kariskhaos


I Felt Nothing

Every child is unique and different, and every rite of passage a unique experience for the parent and the child. This past weekend Scott and I dropped our second child off at college. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November.

I felt nothing, which if you know me, is very unusual. I did not feel sad, I did not feel pulled, or torn for his youth, or wonder if he would be all-right. I left, and in a small part of my heart I felt relief. Mothers are not really supposed to feel this way, your child, whom you have raised in most cases since birth, and in my case since John was five, are supposed to feel torn, sad, like a part of them has moved on and though excited for them, there is this sense of loss- at least that is how I felt when I dropped off Isaac last year. With John it was a non emotional relief.

disc2 340The thirteen plus years that have led to this parting have been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. The joy of expanding our family by adoption, the thrill of meeting John and Christian for the first time that April day in the slums of Liberia. The elation of coming off the plane to be greeted by 50 of our family and friends welcoming this new beginning for them and for us. The adjustment for all six of us as we settled in Bend. The devastation of finding out John had glaucoma, the hundreds of dr. appointments, surgeries, research, and grief as we realized the world we had dreamed of giving our son would be altered drastically.

John’s amazing determination, stubbornness, never quit, never compromise, never let them know you are different attitude was admirable, and in many ways a true miracle. He was legally blind, he rode a bike, played basketball, football, and learned in both braille and print. He is an intelligent, sarcastic, quiet, young man. To many he is a poster child for facing adversity. At home, with Scott and me it has been a different story.

They say the safest people will be treated the worst and that has been truer than true in our family. As Scott and I tried our best to raise these four beautiful children,(none of them, or us being perfect) was not easy. John’s betrayal of being given away by his birth mother, his frustration and denial at his lack of vision, his post traumatic stress, his attachment disorder created a very angry, sullen, volatile child. The best way I can describe it was living with a volcano, never quite knowing when and where it would erupt, but knowing it would.

Counselors, friends, pastors, family supported us and comforted me each time. The heartbreak of knowing you could not change the situation, I could not give John my eyes, and I could not break through his wall guarding his heart from further pain, was at times debilitating. The tears I have cried for him, and because of him would fill a small lake. Bitter tears, angry tears, helpless tears, tears of joy, elation and pride for his many accomplishments despite the odds.

Finally this Spring, tears of release, tears of grief for a relationship that will never be what I had dreamed, and tears of resignation. I came to the point where I had to let go and move on. John has never said “I love you,” never calls me mom, speaks mostly when spoken to and tries to live his life in our home like a guest. I let go of my search to find the answers by reading the right book, finding the right language to love him, the right advice to reach him, a new way to approach his heart. I let go of the need for my self esteem and value as a person and a mother to be defined by his actions, and indifference. I came to the freeing conclusion that I have done everything I could possibly do. John has been raised in a loving home, had opportunities many kids dream of, was graduating from high school with honors and his life long dream of being independent from Scott and me has come true.

It has been a very long road. John is a terrific young man with a bright future. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November. I left, and in a small part of my heart, I felt relief, and it was ok.

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Alone?

Sitting by the window I find myself itching to write. Out the small oval portal of my seat I can find nothing but blue ocean and fluffy white clouds. I am alone, actually the flight is full, I have a couple from Australia next to me but for all intense and purposes I am alone. I have no husband here, none of my four teenagers, no sisters or other family, I am alone. It is almost a foreign feeling to me, a novel concept, a dream/nightmare where I am not quite sure how to behave. I can not remember the last time I traveled by myself. This is not a trip to see anybody, not because I am needed anywhere, not for an anniversary, birthday or another worthy occasion. This outing is a designed vacation to a beautiful destination just because.

I think I am in shock, I have not eagerly anticipated this trip, I have been almost embarrassed to tell people what I was doing. “Who are you going with?” “Whats the occasion?” “What will you do?” Alone? You are going alone? Well, not completely, my parents will be there when I arrive, they are generously giving me a couch to sleep on in the condo of their resort for five nights. I have not been alone with them for five days since I was last living with them twenty plus years ago.

I am going to a familiar place, a fabulous resort in Ixtapa, Mexico where my parents bought into a time share about 14 years ago. I have come every other year for Thanksgiving week with my whole family- my kids, my sister and her kid, my other sister and her husband, and my parents. This is the off year, the year my parents go by themselves. I have never been here alone. I do not know Ixtapa without my kids, and husband, and sisters. I have no experience, no memory, nothing to anticipate doing because I have never done it by myself.

