Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Hello again. I am sitting on my porch on this crazy, warm, December day and I am thinking about this 26th letter. Some know all the stuff that goes on in our day to day life thanks to Facebook. I thought maybe, just maybe, no letter this year, but darn it! It is a tradition, so here is my letter. Feel free to toss it in the recycle bin or use it kindling. I promise that I will understand. 

Sebastian – what is new with him? He is taller – I mean a lot taller. He finally started to grow this year. There has been a lot of maturing this year too. It is clear that Sebastian is the baby of the family because mama has been doing things for him that ended far earlier for the other two kids. We spent a great deal of the summer and beyond, learning life skills. We have made progress, but he may always be a mama’s boy. Time will tell. This year we introduced Sebastian to Harry Potter. We read some of the books together and we journeyed to that world through our imaginations. Even better, we got to take him to Universal and experience the magic first hand. He still has his group of homeschool buddies that he meets up with. They play minecraft via skype and can be heard yelling at each other even when they aren’t in the same house. They still enjoy nerf wars and pokemon. He conquered the 3 hour skill test to get his purple belt in Karate – a proud accomplishment! I still don’t understand half of what Sebastian talks to me about – gaming, computers, programming, etc. I feel like I need a translator much of the time. I do know that he is happy and content, mostly. He likes things to be very routine and he likes the security of his friends. At the same time, he is happy to go off on a trip and find an adventure – as long as I give him a detailed itinerary and he knows exactly what the plan is at all times. We will be finishing up grade school and entering into middle school in 2016. I think he will try one online class and we will go from there. I am sad in some ways to see that time end, but also excited to see who it is he is growing up to be. Of course, I am sure that he will just keep talking to me way over my knowledge level, but that is okay… I have perfected saying, “Uh huh. Mmmm. Sure.”

Savannah – aka Savy. I think it would be easier to tell you what is NOT new with her this year. New hair, new school attitude, new interests, new friends, new room, new tattoo and the list goes on. I think my girl woke up on January 1st of this year and decided this was going to be her year to shine. I have never seen her work so hard and learn so much from school. In the spring, she tried a part time job at McD’s, but mama had to say no when they kept giving her 30+ hours. Life is too short to be a slave at McD’s. She got her much wanted tattoo in honor of Timmy. Yes, she was 16 and yes, we took her. We don’t care if people don’t like it. Walk her walk, live her life and you may get an understanding of why this was so important to her. My drama queen appeared in two plays with our homeschool co-op. In summer, she worked hard on the yearbook team. Both of those things are great accomplishments, but even more so because of the fantastic friendships she made. I do believe this is the happiest I have ever seen her and she will say it has a lot to do with the friends she has made. Fall brought endless weekends of working at the haunted house. She has a talent for scaring the heck out of people. She managed the many late nights and demand of her online classes – making Tim and I extremely happy. Winter has brought a push to get that driver’s license. It is close – very close. I have watched my little girl go through some deep stuff – grief, depression, anxiety, etc – and triumph over it. She is confident, driven, happy and kind. I am so lucky that she was given to me and I can’t even express how much I love her. 

Timmy – I miss him. There are so many things I want to tell him. It was Harry Potter year, again, and that has always held a special place in my heart with Timmy. When Timmy was about 11, I ordered a bunch of stuff from some online store and they sent me a free copy of the first Harry Potter book. I had no idea what it was about, but I wrapped it up and put it under the tree anyway – I know, bad parent – whatever. He opened it that Christmas morning and he said, “Harry Porker!” Uh, no, Harry Potter. When we started back to school, I would come home from work and we would sit on the couch and read together. He struggled with reading, so I would read two pages and he would read one. We mostly read historical fiction because that’s what homeschoolers do. But, I decided to change it up and start reading this Harry Potter book. I had no idea the magic that was about to enter our lives. Each afternoon, Timmy, Savannah and I would curl up on the loveseat and we would read. It was like the world fell away and we were on this adventure. If I could go back, I would. There are times in your life that you don’t even realize it, but it really is the best days. Back then, we had to wait for the next books to come out. Timmy was growing up right along with Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Each book would come out and we would cuddle up on the loveseat and the magical world would suck us in. Even for Savannah – just a baby – she would grab that book and pull me to the spot. She loved it too. When the movies started to come out, Tim would join us on the adventure. It became a family tradition to see the movie and compare it to the book and relive the story. My life has been so blessed because of this short time. I just wish Timmy could have gone to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because he would have said, “That is FREAKING awesome!” and he would have loved every single minute of it. I am sure he tagged along in spirit and I know he is happy we took the kids – because that is what he always wanted – for us to be happy. 

