And so it begins…

We started the “first of the lasts” a couple of weeks ago with Senior Night for volleyball.  It’s times like this that I miss Mama and Daddy the most.  They should be here with us, watching that sassy girl, hugging me when it’s done, meeting her friends and mine.  They’re not, though.  It hurts.

What helps that pain some is that my stepmom came from Stockton and sat on hard bleachers.  She met Alynne’s friends and mine. She giggled at the exchange between Jennifer and Jett and Jett and Alynne and Fischer and everyone.  She was happy to see that silly girl and be part of her night.

Jay and Loree were there, too.  These are two people we love dearly.  I am so eternally grateful for them, and I hope they know it.  They drove to Stockton for Daddy’s funeral, and they didn’t have to.  I love them, and so do the kids.  It’s nice to have bonus grandparents!

JeanAnne and Bruce came.  They don’t miss the important things.  I’m glad they are involved and want to be part of the chaos.

Jennifer came for me.  I’m not a sappy Senior parent.  My kid has been ready to be out of the Halls of Troy since she was a Sophomore.  I know that and understand that.  But, sometimes, us moms need each other as we go through the lasts. Jennifer knows that. Her son asking my daughter to prom has turned out to be a gigantic blessing for me.

The best part of my night, besides watching my kid play, was seeing her smile. Lots. It’s been a very long time that the grin hasn’t been forced. She’s peaceful and happy. I needed that. So does she.  

Advertisements

Dear kids,

I have come to the realization that my children are most likely past the age of playground crushes.  I’m also certain that I do not know how I feel about it.  When I was the age my son is now, I had been married for several months.  I truly took a sigh of relief when he turned 20 and wasn’t married.  While I wouldn’t change a thing about my choice to marry so young, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.  With my parents being gone, these milestones are a little tougher.  Mama can’t tell me how she felt when she saw me look at Jon, knowing probably more than I did about how I felt about him.  So, I’m processing all of this by writing an open letter to the kids that might enter my children’s lives.

Dear young people who might steal my children’s hearts (or at least get close enough to get punched in the arm a lot),

To the young lady my son absolutely adores,  thank you for adoring him back.  You are an amazing girl, and he saw that the first time he looked at you.  He also saw someone worth getting to know at a deeper level.  You need to realize that he is slightly stubborn, hates to lose, and will compete at EVERY SINGLE THING.  He loves sports, almost all of them.  You need to be prepared for non-stop conversations about that and probably a 2 am curling date during the Olympics.  You also need to be aware that he smiles and that smile is disarming. Please realize that he’s not flirting with other girls when he smiles at them.  It’s just him.  If you’ve stolen his heart, it’s  yours.  He’s not looking elsewhere. You might also need to know that the only green he will eat is a skittle or Mike and Ike, maybe a Granny Smith Apple.  He won’t try any new food.  He’s good with a bacon cheeseburger.  He’s thoughtful,  but he won’t always know what to do to help you.  I’ve tried to share that sometimes the best way to help is just to sit quietly, to let you talk or cry, and to not try to fix it.  You aren’t broken, you’re just hurt.  I’ve also tried to teach him to respect who you are and who you want to be. He’s had a good example in his dad.  He is my son.  I love him dearly, and I wasn’t sure how I would feel when he found a girl like you.  That being said, I love you, too.  You are a blessing to the boy and to me.

To the brave young man who has the courage to take on my feisty daughter, please make sure you get my cell phone number in case of an emergency.  (By that I mean, when she loses her cool and leaves you on the side of the road in a bad neighborhood.  She’s not done it yet, but…) You must be a special kid to have gotten this far.  She doesn’t let people in.  She’s picky and probably has a list of dos and don’ts that she’s shared.  She means it.  She always means it, but I think you know that.  Despite the fact that she most likely looks like she wants to punch you 90% of the time, she has amazing compassion and a giant heart for people.  She loves Jesus first, and you need to be ok with that.  She has big plans, even if they are a little fuzzy right now.  She can’t tolerate lies, stupidity, or dangerous behavior.  She is passionate, clumsy, accident-prone, and amazing.  She is snarky, sarcastic, will roll her eyes, and she will tell you all of her secrets.  If she does that, she expects you to keep them. Let her be angry and grouse at the world.  She’ll let you do the same.  Listen to her, trust her, and continue to learn who she is.  She’ll constantly surprise you.  She’s my baby girl.  I will hassle you, tease you, and can be your best ally with her.  Again, sir, you are a brave young man.