I have been told that I do not take care of myself, that I do too much, that I push myself too hard and need to be better at self care. These are wise words from good friends and family. An opportunity came for me to go to Mexico, by myself and I actually did it. My amazing husband encouraged me to go, my kids said why not? My parents actually seemed pleased at the opportunity to have me alone.

The turbulence of the plane brings me back to reality, I hear the flight attendant droning on about the mileage program. I look out the window, see the ocean, the blue sky and I take a big breath in, exhaling slowly; letting the stress, the hurried chaotic life I live on a regular basis leave. I am here by myself but in reality far from alone.

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A Twelve Year Winter

A Twelve Year WinterImage

The Rose

 

Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger

An endless, aching need

I say love, it is a flower

And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance

Its the dream afraid of waking

That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

Who cannot seem to give

And the soul afraid of dying

That never learns to live

And the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,

In the spring, becomes a rose.

 

Writer(s): Amanda Mcbroom

Copyright: Third Story Music Inc., Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.

 

I have always loved the song “The Rose” with its sad melody and haunting lyrics.  I sang it for a talent show when I was much younger, I found solace in it after a tough breakup, but until we adopted our son John I do not think I really had a grasp on the truth these simple words brought. 

 

When we adopted John and Christian in 2001 adding them to our family of four, my idealism was at an all time high.  We had struggles leading up to the adoption as anyone who has been through the process can attest to, but the day we saw our two sons for the first time is etched in the memory of my soul.  The dreams and desires of my heart for these two children was palpable.  The joy of knowing we were making a tangible difference in two lives as well as enriching our own families global perspective was intoxicating. 

 

Reality hit hard within weeks of their arrival to the USA.  John was diagnosed with Glaucoma, and every year seemed to get harder with him.  His anger at the world was focused directly on Scott and me.  His times of happiness were rare and short lived.  A river of tears, angry shouting matches with God, Scott, John, questioning my ability to parent, heart break for my son who has so much potential, so much to offer, so much life to live.  Sleepless nights praying for a miracle, praying for sanity, praying to get through the next hour.

 

Glimpses of hope, a wonderful Summer, an emotional break through, the volcano dormant for a bit.  Perfect in school and public, stubborn and fiercely independent, beautiful man-child with a world to conquer.  This roller coaster of hope, anger, heart break, frustration, helplessness, counseling, flashes of potential, and resentment, riding strapped in with a love that has not wavered but at times has remained only by the seatbelt of faith, friends, family and red wine.

 

Its been twelve plus years since the wonderful day we chose to grow our family.  John turned eighteen this past weekend.  He had a party with friends, his laughter and deep voice still sing in my heart.  He played his African drum that we brought home on the plane with him so many years ago.  The twelve year winter is over, the hopes and dreams lying dormant are budding into an award winning rose.  

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Bend Senior High Football: More Than a Game

My daughter Jessica is now a junior in high school, in eighth grade she was kicker for the junior high football team.  Now she kicks for the JV football team with hopes to be the Varsity kicker her senior year. She is 17-17 in extra points and has two touchdown saving tackles.  Her nick name given by the coach is “perfect”. She wrote the following essay for her writing 121 class is allowing me to share it with you.  I love that girl and am so proud of her choices.

Bend Senior High Football: More Than a Game

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The bus rolls to a stop in front of the dreary Marist High School in Eugene, Oregon. Behind the cracked and faded paint, worn away by the constant rain, stands a football field. The vibrant, lively green stands out against the white and black buildings, which happen to be the Marist High School colors. I gather my scattered items, displaced after the three-hour bus ride, and file off the bus with the rest of the team. Lacking clear direction, we congregate near the sidewalk, lost sheep without a shepard to guide us

“Boys, follow me.” Coach Brown’s voice reaches us through the fog. There is a rustle of air as all 30 boys, and the other Bend Senior High coaches, start to walk at the same time towards the voice. Silence settles over the players, just like the layer of mist as they march towards the locker room. Dressing and preparing for the game happens in a hurried manner, and when everyone is done, Coach Brown poses one question to the team. “Why do we play football?” Then, he promptly exits the locker room, clearly expecting us to follow in his wake.

