Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Truly Thankful Thanksgiving 2013 Part 1

Thanksgiving morning 2013, I had little sleep from talking face to face to my dad until 2:30 a.m.  It was after 3:00 a.m. before I would get to sleep.  However, I wasn't tired.  Instead, I was excited and nervous that my dad would be at my house for Thanksgiving Day this year.

Prior to our meeting, I honestly wasn't sure if we would share dinner in our home or if we'd pursue finding a restaurant.  However, since all our phone conversations and our first meeting went well, I figured it would be easier to sit in the comforts of home and enjoy a meal together.  Especially since random crying would sometime evolve during any one of our given conversations!

To give a little back story about how I "prepare" for guests, my husband says I get a little crazy.  Crazy might be a nice way of putting it.  I like things to be picked up, clean, and everything in order.  So if you live with me, you must participate in my "craziness".  You should strongly consider not crossing this crazy lady if I just cleaned and then you ever so slightly do something that messes it up.  I mean - c'mon -You know you won't clean it back to the way I just had it!  In fact, you're probably best not to breathe in the area I just cleaned & organized.  Are you getting the picture?  With all that said, Todd survived the week prior to Thanksgiving & he even commented that I was oddly calm before dad's visit.  It's true I wasn't even uptight about him cleaning - or not cleaning.

I welcomed my dad to our home Thanksgiving morning around 10:15 a.m.  It was such a joy to open our home to him.  I love our home.  We already have so many memories here in a short 2 1/2 years.  We were about to create new ones.

Dad looked at our family pictures that are placed around our home that have been taken through the years.  Pictures of our kids, his grandchildren, whom he had yet to meet.  We talked of items that Todd and I have made or redone together that now have a purpose in our home.  We hugged, held hands, laughed, cried, and talked and talked.  It was good to be in my home with my dad.

Back to Thanksgiving Day..... I pulled out a few couple boxes that mom had left.  Dad and I sat together as he explained the best he could about  newspaper clippings, post cards and letters that were sent during the Vietnam war.  We chatted over pictures of when I was little & photos of family.  He told stories of working for my grandpa on the farm, high school, and his life after my mom.  He had my full attention, and he was capturing my heart.  My memories started to evolve from only remembering the bad things to beginning to remember the happier times.

Lunch was easy for us as it consisted mainly of snacking......crackers, summer sausage, cheese, veggies.  We were saving the big meal for when Jerod & Jessica would join us later in the day.  More conversation continued to take place about our lives.  Just sharing story after story.  My dad and husband get along great!

The middle of the afternoon came and Jerod & Jessica arrived.  Dad was about to meet our son for the first time.  I think they were both quickly smitten with one another.  Conversation came easily between the two.  Trucks, motors, guitars, music, guns.....I think they could talk all day.  I know Jerod was having fun since I noticed his phone never came out of his pocket for hours - and I mean hours - that day.

We had a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner that evening gathered around our dining room table.  What a joy to share a meal together.  Even with little sleep, the day went fast.  I don't even remember what time everyone left because after 12:30 a.m., what difference does it make?  =)

Once during a phone conversation prior to our meeting, dad had begun to apologize for not being a part of my life or the fact he didn't pursue me.  I stopped him and said - In our house, we have a sign that says "It Is What It Is".  Todd & I live by that saying.  Sometimes there is nothing you can do about a situation.  It is what it is.  You've got to deal with it and move on.  I told dad this is how I feel about our past.  We can't do anything about what did or didn't happen, but from this point forward we certainly have the ability to make the right choices.  It is what it is but so far it's all good!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Phone Calls & the Visit that Changed Everything

To continue to the story of reconnecting with my dad.........

After our first phone conversation of nearly 3 hours.  We talked daily.  My dad has a southern twang. It just sometimes makes me smile hearing him talk.  I don't remember who mentioned meeting one another first.  I believe it was him.  I think it went something like this....... hun, if you told me you wanted to see me, I'd hang up this phone and pack my bags right now.  I can tell you the first time I heard him say that, I smiled but yet my stomach was in knots.  I mean, I reached out with the letter, but now what should I do about actually seeing him?

That night, Todd and I talked about what to do and we decided we should consider meeting him half way.  My dad now lives in Arkansas and with us in Iowa, half way is Columbia, Missouri.  Thanksgiving was coming and Todd had the time from work.  The kids were busy, so Todd & I decided that could certainly work out.  Then my back decided to change the course of events.  After a few days of literally being in bed and unable to move without extreme pain, Todd said I'm not putting you in a car.  I had no argument as when we travel by car & sleep in beds that aren't our own, I'm always a hot mess upon our return home.

Still continuing our daily conversations and knowing my physical state, I asked my dad if he wanted to travel to Iowa.  He wasn't doing anything for Thanksgiving either, so we determined it would be a good time for all of to meet.  I actually think it made him very happy that I even asked.  I gave them hotel names and numbers and my dad arrived the evening Wednesday, November 27th - what would have been my mother's birthday.