Mama Kett

 

 

My favorite picture of my daughter

18192644_10154439310281752_4968604502379120840_o

This is my favorite current picture of my daughter.  It was at her Junior Prom.  She was escorted by her sassy friend with great hair.  The picture shows Alynne and Jett and their personalities.  He’s probably making fun of her for something and laughing about it.  She is probably trying very hard not to punch him.  They were probably arguing about something ridiculous. The picture makes me smile every time I look at it.

This picture came after several weeks of planning, preparing, purchasing, and discussions about details of prom.  When Jett asked Alynne, I didn’t know his mom.  I knew his older sister and adored her.  She vouched for my character and told her mom we were good people.  Now that’s pressure!  A few weeks after the promposal, Jett’s mom contacted me, wanting to touch base since our youngest children aren’t always good with details.  We chatted, compared notes, and decided to meet for coffee one Sunday afternoon.

I’m sure I’d seen her around, but we’d not met.  We sat down that Sunday afternoon and left the coffee shop FIVE hours later.  The time truly flew.  It was the easiest five hour conversation I have ever had.  We visited like we were old friends who were catching up on years of missed conversations.  We talked about the kids, life, pain, death, dreams, disasters, family, and any number of topics.   Alynne texted asking about a life-threatening food allergy and dinner plans.  Jon texted to see if I had run away.  I missed both of those texts for a few hours.  Thankfully, Alynne avoided the near death experience of Passion Fruit Tea.

Since that afternoon, Jennifer and I have had another marathon gab session or three, a Prom Mom group chat and dinner, a couple of softball games, and daily text barrages.  It stresses her kid out.  For several days, all I got from him was, “Five hours, Mrs. Kettler???  Five hours?  That’s not cool!”  He’s now resigned himself to the fact that his mom has a friend.  That doesn’t mean he likes it.  My kid, on the other hand, thinks it’s just fine.  Jett’s mom is cool!

Our paths, through our children,  have “crossed” in the past.  Jennifer’s daughter, Jordan, is dear to my heart and has been for a few years.  I first met her as a little bitty thing with all of this hair when she was a Sophomore.  We talked multiple times about fears, plans, disappointments, and Jesus, goals, and dreams.  She graduated, and I’ve followed her adventures as she has found her place and taken over her world.  This girl is so driven, fun, a bit dingy, and at peace. She does things in her own special style and certainly leaves a mark.  She makes me smile.

Alynne and Jett have been friends, when Alynne allows it, for awhile now.  I didn’t realize his connection to Jordan until last summer.  I liked the connection.  When Jett asked Alynne to prom (even though there are no pictures to prove this actually occurred), I messaged Jordan.  She was excited and had let her mom know we were good people.  That’s pressure!  I think we did just fine with that.  I love watching how God’s fingerprints get splashed all over your life, even if you don’t realize it’s happening at the time.

I am grateful for Lynnie and Jett, their friendship (for many reasons), and a five hour cup of coffee with Jett’s mom.  It has been such a blessing to me.  It’s been so much fun to laugh with an “old” new friend, generally at the expense of our children.  My favorite picture of my daughter holds an amazing tale that can’t quite be seen and will continue to develop.

