For Opa

For Ryan’s Grandpa, Fokko Nienhuis, remembered and loved in the vibrant memories of his family. 

Half a grapefruit livened with sugar for him,
freshly squeezed orange juice for her.
Oranje through and through,
and starting in nineteen hundred and 47,
he also bled red, white and blue.

A welcoming host at home and at heart –
Is everyone “goodso”?
He threw the party and she was the life of it. 

His meticulous mind kept orderly by his daily planner.
Strong in his history knowledge,
yet delicate while hand-rolling a cigarette. 

The Nienhuis patriarch, not by definition,
but by his welcoming, comforting character.
Everyone around him well-taken care of and well-loved. 

Except at the dinner table; a ruthless omnivore emerged.
A rack of ribs whittled down to ancient fossils,
no sea creature escaped with its life,
no crumbs left behind.

He wore a polo shirt tucked into his trousers; 
classy, yet inconsiderate of his satisfied mid-section.
Saw almost all 50 states, showed up without a fuss,
always chose family, community and honor.

Lenie, “Cognac?” as he held up his thumb and pointer an inch apart.
“I don’t care what you guys are doing, but I’m going to bed.”

 

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Hard Days: A Road Map

Overall I’m having more “good” days than “bad” days right now. After a string of good days, the bad ones still catch me off guard. Is it grief? Is it motherhood? Is it an aggro-crag of PMS? Is it just a hard day?

My dedicated brain is always trying to understand and find an explanation for the spontaneous feelings and happenings in my days.

During the hard ones, I (sometimes frantically) pull out my road map of tactics and try to remind myself that I’m not back at the beginning, but just having a hard day.

With grief, new losses amidst the bigger loss are emerging. The loss of Father’s Day, our family unit as we knew it and the simplicity of nachos with jalapeños at baseball games. The loss of me, as I knew her. 

When I have conversations with my future self, the one who has that “my kids are now wiping their own ass” glow, she always comes with one clear message. 

You will never regret showing yourself compassion. 

She goes on to say…

What you are going through is hard.
Asking for more help is necessary.
Not feeling like you can do your job of motherhood everyday is okay.
Wondering if it will always be this hard is normal.

She doesn’t say to try harder or do more or get a new job, she just says:

Be kind and take care of yourself.

 

Hard Day Road Map

  • EFT – tapping
  • Constant prayer and putting up a force field around me of love and support from my guardian angels and God (sounds a little “woo woo” like Oprah would say, but it helps immediately)
  • Meditation – I love the Calm App
  • Stream of consciousness writing 
  • Getting outside for walk or a swim
  • Yoga
  • Walking barefoot around our front yard
  • Calling someone or meeting up with a friend
  • Crying and allowing the feelings

Out Of Office

There’s always something specific I daydream about over and over before vacation. Last summer it was sitting under a moon-lit sky eating pizza. This time, it was boogie boarding in the warm water and getting lei’d. (No offense Ryan, but I mean that literally, like the smell and feeling of the cool fragrant flowers around my neck in the fanned hotel lobby). 

Choosing to go on a parents only vacation to Hawaii when you’re in the thick of parenthood is a little dicey. It’s a wonder we made it back and didn’t ship our kids out to Kauai to start our new life on a plantation. We appreciated this trip like two people who have never seen the ocean before or felt sunshine on their skin. My heart was on my knees in bewilderment and gratitude every second of the day. 

We had free minds, free time, connection, sleeping-in, extra long showers and so much shredding and snorkeling. My pre-trip daydreams were fulfilled in abundance and by night, I actually dreamt about a happy sea turtle doing flips in the ocean (in contrast to either not dreaming because I’m not sleeping at home or that recurring high school nightmare where I can’t find my bloody class schedule). 

While it was a great escape, grief still weaseled it’s way into my luggage. This trip wasn’t about my dad, or for my dad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad. 

It’s hard to find the flow between seemingly opposing emotions; to gracefully move between happy and sad without getting stuck. 

One morning I sat mindlessly in awe of the beautiful view from our hotel room and then suddenly was hit with the strong, familiar scent of an unfolded newspaper on the bed. My dad came flooding in. When our speedboat tour took off into the ocean, the sound of the engine and the wind on my face made it feel as if my dad was the captain in the bucket hat. As I flew through the clear waters on my boogie board with nothing but a gigantic grin on my face, I could feel him by my side. 

And yet I resisted the pull to “go there” every time. Sometimes when I’m happy and at peace, I just want to stay in that place as long as I can. It feels hard to cry. 

But after too many moments of not going there, I was forced to go there. Emotions built up like a volcano and I had to release it all; I had to feel extreme sadness while spying palm trees out of the corner of my eye. 

But just for a few moments. 

This feeling of feelings business is hard work. Learning how to navigate the tides with resilience, to move like the wind. She does it so seamlessly; for me it’s like a full-time desk job. 

While I’m at it, I also wonder how to bring “vacation” home with us. It feels unacceptable to not feel that level of bliss more in “real life”. My dad always used to grow a casual goatee on our summer trips and then he would shave it off the day we got back home. Back to reality

Let’s keep the goatee on. I want to chase the sunshine and easily find peace of mind. Kauai Ry – can you come home with us too?

I cried leaving my girls and then cried to coming home, but the middle – the salty, intentional, sweet, refreshing middle – was all worth it. 

Another eye opener from vacation: we need new pillows.

 

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