I Will Carry You: By Angie and Todd Smith. A Review. Book 6 of 52

I knew that I would be experiencing some roller-coasters during this reading challenge. Still on a high from ‘Crash the Chatterbox’ this one hit me. It hit so hard that I had to visit some places in my heart and mind that I have left barren for some time now. “I Will Carry You” is a breathtakingly raw look into dealing with life after loss. Not just any loss, the compounding and exhausting emotions around carrying a child that was found to be ‘incompatible with life’.

This book raised to the surface things that I, purposefully, have ceased any conversation on since my daughter, Zoey, was born. Many, many nights this week were spent crying in the dark, reliving my own losses. From a lifetime ago, the pain still exists. I am not going to lie, it wrecked me a little.

Okay, a lot.

But Angie and Todd Smith have a quote about dealing with the loss that I think that so MANY out there need to know.  For countless parents out there, working through a miscarriage or stillbirth will leave your lives scrambled, hearts broken, and faith shaken. I know that I felt abandoned by God for a long time. It did not stop me from reaching out, but the thought was always there. Anyway, the quote (as I am running out of my word limit):

“..all the while He is just waiting for the time that is right. He hasn’t forgotten, nor has he abandoned us.”

Folks, the long and short of it is this. This kind of loss, it is devastating. You must know that you are not alone in what you feel, what you are going through. But that does not mean that it is not unique. Or, that it is any easier. I think that there is a post building in me about this. Though I am not sure if it will ever come to view. Regardless, if you are in this moment, dealing with this, know that you are not alone. Know that there are many out there that understand that the pain you feel, will never go away. But, we have found some ways to make it hurt a little less from time to time.

“I Will Carry You” By Angie and Todd Smith is a MUST read, for everyone. Weather you have experienced loss or not, read it. Without a doubt 5 out of 5. Very, very emotionally hard to get through, but happy to own, and will read again.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Something is Stirring

Perhaps it is because I had to experience the awesomeness of #dad2summit through the lens of my cellphone instead of through my eyes.

Then again, there was so much to unpack from “Crash the Chatterbox” which I just finished reading for my 2018 reading challenge.

It could be stemming from preparing to add #4 to our brood in a few months.

Or that our oldest, and only daughter, is turning six years old even sooner than that.

But something is stirring. Something deep. Its rawness is sharp and its weight is heavy.

It all stems from this quote from Steven Furtick in the aforementioned book “Crash the Chatterbox”:

“Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”

But, what is the struggle that I am talking about? Better, which one from the endless list of shortcomings or pain points does this have to do with? I could marinate on these two questions. Dear readers, you know me. I could launch into a winding torrent of a diatribe as I dabble with it all. But, this time. I am not. The answer is too clear for me to use that tactic this time.

Fatherhood

The way that I see it, I started down this road on a mission. I wanted to ask the questions, and find the answers about what makes a great dad. Then, all of a sudden, the picture perfect dream of fatherhood was upended. Shattered as I spent my daughters first few days in the NICU. Listening to monitors, researching Craniosynostosis, and getting involved in lengthy and weighted conversations about what my daughter’s future may look like. These things drown out the pictures and images that I had already formed. Hiding the voice that I had harbored for so long.

Somehow I missed something. I have been saying it all along and I never applied it. I let my daughter’s condition define me as a dad. NEVER, EVER have I let it define her. But it is who I am. I know more than most doctors and pediatricians about her condition, and the countless variants. I can speak for days about what the surgeries are like, what we have been through, and how amazing my daughter is. Time and time again I have said how thankful that I am to be found worthy of being called “daddy” to such an amazing little girl. But I let my focus of fatherhood be consumed by her condition.

It is becoming more and more clear that I need to enact a change. I feel like I know what the next few steps are. Nervous and excited I have already started working on them.

I have more to say on this, but I am actively putting things together to make it all make sense. Stay tuned over the coming days for something awesome.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Reading is challenging during the winter storm

As I awoke yesterday to a fresh, white, blanket of snow, I knew what I was going to hear. “The Richmond offices are closed due to inclement weather” the voice echoed on the other end of the call. A flurry of texts ensued as I alerted my staff of this event. Wondrous thoughts of sitting by the fire and finishing my second book, perhaps starting my third, of my 2018 Reading Challenge lulled me back to sleep.