 

Time doesn’t stop

I realized that I haven’t written in a year.  I’ve neglected something I truly love for more important things, busyness.  I can’t let that happen again.  I have too much to say, too much in my brain, too much I need to share.  Time hasn’t stood still, even if sometimes I wish it would.  Things change, some for the good, even if we don’t see it at the time.  Some of those changes are unexpected and brilliant.  Here’s where we are now.

I am teaching full-time again, something I swore I would never do in a million years.  Some days I love it.  Other days, my heart breaks and I’m not sure I’ll find the strength to continue with it.  Too much brokenness, apathy, ugliness, and entitlement.  Then, I get the blunt honesty from a child I lose sleep over.  His grades are questionable, his attendance spotty, but his honesty is refreshing.  He tells me the truth, even if that truth gets him into trouble.  I want to hug this kid around the throat and refuse to give up on him.  Some days I can’t get any curriculum taught because we have to start with simple life skills.  It’s scary.

The boy is living his dream.  He gets to talk sports every day with people who understand his passion and dreams.  He sits and talks with future lottery picks for the NBA draft during his job of reffing basketball. He has found a stunning young woman who appreciates his “confidence” and his humor.  She compels him to work harder than he wants to occasionally, and he provides her with an added boost of confidence.  He’s nearly done with his classroom work and will be graduating before I am probably ready.  We discuss where he’ll be, what he’ll do, how he plans to make it all work.  My boy surprises me every day.

The girl, my prickly diva, has really bloomed this year.  She’s made a ton of tough decisions and more than a few made for her.  I’ve watched her go from a broken and fragile girl who was destroyed, or nearly so, to a girl who knows what she wants.  She’s stepped, or rather flown, out of her comfort zone in the past several months, and she’s succeeded more than we thought she would.  She’s becoming a leader in ways I didn’t see coming.  She’s still got the oddest group of friends, but those have changed.  She laughs more now than she did.  She’s visited a college, wants a pig, and is starting to think about all the things she plans to do.  I’m so proud of who she is becoming, even if she doesn’t want me to say that.

My role as mother is constantly changing.  I’m not always sure I’m very good at it.  I do know that my kids seem to like me most of the time.  They aren’t in trouble or at least I don’t think so.  They are making good decisions, and I am pleased.  My girl and I have a relationship that borders on very weird, but I’ll take it.  As much as I love my mama, we didn’t have this until I was much older.  I know I embarrass them and make them uncomfortable, but I’m ok with that.  I can do that.  I’m the mama.

When did I give you permission to grow up?

My baby girl went to prom with a very good friend over the weekend.  I kept looking at her and thinking, “Who told you it was ok to grow up?” I also kept thinking how weird it was for a girl I still see as 7 years old to be getting a fancy dress, girl hair, and a beautiful corsage with red roses. Obviously, she’s not 7 anymore.  As she reminded me, more than once over the weekend, she’s a month shy of 16.  I sometimes struggle with that.  Especially this time of year.

My Lynnie is my visual representation of how time didn’t stand still after my mama was killed.  Not that Aaron didn’t grow and change, but I see glimpses of Mama in Alynne.  Things I wish she could see.    Aaron has lots of good times locked in his brain.  He will sometimes remember things, and we’ll talk about it.  It’s different with Alynne. She wasn’t quite 3 when her Grammie went to Jesus.  She barely remembers anything about her. I wish she could.

It’s weird being the mom of this teenaged girl.  I don’t think she fits the mold very well.  Yes, there are a million giggles.  She denies every one of them, though.  She has a bit of friend drama, but not nearly the amount I remember.  She is so very opinionated, and that makes her rough around the edges.  For someone who is a self-proclaimed “people hater”, she’s got friends everywhere we go.  She’s clever, funny, sarcastic, and a bit rude occasionally.  We are constantly working on her filter.  She has little time for people who have a victim complex or repeat the same “dumb stuff” again and again.  She has a huge heart for those who are hurting and babies.  She has the most eclectic group of friends, and I adore them.  She is constantly bruised, scraped, and in need of an advil and an ice bag.  She wears her bruises proudly.  She’s earned them.  She has some amazing adults in her corner, and a cat who tolerates her.  Her brothers (by blood and Duncan) are proud of her and love her fiercely.  Her daddy wishes she’d clean up her words sometimes and get her English assignment turned in.

