4:2,6 (NIV) We have renounced secret and shameful ways... For God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

I don't know about you but these days I look around and I feel overwhelmed.  I see stories of addiction, sexual abuse, mental illness, violence, etc and I wonder what in the world is happening.  I had a conversation with my grandmother about some of these things that were weighing me down and she said that these things were not so rampant in "her day".  I got to thinking.  Is that true?  Are these issues new?

I would argue that they aren't new at all.  Those issues have been around for as long as people have been around I'd guess.  I don't think they are more common today, I think people are getting BRAVE and talking about them.  History tells us that many atrocities happened long ago, I think the difference is that for many years people were silenced.  These were things no one was expected to talk openly about.  When we keep secrets, eventually they will have to come to light...eventually whether they are spoken about or acted out, they come out.

For decades, maybe centuries, people have dealt with all of these issues in silence.  They were inappropriate things to speak of and so they got shoved away, deeper and darker, and in that darkness they fester, they begin to cause rot and decay, the decay spreads and spreads until eventually something comes to light or the rot takes over.  I think this silence and suppression of these issues has caused the infection to grow, it becomes a cycle and the only way to break that cycle is to get honest, open up and address the issues.

An abuse victim shoves their fears and feelings down until they grow and the abusee becomes the abuser, a person struggling with mental illness shoves the shame away until the illness takes over.  A person struggling with addiction continues to feed the addiction until that addiction brings death and destruction.  We can't keep on keeping' on this way...we need to be brave, we need to bring it all to light.  We live in a broken world where terrible things happen and we need to talk about them.  It is time to break the stigma.

I think there are far too many of us carrying around hurts and traumas that we are not meant to carry alone.  I don't know why these things happen to so many, but I know we were never meant to try to handle them alone.  I've been criticized for being so open about my mom's suicide and my own struggle with depression and anxiety.  More than the criticism though I've had people share stories with me that they had previously been unable to share, people who've contemplated their own suicide but found hope in knowing they aren't alone.  My mom's birthday was yesterday and I can't help but think that if she had felt she could share, if she could be honest and bring that darkness to light she might still be here today.

Friends, you aren't alone.  Whatever your struggle, you are never alone.  When we get brave and we share our souls and the deepest darkest parts of them, we allow light to shine into the darkness and the light will cause growth, the rot and decay will stop and true growth and healing can take place.  I think for many generations stigma and taboo won, that must end here.  No more shame, no more stigma, no more taboo, you are loved and you are not alone.  I urge you, whatever your struggle, whether addiction, mental illness, sexual abuse, abuse, anything, reach out to someone who loves you well, bring the darkness to light, take back your power, God can bring beauty from the ashes of any circumstance, but as long as it remains in the dark it will fester and the infection will spread, so bring it to light, let the light shine out of the darkness, I am here, I am with you and I am always honored when you share your stories with me so feel free to email me if you aren't sure who else to share with.

Let's leave a better world for our kids and bring it all to light!

Mat 5:14-15 (Phi) "You are the world's light; it is impossible to hide a town built on top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lampstand, and it gives light for everybody in the house."

Friday, January 20, 2017

It is Personal

On Tuesday of this week, I sat in a cancer center for the day.  It is near the third anniversary of my cancer diagnosis and I am now having annual scans to be sure the cancer doesn't return and if it should, that we catch it before it spreads.  I have written before on my experience in the cancer center.  It is a sacred place.  It is a place where deep sorrow and great hope coincide.  It is a place that unless you've spent time there, you can't really grasp.  While I am a nervous wreck each time I go, I also look forward to going, I could sit and just listen to people share their stories all day and basically I do.

This week was slightly different.  My best friend took me to this appointment so that Howard could keep the wheels turning at home and we headed out once getting kids settled with school or on the bus, I got there, had bloodwork done, had an IV placed and was sent to the basement for radiology (where I would later have to have the darn IV redone, but in the grand scheme I shouldn't complain).  Once in radiology I was separated from my friend and placed in a small room with seven other cancer patients all waiting for scans as well.

