kariskhaos


Shopping the Middle

imagesIt was a Tuesday night and Scott and I had just come from a local restaurant where we had enjoyed a happy hour special.  Just in case you did not get the significance of that statement let me repeat it to be clear.  My husband and I went out for happy hour during the week. It was not for a special occasion, not in-between running from one event to another, not because I had a meeting for a sport, school,volunteer, work, charity or committee of any kind.  We were at Costco to buy a land line phone.  As we are coming up the aisle we see a teacher, coach, parent and friend with his three little ones and his teacher, coach wife walking towards us.  She is pushing the flat bed cart, He is pushing the regular oversized Costco cart with two of his kids in the cart and one in the ‘front seat’.  The three kids are all eating slices of pizza with varying degrees of greasy mess and success.  They greet us with big smiles and “What are you doing here?” We laugh and say buying a phone and you know other unnecessary items.  His eyes get real big and he says “You are shopping the Middle! We avoid the Middle of Costco” He turned and looked at his wife and then laughed as his daughters cheese oozed off her slice of pizza dropping on her brothers lap.  “Someday we will shop the Middle too!”costco-is-the-perfect-example-of-why-the-minimum-wage-should-be-higher-1

I am still laughing at that revered look and comment. I, Kari Johnson am an empty nester and I get to shop the Middle!  We have downgraded our cable package and our internet usage.  We added a land line because we are “saving money” by bundling services so for the first time in many years we have a home phone.  We got rid of the land line to save money now we  got it back to save money.  I have not been grocery shopping in three weeks, if we go out to dinner and bring food home we actually get to eat it.  I put it in the fridge and low and behold the next day it is still there.  We bought a sleep number bed and it is fabulous.  We go to bed at 8:30 and nobody makes fun of us, needs a poster board or asks me to edit a paper at 10:00pm that is due the next day.  My family room has been transformed from an athletic shrine of four stellar athletes trophy’s, awards, uniforms, and varsity letters to a tribute to my love and obsession with Otters. My kitchen counter does not have water bottles, cups, shoe laces, mouth guards, or notes for me to sign from last  week.  I do not trip over the shoes, coats, or backpacks on my way to let the dog out in the night. I have not used the expressions “What do you live in a barn?” “You are gonna be late” or “Seriously??”IMG_8324

In my one month of experiencing life without kids in my home daily I have been questioned multiple times if I am really okay.  You seem to handle this so well, are you really celebrating and enjoying it? You were so involved at the school, in the sports, do you miss it? What do you do with all your time?  Are you bored? Have you been to any games or stopped by the school? These  questions are usually from parents still entrenched in the wonderful craziness of full-time at home mothering.  They ask with hope and a bit of incredulous disbelief that this will ever happen to them.  They are right.  I gave 100% to my kids, their school, sports, events, teachers and social life.  I was the first one to get there and the last to leave.  I screamed loud, passionately and was probably a bit over the top.  I honestly do not know how to do things any other way.  I juggled, organized, cooked for an army, took on way more than I should have, and loved every minute of it, well, not every minute. I was THAT mom so I understand the questions.

My answer is an unconditional, resounding, YES! I am loving it.  I do not miss the chaos and the crazy schedule.  I have not been back to a game, or even visited the school.  This is not because I do not care or don’t want to see people. I do like football but gosh sitting at home with a glass of wine and cuddling up with a book while my other friends are freezing, bundled, and screaming for the first down is pretty great. I absolutely loved being a part of it, I would do it again in a heart beat. Yet for me, the gift of life is in its many stages, and being able to embrace each stage and give myself 100% to the moment I am now living is truly a blessing.

That being said, I miss my kids.  I send Jessie a card every week.  I text and talk to them when they have time and sometimes when they don’t.  We just got back from a family weekend in Montana with Jessie, I have visited Isaac and Christian on separate weekends and will hopefully see John this Sunday when he has his first regatta with the novice crew team of Seattle University. IMG_8323 I wake up every day and on my way down my stairs I say good morning and touch each of my kids portraits and do the same in reverse when I go to bed at night. When I say my prayers at night I thank God for the honor of being their mom, that they survived being a Johnson kid and for the amazing husband and partner I get to enjoy these stages with.  It is different, but I really like shopping the Middle.