I love my girl and her ferocity.  I wish I had the confidence she does.  She knows who she is, mostly.  Sometimes struggles with expectations and gets hurt by those around her.  Despite the fact that she might punch you, she is sensitive.  She feels like she is forever having to prove herself and mostly falling a bit short.  Despite that, she gets up and tries again.  I adore her for that.  You can never count her out. Her life isn’t normal, nor will it be.  With chronic diseases, and armpit abscesses, she’s go to look at the world a little differently.  She does, and she’s fine with that.  She’s adapted and rolls with it.  Just not in a room full of balloons.  She’s full of surprises.

I didn’t tell her she could grow up, and it’s been a wild ride.  It’s hard watching her become a young woman sometimes.  I’d love to call Mama and tell her all about the girl her wild child granddaughter has become.  Tears will sometimes come to my eyes as I think of how much my two favorite girls have missed together.  Even with all of that, I am so proud to be her mama.

Unattended

My son got a text from his university safety office telling of an unattended death.  This death occurred in a residence hall.  My heart stopped for just a moment.  My first thought was how sad it sounded.  My second thought went fleetingly to my son’s roommate.  He’s been struggling lately.  Was it wrong of my to be relieved that it was a different dorm?  I hope not.

As more information came out, it seems that a young man took his life.  Campus rumor was that he hanged himself.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds horrifying.  Initially, I wondered how.  Where did he do this in his room???  The closet?  from something on the ceiling?  Logistics don’t make sense.  I know that’s a terrible thought to have.  How alone must he have felt to decide that was his only option?  What about his roommate?  Did he have a roommate?  How must his parents feel?  What about the people on his floor?  In his dorm?

This morning, I found an article in the university paper.  Some boys on the floor noticed a smell coming from the room and realized they hadn’t seen the kid for a while.  They told the RA and police were called.  The article said that the boy had been dead for days. He was hanging.   For days?????  How does that happen????? Why did nobody notice him missing? Had his parents been in contact?  Did he have parents?  What must those poor kids who found him be thinking?  What about the RA who didn’t notice a student hadn’t been around?  How much guilt is he feeling?  Should he feel guilty?  Is the University liable for anything?  What drove this boy to kill himself? Why did nobody notice???? Where was his roommate?  His friends?  Did he have any?

I keep coming back to “unattended,”  and that scares me.  How can a kid on a campus of 30,000 be “unattended” for days?  I’ve been there, you can’t go five feet without bumping in to someone.  How can you make yourself so invisible that nobody notices that they haven’t seen you for a few days? Why are we so unaware of those around us that NOBODY appears to have realized this kid wasn’t where he should be?  What was his relationship with his adults that they didn’t think about not having heard from him for a few days?  How can a kid living in a busy dorm be able to be “unattended” long enough to have “hanged himself days ago”?

I kept kissing my son’s forehead this morning before I left for work. I’m sure it annoyed him.  He’s a tired college kid!  I blocked the stairway to the basement so my daughter couldn’t come upstairs without walking into my arms. She hates hugs! I’ve fought tears for a boy I don’t know since last night.  I can’t get an image of an “unattended” boy hanging from a structure in his dorm room for days.  Why??? Why???? What was the brokenness that led him to this choice?  What was the last thought that ran through his head?  Had he planned it for weeks?  Was it spur of the moment? Why???