As I stumble out, the rest of the team by my side, my mind is preoccupied with the question. I don’t notice the click of cleats on concrete, the mist which instantly soaks deep into the bones of every person, or the small crowd gathered on the rickety visitor bench. My mind is deep in thought, contemplating what my answer would be. For many people who don’t have first hand knowledge of playing football, the answer may be clear based on preconceived ideas about the sport. Football has earned a bad reputation from all different levels, starting at the pro level, and working all the way down through high school. Professional football is often associated with scandals, money, and hard hits. College football can give the appearance of dumb jocks who receive special treatment, for instance, lower standards to be accepted to the college. Collegiate players then receive full ride scholarships, and still complain about not being “paid”. High School Football is often seen as a popularity tool, a team of dumb boys, and a method of entertainment on Friday night. People with these preconceived notions may quickly be able to jump to a conclusion to answer the question, I however cannot. 

“We’ve prepared for this”…“This is our time”… “Hit hard, go hard”. I am brought back to reality by the snippets of conversation I hear. The words ring out, a call for greatness from each and every player. Like a pack of wolves, chasing their prey, the team sprints to the sidelines, ready to play. The mist picks up to a flat-out rain, leaving all on the field as wet as if they were in an actual shower. As we take the field for the first time that night, our crisp white jerseys, and white pants, contrasted with the glinting, gleaming blue helmets, shine bright despite the rain, our armor as we ride into battle. The whistle blows, and I, along with the rest of the team, start running towards the Marist football team, a carefully synchronized and practiced art of kickoff. My foot solidly connects with the ball, letting out a thwack as it sails in the air to the other team. Seemingly in slow motion, a white helmet of the Marist team scoops up the ball, and begins to return the kick. I watch in slow motion as the white helmets makes it past not just one, two, three guys, but the entire team. Suddenly, as if the slow motion clock was turned to fast forward, the white helmet is in front of me; I am the only thing standing between him and a touchdown. 

Now might be a convenient time to mention I am a girl, playing on a high school boy’s junior varsity football team. Like any of the boys would do, I solidly plant my feet, and take the hit. As I stand and dust myself off, my mind registers the roar of the crowd, so loud, one might believe we just won the world championship. The boys, also known as my teammates, stand stunned for a second or two, then proceed to attack me, jumping, hitting, and punching me, in other words, their way of celebrating. I look down at my once white jersey, which is now covered in mud so much so that one would never guess the jersey was originally white, and think to myself, “This is why I play football.” Forgetting what everyone else believes is the culture of football, I realize why I play. The determination, seen in the pre-game cheer, the will power to do what the other team cannot, the desire for greatness, kinship, and empowerment that one receives, this is why I play football.

A shrill whistle cuts across the field, signaling halftime. Soaking wet, and cold, yet totally excited from the first half results of the game, the boys and I stride into the locker room. As we sprawl out, draping ourselves across various benches and seats, Coach Brown walks up to some of the players talking and checking in with them. A few of the other coaches are talking to players, giving valuable advice, and others still are in a corner talking to each other. Brown walks by every player, sometimes commenting, giving a compliment, or just a touch on the shoulder. When done with this, Brown once again poses the question, “Why do we play football?” I glance around the room, and every single eye is on him. No one talks, whispers, or moves. He has captured our attention. In this moment, I see Coach Brown in a new light, no longer Coach Brown, but Father Brown. He is a dad to each and every player in the Bend High football program. He talks, comforts, teaches, helps, and also poses the difficult questions. Continuing with this thinking, the boys on the team are all brothers, they sweat together, change together, win together, lose together. The other coaches are uncles, providing good tidbits of information, and supporting the role of Father Brown in raising us into a proper football program. In the middle of this family analogy is me, the single sister. While I am off in space thinking about the question of why, and the new realization I just came to, Coach Brown has moved on, and is talking about the game. “We need to protect Jessie, she is our kicker, we need her, she should not have to save the touchdown with a tackle.” This plays right into the idea of me being the sister, protected by the brothers and dad. As Brown wraps up his halftime talk, and we once again prepare to take the field, I find another answer to the question of why. I play for family, the family I found in the team. 