Fail BIG

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Two weeks ago I said goodbye to the last of my four children as my husband and I dropped him off for his junior year in college.  That same weekend we dropped off our youngest boy at a different college.  The weekend before I dropped off my  middle son for his second year of college.  Seven weeks ago my husband and I journeyed to Montana to drop off our baby and only girl for her freshman year.  After 21 years, two births, adoption, four kids going through school with just two and half years between them, and now four kids in four different colleges I am an empty nester.

While I am just getting used to this wonderful new stage of life one of the many benefits is I have time to write.  I am very excited to see where this will lead and invite you to join me on this next step in Kari’s Khaos. Below is the letter I wrote to my daughter after leaving her to find her wings in the new, strange, scary wonderful world of college.

Jessie,

It is appropriate and ironic that I finally have time to write these word to you as I sit drinking coffee and watching the Ferry go by.  This island is so special to us and a place we both find rest from our crazy schedules. So as I write, I feel you here, I see your smile and your sleepy morning face after spending the night with Gus on the mattress outside on the deck.

I know that you know these things.  You have heard them and been shown them all your life. This is just a place you can go to remind yourself when it gets hard to remember.

YOU ARE LOVED

By God:

Before their were stars in the sky, our infinite and creative God knew you and loved you. He created you in his image and his plans for you are good. You have learned about him, worshipped him and continue to follow Him. God will always be your True North.  Trust Him.

By your family:

From the bottom your toe to the slope of your pierced nose you are loved. That my dear favorite daughter will never change. It can not be altered by anything you do or don’t do or is done to you.  You are a gift to our lives and we are always here for you. You Jessica Elaine Johnson are loved.

By Others:

Jessie you have more support and love than a leader of a small country.  You have invested well in kindness, loyalty and the true essence of friendship.  you are only a phone call, text, email, snap chat, or Facebook post away from anything you need. From a joke, money, a listening ear, a hug to cookie dough and ice cream it is available. Use it.

Go ahead and call what you are wearing an outfit!  you are so beautiful and no outfit, dress, pony tail, sweats, Berks or heels will change that. Look in the mirror and see the incredible woman you are. Your beauty comes from deep within your heart and soul. It shines out to the world through your contagious smile, goofy faces and the kindness that is always in those beautiful eyes.

FAIL, FAIL BIG. Make mistakes, fall on your face (not literally like your mom) take risks knowing you can always come to us, no judgement, just love and probably a congratulations because that is how you will learn and grow.

Try New Things

Play Hard

Study Hard

Go outside your box and surprise yourself

I know you will change the world for the better in small and big ways.  You are an amazing woman who makes the world a brighter place because you are alive. As always I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.  There has never been a time when you were not loved and cherished.

Laugh and cry often. Share both with someone safe.  Be you and everything else will fall into place.

I love you, Mom

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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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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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A week, a lifetime, a future

It is Sunday, Isaac has been off work for two weeks, we leave for Cal Polly SLO in six days, and he says to me “Hey mom would you be able to get a dental cleaning appointment for me this week?  Oh and I need a hair cut.”  Really?  I manage to get him an appointment for the cleaning and the morning of his appointment he comes out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth and comments to me about how he thinks it is going to be a rough visit because his mouth is bleeding.  I casually smile and say well that’s how it usually is when you don’t floss, and then finally do it the day of your appointment. He looks at me with his typical sheepish grin, and then says the words a parent never wants to hear from their 18-year-old child who is leaving for college in a few days, “Its not from flossing mom, they are bleeding from me brushing them.  I kinda got out of the habit of brushing my teeth.”

I am totally mortified. I am speechless.  I have failed in a rudimentary way as a parent and mom. What exactly do you say to that? This boy is going to college?

