Thursday, January 31, 2013

Family skate date

I grew up on ice skates.  Thought I'd compete at the Olympics.

I really wish I had a picture to insert here.  Imagine nine year old me, in my favorite yellow skirt and brand new white Riedell ice skates.

When I asked my students the other day if they knew who Dorothy Hamill was, I was so sad.  They had no clue.  I couldn't stomach it if they didn't know Scott Hamilton, so I dropped the subject.  As I googled his name and caught his birth date out of the corner of my eye, I realize how much I've just aged myself.

But they were legends when I was a kid.  They were the things my little girl dreams were made of.

I still fancy myself a skater.  However, I'm sure that in reality I looked like a baby giraffe on unstable legs when I stepped onto the ice last weekend.  Unfortunately, clean figure eights, Salchows and basic spins do not all come back like riding a bike.

Still, we had a blast.

And I have a great imagination.

I totally think I should take skating lessons again.  Clearly my kids need to.



We {heart} Upward

Basketball is in full swing.  This is Luke's first year, Zach's third.

The teams are assigned in such a way that the goal is to produce teams that are balanced in terms of player ability.  From one season to the next, players and coaches are always different.  However, each of the boys has two friends on their team this year.

Luke is playing with Christina B. and Landon P.

He always has his hands up.

Zachary is playing with Benjamin B. (Christina's brother) and Jacob S.

We have been long time friends/neighbors with each of these kids.  It's a blast to get to play together...and carpooling is always a bonus!  Every time we step foot in the gym at Upward, there are countless familiar faces - some dating back more than 25 years.  We love this program and all of our friends there.

We pray before every game.

Luke is quite a player.  He was the first to score for the entire season, for all age groups.  I don't think he'll ever let us forget that. At his second game, he had 6 points.  Not that we're keeping score...

He has given himself a new nickname.  Luke the Nuke.  I told him that he had to actually earn a nickname like that, and he certainly has.

Zachary is adjusting to his new age bracket, 3rd-4th grade.  He's the lower man on the totem pole this season.  The rules are a little different (free throws when fouled within 2 minutes of the period ending), and the kids are taller than they were last year.  He's a great defensive player and is getting his offensive footing.

Both boys' coaches are very encouraging and focused more on character building than on basketball.  We love this.

The locker room time after the game is always special, as each boy receives a "Star of the Game".  So far, Luke has received the Offensive Star and the Christlike Star and Zachary has received the Defensive Star and Sportsmanship Star.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God always has a plan

My brother received my letter.

I mailed it on Wednesday, January 2.  He received it on his way out the door on Tuesday morning, January 8.  By 8am that same day, I had an email waiting in my inbox...from him.

When I saw his name as the sender...our father's name...I gasped and immediately began trembling.  Bryan asked what was wrong and I bit my lower lip and slowly choked out, "He sent me an email."

The kids hadn't left for school yet, so Bryan's first response was a hurried, "Don't read it." and I quickly snapped the laptop shut.  I was trembling in fear.

I saw that there was no subject and my mind immediately went to, "Does he say in the body of his message never to contact him again?"  I really couldn't stand it.  I paced for a few minutes, then realized that my kids might notice my bizarre silent meltdown.  So, I sat on the couch quietly...and opened a little gift that Zach had made for me at school.  I was seeing spots, but ooh'ed and ahh'ed over his gift just the same.  Then he handed Bryan a gift, which happened to be a DVD of the 3rd grade productions from first semester.  Which, of course, he wanted us to watch right then.  We "watched" them, but I'm not sure either of us actually saw what was on the TV screen.

As soon as the boys left for school, Bryan offered to read the email to me.  Not normally one to want to be read to, I agreed.  I was nearly catatonic - seriously seeing spots - so I am not sure I could have focused my eyes to read it right then if I'd wanted to.  Before he read it, I asked if he was nice.  Bryan assured me that he was.  Next I asked if it was very long, and Bryan said it wasn't.  I [part sarcastically/part seriously] scoffed, "What?!?!  I wrote three pages and he didn't write much back?"  He suggested I wait before assessing...  He read it to me.  And Bryan was right, he was sounding nice enough...  Then he closed in on the end:

"Thanks for taking the time and effort to find me. I knew about you, I even used to have a picture of you when I was a kid, but I guess my experiences with my dad, our dad, kind of soured me on the idea of trying to reach out. Have a great day, and I look forward to hearing from you again."

To which, Bryan and I both teared up.  He'd known.  He'd had a picture.  He looked forward to hearing from me again.  And...  He'd made it a priority to write me back within hours of reading my letter. 

That day, we exchanged eleven emails over a span of 12 hours.  And, just as I sent him what I expected what would be the last email of the night, he impulsively called me.  We talked for another four hours.

We have since talked, emailed or texted at length every day.  He is so very much like me, and not at all like I'd feared he might have been.

Naturally, he googled me...  He says I'm "all over the internet".  As of yesterday, he'd read my entire blog.  Four years worth of ramblings.  He's got impressive determination, endurance and stick-to-it-ive'ness.

I always thought I was writing this blog for my kids' sake - so that, should anything happen to me, they would forever have these words, these stories...  They would know my heart.  It never occurred to me that this blog would one day be used to help my brother get to know me.

Knowing that he was reading caused me to go back and read a little too...  It was nice to revisit my life's story, to see the hand of God...  I am reminded again that God always has a plan.  God never ceases His work.  All things really do work together for the good of those who love Him.  I am both overwhelmed and humbled by His care and constant work in my life.

Everything has come together for this...