Part of the scanning process requires drinking a contrast solution.  It isn't TERRIBLE but it's no margarita.  As I sat there with those seven people we each took turns giving a "cheers" as we received our contrast.  The feeling is one of camaraderie, it isn't a place anyone would choose to be, but there is a solidarity in that room that you won't feel elsewhere.  As we sat and sipped our bottles of yuck, we shared stories.  I sat there in awe of these people.  The resilience, the positivity, the hope was tangible.  A 72 year old man with terminal liver cancer that had spread to his lungs, who by all doctor predictions should've been dead years ago, a 32 year old mom of Muslim faith who was battling stage 3 ovarian cancer, a 54 year old woman on a clinical trial for breast cancer, a 61 year old man battling prostate cancer, a 43 year old man battling stage 4 colon cancer, an 83 year old woman enduring treatment for end stage renal cancer so she could see her first great grandchild be born, and a man who kept to himself and sat quietly in the corner fighting tears.

These are all real people.  Michael, and Adra, and Ethel.  Bob and Ryan and Millie...and the man in the corner, they are parents and spouses and siblings, friends and as we sat there, sharing stories, the news came on.  The fear and sadness in the room was thick as the repeal of the ACA act was being discussed.  Each of these people have a preexisting condition.  Each of these people need expensive medical treatment to live and continue to live.  Each of these people is loved deeply by others.  Each of these people deserve better.

When fighting cancer one should not have to fret about the logistics and financial aspects of their medical care.  They need all of their energy just to show up and fight.  I try not to get political here, as it is never my intention to divide people.  We all need each other and we need opposing views to better each other.  But guys, healthcare shouldn't be a luxury afforded to only the should be a right in America.  All people should get the care they need without going bankrupt or being denied.  These precious people are afraid that changes in healthcare law will ultimately result in their death...this is life and death.  I hope and pray they are wrong, that everything is going to be just fine and that maybe the new president will surprise us all...regardless, I'd challenge any of the politicians of America to spend just a day in a cancer center, listening and truly HEARING people, healthcare reform maybe should start there.

Today a new president takes office.  If you know me, you know he would not in a bajillion years be my choice.  I do not believe he will be a voice for the marginalized, I believe he is a voice for only himself and is a man of no integrity.  I do not believe he has the best interest of the people at heart.  As a mother to girls, to children of different ethnicities, children with special needs, and as a mom with a pre existing condition married to a public school teacher, this is beyond political, it is personal.

 His words and actions thus far give me no hope in his ability.  He is all of the things I pray my children never become, he is in no way a role model I want them to follow, his words have been horrendous, and yet we as a nation write those words off hoping that something shockingly different will be better.  I am a firm believer that words have power and I believe his words have revealed who he is, but I stand today hoping with all I have in me that I am wrong.  I hope he somehow deep deep down has the ability to "Make America Great Again", but friends, this job is too important to leave it up to him.  We have to stand up and speak out.  We have to be unafraid to be a voice for those who need one and to stand up for what is right and just.

We cannot give up now, we have to make our own corners of the world better, world change begins kind to each other but keep fighting the good fight and do not grow weary.  The battle begins now.  It's ok to be sad today, but tomorrow we begin the hard work ahead of us, God is still in control and we have the power to make a difference...let's do it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Walking/Driving After Midnight

We are all probably pretty familiar with the phenomenon where you hear a song and it is able to transport you back into a moment of the past because the song played at a significant time in your life.  It evokes the same emotions, feelings, moods, vivid memories flood back.  It is much more than just nostalgia, it doesn't necessarily make you yearn for the past, it transports you there.

Twenty nine years ago, my mother ended her life.  A single bullet and it was over in that instant.  She'd suffered with depression and I suspect other mental health struggles for maybe forever.  She had a traumatic childhood herself and despite her best effort she was not able to overcome the demons that continued to haunt her.  She planned her death in great detail.  I was nine, I had no idea what was happening at the time but looking back it takes my breath away.