Boy, did I sleep. I finally had a chance to get some rest. For the past few months I have been running at full speed, tilting all the windmills in my path. Perhaps it was the cold weather, the radiant views as the sun streaked across through the barren trees, but I relaxed. I rested. I woke up late. The kids were going outside to enjoy their snow day. Though, truth be told, snow days do not exist as a homeschooling family. Be that as it may, they were filled with excitement to run outside and dive into the snow that caused a day off. All one and a half inches of it.

Having spent a better portion of my life in regions that truly understand snow, it was a little laughable. But, to have some time to relax, time with family, is always a blessing. We quickly made plans to clean, organize, and de-clutter. These are never ending tasks when you have three children ages five and under. I assure you that the hurricane that is them trying to ‘help’ clean is far worse than the snow that kept me home. But we did these things just the same.

I watched them bounce up and down as we talked about snow, and smile chocolatey smiles as they had their hot coco. I handled the negotiations as to why I felt we would not be watching any more Christmas movies, even “Christmas Train” (or Polar Express as some of us call it), just because of the snow. They tried. It was adorable. But, it was an amazing day.

Near the end of it I realized that I had lost the opportunity to read as I had intended. It was the end of the day, the kids were going to sleep, and I was just relishing in the relaxation that I received from this unexpected day. In the quiet of the night, while I soothed my youngest back to sleep (for the millionth time) I read a little. Happy, and content with my progress, I logged in at 50% complete on my second book. Slowly, still reflecting back to the cool weather, and the day off, I lulled myself back to sleep in preparation for the day to come.

I hope to have a post on my thoughts on the first book, “The Giver”, sometime this weekend. Stay warm out there, and remember to take time to enjoy the unexpected gifts that are a snow day.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

An open letter to my beloved bride on the event of our seventh wedding anniversary

My beloved,

Well, here we are. Rounding out the seventh year of our marriage. My, oh my, look how far we have come. Last night, as we sat and tried to watch The Crown, while dealing with a very sick baby, there was a moment of pause. The TV volume was low, you were bundled up under a blanket, sleepily transfixed on the story. Salem, our beloved border collie, was asleep at your feet. From down the hall the sounds of our sleeping children filled the air. All stuffed up with the weather changes, the chorus of snoring was… beautiful.

You had your hands cradling your stomach, gently holding our unborn fourth child. Had the propane not run out just the day before, there would have been a fire. That will be fixed today. Sorry about that. But that fire would have brought a warm orange glow under the trove of stocking that we hung yesterday. Who knew that so many socks would look that impressive on such a long mantle? Or that the little ceramic village that you have been collecting over the years would look so amazing? I am sure that you did. You have always had an eye for design.

Perhaps there was something that you saw in me, seven years ago. For I can think of no real reason why I am so lucky to be your husband. I am always in awe of your love, support, compassion, and endearment. Even through the frustrating times that we have seen, you have been amazing. You have been steadfast in your desires for me to do my best. You have been my rock, and allowed me to be yours. Through everything, you have been the earthly embodiment of all things good and perfect for me, and our children.

Yes, our children. The growing brood of independent, smart, witty, funny, laughing, stress-us-out extension of our love. Never before has there been such proof to be careful what one prays for. Regardless, even when you think that you are failing, you are excelling in ways that many others could not even come close too. In the rare time that we find ourselves taking a step back and evaluating our little ones, what do we see? A rambunctious group of defiant protesters? No. We see brilliant minds testing the limits of their existence, and reason, with the purest intentions of figuring out life. We see teamwork unhindered by ability. Above it all, we see compassion and joy. All that is good in them comes from the work, love, and patience that you pour into them. We are all better for it.  I never grow tired of exclaiming your accolades as a mother, teacher, and counselor.