As I've looked back over my life, I've come to realize that I really had a lot of healing to do before I was ready to know my brother.  As much as I'd asked about him over the last 15 years, I wasn't ready until just now.  I needed to be at peace with the abuse from my childhood, with my biological father's absence and rejection, issues with my mother, and the passing of each of my parents...  I needed that peace, wholeness, closeness with God in order to wade into this newest journey relying on Him, not reaching out for another person to fill God-sized holes.  There is such freedom, no pressure, no outrageous expectations as my brother and I get to know one another.  Just peace.  And joy.  And fulfillment.

And...  Wholenesss.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Birthday blesssings

In my classes, we celebrate birthdays with a class birthday book.  Each student writes a page to the birthday boy or girl, and my requirement is that they include at least two compliments or words of encouragement for their friend.  These are simple books - nothing fancy - simply a stack of pages stapled together.  Friends write and illustrate whatever is on their hearts, and I write the last page of every book.

Being that we're not in school over the summer, half birthdays were celebrated today - along with a few belated late-December birthdays and the early-January birthdays.  All told, I got to celebrate about fifteen birthdays among my four classes.  In one class alone, we had eight birthdays.

The class with eight birthdays is my most challenging class.  It has the most students, and only one of them is a girl.  It is also the last class of the day, so the kids are getting squirmy.  It is full of energy and the volume is generally loud or louder.  They are also at an incredibly excitable age, so the second anyone gets an idea, they share it with everyone around them...and that generally prompts more sharing.  In a creative class, this is both wonderful and maddening.

But, today, I had the priveledge of setting aside my lesson plan and just focusing on praising and encouraging them for 50 minutes...and giving them the time to do the same.  As I reflected on each of the eight birthday kids, I thought over where they were when I met them, and where they are at today.  I took the time to acknowledge their growth and maturation, and simply savored my favorite things about each child.

In the busyness of trying to get through a lesson or finish a project, it is all too easy to become hurried, tasky and frustrated.  When we slow down and appreciate each person and the journey of learning and growing, it's so much sweeter.

I've always done these books as a gift to the kids, but today they really spoke to me.  My kids are pretty awesome.  All unique, all writing on the pages that are my life.

And to think....  I get paid to do this!  In cold hard cash and countless hugs, drawings and notes.

Friday, January 4, 2013

It could be any day now

I have really fallen off the blogging bandwagon.  Not because I don't have deep thoughts anymore mind never rests... but because I scarcely have the time to sit at a computer for longer than it takes to update Facebook. 

But, the reason I started blogging in the first place is still a valuable one.  I want to be known - by my friends and, most importantly, by my kids.  My boys don't need a written record of every thought I've ever had....but what I wouldn't give right now to have a journal written by my mother or father.

Yes, I do realize that I'm a girl and they're boys ...and they may not care... but I'm writing anyway.  After all, my husband and my brother read my blog ramblings, so there's hope that my boys will too one day.

Without further adieu, let the confused rambling begin...

It occurred to me today that my half-brother might have received my letter and photos today.  More than likely it will arrive tomorrow or Monday, but it could have arrived today.  Of course, the intended purpose of mailing the package was for him to receive it, open it, read it...and call or write me back.  But, suddenly I'm nervous.  I honestly think I'm nervous because this reminds me of a call I made 13 years ago.  I was calling a man with the exact same name as this younger man who will now be left to decide do-I-call-or-don't-I?  When I heard the voice on the other end of the line all those years ago, I said:  "Hello.  Is this K?  This is Tonya S.  How are you?"  He replied saying, "Who?"  To which I repeated myself and added, "Your daughter."  I was nervous and feeling a bit awkward.  He was in shock, caught completely off guard.  He knew who I was as soon as he'd heard my name.  I could hear it in his voice.

As I was cleaning house today, moving furniture around, doing laundry, repacking what was left of the Christmas decor...I realized that I might be caught just as off-guard by this man's son, my half-brother, catching me in the middle of something, saying: "Hi, This is K.  Your brother."  What exactly do you say to that?  (Of course, I will want to squeal and start talking really fast:  "PRAISE GOD!!!  You got my letter!  And you called!!!  What do you think?  What do you know?  What do you look like?  Are you tall?  I'm tall.  Our dad was really tall.  My kids are really tall.  I have a wide nose and our father's eyes.  So does our grandmother.  And my youngest son.  How about you???  Do you have red hair?!?!")  Thirteen years ago, I said, "How are you?" and from there the conversation somehow managed to flow.  I don't know how.  

Waiting to hear from my brother is all just so reminiscent of that first phone call to my father.  Surreal, really.

I have several hundred questions - 30 years to catch up on - but it's a first phone call / letter, so I'm going to need to pace myself.

Not only that...  But, if I'm being completely honest, I'm having to deal with the ...disappointment, anger, grief, I'm not quite sure what to call it... that our father put us in this situation to begin with.  If he hadn't walked out on us, his children wouldn't be complete strangers to one another.  And we wouldn't have been complete strangers to him.  I wouldn't be wondering how much information is enough, but not too much, to share upfront with my brother.

But, in spite of this uncertainty, I am at peace with where we're at today.  I had known of my brother's existence for 15 years, but did not even know for sure what his name was.  I knew which state he'd lived in when he was five, but had no idea where to look today.  And then, unexpectedly, I met someone whose mother-in-law is a Private Investigator, and 15 hours later, I had my brother's name and address in my hands.  It couldn't be that easy if it wasn't meant to be; if it wasn't the right time.  Whether or not he writes or calls, I believe I was meant to write when I did.  Silence, if that's what comes, may not be "no", but rather "not yet".  I know how much it has taken to get me to this place, and I have eight years (and 15 years of processing time!) on my brother.  If he's silent, I will assume that it means "not yet".  And he will know that I'm here; that I'm ready.  I do hope and pray that one day - preferably sooner rather than later - I will know my father's other child.  My brother.