Tim and I celebrated 25 years of marriage this year. Yeah, I know there were at least a few out there from way back then that thought the odds of us getting to 25 years were pretty slim. That’s okay, I am not sure we even knew where we would end up. When I think about 25 years of marriage, I try to pinpoint exactly what sums that up. I think about kids and houses and bills and trips and illness and celebrations and on and on. There was some pretty amazing stuff. I have always said my greatest gifts have been my babies and when I look back on time – 27 years of my babies, I know that is one part that captures it. But then there have been really bad times – awful, hurt you to your very soul times. So, what does 25 years of marriage – 29 years of being together really come down to? It is as simple as love. Tim and I are not completely alike. In some ways, we are very different people. What connects us besides kids, houses, bills, etc? As simple as it sounds – it comes down to a love that is running through to our core. It changes and it grows, but ultimately – it is the same love that connected us then and continues now. We made a conscious decision this year to do more of what makes us happy. We lost somebody close to us last December and that made us, once again, look at life with the reality that time is not promised to us. Our kids had requested a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and we felt like we needed to make that happen. We know that is not possible for everyone and it is quite a luxury. Something happened as we wandered around the magical world – we got to just relax and enjoy the moment. We don’t always get the time to do that. We decided that we enjoyed being with our kids so much that we wanted to take them on our anniversary cruise. Some thought it was my fear of leaving my kids, but the truth is that we know that Savannah has not all that long till college starts. Our time with her is going to become much more limited. When we are walking around the beautiful streets of Puerto Rico – we want her to be with us. When we are snorkeling off a reef in St. Kitts, we want Sebastian to see those fish too. This does not make us super human parents that do not get tired of our kids. We did send Sebastian to run amuck on the ship and just leave us the heck alone. It comes down to choices and we believe that right now our choices include travel, adventure and fun – along with rental house responsibilities, online classes for kids and some of that icky and required stuff. And then I thought, this is something else that sums up marriage – choices. We choose to show up, be together, and love one another. Every day you have a choice in how you are going to live… are you going to find joy? Are you going to love people enough? Are you going to do the things that make you happy? Oh and in case you didn’t get it – our family picture is in front of Hogwarts Castle! I knew the minute I saw it – that our family picture must be there – it just felt right and brought me so much joy… such a magical year! And with that, I will say give those you love a hug! My wish for you is much peace and joy!
 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
 Tim, Kari, Savannah and Sebastian
 Find me on Facebook – – a neglected blog 

In memory of my sweet and wonderful Timmy 3.5.89 to 5.14.10 Until I see you again... I love you and miss you more than any words can say.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The path...

Immersed in a Harry Potter add on book over dinner.
I have been a homeschool mom since Savannah was 10 months old. When I started way, way back then, Timmy was in 5th grade. We knew we had to change something because sending him to school and expecting a different outcome from the many phone calls was just not going to happen. I think we had a general idea that if homeschooling worked for him, it would be the path for Savannah too. But, truthfully, we were focused on what to do for Timmy. As time does, it wandered by on that path and my sweet girl was 4 years old. She was now quite accustomed to homeschooling as a part of our lifestyle. I went to the convention with my sister-in-law and bought bright and happy counting bears and workbooks and all sorts of fun things. I was ready to tackle kindergarten for the first time even though she was just 4 about to be 5 because of her October birthday.  We had fun together. We learned letters and numbers and all sorts of things. I think about it now and I can't believe that time went so fast. As Timmy and Savannah grew up and we added Sebastian to our family, it became clear that homeschooling was now a long term path.  Now, you know I'm all about being real and I will not ever say that our days have always been great and cheerful. 7th and 8th grade for Timmy made us question our choice. We even put Timmy back in school for a couple months in 8th grade. There were hard days and lots of tears and so much uncertainty. As we turned the corner to high school with
Timmy, we found a fantastic co-op and he made more friends and the path became clear again.  Time meandered on and he finished high school and Savannah finished grade
A field trip when Savannah had just started school.
school and moved on to middle school. Once again, middle school proved to be difficult years on our homeschool path. Savannah was 11 when her brother died and Sebastian was 5 and well... That, obviously, effects everything. Sebastian started kindergarten at 5 almost 6 with his late September birthday. Seriously, school was a breeze with him because he is kinda like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He had already taught himself to read and he was just that kid. I think God knew what He was going to ask me to walk through and He knew I would need
This might have been a hint that Sebastian would teach
himself to read.
a bit of ease here. That left my sweet girl and the struggle was beginning here. So much sadness, so much pain and so much uncertainty. It makes me tear up when I think back on those days. I was trying, desperately, to help her find her way on this path that I wish she had never been asked to walk. We struggled. Did I mention I believe in being real because hiding stuff never, ever helps somebody else with their path? At the beginning of 9th grade, she told us she wanted to go to public school. WOW! HOLY HELL! We never saw that coming! We didn't think that any of our kids would want to go to public school. Not because public school was bad, but because that was not our path. For me, it was just a no. For Tim, he was considering it. Ultimately, we decided that she was wanting to go for reasons that weren't at all about getting an education. She thought that maybe if she
Having fun is the key to keeping your sanity.
tried something new, she wouldn't feel so bad, life wouldn't seem so hard, etc.  In the end, we made the scary decision to go against her wishes and homeschool for high school.  Where we live, it is all or none for high school.  Meaning that you can't just place them in public high school anytime you want. They have to start back at 9th grade even if you have completed several grades. So... it was a scary curve in our path. Just last December, I found myself looking at private schools for her. School was still not clicking and I knew that I had a crucial amount of time to get this figured out. And then our path swerved. The lightbulb went off and the opportunities came. Savannah started online classes with Landry and got involved in a fantastic co-op. She was engaged in yearbook and drama and student council and wow... for the first time since she told me she wanted to go to public school... I thought just maybe we had made the right choice. This morning, she started her what would have been her Senior year. She has chosen to do an "extra" year of high school at this point.  It is not really extra because technically with her October birthday - she is right on track. She will most likely dual enroll next year in her "Super Senior" year, but maybe
not.  She may just pursue more Landry classes and stick with co-op.  Not sure and don't really need to know where that path is leading just yet.  What I do know is that she got up and attended her Landry Anatomy and Physiology class online. Then she repotted and worked on her plants that she loves and then it was back to working on school.  She is happy. She is on a path towards going to college to be a Physical Therapy Assistant. She is excited for co-op to start with drama, Spanish and yearbook. I took a sigh of relief this morning as I sat on my porch watching how far she has come. Sure there are days that the pain from before creeps up on that path. There are days where insecurity trips her. But, overall, I see a bright future in the distance on that path.
Baking cookies always counts as school.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The day the soldiers came...

