Recently, my husband ended a 90 day journey to the top of the Main Street stairway in Stillwater, Minnesota. Funny, as I type that, it sounds like it took him 90 days to get to the top! Actually, the journey was a daily one. Every day as he drove through Stillwater he stopped and climbed to the top of the stairs to take a picture. This 90 day mission took him 143 days. What began as a whim on a cold February morning ended as something much greater - something unknown, yet powerfully significant. He says, "It's a great luxury to do things that don't make sense."
There is a white building on the left side of the street. It towers above all the rest and slopes without reason on the back corner. On the backside of this building there is a pair of windows.
Inside those windows lives a beautiful women.
She is my daughter, Anna.
This is her first apartment on her own. No roommates. No live-in boyfriend. No help from Mom and Dad. This picture was taken the day she moved in. Exhausted from the days events, she is graceful, elegant and filled with passion for her life. I painted the picture of her that you see on the wall behind. The eyes of a then 13 year old. Piercing. Asking their questions of me. Hoping, trusting.
This picture was taken on that very same day. Low lighting and movement producing a haunting reflection on life. These are how days seem sometime. Fleeting, ghost-like apparitions. We try to hold on, as if grasping at smoke. But the Universe has a different plan.
In the heart of Los Angeles, right next to Beverly Hills, there is an area called Sherman Oaks. This eclectic town is approximately 1,975 miles from where I live. In this town lives a piece of my heart. Sometimes a piece so large that its absence takes away my breath. Sometimes a piece so large that I scarcely can hold the joy that it contains.
This is my daughter, Amanda.
She and Daniel moved out to California four years ago with an old car, a few suitcases and a roll of toilet paper. They had nothing else...except a dream. A hope. And trust.
Last month I took my first trip to visit Amanda and Daniel. It's crazy what can happen in four years. When I think of all that has happened to me in the past four years - getting sick, fighting for my life, becoming disabled, learning and accepting - and compare it to all that has happened in her life...
I realize that none of us really knows how this crazy journey will go. Not one of us. Yet, we keep walking. We keep loving. We put ourselves out there again and again - being vulnerable - because the risk of losing does not even compare to the gift of being loved. So we chance it. Again and again. When the whole world thinks we're crazy and everyone else gives up. We just keep believing. Because some day...some day.
Some day you take this picture and you realize that love is bigger than you could have ever imagined
and it's worth every tear and every hope and every fear. And that 2000 miles aint nothin'.
And then there were three, where there once was
This is my oldest daughter Aleela and her husband Keith and the newest addition to our family, Adella Marie.
Being the oldest isn't easy. It makes you responsible. It makes you determined. Charting unknown territories, with an impetuous invincibility. Refined, lovely, compassionate.
They brought this miracle into the world and I can't help but be thrown backwards into the past each time I look into her deep blue eyes. I see a little girl in a pink dress, with a pink bow in her hair, standing on a stump in the yard singing to her hearts content. Unmoved by the world that surrounds her. Freely creating masterpieces of make-believe, joy flinging off the tip of a wand. Pure, care-free and open.
Oh, my beautiful Adella Marie. What will you become? Where will you go, my precious, precious baby girl. If you are one millionth of what your mama is, you will be rich with life.
I have no idea what steps you will take. But this I know - I refuse to live a life of fear
when it comes to this world. And I will work with all that I am
to show you the hope
and the beauty
and the joy
of this amazing
In 1987 I was 21 years old. After the birth of my second daughter, Amanda, I was told it would not be a good idea to have more children. Two operations later - Anna May was born in 1993. Three seemed like a good number. A safe number, all things considered.
1996 I was 30 years old when I became pregnant with twins. Life will do that to you. Throw you that curve ball, when you're not looking. When you're not paying attention. It will just hit you square between the eyes
with the most amazing
Meet Emma Jane and Sara Jane.
They were a two-for-one deal
I cannot imagine life without them.
They are the last two at home. They have known a life very different from their other sisters, although the sinew of sisterhood is more powerful than one can ever imagine. I see it between these two and it is the force that binds them all together, connecting them, holding them tightly through every storm. I see a beautiful trust in the knowing that no matter what, no matter what - they are never alone.
Often times when I talk of Emma and Sara people will say, "Oh, a surprise " But isn't everything in life a surprise? We are lucky that most often during our day things happen to go as planned. Gravity still pulls in the right direction, the alarm clock goes off when it's suppose to, the milk is still in the fridge... But it's all up for grabs, really. Yet we trust.
On September 28th, 2006, Judge Eric J. Lundell granted me a judgement of divorce from the father of these five daughters. He was my first true love. I met him at the age of 16 and married him at the age of 18. We had so many dreams. And for 22 years we watched most of those dreams come true. We also experienced the painful end of others. There are very few things in this life that shake your foundation like divorce, all horribly painful, all life changing.
In the middle of my writing this morning an old friend from work called to just say hi. She herself has experienced one of these "things" when she lost her husband to cancer a couple of years ago. She talked of how Fall made her reflective. How in that reflection there was sometimes a bit of sadness. She talked of the colors and how the leaves fall off the trees and things begin to shut down for winter, and how that brought about feelings of death. But only a "little sadness" she said, because like the new relationship she now finds herself in, and like the flowers that eventually burst forth in Spring, "things must come to an end so that others may begin."
It is our ability as human beings to take tragedy, in it's finest hour, and turn it toward reclamation. A holy redemption. The freedom to begin again.
I don't even know where to begin when it comes to my "second chance" at life. I think I've only had a dozen or so of them! But if it would not have been for the miracle of love and forgiveness, I would never have had the chance to be the step-mother of Casey and Maddie Johnson.
Being a step-mom is not something you grow up thinking about. In fact, in my day, the only vision of step-mom's were that of Lady Tremaine from Cinderella and the Queen from Snow White...not really images I like to emulate. It's tender, risky business. Hearts are at stake. The hearts of children, of mothers and of fathers. You tread this area like walking through a room full of kittens...in the dark. Slowly and softly.
There are simply no words to describe how blessed I am in this regard. There's a knowing that comes before this kind of love.It's what makes love all the richer. It's like sunshine after the rain. Like spring-time after a long winter. It's what keeps us loving again and again.
I started writing this morning because I was missing my daughters. It's tough sometimes, having kids live so far away and being too sick to travel. When I feel this way I have a tendency to start telling myself stories that are not very helpful. So I thought that maybe if I just started writing, I might work things out. Kind of like the journey that my husband was on - the 90 day journey that I wrote about at the beginning of this article. The one that went from 90 days to 143 days. He didn't really know what was going to become of his mission, he just knew he needed to be on it.
It's when I try to make sense of it all, when I try to ground my feet in something that really isn't there, that I struggle. My husband is so right. It is a great luxury to do things that don't make sense. Isn't that what loving is all about. If you think about it - most days it doesn't make good sense. But we do it anyway. We love, we trust, we hope...and we love again.We venture into the unknown.
No one has taught this to me more than my daughters.