When we started this journey, there was us and a dog. We knew not what mountains or valleys we would have to transit to get here. Heck, we did not even know here was a place. But, it is where we are. It is still us and the dog, but now we have three amazing kids, and one more on the way. Countless seasons behind us,. All of the unknown, untamed, wilderness ahead of us. But that is the thing. No matter what lies ahead, we will tame it together. For seven years we have been side by side, hand-in-hand, walking through this life. Occasionally one of us standing in the gap (mostly me, it is what I do) but always moving forward.

I am so happy that it is you. Over the last 2,557 days, I have found more than 10 times that number of new reasons that I love you. Every day, another reason (or a list of reasons) is added. So, here is to seven amazing years my love. And to an eternity more.

 

Love,

Your husband.

    It snowed last night.

    I woke to a white capped winter wonderland, and a list of things to do. I smirked as my thoughts drifted to all those local residents who probably saw this is the apocalypse. I have to admit I felt a little shame as I realize I was relying on other people’s fear of this weather. However, knowing that this meant that I would have decent travel, I got up, donned my flannel shirt and jeans, and got out the door.

    As I walked my car I looked back and saw my children, wide-eyed with excitement, faces pressed against the glass of our front window. Every part of me that is a dad uttered a small prayer that they keep the wonderment that is the season. That they hold fast to the childlike joy that is all things winter. Playing in the snow, building snowmen, hanging Christmas lights, all of it.


    The peace of the open road, the sound of Beethoven softly playing over the radio, these are the moments. In astute reflection I paused as the red light glared at me. This season is so much more than just a cold winter’s holiday.


    I am reaching a height of purpose that I could not even ink out from the base where I started. My home is full of love, passion, understanding, and joy. This more than warms the heart. My job satisfaction is at an all-time high, even as I face new beginnings with my promotion. My faith has been continuously reassured with every struggle and victory. This season is good.


    These thoughts are juxtaposed with the view out my windshield. This is the weather that begs for our melancholy. The deep, dark gray skies cascading against the cool white snow. The ceaseless creaking as the wind blows through the snow laden boughs above. The shocking silence as even nature seeks respite against the cold.


    The light turns green. As my car navigates the barren road every second brings a beauty that negates the misanthropic thralls of my mind. I smile as I accelerate. Feeling all of the parts of me coalesce; dad, husband, and a little bit of lumberjack muddled in, as I own the road.


    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    Day 26: Five Words That Describe Your Life

    Okay, back to my normal posts, right? After yesterday’s rather dark post, “A Current Worry I Have”, let us have a fun post about the words that describe my life. I think that it is much needed, and far lighter, to talk about these things today.

    Dreams

    “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

    This is part of the drive that I have. If there is something that I long to do in life, then I will try. The bigger the goal, the more the sacrifice. Much like the oath that I took to enter the army, and the visceral essence of it, sacrifice is in my nature. For my family, I will sacrifice more than I have already, for the check is blank for them.

    Adventure

    “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

    Life is an adventure. You can sit back on your laurels and let it happen around you, or you can dive headfirst into it. Trust me, for all that I have been through, it would be far less fun to worry so much about things we cannot control. Take the leap, and enjoy the ride.

    Fortitude

    As I spoke about in my Day 18 Post, “Your Biggest Plot Twist”, I am still here. The odds have not been in my favor from time to time. But I do not give up. Ever. As Richelle Goodrich said in Making Wishes, “If you plan to build walls around me, know this-I will walk through them”.  It is true. In my wake I will leave the folly of those that have tried to stop me.

    Marrow

    Another one of my quotes that I like comes from Thoreau’s Walden. “…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.

    Much like adventure and dreams, this is all about getting the most out of life. Time is far too short to live hungry for the essences that can propel us. Find what you enjoy, and do it. Do not let you… or anyone… hold you back.

    Fatherhood

    I could not have a list of things that describe my life without fatherhood. Next to being so lucky to have (somehow) won my beloved over (see my Day 1 post, “Five Ways to Win My Heart”), being a father is a close second. I LOVE being a dad. Even through the tears, stress, and worry, it is all worth it. My kids let me know that I am alive, and force me to feel young. To be fair, they force me to feel old as well.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

    Day 19: Five ‘I Wish I Had’ Items

    ‘I Wish I Had’. Oh, this is going to be ‘fun’. Is that the operative word that one uses when creating a listicle of sorts? For the sake of brevity, it is the word that I will use, for now, to mask my disdain.