It is now Thursday and his friend Troy is over to say goodbye.  Boys are really awkward with goodbyes.  A quick hug, a fist pump, a joke about being non-emotional and off he goes to get his haircut.  He packs the rental Saturday with the help of his dad.  Tetrus like engineering to fit all his stuff and still leave room for me, my sister and his lanky body to almost fit as we make our 12 hour car ride to San Luis Obispo.  A tearful goodbye from his dad and sister at 7:00am Sunday morning(the brothers said goodbye last night, no need to get up early) and our adventure to his future begins.IMG_0426

We arrive with no problems, find our hotel and talk about the morning move in.  I have all the paperwork, the parking permit printed and the do’s and don’ts memorized.  I am trying to talk to him about logistics, what time we want to get there, meeting his roommates etc.  Isaac calmly says to me “Mom, I want to sleep in till 11:00, I am going to be there 4 years, there is no rush.”  Really? what about your mom and her panic and need to get there and fix things and know that you are going to be okay, what if you need more things, or we forget something, what if there is an apocalypse and you never get to see your dorm room? Really? You will be able to sleep in on the day your new life of college and future as you know it begins?

Monday I am up early, my stomach hurts, I am a nervous wreck.  Isaac sleeps.  My sister and I get up, get dressed, and go to have breakfast so that I do not jump on my boy and wake him up because of my nerves.  I drink coffee, look at the beautiful view and pray for time to move faster and stop all at the same time.  I so wish my husband could be here.  He is coping about as well as I am but has to do his from a distance.  He loses his glasses and spends an hour looking for them before going to work late with his prescription sun glasses instead.

My sister tries to keep me occupied as the minutes creep by.  I breathe in, I breathe out.  I think of him when he was born, I think of his first steps and first words.  I groan as I think of the sarcastic, laid back, man-child he has become.  Can I get him up yet? We go back to the room at 10:00.  I jump on his bed and hold him tight.  Isaac asks what time it is, and when I tell him, he groans and growls at me.  I ignore him.  I look over and notice my bed has been made.  My sister and I look at each other oddly.  How did that happen? We ask Isaac.  He mumbles something about the maid coming in, not knowing he was still in bed.  She started on our bed and threw some pillows on him.  When she turned to get them, she realized Isaac was there, gave a quick start, apologized and left.  Only Isaac I think to myself.

It is now Tuesday afternoon, he is moved in, we have been to orientation, I have bought my Cal Poly Mom sticker and Isaac is off with his roommate and new friends getting their cards for the athletic center.  I want to take a nap because I am emotionally, and physically exhausted but I don’t think Isaac would appreciate his mom crawling up on his bunk and sleeping, instead I decide to write him my good-bye letter.  IMG_1258

Isaac,

You are off with Cole being a college boy as I sit in your dorm room.  You have tolerated very well my comings and goings, my nervous over reactions and my extra affection.  Thank you.

So often I have thought what I might want to say to you at this moment.  Flash backs of your childhood, your buck teeth, your high school years and your laid back, goofy smile.  I do not have any advice.  I do not have any real concerns about you here.  It is a perfect fit- you will do well, thrive.  Spread your long wing span and fly.

You know all the other stuff but maybe you need it in print to be able to look back at.

  1. You are Loved – No matter what – Change schools, change majors, change sexual orientation, change anything  knowing you are loved.
  2. We trust you – Make decisions, make mistakes, fall on your face and get back up.  We trust you.  You know how to make good choices, make them freely.
  3. I am ALWAYS your MOM – I will always worry a bit, I will ask too many questions, I will ‘baby’ you about food, rest, water, girls- it is just who I am, but I will try really hard to limit my vocal worry to when you are not with your college friends.
  4. Remember who you are and Whose you are – You Isaac are a child of God, beautifully and wonderfully made.  It matters not what you claim to believe right now, only that you know you are not an accident.  You are here for a purpose.  Find that purpose and live a life worthy of your uniqueness.
  5. Laugh every day – Find joy in the small things.  When it is hard and you are stressed out and life really sucks remember a corny joke your dad told.  Remember Gus and how he dances with you and will be so excited to see you.  Watch a stupid, crass, no redeeming value movie or an episode of Tosh.O. Laughter heals, laughter calms, laugh to survive