I have rolled these things over and over in my mind for 5 years. Like a bad dream that comes only it is not when I am sleeping. It is most often when I am driving alone or late at night when everyone else is asleep. Sometimes, it is out of the blue, absolutely nothing to trigger it and I am there again. I am right back to the day. It feels like something is stealing my air from my chest. It feels like panic and I am scared. I think I know now that I will always go back to that day. I used to wonder if time would lessen how sharp it feels to think about it, but I know that it is as cutting now as it was back then. Some things do not seem to lessen with time.

May 15, 2010 was a Saturday morning. It was a pretty crappy Saturday morning. My life, our life, was stressful at that time. It was a whole bunch of big things and a few little things, but icky would describe it pretty good. I knew from previous less than perfect times, that this would come and go like always, it was the swimming through it that stank. I got up that morning and decided to drive farther out to the Girl Scout store to pick up our end of year badges and then I had Kohls cash to go spend. Shopping is a happy thing for me, so I was choosing shopping for this crappy Saturday morning. I loaded 5 year old, Sebastian, in the car, picked up my mom and sister, and we were off. We arrived at the Girl Scout store and we walked the longer hallway to the back of the building to the store. I crossed the room over to the drawers holding the badges. My cell phone rang and I saw it was our friend, Dave. I thought it was strange that he was calling me because that was not typical. When I heard his voice, I knew something was wrong. He told me that I needed to come home right away - that "people" were at my house. I asked him WHO the people were. He asked them if he could tell me. He repeated himself just saying I needed to come home because "people" were at my house. I was getting louder as I demanded that he tell me who was at my house. I startled a woman in the store. I remember seeing her ask my mom if I was okay. I started to walk from the back of that longer hallway towards the entrance to the building. As I walked, I was figuring it out. People. Who would be at my house? Why wouldn't he tell me who the people were? I walked out the door and I rounded a flowerbed with a bench. I sat down on the bench because I was sure I was going to pass out. I looked up at my mom and I said, "Timmy is dead." I don't remember what she said. I told her that the people were soldiers. I knew they were soldiers. The Army sends soldiers only when somebody has died. I got in the van and I began dialing his phone number over and over. It would ring and ring and ring and go to voicemail. ANSWER THE GOD DAMN PHONE!!! Please, God, let him answer his phone. I called my friend, Sam. Savannah was staying with her daughter. I asked her if Savannah was okay. She said that she was just fine. I hung up and I dialed Tim's phone. He had just gotten to the Sportsman Warehouse. I told him something was wrong with Timmy and he needed to go home! I screamed at him. Just GO HOME! It is Timmy! Something is wrong! Please, just go home! I dialed Timmy's number I don't know how many more times. I just kept dialing it. I was trying not to cry. I kept thinking that he was just sleeping. It was Saturday morning in Alaska. He was out late... the time difference... his day to sleep in. He was hung over. Anything, but please, God, let him be okay. I pulled into our neighborhood and we have a giant hill that leads down to our house. As I drove down to the house, I begged God to let this be some sort of mistake. I pulled into my driveway and there they stood - two soldiers waiting for me. 

I opened my van door and I screamed, "Please tell me he is okay!" One said, "I am sorry, ma'am. He isn't. On behalf of the United States Government, blah, blah, blah, we are sorry to inform you, blah, blah, blah. I screamed. I hit my steering wheel. I yelled, "His stupid car! I knew he shouldn't have gotten the car!" Tim came to my door and he told me that he wasn't driving. He wasn't driving! It wasn't his new car that killed him. Some girl was driving. I was so confused. My mind went black. I felt like I was dying. I was certainly going to die. This pain - dear God - I will die. I will die right this minute because my baby is dead. Please, God, please don't let this be true. I stepped out of my shoes and I tried to walk, but I just sat down on the floor of my van. I couldn't move. My mom was crying. My sister went running down the street screaming. And where was my little boy. Where was Sebastian? He saw all of this and I didn't protect him. Somebody took him to Dave and Laurie's. I cried and I rocked and I remember telling Tim's brother that I never should have left Florida. If I had stayed he would have never joined the Army. He would be in Florida. I told him I could not live through losing another person. I could NOT do this AGAIN! Dear God, he is my baby! He is my baby! 