Hug your kids!  Our college aged kids are so vulnerable right now.  They need our presence, they crave our attention. Find out what’s going on in their lives.  Ask about grades, friends, expectations, disappointments, booze, parties, average hot girls, etc.  My son probably gets tired of me asking if he’s drinking or taking drugs.  It’s always been part of our conversations.  He expects it.  I’m going to assume that one day I’ll hate the answer I get.  We’ll roll with that when it happens.  You’ve got to get your kids to talk to you.  You aren’t their besties, you’re their moms and their dads. You get to ask the tough questions.  You have the right to expect answers.  You can be mad, hurt, disappointed, angry.  You can be embarrassed because you don’t feel you have any right to get angry because you did it too.  Please don’t leave your college kid “unattended” under the guise of them being adults.  They really aren’t.  They’re still kids.  They need you to parent. He needs a hug from his mama.  She cries out to have her daddy call her princess.  College is scary.  For our babies and their parents.

Say a prayer, if you would, for that “unattended” kid, his family, his friends, and the countless others just like him.  Hug your babies tighter next time you see them.  Let them know you love them.

God bless you, kiddo.

Conversations with Strangers

For years, my kids have given me a very hard time about my random conversations with strangers.  I’m likely to strike up a discussion with people I don’t know in gas stations, grocery stores, parking lots.  It doesn’t really matter where.  I just do it.  The kids long ago quit asking if I know the person.  They assume I don’t.  They’re probably right. They giggle and shake their heads.  My daddy was the same way.

We always said Daddy never knew a stranger.  Everywhere we went as kids, he’d be talking to someone.  Granted, I grew up in Western Kansas, so according to people in the Eastern part of the state, we know everyone.  Go to the same High School.  Ride in covered wagons.  Use the Pony Express.  All of those stereotypical thoughts.  But Daddy seemed to know everyone, at least in our eyes.  I know he didn’t, but Daddy was incredibly friendly.  No matter where we went, he’d talk to someone about something.  Sometimes, he’d talk to lots of somebodies.  It was natural for us to watch Daddy carry on conversations with people he didn’t know or had met once in the 1960s.  I’m kind of like that.

Occasionally my chats with strangers stay with me.  For whatever reasons, they stick.  Whether it’s the words, the person, the tone or the location, I don’t forget some of them.  I’ve learned from a few, cried because of a few more.  I wonder now what is going on in the lives of some of the cute little kids who showed me their light-up shoes.  Some of them are probably married with little kids of their own.  My thoughts drift to some of the hard luck stories I’ve heard as well.  Did they find what they needed?  Were jobs obtained?  Loans paid?  Families restored?  I don’t know, but I wish I did.

Recently, I’ve had some great conversations with my “unkonwn” friends .  A gentleman was sitting in his car in a gas station parking lot on Sunday as I was getting out to grab my wallet.  He greeted me and told me that he hoped I’d be able to enjoy the beautiful day.  (I didn’t start this convo, kiddos!) I told him we were there to watch my daughter play softball.  He laughed and showed me his phone.  He was playing chess online with his daughter at college in South Carolina.  He shared that she had just passed her MCAT and was applying to med schools this week.  He told me that they always play a game or two of online chess so she could relax.  He was beaming with pride about his girl.  He said he had a great dad.  One who had shown him how to be a good dad and a good man.  He was trying to teach his 3 kids what that looked like for them.

As the conversation continued, we talked baseball, school, parenting, injuries, disappointments, broken hearts, and respect.  He talked about his son who was an MMA fighter who had gotten hurt pretty severely.  He had to give up the fighting and was  searching for something.  The guy suggested coaching to him. He’s been doing it for a year or so and loves every minute.  Door shuts, find a new one.  Don’t cry about what’s no longer possible.  Mourn it for a bit and find your new calling, your new purpose.  The parallel to Aaron’s shoulder was interesting.  It was necessary for me to hear.  It’s what I’d been thinking.  I’m glad someone else could share their story with me.  It helps.

We talked for a little bit longer.  It took me much longer to get my iced tea than I had planned, but it was worth every minute standing in that parking lot talking to a complete stranger on a Sunday afternoon.  He wanted to talk.  I needed to hear what he had to say.  I know we’re not supposed to talk to strangers, but I’m a bit of a rebel.