I will miss you, I do already.  There is a spot in my heart that is Isaac shaped.  It formed when you were conceived and will be with me till I die.  It has to adjust and change to not having a daily interaction with you, it will feel empty but it will adjust-it will not diminish, it will not be forgotten, it will be different.

I love you Isaac Scott Johnson, MOM

Its Friday, he has been sleeping in his dorm for three nights. I am home getting ready to go to two football games, help with a basketball fundraiser and work at the shop. I have heard from him in one word texts.  He likes his roommates.  He is brushing his teeth. It is enough.

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“See Ya”

He hugs me with his large hard arms and chiseled body, “See Ya.” I hold on just a second more, smile and watch him walk away.  I go back to my car that is still running, with Gus my dog now sitting in the front where John was. My stomach has nervous butterflies as  I slide into the driver’s seat.  I take a deep breath and say a quick prayer of safety for him.  I pull out of the departures drop off and weave my way back into the traffic flow.

My head is full of contrasting thoughts warring within my mind.  What kind of mother are you to leave him at the door of the airport? He is legally blind, what if he misses his flight? What if he gets lost?  Are you really letting him travel across the country without even a cell phone? He has always wanted to be independent.  He is very capable and if he cant do this how will he go to college in a year?  It’s John, he is proud and strong and will ask if he needs help. He has all he needs and he will text me, no worries, no worries.  What the hell was I thinking? What if he gets kidnapped, or off at the wrong place or … be serious Kari he is a sixteen year old, black male, who looks like an ox and has forearms the size of your thigh and thighs the size of a small horse, let it go.

John is off to Baltimore to join about fifty other blind and legally blind students from across the country for a program sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). STEMX which is:

Science, technology, engineering, and math to the extreme!

The following is an excerpt from the web site:

“The “X” in the program’s title draws inspiration from the aerospace community, where historically programs and missions have utilized the letter as an abbreviation for exploration, and as a statement that the effort seeks new solutions and new discoveries that surpass previously assumed barriers to scientific advancement. In this same way, the NFB STEM-X program challenges the notion that blind people are unable to pursue STEM fields, or on a larger scale, are predestined to a life of social welfare and government dependence.

Students will choose from one of five focus disciplines (chemistry, computer science, engineering, robotics, and space science) in which to specialize during NFB STEM-X. Students will spend half of each of the four instructional days engaged in their focus discipline, learning alongside fellow high school students with blind and sighted STEM professionals as their guides. All five focus disciplines will work collaboratively throughout the program, capitalizing on each other’s specialization to innovate creative solutions to complex problems.

Outside of their work in their focus discipline, students will have the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities that will provide them with authentic learning experiences in a wider variety of STEM disciplines. Evenings will be filled with activities that will help students develop their leadership skills and build their confidence while having fun and socializing with blind teens from across the country.”

This is an incredible culmination of twelve years of blood, sweat and tears for our family.  John has not been the poster child for adoption.  He has had a very difficult life and our journey with him has been far from easy.  His anger issues, post traumatic stress,  attachment disorder, stubbornness, on top of his vision issues are well documented, but his intelligence, sense of humor, determination, fearless attitude have made it possible for us to come to this point.

In choosing to apply for this opportunity he needed to admit he was legally blind, be willing to be with other blind students and acknowledge his need for help to make it happen. In a series of small miracles over the last five months everything fell into place.  In a rare moment of candid conversation before he left I heard words I never thought I would.  John called me “mom” for the first time in years and thanked me for all the work I had done to make this a possibility.

I drove over the mountains figuratively, and literally, with a renewed hope for our family and the world that is opening up to embrace our son John.