Tim was gone in his room I guess. He was as lost as me. My mom tells me she got me to walk in the house. I remember sitting on the couch. I remember seeing black. Everything was going black. I now think back and wonder if a part of my brain didn't shatter in those moments. I was in total shock. I don't know how long I sat on the couch. The soldier told me another soldier would be coming soon. I don't know what I said or if I said anything. I called Sam and told her that I was coming to get Savannah. I told her what happened. She said they would bring her home right away. More black. My mind was in complete darkness. I went to Tim. He was crying. I was crying. I couldn't help him. I couldn't see him crying. If he was crying, this was real. This could not be real. I called people. Who I called first, I don't remember. I know I talked to either my niece Tabitha or Jo, but I don't remember who first. I think it was Jo, but it kept going black. My brother called me. I am not close to my brother, but he knew and loved Timmy. He doesn't know these kids, but he was always there for Timmy.  I kept screaming at him, "It's Timmy! It's Timmy!" He cried with me. I talked to my best friend, Jorgena. I don't remember what I said. I just needed to hear her voice. And then my baby girl came home. And I had to do one of the hardest things I have ever done - tell my 11 year old sweet girl. I took her into my room and I sat her on my bed. I hugged her and I told her that Timmy had been killed in a car accident. Dear God, please let me die in this moment. My poor sweet little girl should not have to endure this. 

I don't know how much time has passed. I suddenly realize Sebastian is still not here. I tell all the people that I am going to get him. Somebody says they will bring him home. He comes in and he goes in his room and starts kicking the wall as hard as he can. He is crying and kicking the wall. I can't tell him not to kick the wall. Because he is 5 years old and he just saw his mom lose her mind and he heard his brother was dead from a soldier standing in the freaking driveway. Of course he is kicking the wall and crying! He is 5 years old! What the hell is he supposed to do? My poor sweet boy. Why!!!!! Why does he have to endure this?

Sgt. Fetters comes in and sits down at the table. He is dressed in Class A's and very professional. He is kind. This is a crappy job and nobody wants to sit with parents that just found out their baby is dead. He starts talking and all I hear is blah, blah, blah. I still don't really know what happened. I only know it was a car and a semi and head on. He doesn't really know much more than that. I don't know who the girl was. She died too. I don't know why he was with her. I don't know anything accept that I want to die. He keeps it pretty short and he says he will be back tomorrow. 

I don't know where the rest of the day or evening went. I am certain that my brain shutdown because the pain was more than I could take. I woke up the next morning and I went outside. I cried a sound I have never made. I have heard of the deep, guttural cries that do not happen often. In the weeks and months that would follow, that sound, that cry, it would escape me and I would wonder if I would ever survive. I went back into my bed and Tim woke up. He sat up and then fell on me sobbing. NO!!!!! He doesn't cry like this!!!! This can't be true! If he is sobbing, this is true. It is not in my head. It is real.  No! No! No! He is my baby, God! He is my baby!

Sgt. Fetters comes back. He has more papers and more stuff and more blah, blah, blah. We are transferring money. Does he know that I was so stressed over bills and two mortgages and a house in Florida that won't sell and now he sits here and he tells me about money! I don't want the DAMN money! Take your money and give me my baby back! Get out of my house! Stop talking! Do not say another word! And then he says they are flying Timmy here to SC as soon as they can. Wait. I need to tell him. I need to tell him that Timmy hates SC. He doesn't belong here. He needs to go home. Please take him home. Please take him to Florida. That is his home. Not here. He was never supposed to be here. I should have never came here. Why did I move him here. He would be alive if I had stayed put. Sgt. Fetters is so kind. He tells me that they will take him home and they will get us to Florida. I tell him that we will drive. I am an idiot. My mind is in pieces and I am telling him that I am going to get in the van and drive to Florida. He tells me that the Army will take good care of my son and get us to Florida. And then he tells us that we have to make a decision. He raises his right hand and he covers his eye and forehead. He tells us his injuries are bad and if we want to see him, they will need to try to fix him. He says even with that, they will need to cover his head. Tim lays his head on the dining room table and cries. I am going to die at this table next to my husband who is going to die with me. We are going to die right now. Our sweet baby. God, he is our baby! Sgt. Fetters tells us that it really is best that we do not see him, but it is always our right. We choose not to see him. I will spend forever wondering if I was a coward. If I made the right choice. I don't know what the answer is. There is lots more talk and the Army does everything. They take care of their fallen soldier. And we wait. We wait 9 days to travel to Florida. 

And it is only the beginning of this journey. It is a plane ride and a limo and a funeral and so many people that love him. Kind and loving and amazing people that did everything because I could do nothing. I have thought about writing this for 5 years and I never did because my blog is about Crazy Everyday Blessings. I didn't want to turn my blog into a grief blog. I didn't want it to be a place of sadness. I can write this now because while it will always cut me with its sharpness, I can now look back and see the blessings in it. I still cry out to God that he is my baby. God knows and hears me when I rock back and forth and the only words I can manage in my tears are, "He's my baby, God... he's my baby." I can see where people loved us. They took care of us. To this day, they are still there. They still speak his name and honor him. He died too young. He was 21 and full of life, but in his short life, he loved people. He made an impact and I saw that then and I continue to see it now. My kids - they have been though hell - and yet they fight. They fight to survive it. I didn't think I would live that day. I kept thinking that I was going to die, but I lived. And I saw that I have two kids here that need me. They need me to stay present and actively seeking out joy. They deserve a happy life and more. So, I can write about it now. I won't lie and tell you it is easy. I had to take xanax to just get through writing this. It is not easy. I don't think it will ever be easy. But I believe the key to peace is to accept life as it is rather than what I think it should be. Some days, I fight peace. I fight acceptance of what is! But other days, I am able to accept and I am able to find joy again. He will always be my baby. I will see him again. I just have to wait.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's not about fear... it's about living.