November 27th was such a weird emotional day for me.  We had our Thanksgiving meal that day with our daughter due to her work schedule.  However, I was really distracted by the event that was to unfold.  How ironic it was that it was my mother's birthday.  After all, even in her death, she ultimately was the reason we were reconnecting.  We arrived back in town from visiting with our daughter and my anticipation was growing.  Then I got the call they were in town & almost to their hotel.

I'd lie if I said I wasn't excited, scared, nervous, and just not really sure of what the heck I gotten myself into!  However, walking down the hall of the hotel and seeing my dad walking toward me, it was all I could do not to run.  I can't explain or describe the hug, the tears, or the sense reunion.  I can't even begin to describe the emotions and feeling of having my dad hug me for the first time in 40 years.

That night, we sat at the hotel talking until 2:30 a.m.

The Boxes, The Letter, & The Phone Call That Changed My Life

Here I sit again, complaining it's been a long time since writing.  Life happens.  I could blog regularly about things that happen in our life.  However, I've been busy living life so the blog always takes a backseat.  I could write about how we moved out two kids in one week from our home.  One to college and one to an apartment; or about our son's marriage and the addition of our wonderful daughter-in-law; or how two weeks after the wedding, we moved our daughter from Indiana to our home.  It's been a wonderfully, crazy, busy summer with many, many blessings.  Some days, I'll admit, I thought I was going to lose it - but by the grace of God we managed!

A little history to prepare you for the next part of this story.  I was born July 1967 as Cande Bowers.  Life became complicated for my parents who divorced.  My mom remarried, and the summer between my 3rd and 4th grade year, my step-father adopted me and I became Cande Weaver.  As you may guess, the story has much more to it, but as I knew it as a child, that is how it happened.  Always living in the same area, I continued to live around family of my father and for several years, only miles from him - never seeing him or interacting with family on my dad's side.

Fast forward to 2011.  My mom passes away and leaves me with boxes of items regarding my father with information from Vietnam, pictures of him, letters & cards he sent and an address of his current home.  No explanation of anything.  Many items not dated or labeled.  I was 43 years old at that time.  Never had I seen these items or once had they been discussed.  I wanted to throw it all away.  It meant nothing to me. My husband wouldn't let me.  It got put away in our basement.

In the process of moving children in, out, and in and out, the basement was in constant reorganization making room for items, removing items, and mostly in disarray.  I disliked our basement for many a disorganization reasons, but I also disliked it for all the questions a few unopened boxes continued to bring to my mind.  

Moving forward to November 2013.  No children at home & truly a new empty nest, I began to slowly go to the basement to once again, reorganize and declutter.  I never opened the boxes to look, but every time I passed them, I would continue to have the desire to know why my mom felt it was so important to leave it to me.  What  memories I had of my dad were not pleasant ones.  One day, I felt it was time to finally get answers.

Knowing that the answers could only come from my father, I sat to write a letter.  I wrote fast and easily.  No anxiety or anger.  I told my dad I'm not angry or bitter for the past.  I mentioned the boxes and how frustrated I was that I didn't have answers as to why these items were left for me.  I said I understood that Vietnam changed him, that I couldn't imagine sending my son to war.  I said I know war probably affected actions and decisions he made when he came home.  I had no idea.  I simply had no idea.  

There was a lot written in my letter of 2 1/2 pages.  I told my dad I believe in God and He forgives,  I asked for forgiveness.  I told him he could write or call me.  If he made the choice not to contact me, I was o.k. with that too.  I wanted him to know life would go on as I was happily married and had three great children.   All I knew for certain was I had God's peace that I had written the letter and whatever happens after that was left to my dad.

I didn't mail the letter the day I wrote it.  I told my husband over dinner what I had done.  He seemed surprised and asked if I had mailed it.  My answer was no, but I was going to do it tomorrow.  The next day, I put it out for the mail thinking I could grab it before they picked it up if I needed.  I got busy and then I heard the mail drop and could see the mailman walking through the yard.  It was gone.  My heart did a little flip but then again, I had total peace about the situation and went on about my day and weekend.

My phone was still on silent from the overnight when my dad called me.  My notification flashed I had a voicemail.  How weird it was that I listened to my dad's voice.  I didn't know it.  Obviously it was a man who didn't know what to say, but he wanted to talk because he had gotten my letter.  I showered, prayed, pondered what to say then made the return phone call.  He had just left the house.  I wasn't available until later that afternoon, so I left the best time to call me.

