Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Sacrifice

I'm giving up processed sugar because my brother is giving up drugs.

Let me explain.

By birth, through my family lines, I have a younger sister, Kimberly. We are two years, three months apart. She is one of my favorite people in the world, and I never feel like I get enough time with her and her amazing family which also includes her dear husband and her 5 (FIVE!) boys.

And then, God gave me a "brother". John.

I met John years ago because he was dating a friend of mine, and I loved everything about my buddy Kelly; therefore I loved John right when I met him. He grandfathered right in to my circle of friends. After they had been dating a few weeks, Kelly confided in me that John was an ex-heroin addict. I was shocked, and impressed, that he had transcended that life. And, if I'm honest, I was a little proud of myself for being so open-minded as to associate with an ex-IV drug user. Aren't I bold?!

Through a long, drawn-out, Dr. Phil-show-type story, here is the bottom line: John did not stay clean for long. And he played a part in introducing Kelly to opiates. And for a while they destroyed themselves together. And it was the saddest thing I had ever seen (the bits of it I did see; drug users are really good at disappearing if they think you'll see through their lies).

If we fast-forward a year or so, we get to the part where John and Kelly go to detox, separately, but still together. They struggle. They break up. And, for some reason, my dear husband and I let John into our home, and told him he could stay with us while looking for work and a place to live.

And so began six months or so of having a roommate. One who had demons I had previously only experienced on "Intervention". One who had such a shady past that he struggled finding a job. One who didn't know anything about a normal home life, with home-cooked dinners and bickering spouses and a budget. And we loved him.

Stash, my dear husband, and I have marveled plenty of times at the twists life can take. We believe God wanted John in our lives. That we are blessed to know, and love, this man. I began calling him my brother when he moved in; he referred to me as "sis". "Brother" was easier than "my friend's ex-boyfriend who's trying to clean up" when I was introducing him. Besides, who would actually CHOOSE to have this shady individual in their life? When I say he's my brother, people get an understanding look in their eye. It usually says something like, "Yeah, don't we all have a black sheep in the family? Don't worry Brigitte, the sketchy brother won't change the way I feel about YOU."

I was always the black sheep in the family. It was weird to transfer that onto someone else.

See, I believe that John becoming my brother was God teaching me a real and big lesson. Don't we all know God loves everyone? And yet don't we all stick our noses up at someone, thinking they're not good enough for us? God loves John. He loves the drug addicts, the dirty homeless people, the crazies that talk to themselves. He loves the girls looking for love in all the wrong places, the alcoholics that try to numb themselves with their booze, the liars, the cheaters, the faithless.

Everyone. Even me. Even John.

I have had an opportunity to show my brother the way that God loves us, as imperfectly and as humanly as I can. I am privileged to have John in my life. He has shown me so many truths...and I have experienced a humanity to the addiction story that I never expected.

I'd like you to meet someone. This is my brother, John. He's 26, with a receding hairline (shhh, don't mention that!). He always offers to help with the dishes. He loves baaaaad reality TV. He takes the garbage out at the coffee stand for me anytime he's there. He can giggle for hours with Joseph playing on YouTube. He yells at Cami for snuggling with her boyfriend. He loves Mike N Ikes. He sleeps with his mouth open. He never puts his t-shirts in the dryer. He should pull his pants up when he's walking (or maybe buy a damn belt!). And he's part of my family.

John slipped up, fell off the wagon, whatever cliche means he's getting high again. I took him to detox yesterday, and he'll be doing inpatient rehab for the first time once he's done. When I was driving him to the detox unit yesterday, I told him that since he had to give something up, I would too. I'm giving up candy, sweets, processed sugar. It's my heroin. He's lived with us on and off for over a year; he knows how much I love my candy. This meant something to him. And when I crave peanut m&m's, I'll remember my brother, kicking something even harder.

Will you pray for us?

I need to go buy some fruit.