    I Wish I Had More Time

    This… was not a thing before I met my beloved. The desire for this was only made greater with the birth of each child. For the majority of my life, I lived for myself. I did what I could to move the needle towards the greater good, as I saw fit. However, I settled on the fact that when my time came, that was it. Granted, I still feel that way. But, now, I wish that time to be as far from this moment, and every amazing moment, as possible.

    I Wish I Had More Understanding

    Time on this planet is short, so we must make the most of it. We all know this. However, how do we make the most of it? There is the mantra that I close each blog post with. This quip is something that we are striving to teach our children, every day. But, one cannot live big without first understanding what it means to live small. Likewise, loving bigger requires to know and understand what small love looks and feels like. Just as being kind demands a deep understanding of the opposite. I wish that I had more understanding, things to show my children, so that they would not have to experience the brutal juxtaposition that exists in this world.

    I Wish I Had the Ability to Do Nothing

    Far too often I burn the candle at both ends, while it is in an oven.  The moments are very few and far between where I can just sit back, relax and do nothing. I have very dear friends, and family, that often speak to me of their worry with this matter. But, there is just something about me that want to do more. Most of my projects involve creating, and there is such a high level of catharsis in each and every one. Though I wish for the ability to do nothing, there is a large part of me that does not want it.

    I Wish I Had the Unyielding Patience My Beloved Has

    Of all the virtues, this one may be my slightest. I spend so much time looking at the big picture, constantly adjusting my 10 year plan. I constantly see the things that I must do to achieve the goals that I sent, and I move to make them happen (see the section above). But, I am learning. Between my beloved and my children, I am learning to wait. Unfortunately this is often taken up with working on other things while I wait (again, see above).  Regardless, I am learning.

    I Wish I Had a Stronger Desire to Want More Than I Have

    All for naught, I am ultimately happy with the things that I have, and those that I do not. It is my own consternation that must be dealt with. This does not mean that the above things are fanciful items. They are very, very real. But I just wish that I could want more, like so many others. Though it is never easy, I enjoy this journey, and all that I have been blessed with, and done without along the way.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    Day 15: The Awkward Moment When…

    Dear readers, if you have not been able to glean the fact that I am usually not thwarted by awkwardness, then I have failed you. However, there are still times that the feeling of ‘over-sharing’ brings this feeling to light. Perhaps I will dwell on this, for a moment. Discussing that awkward moment when I over-share.

    See, there has been the longstanding social construct between social butterflies and wallflowers. I like to think that social interaction is not as cut-and-dry as this. With the advent of social media, there is a new category. One which I feel I embrace wholly in action and voice. The Social Dragonfly.

    What does this mean? How is it awkward?

    Picture, if you will, a dragonfly. Darting from location to location. Feeding, resting, just having a good time. There are those of us, in society, that like not to be constrained by the social constructs that keep many of us in a lane. I first realized this back in high school. When I would look at the network of association that I kept, I covered a broad swath of the microcosm that exists in that habitat. Nerds, geeks, jocks, artist, fighters, leaders, I communed with them all. In retrospect, very few did this hopping from group to group. Perhaps that is why I was so adept in doing so.

    However, this was a breeding ground for moments of feeling awkward. Over-sharing never comes from a place of one-upmanship, at least for me. So there are times that I share what, in hindsight, may be a little too much for the audience. There are times that awkward pauses, and minor alienation result from such over-sharing. But, over time, I have learned to roll with the punches. Perhaps it is buried in these resulting moments that I have learned not to care about being awkward.