As one pack, we storm the field, ready to play for 2 more quarters. The second half of the game rushes by, filled with pouring rain, clashing helmets, and the occasional touchdown on our part. The final whistle is blown, and the game is over. Tired, yet excited about the win, the boys and I pile onto the bus, dripping with rain water, and sweat from a job well done. As we sit on the bus, patiently preparing for the long drive home, Coach Brown comes on the bus, and says proudly, “I think you have figured out why we play football, for the feeling that each of you feel right now.” Despite the cold, wet, miserable temperature, I feel a warm glow deep inside my body. The feeling of hope, determination, tenacity, discipline, and self-empowerment provide this fire inside me. Football gives life light, warmth, meaning, in other words, football provides a reason to live. 

The bus slowly begins to pull away from the droopy, worn down buildings that make up Marist  high school. A boy on the team, leans over to me and says, “Feels pretty good, right?” I only nod my head, but in my mind, there is so much I want to say. I think about the culture, family and personal gain that comes from football, and believe that every person should have the opportunity to experience something like this. I turn my head back to the boy, and say, “Football really is more than just a game.”

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Soul restoration

I come to the sea to breathe. I come to the island, my island to restore my soul. It has always been this way. My life off the island is filled with good things, four kids, an incredible husband, friends, work, and a color coded calendar. It is crazy, busy, chaotic, stressful, satisfying and non stop. My island is my oasis, it my gift to me, it is the one place I completely relax. A favorite theologian of my husbands, Dietrich Bonehoeffer once said “My time with others prepares me for my time alone, and my time alone prepares me for my time with others.” The Island gives me the strength, courage and restoration that allows the life that I lead off island to be possible.

I have never come to the island alone, various amounts of family, friends and pets accompany me here. It is a small cabin, one bathroom, two bedrooms and a large deck. It is enough and I never feel crowded or claustrophobic. Island time is slower. Island life is a step back in time from all the communication breakthroughs, the social media, the constant background noise of a tv or computer or PS3. It is life unplugged by choice.

I have heard experts say you need time for yourself everyday, and though I know this is true to an extent, my life does not lend itself to this. My non island life is a whirlwind from the moment I get up to the time I hit the pillow once more. It is filled with teenagers, sporting events that need team dinners, stinky laundry washed, meal after meal made, a quick walk with the dog and then off to other wonderful, very necessary appointments and so the days go. It is a very fulfilling life, I really like my life, but I could not manage this pace, this frenzied atmosphere of 110 miles per hour if I did not get my island break.

Escape is not easy. Juggling the kids summer camp schedules, work, time with family and other obligations try to claw and plead and work on my sense of responsibility and prey on my need to please others. This year was especially hard. Two of my sons have full time jobs for the summer. They would not be coming with me to the island for the first time in 12 years. My best friend’s oldest son is getting married in Bend with lots of drama and the pull to stay and help and support Jen was strong. The hardest part by far this year, was leaving my husband who after eighteen months of living away from us during the week was finally home with a new job that started the week I left for the island.

A younger me, would have changed her plans. She would have given in to the belief that she was so important she must stay. A younger me would push herself to be everything for everyone and do it with a smile. A younger me would need the ego stroking accolades that would come from sacrificing my plans to serve others. It’s not like a summer in Bend, Oregon is a hardship, spending time with my husband and best friend is not difficult, or a burden. It would have been fine, but the older me is wiser now.

I chose me, I chose from a menu of good things, the best one for me. My understanding of this need is ultimately my gift to others for it allows me to have a reservoir of mental health and strength to give the rest of the year. I come to the sea to breathe. I come to the island to restore my soul.

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Same Time Next Year?

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“Thanks for everything” I heard my daughter say as she hugged her grandparents. “Thanks for everything” Christian says as he finishes the fries from the value meal he bought after every game this season with money from his grandparents. “Thanks for everything” Isaac repeats as we walk my parents to the door tonight. “Thanks for everything” John echos from the hallway. I give them both huge hugs, not wanting to let go and whisper my thanks as I fight back the tears. “Thanks for everything.”

My parents have been living in Bend for two months during the basketball season. They have spoiled their grandchildren with time, fast food, rides all over the town, and been to every game they could possibly get to. They have eased the transition for me, as Scott started his job and is now gone Sunday night thru Friday. My mom has made countless dinners, made sure we had salad or other vegetables, edited papers, helped me with the girls I babysit and reminded me I am okay. They have both helped me with Kari’s Kitchen and supported me in a thousand ways I can not even name. “Thanks for everything.”