The events surrounding her death were extremely traumatic for me.  I didn't realize until I was in my thirties just how traumatic they were.  I began seeing a therapist and discovered I was struggling with PTSD.  I had almost no memories of the first decade of my life.  When I turned the age my mother was when she died, memories suddenly began flooding me at inopportune times.  Feelings and traumas I had never dealt with were demanding my attention.  I have continued therapy and worked on dealing with those issues and feelings in addition to taking medication to combat some of the same demons my mother fought for so long.  I am not ashamed.  If nothing else, my mom surely taught me a heartbreaking lesson.  I will continue to get help and fight for my life for as long as I live.

I am in a much healthier place today.  I hold little resentment I once clung to and I am able to see through my own experience, the struggles she faced.  For as long as I remember, I've had a strong connection to Classic Country music, mostly women.  Patsy Cline, Crystal Gayle, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton all hold a sacred place in my heart.  One memory I have that is a positive one is that my mother was a singer.  She was talented, and she loved to sing.  She would put records on and dance and sing around the house almost daily when she was well...and she would sit and sing and cry when she wasn't.

On our most recent vacation to Myrtle Beach, we drove through the night.  I am by nature a night person.  I enjoy the quiet and stillness of the night and I function best in darkness.  I pulled up my playlist on my iPod.  The rest of the family was sound asleep and I drove through the hills of West Virginia and Virginia while I sang my heart out.  It was maybe the most therapeutic thing I have ever done.  I started with "Walking After Midnight", tears fell down my cheeks as I sang the words, remembering my mom singing that song all of the time.  It transported me back to a moment of her holding my hands and dancing with me in our living room.  Her smile, her long blonde hair, and her chunky cardigan sweater were almost tangible.

My playlist continued, Crazy, Harper Valley PTA, Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, Islands in the Stream, Jolene, Stand By Your Man, Delta Dawn, I Don't Wanna Play House, I Fall to Pieces, She's Got You, Coal Miner's Daughter, Fist City, and the list goes on.  I've had this playlist on my iPod for as long as I can remember, I guess as long as I've had an iPod.  There are so many moments in my life I yearn for my mom...for her advice, for her help, just for her presence.  It was on that drive well after midnight, as I sang Walking After Midnight along with Patsy that it occurred to me that those records were soothing to my mom's soul, and today, they soothe mine.  I miss her.  Every day I miss her.  I have missed out, she has missed out, my family is missing out...but in a way, she continues to mother me through music.  It might seem silly, but as I listen to those songs, I can hear her voice, in those moments she is with me.  I sure wish I still had those records, but for today, I am grateful for iTunes for bringing my mom back to me in a small way when I really need her.  It is comforting to be transported to those moments, dancing and singing in our living room and let's be honest, most of those songs teach a pretty good motherly lesson and there's something to be said for the sound of a fiddle, a banjo or a steel guitar.  ;)

"I go out walkin' after midnight, out in the moonlight, just like we used to do, I'm always walking' after midnight searchin' for you."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Take Care of One Another

"We must absolutely take care of one another.  It does take a village, but we have to be a village first. We have to take care of each other's children."  - Ruby Bridges

We've been studying a bit in our homeschool studies about activists who have made a difference.  One of the most recent people being Ruby Bridges.  I read this quote and it resonated with me so deeply.  Things in the Bolte house have been good.  Everyone is doing pretty well, we had an amazing Christmas vacation and things have been relatively uneventful.  Nevertheless, I am tired.

I don't just mean I could use a nap kind of tired, though a nap would be nice, it would not come close to alleviating the bone numbing exhaustion I suffer from.  Raising six kids, two who are currently very active in sports, two with some significant special needs, a dramatic seven year old and infant is a lot.  Each day I find myself more overwhelmed and tired than the last.