Monday, May 24, 2010


May 24, 1994
11:00 pm

I head for my bed in the basement of my parents' house, hoping for some sleep. As I crawl under my twin-size covers and curl up as comfortably as I'm able, turning on the TV (muted, with the close-captioning on so as not to bother my parents upstairs sound asleep) I wonder how much longer I have before I will hold the baby I've been carrying for nine months. It is late Tuesday night; this is my first week not working, since my due dates were either May 23rd or May 27th...depending on whom you asked. The Friday before had been my last day in the Medical Records office of Lake Vue Gardens, a nursing home just up the street. My mom had worked there a while; I started half way through my pregnancy. There were five of us crammed into that little office that one could only access by walking through one of the four dining rooms; we were all friends, of a sort. They had all been kind to me, and supportive of my mom, who was becoming a grandmother much before she had expected.
The baby (who I had been told on Ultrasound Day had 75% chance of being a that helpful?!) squirms, making me wince. I lay in bed on my side, with one leg thrown over the other for support, and try to rest. It would be soon...please, I want it to be soon.
My boyfriend/fiance/baby-daddy/total-stranger was in town from Idaho for the Main Event. He was trying to be enthusiastic, but even on his best day his voice betrayed how scared he was. He hadn't been around for most of the pregnancy, choosing to move to Idaho shortly after I confided my baby news to him. The story was he moved there for work; I knew even then he didn't know what to do with the responsibility. He had the pager from the hospital by his side 24 hours a day, waiting for the buzz to let him know this was It.

May 25, 1994

Back pains wake me. I'm not sure what time I dozed off, but I think I last remember some late night talk show monologue on the screen as I closed my eyes a few short hours before. I roll over, prop my pillows a bit differently, and try to go back to sleep.
It doesn't work.
Stupid lower back. I know she (?) doesn't have much room, but I'm tired! After about a half an hour, I give up. This sleep thing is gone for now. I turn on my light, prop myself up against my white wicker headboard as best I can, and reach for my counted cross stitch. I had picked out a pattern to make for my Grandma Baer a long time before, and even though she passed away in while I was a junior in high school, two years ago, I wanted to finish it in memory of her. It required a lot of concentration, and it wasn't until 4:30 am that I realize my back pains would be there, and then they wouldn't.
This can't be labor.
When my mom gets up to get ready for work around 5:30, I am puttering around in the kitchen, wiping things, organizing things, cleaning things.
Mom: "Morning, hon! What in the world are you doing up so early?"
Me: "Well, I think that maybe the baby is coming today. And if I'm having a baby, then in a day or two we will be having a bunch of people who want to come over to visit, so I'm cleaning the kitchen."
Mom almost falls over. I can tell that she doesn't quite know what to do. After I watch fear/excitement/indecision flash across her face, she says, "Oh! Okay. Well, I think I'm going to get ready for work...?"
I agree. Yes, definitely, you should go to work, Mom. So far my back just hurts. About every 5 to 8 minutes.

May 25, 1994

I'm on my way to the hospital. I talked to my doctor a bit ago, and she suggested I come in to "get checked" (every pregnant girl's favorite and worst phrase). My best friend is to be my Lamaze coach, and she is now part of "Team Baby", however that plays out today. I say out loud on my way to the hospital, "Oh yeah, these contractions hurt." No, dear; not yet they don't.
I have decided to attempt natural childbirth. One of the beautiful things about becoming a teenage mother is that you have no idea of most things of which you should be scared. I didn't know what the future would hold; but neither did my friends that were finishing up their freshman year of college! I didn't know what bills were like; neither did anyone with whom I associated. I knew childbirth hurt...but had no experience to which I could compare, and neither did my circle of confidantes.
Part of my decision to try labor and delivery without painkillers was "I'll prove...(something, I don't know what)". I already had shocked so many people (Pregnant! Seventeen/Eighteen! Unwed! Captain of the cheer squad! Church attender!) that I figured, why not have the last sentence of the story be "...and I did it without drugs." I'll show them.

May 25, 1994
5:00pm to 11:18pm

Things are hazy. I say to Stacy, "I'm so tired, I'm going to take a nap and have this baby tomorrow." All I know is I keep having to climb this mountain every minute or so, and then get a minute or two before I have to climb again. It seems like I will have to do this forever. Stacy says I'm doing great, but I don't know if I am. I am pretty sure now that I am not ready to have a baby.