I had lunch with my oldest daughter and told her what was going on.  As I left her, I drove home thinking the phone call I was waiting for could change not only my life, but my children and husband as well.  Then I think I began to panic a bit as I've been so guarded with my thoughts and feelings - guarding a part of my life I barely knew.  I had  just realized the great impact all of this could have on everyone, just not myself, no matter if it turned out good or bad.  I tried to stay busy until my phone rang.  It was my dad.

I can't explain the weird mix of emotions on the first phone call that lasted nearly 3 hours.  I cried, I laughed, I shared details of my life with someone I hardly knew.  He explained a lot of things to me that happened when my parents were married, some of his experiences at war, his life now.  He cried.  He laughed. He repeatedly said he was "tickled to death" to be talking to me.  We made plans to talk again the next day.  When I hung up the phone, I knew I had undoubtedly done the right thing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A SUMMARY OF A YEAR GONE BY......(excuse me if it's a tad long)

I've been a horrible blogger. I've often thought many times to write only to choose to do something else instead. It's not that I haven't been at the computer because I'm pretty sure I've developed a facebook addiction. (That's probably a separate post in itself.) Here's my attempt to catch you all up on a year in the life of the Coulter's as I, Cande, have seen it.

More than a year ago I was basically handed a job at the local elementary school. Loved the kids & my co-workers, disliked the job. My mind's thoughts.....There's obviously a problem with you. Every mom wants a school job to have the same schedule as her kids. One problem, I can't do math. Not even 3rd grade math. I struggled to help any 3rd grader! I was learning right along with them. Things are so different than even when my kids were in school. I quit that job due to my self imposed stress of feeling if the kids didn't "get it", I failed them.....all of them. I was jobless for about a month and job #2 fell into my lap.

I worked job #2 & enjoyed meeting people, planning events, & basically answering only to myself on most days. It was part time perfect until part time turned into more like nearly full time and then discussions of full time status started. My mind's thoughts....."Whoa......I only wanted part time......and when the boss is here....well, it's not always what it's cracked up to be....but I enjoy the purpose of my job.....not so much the stress which is coming more and more frequently." I got a phone call one day asking if I'd like to work in a different office not associated with the current establishment. I entertained that idea and through the days of should I or shouldn't I, I quit job #2 and went to job #3.

Job #3 started smoothly with lots to learn and a schedule to adjust to. After about 3 months into it, I felt like I was getting in my groove. Working 15-17 hours a week, getting out of the house, and spooning out of a crock pot for nearly 3 meals a week. It was pretty much so working on auto pilot until Pam Butler died.

I didn't know Pam Butler but I had a God moment with her blog on Friday, March 1, 2013. While seeing posts on facebook, I noticed several people holding signs in pictures "TEAM BUTLER". Trying to track who & why so many people in Iowa were rooting for Butler lead me to Pam's blog. All I can say is WOW....what a woman!

We had similar stories with a loving husband, 3 kids, and survivors of cancer. That's pretty much so where it ends. Pam was obviously a woman who pursued God daily & was so quick & willing to share the true meaning of God's grace and forgiveness with others. Even in her running of children and her job that probably kept her way more busy than my 15-17 hours a week, she sought God. That woman impressed me when I read the hard decisions she & her husband face due to a diagnosis of a secondary cancer from an unknown origin.

I've battled these discussions in my mind. I'm at risk of a secondary cancer. I've already made it pretty clear to my husband, Todd I wouldn't ever go through what I went through again. As each year passes, I might loose a bit of that bitterness to the possibility that I'd do chemo again if needed. That's really beside the point. Pam's story of her faith & relying on God was so beautiful and powerful it disturbed me.

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013, two days after reading Pam's blog, Pam Butler passed away. Hearing at church that Pam was taking her last breaths shook me to my core. Pam Butler, a woman I didn't even know. I cried through church. I cried through worship. I mourned a woman I didn't even know. Then I began to mourn a woman I once knew. Myself. God was still using Pam Butler in her death.

Realizing my life had begun to slowly unravel in the last year. My passion for church was missing. My desire for God was vanishing. My heart to serve was dissipating. My joy for life & thankfulness for breathing were gone. What was going on? More tears fell in days of confusion & then,undeniably, I became broken.

My heart softened. My focus became clear. My chasing after jobs that I'm not sure why I started was beginning to make sense. Well, not real sense, but sense of what my job really is. I'm a wife and a mom. I'm a servant and a friend.

In the year of chasing my own selfishness & not wanting people to think of me as someone who just stayed home to spend my husband's money, I sought job after job in happiness - never to find it there. Upon the resignation of job #3, the joy is being restored. My thankfulness to God for my continuing to live on a daily basis is returning. My children ages 23, 22 & 18 have proven to me on a daily basis that they need my attention and help. I'm free to give them my all. I'm free to glorify God in my daily living. (I actually was always free to do this, but never truly applying it!)

Thank you Pam Butler. A woman after God's heart who certainly changed mine. You can read Pam's story here. Careful ... it might just rock your world!