I was asked a few days ago if I felt ready to leave my kids for an adult only trip. Ready meaning had my fear finally gone away since Timmy dying.  It was funny. Because on one hand, the fear is always there. It is my greatest fear that something will happen to one of my other kids. I used to live in a bubble world where I believed if one tragedy happened to you - that you were somehow immune to any further tragedy. Dumb, I know.  But I really deep inside felt that way. Now, any glance back at history will show you that this thinking is the most ignorant way of thinking. Look how many people have suffered loss and tragedy after more grief than any person deserves. So, yes, there is a certain amount of fear of leaving my kids and going
on a trip. But... not nearly as intense as before. I guess I was sending a message that I could not leave my kids and go away for our 25th anniversary without out them. That is simply not the case at all.  Fear did not guide our plans. Living guided our plans. Here is the thing. We are all dying. Each and every single one of us will die at some point. It is the here and now that we have a teeny bit of control over.  Some people will live to be 100 and enjoy wonderful health along the way. Others - like my dad and my dear friend, Laurie will get sick and sadly die far too soon. Then there are the accidents and the tragedies. Timmy and Debi - too freaking soon and not fair either. Then there are people who just have failing health and can't do the things they would like. It is something I have been painfully made aware of time and again.  So, when I make plans - I think about these people. I think about their lives. They each impacted me in giant ways. As corny as it sounds, I try to live like I am dying.  What would I want to see or do or share or learn? And I believe that my time is short with my kids - as does Tim. Sure, we hope that we will live for a long, long time. We hope that our kids will always be okay and preferably live right across the street from us. We want to believe that will happen. But, the truth is that we just don't know. We don't know that Savannah won't find someone that needs to move to Zimbabwe to fulfill their dreams. We don't know that Sebastian won't need to go work for Apple and create the best iPhone ever.  Even though I have forbid them for ever moving more than an hour from me... we really don't know.  And, God forbid, and God knows that I pray it all the time... we don't know that the next tragedy is not right around the corner. So, when I have the opportunity to travel or explore, I want to take my kids with me. Thankfully, my wonderful husband absolutely agrees with everything I just wrote. Yes, there were times during our 12 day trip, that I would have loved to just had time with my husband. And I did have some time because cruise ships are big places and our kids are old enough to go off on their own. We also don't have a problem telling our kids that we are adults in a relationship and that means we need some time to be with just each other. The best way to teach your kids about relationships is to be real with them. And because we live this way...

We get to see our kids catch pigeons in Puerto Rico.

Wander through a 500 year old fort wondering what the walls can say.

Watch Sebastian master snorkeling on his own.

Look at my beautiful young woman that God gave to me.

Explore some of the best beaches anywhere.

Dress up for formal night and act like we are stars!

Wonder why our boy doesn't just put the glasses over his eyes so he can avoid squinting in every picture.

See how a man in Barbados envisioned a fabulous garden in an otherwise ugly sinkhole.  

Having fun with statues and my favorite girl.

Bathsheba, Barbados and squinty eyes!

Sample bananas at a banana plantation in St. Lucia. (Squinty eyes!)

Take a mud bath in St. Lucia - check!

Going up into a rain forest to jump in an ice cold waterfall!

 Take a crazy taxi in St. Kitts to a beautiful free beach! 

 Pose with a monkey! Sure, why not!? 

Sit on the balcony at the end of our day and give thanks to God!

Giggle at Sebastian adding his friends to the towel menagerie.

Take Timmy to the beach to see the planes fly!

Act like crazy tourists as the jets land and take off!

Live!!!! It is not about being afraid!!! It is about living the best life you can with the people you love!!!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Before you judge me for letting my 16 year old get a tattoo... please read this...

Savannah got her first tattoo tonight. Her dad and I took her just like we went with Timmy to get his first tattoo.  And some of you out there are at this very moment saying out loud or in your head, "What the heck are her parents thinking letting her get a tattoo?!?!?" Trust me... I hear you... I know you are saying and thinking it. And I should not care or give a hoot, but sadly, I do! But, for just a minute let me explain WHY we allowed her to do this and then if you still think we are crazy, well, that is your call and I don't give a hoot! For the record, we would not have allowed her to just go out and get ANY old tattoo. What we did consider and after months of thought and talking about - finally agreed to - is a tattoo that is the drawing her brother sent her on her 10th birthday. When she was 9 years old, Savannah's older brother, Timmy, joined the Army and was sent to Oklahoma for basic training.  He was there when her 10th birthday rolled around. It was the first time they were not together on her birthday.  When kids are homeschooled, they are TOGETHER A LOT!!! He was with her nearly every day for 9.5 years of her life. He made her lunch a lot of days and they were connected.  So, when her birthday was coming up, he couldn't get her a present because he was in Basic. He drew her a picture.  The picture has a story - when he was younger his best friend, Patrick and him, created stick figures for themselves.  Later, Timmy tattooed those stick figures on his ankle. So, he sent her this drawing and he made her an honorary stick figure.  She was thrilled to get this simple drawing for her birthday and for a 10 year old missing her brother it was huge! When Savannah was 11, her brother was killed in a car accident. To say that this has been hard on her and our family is just words. It doesn't even touch the emotion that is really involved.  Unless your world has been devastated by losing a loved one - you have no freaking clue and don't even try to say you do. Timmy was a tattoo crazy person. And not long after his death, Savannah began to tell us that some day she was getting a tattoo of those stick figures.  As she led up to her 16th birthday - she began to talk about it more and more.  Tim and I talked and talked and talked some more.  Then I do what I always do... I asked my mom her opinion. Then I asked my SC friends. Finally, I asked my bestest friend, Jorgena, what she thought of it. ALL OF THEM said that under the circumstances, they could see this being okay. And, yet, I still had to think on it some more. Ultimately, I realized that my sweet girl has struggled greatly the last 5 years. I have seen her not sure how to answer the uncomfortable question of "Do you have any siblings?" I have seen her not want to talk about what happened to her brother. I have seen her face emotions that I don't wish on anyone.  Finally, we decided that we believed that she would never regret this particular tattoo. We believe that each of us have to do things that help us put shattered pieces of heart back in place. For her that is a tattoo. If it gives her the strength she needs to talk about him and feel him close to her - then I am certain we made the right choice. I didn't owe any of you an explanation. But I know all too well that people form opinions of people without knowing all the facts. She is my baby and she has been through more grief than she has ever deserved. If my telling people why she has been allowed to do something spares her just one person looking down upon her, then I am glad I did it. Just remember everyone has stuff they are dealing with and you may really not have any idea how hard that is.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Crazy House Lady"