At times it feels like words are shallow. I often feel inadequate when it comes to expressing my gratitude. How do you find words to express the inner workings of your heart to another. My dad has driven countless miles back and forth between the high school and home. Every day he texted me and said “How can I help you today?” He has made sure my wine rack is full and a glass available whenever I need it. “Thanks for everything”

In a time where families are spread out across the country and others are torn apart with misunderstanding and anger, I count this time with them as a treasure more valuable than Gold. “Thanks for everything.”

Definition of EVERYTHING
1
a : all that exists

b : all that relates to the subject
2
: all that is important
3
: all sorts of other things —used to indicate related but unspecified events, facts, or conditions

This was my post on February 24, 2012. Today I say good-bye again to my parents after having been here for another basketball season. Everything is still true and with our son Isaac being a senior, and spending a full year away from my wonderful husband who is commuting to a job so he is only here on weekends, the time with them seemed even more poignant. Time moves on and I can only try to live in the moment and enjoy but sometimes its important to once again say “Thanks for Everything.”



“Its not because I am black, its because I am a Johnson”

It is early in December, The basketball season is just beginning for my son Christian. He is a sophomore and is on the varsity team. As with most teenage boys, common sense is often out weighed by immediate desire. Immediate desire for Christian is almost always focused around food and sports.

At the high school he attends juniors and seniors are allowed off campus for lunch, freshman and sophomores are not. Most of his friends are juniors and can drive. On game days I have allowed him to come home with his brother and a couple of friends for lunch. Now in Christian’s mind I have just given him permission to go off campus to have lunch, in my mind I am avoiding him getting in trouble, giving him a home-made lunch on game days, and getting a chance to hang with his friends.

A couple of days later I get an email from his basketball class teacher (who happens to be my daughter Jessica’s JV basketball coach) informing me CJ was a half hour late for class because he went off campus for lunch and was late getting back. This was not the first time this had happened but because he was so late she questioned him further and he admitted to golifetouch_20120930113701ing off campus. She was letting the administration,and his coaches know of his rule infraction.

I calmly (read unbelief, anger, incredulous, sympathy, frustration) wait for Christian to come home from school. I ask how his day was and if he wants to tell me anything. He looks up at me, reads my body language and shrugs, “No not really. Did I do something wrong?” I bring him to the computer and show him the e-mail. He again shrugs, this is clearly not a big deal to him. “Christian, do you realize that the you broke school rules, could get suspended from school, and get benched from playing a game?” Now I have his attention.

Christian than babbled about how everybody does it mom, and its a stupid rule and I was not that late, and she over reacted and exaggerated the time and how many times I have been late. “Christian did you or did you not go off campus for lunch? Head nod, “Were you late for class because you went off campus for lunch?” Head nod. “Did you break a school rule?” Now I get a tirade of how nobody follows that rule, if he had not been late no one would ever have noticed, Nobody cares, mom seriously no body cares. As my blood pressure rises with his lack of concern, I not so calmly say “Somebody cares Christian, because I got an email and now you will be hearing from the principal.”

The next day I get a call from the vice principal and a friend of our family. So I have Christian in my office… he will have a in school suspension, his coaches will be notified and if he goes off campus again he will be suspended from school for two days. He informs me that Christian is a good kid, they love having him at school, kids are kids and if he is going to get in trouble this was the best way to do it. He thanks me and my husband for our continued involvement in the school, and knows he will not have any more problems with Christian in the future.
Christian comes home from school not contrite, but still adamant that the rule is dumb and he was un fairly singled out. Scott and I have now had enough of his denial of wrong doing. We want him to own up and take responsibility, so I try a different tack. “Hey Christian, who did you go out with to lunch?” Jaylin, Steffan and JJ, I am informed. Two of which are juniors and another sophomore on the basketball team. Now where we live is not exactly ethnically diverse. We can count the black, mixed race and Asians on two hands. Jaylin and Steffan are half black and JJ is half Asian. Christian is African, not African-American but very dark black beautiful African. I say well it must be a racial issue Christian. I will go to the principal and claim racial profiling and then… Christian’s face is mortified, he stares at me in un-belief. “MOM, it is not because I am black that I got caught it is because I am a ‘Johnson’.”

All I could respond with was laughter. Gee Christian, so sorry that you’re a part of a family that is involved in your school, and surrounded by people who are watching out for you and care about you. It’s tough being a Johnson, but I am really glad you are.135