Raising special needs kids is something I never realized was as intense as it is.  It feels like every day is a battle and many days, I feel like I am losing.  Decisions are made every minute of every day that have to be thought through in their entirety or the consequences can send us in a downward spiral or worse.  I have a child who does not correlate cause and effect, has no respect for boundaries and has no fear, she has to be supervised every single minute of every single day. My kids have to be wearing the right pants, their socks have to be just right, their backpacks packed with the appropriate tools (wiggle seat, sensory soothers, books, etc) to help them be successful for a day in school, and the list goes on.

I wake up in the morning, feed the baby and try to chug a cup of coffee while it is remotely warm, when this fails, I'll later pour the coffee over ice and pretend I intended it to be that way.  I wake Jacob and Lily and get them dressed for the day.  This can go well, but more often than not I've chosen the wrong pants or the wrong socks or we want to wear three dresses at once.  When it comes to wardrobe, if it is weather appropriate, I typically don't fight that battle, I pack backpacks, making sure each kid has what they need to be the most successful on the bus and at school.  I brush hair and teeth and hope the bus comes on time because it is all a delicate balance.

Once they are safely on the bus, I walk back up the driveway where I hear the baby screaming because she cannot see me and I've gone outside in the 10 degree weather without her.  I come in and scoop her up and check emails for the day, I return emails to caseworkers, teachers, therapists, biological parents, grandparents and other service providers.  Most days there is then a doctor appointment or caseworker appointment or therapy appointment to deal with.  I wake the other kids and they get breakfast, (which I am learning to have them do for themselves, clean up, get dressed and brush teeth, they then begin work on their homeschool checklist for the day that I have prepped at an hour no one should see.

We get the schoolwork done, read books, play games, create things, while I juggle a baby, dinner plans, bills, and phone calls from caseworkers, school, therapists, etc.  at 3:30, I realize I have forgotten the second cup of coffee I made and just pour it over ice and suck it down.  The bus comes and two four year olds who have mostly held it together all day come home in tasmanian devil fashion.  They blow through the door and it all falls apart, I spend time trying to decipher their behavior and what it means and how to help them, I lose my patience, I begin again, I finally send everyone to separate areas with a  screen, because I am human.

Howard comes home, we sit down to eat (I won't even try to describe dinner chaos, but imagine feeding a herd of finicky tyrannosaurus rex, it resembles that), Howard kisses me and out the door he goes to coach either Luke or Ben, sometimes both.  I clean up dinner whilst refereeing UFC style four year old brawls, and wrestle them to the tub where I assembly line bathe the three youngest children, lotion them up, brush teeth, read stories, snuggle and tuck them in, clean up the bathroom, sit down, get up, tuck kids back in, repeat.  Oversee showering of older kids, laundry, food prep for the next day, feed the baby, lie down to watch The Daily Show and promptly fall asleep.

I am sure that is not even it and that is just a normal day not a day where the s#it hits the fan.  It is exhausting and overwhelming, and amazing and rewarding.  Not a day goes by that someone doesn't look at me very seriously and say, "I don't know how you do it all" or "I think you are taking on too much" or "you can't save the world".  The thing is...maybe I can't save the world, but I can make the world better for a few, so I will keep just doing that.  Just because I can't do all things for all people doesn't mean I should do nothing.  These days the world praises independence, not having to lean on others, we are missing our village and I am a product of a village of adults who cared enough to invest in me when my own mom was missing.  I might be tired, but I'll keep doing that for as many as I can, because these kids, they are amazing gifts and they have so much to offer the world, they make ME better, and maybe, just maybe the village starts with me.  The tears, exhaustion and sleepless nights are more than worth it.  We have to stop viewing kids as other people's children and a burden.  They're all our children and our future.  Let's stop blaming and shaming and making parents feel they aren't doing enough, lets take care of each other and each other's children. Parenting is hard. Extend grace. Lend a hand. Be the village.  World change is going to start there.