Have you heard about this app called Time Hop? It shows you your facebook posts on the same day in years past.  It is pretty neat to see what you were up to years ago.  My time hop told me, yesterday, was the day we bought our first South Carolina rental.  I hadn't really been thinking about that at all until I saw it.  That, in turn, made me reflect on the journey our life has taken in the 4 years since that time.  Lots of you know that I am the "Crazy House Lady" as some of my friends like to call me.  Some of you know why I am, but I suspect many of you don't know why we would decide to buy 7 more rental houses over 3 years bringing our total to 8 rentals including our original Florida rental property.  As with so many things, my life is divided into the parts of  "before Timmy died" and "after Timmy died".  Before he died, we owned our Florida rental property because we could not sell that dang house no matter how hard we tried. With my job layoff, economy, etc. it made the most sense to rent it out and move up here to South Carolina.  The plan was NEVER to stay landlords.  The plan was to wait for the market to return and sell the house. When Timmy died, he left life insurance behind. I still, to this day, can remember the phone conversation we had in early 2010. Tim had recently begun working for the State of SC and now had life insurance benefits. I was telling Timmy about them because he was the named guardian of the younger kids.  I remember Timmy saying, "Oh yeah, mom! I forgot to tell you that I put you down for my life insurance! If anything happens to me... you will be set!" Me being me told him to HUSH! DON'T SAY SUCH THINGS! DO NOT SPEAK OF THAT! I am always saying KNOCK ON WOOD! He laughed and that was the end of that conversation.  I didn't give it much thought.  Not until Sgt. Fetters sat at my table going over the details of my child's death. He spoke quietly and directly and matter of fact. Like we should know exactly what he was talking about when he referred to life insurance.  We did not.  We didn't know anything. The more he spoke, the more I became physically ill.  I wanted to RUN from the table, but didn't because I was thinking that would be rude.  So, I sat and I made myself listen. Weeks passed and we did not speak of it. It was money that sat in an account because my child was dead. It hurt and I hated it and I wanted it gone and my child back.  We decided to pretty much do nothing because neither one of us wanted to think about it. Then in January of 2011, I woke up and looked out the window.  I saw a for sale sign in the yard across the street.  I tell you, it was like divine intervention! I had this peace that said to me - buy that house.  I called Tim and thought he would think I was insane! He didn't at all.  He told me to call a realtor. We had a friend, Celeste, that sold my mom her house. I called her and honestly, she was so gentle and kind with the crazy, insecure, emotional wreck that I was.  And so began a new path. At that moment, we thought we would buy 1 or 2 houses in the neighborhood.  Our grand plan in a perfect world was that we would secure the price of houses at today's prices and sell them deeply discounted to each of our kids when the time came.  Then they could live right by us and NEVER, EVER go to Alaska.  Okay, okay... we knew they may not want to live there RIGHT by us, but at the very least - we could then sell the houses and give them a large chunk of money to put down on whatever house they wanted. So, we bought the first house and we had to renovate it.  This is where I think that God knows exactly what you need and when you need it.  We needed a project.  We needed something to talk about other than the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM i.e. our child had died.  We needed focus and a reason to get out of our comfy and safe chairs.  We had to pick paint colors and flooring and appliances, etc.  Then we physically did all the work ourselves.  Just ask my children about removing wallpaper - they will tell you they have been traumatized!
We could have paid somebody, but we didn't.  We put our energy into a new beginning of a house. We finally finished it and stood back and had some happiness over what we had accomplished. And then on May 14, 2011 - one year to the day my boy had to go away - I signed a lease on that house.  Our wonderful tenants are still there almost 4 years later.  I knew that this is what we were supposed to do.  And so it went... we bought another house that year, two more the next year - 2012, two more the next year - 2013 and our final one in 2014.  Most of these houses needed renovations and it kept our minds active as we navigated this new world of ours.
There are times when my phone is ringing or I am meeting crazy people that want to rent our place that I think this was a huge mistake.  But, overall, I feel like we were guided to exactly what we were supposed to do.  Our hope is that these houses will provide security not only for Savannah and Sebastian, but their families. Our wish is that he is proud that we took what he gave and we worked to make it something to last in his memory. We believe that there will be a day when our kids talk about how Uncle Timmy served his country and provided for these houses - Pyro Tim Properties.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Harry Potter... One little book - so many memories...