May 25, 1994
11:18 pm

She cries. I'm holding her. I cry. I'm irritated; why is everybody talking to me? I want to talk to Camilla. That's the name I picked when they told me it was probably a girl. I'll call her Cami. I will teach her everything I know, I will give her the world, I will protect her from all the demons and the dragons. I will prove the naysayers wrong. I will be a GREAT mom. I will love her more than anything on this planet. She will be my princess Cami. I will do anything for her. We will learn together how to navigate life.

Happy sixteenth birthday, my precious daughter.
I love you more than you can ever know.

Friday, May 7, 2010

For the Mamas

I should be writing paychecks.

As I raced home on this beautiful Friday afternoon (with the master plan of printing paychecks, flying off to Trader Joe's, running back to the stand to write paychecks, then sluggishly driving back home in rush hour traffic), I realized for the 32nd time today that Mother's Day is Sunday. All morning long, customers were asking, "What are your Mother's Day plans?", or they were wishing me a Happy Mother's Day. Every time "Mother's Day" was spoken at my window, I was surprised. (Short term memory loss on a Friday morning, I guess.)

A confession: for Many Many Many years, I hated Mother's Day. What a sham of a holiday, I thought! For this to truly be MY day, I should be able to spend it the way I want. And the "way I want" does not translate to "mediating childrens' silly arguments, cleaning up diapers/spilled milk/dinner dishes, shopping for groceries, being woken up early so I can be wished a happy DAY".

Such selfishness.

Even when I hated this holiday, I felt bad. I knew I was probably wrong...but couldn't figure out how to feel better about it. I didn't tell anyone. I would joke, on occasion, with some of my mama friends that we should get pedicures and bloody marys for it to really be OUR day...but it was always said in jest.

But I meant it.

I actually don't have any plans for Mother's Day this year. My mom hasn't mentioned it, so she's probably busy (and she's already given me a beautiful potted hanging fushia, so I'm assuming she's not expected a visit on Sunday). My mother-in-law lives in South Carolina, so the card I'm sending out today will suffice. My sister will be busy with her family of seven, my sister-in-law also lives in, no plans. That I know of. And, I like that.

Apparently, somewhere in the last almost sixteen years of being a mama, I grew up and became a mama. In all honesty, there is now nothing that makes me feel so blessed as being able to spend time with my beautiful children. Oh, they haven't changed...they still fight, eat the last cookie, don't share...but now it's fighting over the computer, not sharing ipods or xboxes.

They haven't changed. I have.

So on this Mother's Day, I may be awakened early, with cards, and hugs, and some flowers. And I won't begrudgingly wake up, cranky that it's supposed to be my day to sleep in; instead I'll hug them extra and tell them how much they mean to me. And twelve minutes later when Joseph is whining and Cami is bitchy, I will smile because I know now they will not be home for many more years, and I will cherish all of the moments of the day called MINE, because my children will be with me. And when Cami asks to go get her hair cut...right NOW...and Joseph asks to play with the neighbors, I will say yes, because I don't want them to feel like they have to be stuck to my side ever in this life, even on Mother's Day. And when Joseph whispers in Stash's ear to go get Blizzards from Dairy Queen as a "surprise" for me after dinner, I will act shocked when they get back, and will not care about what flavor they brought me, and I will tell Joseph how proud I am that he is so thoughtful of his mama.

Pretty sure I really can call this day MINE, this year.

I better go write paychecks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I don't like to write. I excuse this by saying I don't have time, or I'm not witty/intelligent/articulate enough, or there's no reason to preserve the crazy ramblings of my mind in a written format.


Lately, I have been challenged by several loved ones to create a place for my written thoughts. Perhaps even online. And so, (mostly because I love a challenge), I am here.

I have no idea how to do this. Let's be honest. I am going to try it out, though, somewhat to see if I can save money on my therapist bills.

Do you ever wonder if you are the only sane one in a world full of madness?? you wonder are you the only insane one in a world that seems to make sense to everyone else?? Have you ever looked at your children and pondered how it happens that you can be full of frustration AND love at the same time?? Do you feel like you "should" be able to do it all (and that others are succeeding so why aren't you)??

These are things I feel regularly. If you understand any of the previous paragraph, welcome. If you have it all together in this life, you may want to find something else to read.

See you soon~