    Ultimately, people will either like you for you, or not.  If we spend all of our time worried about the things that we cannot change, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. If there is a moment that you feel awkward, embrace it. It is what makes you who you are. Over time, hone it, be proud (if not a little boastful) in this awesomeness. Trust me, you will be better for it. I hope that my kids learn this from me as well. I think it will go a long way in preventing the stranglehold that some levels of social acceptance has on our young ones.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    Day 11: Family

    Ah, family. This is in the essence of EVERYTHING that I do. The majority of the hats of which I wear all are due to my family. Husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, etc. All of these roles I take on with pride. I feel that this may be something a bit stronger in my case, than many of you.

    We moved, a lot, when I was growing up.  It seemed like every two years (and that, indeed, was the average for a LONG time) we were moving. Not just to a new house, but a new state. This very large factor during my early years caused me to be different. I never let others get too close. I saw the brutality of what it meant to be “the new kid” all the time. This caused me to put even more walls up.

    My strongest and most present friendships were with my brothers. They were my confidants, my peers. This caused strange rifts between those that I would later call my associates (instead of friends) and myself. I mean, who wants to hand out with the kid who always had a younger brother with him? Honestly, and I can say this with much confidence, it did not bother me.  My brothers were (and still are) some of the coolest people that I have ever met.

    Family is why I am who I am, and do what I do.

    Family is my rock, and my everything. I know that I am lucky to have such an awesome family, and I am thankful for them all, every day. It is the safety, understanding, and omnipresence of family that I want to instill in my children. No matter what, family (should) have your back and be a place of uplifting safety. They should teach us all how to…

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

    Day 10: The Opportunity That Got Away

    Wow! Really? The opportunity that got away? Such a loaded topic. That being said, strap in. I have had some coffee, a red bull, and got some sleep.  *cracks knuckles* let’s do this.

    In this life I have learned many, many lessons.  Some lessons I have learned the hard way.  I have experienced loss in ways that I would wish on no one. I have held people as they have taken their last breath. My life has crumbled before my eyes due to the choices of others.  However, I have also experienced joy beyond measure. I have seen the fruits of my tireless efforts pay off in spades. I have been able to help others, more than I would help myself.

    If I spent time dwelling on the ‘opportunity that got away’ I would not be where I am today.

    I have a family that means the world to me. The love and friendship of a woman that I do not deserve, but she still chose me to be her husband. I am in a job that I love, doing things that excite me. This is not to say that I am complacent. I am constantly working on my hustle, and driving myself to greater heights.

    Boiling it down to the most finite logic, EVERY decision that we make results in the potential for an opportunity to be lost. That is what makes life so hard. Deciding to take that job, over another, means that your career path is forever changed. Dealing with a break up may open the doors for something greater (mine all did). It sucks, trust me, I know. I have this thing about me. Others, who know my story, say that I have stared the devil in the eyes, and watched him blink. So, these words come from well-founded experience, not theory nor conjecture.

    Make the best of the opportunities that you have.

    Do not focus on what is behind you, look to the now, and ahead. We could all languish in the past, lament over the choices that we made, or were made for us.  But what a depressing state to be in. I am not in the business of regretting much. I am accountable to where I am now, and the hardships, and graces, which got me here, do not go unnoticed, or un-thanked.  Yep, that’s right, I am thankful for the bad things. I am grateful for bad decisions. Every single one of them have brought me to the life that I have now. Regardless of where you are in your path, or what your life is like, it is still yours, and you are still alive.

    Life is a gift, not an opportunity

    This is why I am the way that I am. I see each and every day as a gift. There are infinite possibilities for the future that I can make for myself, my beloved, and my children. All of these possibilities come from choice.  Often we do not have the opportunity to weigh out our decisions, think about what we may be losing in the wash. However, having a fantastic understanding that where we have been has made us who we are helps in passing off regrets, and looking for the opportunities to come.

    If you are dwelling in the past, heal. You are not doing something wrong by living with this regret. You are doing yourself a disservice, but I will never admonish you for that. But, do me a favor. When things are dark and bleak, and you close your eyes, I know that you are seeing a fleeting glance of the opportunity that got away. Hold on to that, but then draw a line to where you are now because of it. You are still here, there is still life, and there is still boundless opportunities ahead of you.  Many of those may be better than the one that got away. But you will not see them if your eyes are close.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.