"If there is one thing that Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Sebastian and I just finished the first Harry Potter book tonight.  Of course, he had heard of Harry Potter before and I am pretty sure he has seen a movie clip or two.  But for the most part, Harry Potter was quite the unknown for him.  It is strange how that happened because for so very long both Timmy and Savannah were engrossed in Harry Potter. Savannah, recently, had reread through the books for herself which led to how much she would like to go to Harry Potter World at Universal more than any other single trip. We decided this was the year to go.   Of course, that meant that Sebastian needed to be introduced to the amazing world of Hogwarts.  I went and found my first book - the only Harry Potter book I have in a tattered, well loved paperback.  I have thought of replacing it with a hard covered book several times, but somehow leaving the book exactly as it began seemed more fitting.  It started way back in December of 2000.  I had ordered some Christmas presents from a website and as a bonus they sent me a free copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone.  I had never heard of it and really knew nothing about it.  I looked it up and found it was supposed to be a great book, so I put it under the Christmas tree with all the other gifts. I still laugh at the video footage of Timmy opening it.  One because he is in a t-shirt and underwear and two because he read the title as "Harry Porker".  That child of mine was not a reader and completely underwhelmed that there was a book as a present.  When we started back to school in January, I got home from work in the afternoon and would do the lessons we needed to cover and then we would sit on the love seat and do a read aloud book. I decided to try this one.  When I took Timmy out of school in the 5th grade, reading was a struggle for him.  I would have him read one page and then I would read two.  It was slow and tedious, but little by little, he began to read better and his confidence grew. (It is a whole lot different reading it now to Sebastian.  He follows along word for word and is quick to point out if I skip a word or change it in any way!)  Savannah was just a baby - 2 years old, but she would sit with us and listen.  By the time she was 4, she was convinced she was Hermione with her very own robe and wand.  Two Halloweens in a row she proudly wore her costume and beamed.  Timmy was the same age as Harry Potter in the books. He grew as Harry grew. We read each book as they came out until my little boy was no longer little and had a life of his own.  I was sad when I read the last 2 books silently to myself.  Sure, we still went to see the movies together as they came out, but I missed cuddling on that couch reading the afternoon away.  I distinctly remember going to see the Harry Potter movie when I was pregnant with Sebastian and seeing the winter scenes.  I craved ice so badly with that pregnancy that all the snow made me need ice immediately! Those were wonderful family times that I cherish!  Sadly, Timmy died before the last movie came out. That winter, I put on his giant hoodie - still smelling like him, wrapped myself deep inside it and I watched the last movie in the theater.  The tears streamed down my face and I remembered.  I remembered how lucky I was to have that child in my life. How blessed I was to have memories that some people only dream of.  I knew he was sitting with me in that theater. I felt him with every part of my being.  And now, I have gotten to start all over again 15 years later.  How often does that happen? So much has changed and yet, so much is still very the same.  Sebastian leans up against me and we enter into a great adventure.  And life continues...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Christmas Letter 2014

Your long awaited Christmas book has arrived! Pull up a chair and relax! It’s that time of year again!

Let’s start with Sebastian! He is a double digit midget this year! My youngest baby is 10! And with that extra digit, he has grown physically and his personality has grown. He has these long legs that he never had before. I look at him sitting in the van and I am like where did those legs come from? Guess what? He still loves video games and could spend his entire life playing them. He has been making basic programs on Khan Academy that I am pretty darn impressed with. I don’t understand half of what he says whether it is about programming or building something in Minecraft or whatever the computer talk is about. I have mastered saying, “Uh huh… uh huh” very well. I sound almost convincing. He still has a fantastic group of friends. Our boys have gotten easier this year. Less refereeing and more playing. We still have him in karate and he is up to his blue belt now. Overall, he likes the class except that it interrupts his computer time and well… we are okay with that – so he will continue and hopefully keep learning a lot. Even though he is growing up on me, he still lets me sing to him each night before bed. Sometimes he wants to say no, but then he misses it! Not all grown up, just yet!

Savannah aka Savy as she likes to go by these days has turned 16 this year! She has come out of her comfort zone the past 6 months. She put herself out there to just meet people and do new things. Once again, she joined student council and this year she is the Secretary. She is involved in two very different homeschool co-ops.  One is large and has a bustle of people and classes.  The other is small and a bit calmer. She worked at our local haunted house scaring people several nights each weekend.  This suits her! She likes to be loud and obnoxious and meet people. Getting made up all creepy and then freaking people out brings her a ton of joy! Can’t say that it doesn’t creep me out when I pick her up and her face is all bloody and scary.  Not my favorite thing to do, but Tim and I gladly drove her back and forth night after night.  Speaking of driving, not so much happened this past year, so the new plan is drive time this year. Dad is going to be helping more with that, so maybe next Christmas letter will tell you that she is a new driver. She has decided she wants to go to school to be a physical therapy assistant. This year we found an online school that offered a good athletic sports medicine class. For her first time, she is doing an online class. She is trying to figure it all out, but it is going to take a little more time. Oh, but it is going too fast! Please stop!

One of my silly memories of Timmy goes back to when he was a little boy about 7 or 8.  We had him in tae kwon do. He had a very serious teacher who was on the slightly short side for a grown man. One day, Timmy came in with a lose tooth.  It was just hanging by a thread. He was fussing about how sparring was going to make it fall out. His teacher, Master Dennis, told him to pull it out. Oh my goodness! What a fit he threw! He did not want to pull that dang tooth out! No way, no how! Master Dennis stood over him and demanded he pull it out. He pulled it out and was not very happy. Fast forward about 10 years… we were at a superbowl party and none other than Master Dennis was at this same party.  My now 6 foot plus tall, 260 lb son walks right up to Master Dennis and leans heavily on his shoulder – just towering over him. He very calmly says to him, “Wanna make me pull my tooth out now?” Oh my… I laughed so hard.  It was just the best memory. It still makes me smile every time I think of it. I still talk about my boy Every. Single. Day. and I will until I take my last breathe on this side. I still hear him talk to me in my mind. I hear his laugh and I feel his hugs. Someday it will all make sense.

My sweet husband is plugging away. He works and he rests and then he works again. It is the pattern of his days. Sometimes crazy, sometimes lazy, but it has been a good balance this year. It seems our rental houses go in spurts of all needing him to make repairs and then there will be a lull of quiet time. When is he is not working, he putters around with his hobbies. Always a plant or a fish or a something that grabs his attention and he messes with that for awhile. As some of you know from Facebook, he bought himself a brand new Jeep Wrangler this year. It was his first new purchase of his choice. He has always gotten the family car or what the family needed, but this time he got to just pick what he wanted.  It made him nervous, but it made me very happy to see him get to do something for himself.
I am older, fatter and a bit greyer. Sometimes my brain is swirling in 5000 different directions. I am teaching at our new homeschool co-op and managing rental properties. We started back to school in July and plowed through 17 weeks straight without a week off. I am enjoying our extended winter break immensely. Here is the not so sing, song, cheery, blah, blah, blah part of my letter. I love homeschooling. I believe in it and at the same time, wow! I am tired of asking, ummm, more like begging and pleading for kids to do their work. I know it is a test and I may or may not pass this one. Let’s hope January brings renewed strength. We did a good bit of running around this year which is one of my very favorite parts of life. Lots of Disney, even a couple days with Tim there. That is always a huge treat for our kids to have dad at Disney. We hit the beach and the mountains and took a very relaxing cruise. I am constantly aware that exploring new places is this amazing gift that needs so much gratitude.

There is this song by Need to Breathe called Multiplied. It has this one lyric that goes like this:
God of mercy 
Sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to your design
may this offering stretch across the sky
And these hallelujahs be multiplied.

When I hear this, it literally brings tears to my eyes. Possibly because I am an emotional, crazy lady, but I think it is more than that. It makes me cry because I am finally, little by little, with each moment learning that there is not a whole lot I can control in life. Sure, I pay my bills, brush my teeth... all that good stuff. But in the big picture – I have surrendered to His design. People die and it just plain, flat out stinks. We lost our dear friend, Laurie, to cancer this year and I hate it. I realized that there was nothing we could do. The pain was just going to have to come and we were going to have to all get through it. So, I have surrendered, but at the same time that I can’t control the bad stuff – I also can’t always control the good stuff. And there is good stuff. Really, amazing and wonderful stuff happens every day. And for that I say “these hallelujahs be multiplied”.  Now, nobody is perfect. I still try to control so much. I still feel better with a plan, checklists, order and neatness. I just know that this awful pain that comes with the trials of life is worse when you try to control it. Peace comes when you can accept the way things are, not what you thought they were supposed to be. With that thought, I leave you and say hug your family and friends! Tell them you love them! I wish you peace and joy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
                              Tim, Kari, (Tim II), Savannah and Sebastian
               In memory of my sweet and wonderful Timmy 3.5.89 to 5.14.10 
        Until I see you again... I love you and miss you more than any words can say.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Savannah's first job... oh, but so much more than that!

This morning I set my alarm for 7am. That was the time Savannah said she would need to get up to start her first job today.  She said she had set her alarm, but I thought just maybe she would sleep through it. So, just to be sure, I set my own. As I opened my eyes, I could see that her bedroom door was open and she was awake. I tried to go back to sleep for a while until I had to wake to drive her to McDs.  As I lay there, I kept thinking about how this is how it happens. I have been down this path before. Ten years ago, right around this time, Timmy got his first job at Firehouse Subs. He didn't work early mornings there, but I still kept a check on time to make sure he was ready.  And he was. He did very well with his job and at just 16, he was more than ready to take this next step to growing up.  Things happened very quickly when he started the job. First it was working and then practicing driving more and then a license and then POOF! He had this whole other life of running in and out and eating warmed up dinners and catching up in phone calls throughout the day.  And... now... my baby girl is 16 and she just started this first job.  And before I blink, she will be working and then practicing driving more and then a license and then POOF! She will have this whole other life of running in and out and eating warmed up dinners and catching up in phone calls throughout the day. In some ways, it was a relief! It was like, "YAY! One less kid to micromanage and shuffle from place to place!" In hindsight, it was the last time or at the very least a distinct change for many things.  I don't even think I realized it at the time. This time around, I am going to try to notice it more. I am proud of her and nervous all at the same time.  She is beaming with possibilities right now and that just makes a mama's heart smile. To my beautiful daughter that I asked God to give me... I love you. I am proud of you. You are a young woman with amazing talents and I have no doubt that you will do great things with your life. Just remember that we are right here every single step of the way and we will help you with whatever you need to make those things happen.